There’s something quintessentially quixotic about Four Seasons’ reimagining of Astir Palace.
A cornerstone of the allegorical Athens Riviera, the iconic hotel grandly saw it all during its heydey in the sixties, whence it was more than just a place to sleep for prolific personalities from Frank Sinatra to Brigitte Bardot, who created the stuff of legend when she posed for photographers on a private beach (within the complex) in a wide brimmed hat and a diminutive pink bikini. There was always a room reserved for Aristotle Onassis, while Barack Obama was one of the last guests before Astir Palace closed for a spectacular renovation, reopening in time for Summer 2019 – under the unparalleled stewardship of Four Seasons.
To say that the sprawling resort is a destination in its own right, would be an understatement. Cloistered within the pine-peppered peninsula – on the underrated southern tip of the Greek capital – the new Four Seasons is an idyllic oasis where our day’s the most pressing decision is, pool first or beach.
We’re here for the week, hunkered down in a sea-facing room in Arion, one of the two buildings within the complex.
The other, Nafsika, is more lofty and certainly far livelier, with luxury boutiques and a colossal lounge bedecked with the glossy interiors characteristic of Martin Brudnizki (the designer behind Annabel’s, Sexy Fish and Brasserie of Light in London). Nafsika is also quite distinctly geared towards families with tots in tow; whilst Arion has a more toned-down, grown-up edge that instantly resonates with us. Think contemporary-chic aesthetics lifted by a retro twist.
The iconic bungalows which were once a landmark of Astir Palace have also been restored to a new-age glory, with almost half (thirty) boasting their own private pool and most leading down to an intimate cove, lapped by the cyan-hued sea.
Our room has a sybaritic sense of style with lavish touches a-plenty, from the marble-drenched bathroom (with a luxuriant bathtub positioned to render the dreamiest vista of the Riviera) to a titanic TV which fades into a mirror one when you need one. The breezy balcony is of course, a highlight. It’s large enough for R.R.M. to indulge in sunset yoga as I loll in my cosy chair, leafing through an easy read.
As for the bed, it’s one of the softest we’ve slept in, so much so that we consecutively hit snooze on the alarm intended to wake us up in time to make the most of Four Seasons’ all-encompassing facilities.
Luckily breakfast is served until almost noon and is worth eventually hotfooting it out of bed for.
There’s an Italian-inspired spread in Mercato, the modish trattoria in Nafsika; whilst Pelagos is a sophisticated setting for traditional Greek dishes, executed with a modern finesse. As dazzling as Brudnizki’s interiors are, we always settle ourselves on the outside terrace, fashioned in almost cruise-like manner with its dramatic views of the Aegean which have inspired Pelagos’ menu.
The Acropolis is just a 45 minute drive away, as is the port which can ferry us to the fabled islands along the Saronic Gulf. Not to mention, the bucket list brimming with attractions within the seaside suburb of Vouliagmeni in which the hotel is situated.
Unsurprisingly, we find ourselves blissfully ensconced within the resort for most of the week, revelling in all there is to do… which is nothing really, save flitting between the spectacular salt-water pools and private beaches; grazing on ceviche (at the poolside grill, Helios) and saganaki (at the beach-side Greek Taverna 37); and sipping Rosé (perched on the waterfront terrace, AVRA) until we’re finally lulled into a sun-drenched stupor in one of the many cabanas that speckle the lengthy boardwalk connecting the different pockets of the property.
The rose-tinted glow of a Greek sunset is a breathtaking sight on which to wind down any evening, especially when seen from the infinity bar at Matsuhisa – a Nobu franchise majoring in the chef’s signature Japanese-Peruvian dishes.
Then there’s the Spa, with restorative treatments rooted in the teachings of Hipprocrates, clinical techniques and mineral-rich oils created with herbs grown on the grounds of the hotel. The soothing waters of the hydrotherapy pool – with its glass-fronted sea views – have a healing quality to them, while we discover the hamam and aromatherapy grotto to be just as cathartic.
All 303 rooms (including the 61 bungalows) are occupied during our visit, yet the expansive space offers an inimitable air of intimacy wherever we wander.
In true Four Seasons fashion, service is unimpeachable, unhurried and endearingly-warm. An overwhelming majority of the 700-strong staff (including the dapper Canadian-Greek General Manager, Sam Ioannidis) are fiercely-proud Greek diaspora, who have returned to their homeland to play a part in a thrilling new Chapter that sees the rejuvenation and revival of the Athens Riviera.
Needless to say, it’s all perfectly photogenic of course. If a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps I’ll let a few of my visual memories bespeak of the elysian experience which has inspired us to make a tradition of revisiting this corner of paradise.
Four Seasons Astir Palace, Apollonos 40, Vouliagmeni 166 71, Greece | https://www.fourseasons.com/athens/
We booked our stay independently at Four Seasons Astir Palace. All views expressed in this article are mine and mine alone, as are the photographs published (please do not reproduce without permission).