Locals flock to the coast to escape the heat (and Olympics) this month, leaving it to visitors to enjoy the city’s sleek new hotels and restaurants. Small, high-style hotels include the new Semiramis (0800 169 8817; www.designhotels.com), owned by Greek art collector Dakis Joannou and filled with Jeff Koons sculptures. Two hotels under the same ownership, 21 and Periscope, are due to open imminently; and the proprietors of Hillside Su, Turkey’s minimalist beachside haunt, are also rumoured to have designs on Athens. The Olympics marks only the beginning of the city’s regeneration (and prices should come down when they’re over).
Left, from bottom: To Bakaliko deli and snack bar; a calling card for Milos restaurant; the smart, minimalist restaurant The newly revamped King George II on central Syntagma Square has gold-brocade bedspreads, giant chandeliers, a Tudor Bar, a spa with Turkish bath – and Alain Ducasse overseeing the dinner menu. Syntagma Square (00 30 210 322 2210; www. lhw.com/kinggeorge); doubles from ‚480 © From the pink-glass reception to the green, roof-top pool, The Fresh Hotel is a splash of colour! in downtown Athens. At the heart of the spice market – where: transvestites cruise after hours – the 133-room newcomer mixes urban grit with metropolitan cool. Eighth-floor executive suites^ have balconies with Zen gardens. 26 Sophocleous Street,
Psirri (00 30 210 524 8511; www.thefreshhotel.gr); doubles from ‚225 © The menu at 48 is modern, minimalist, and mighty expensive. If dinner by the pebble-filled pool feels too formal, pull up a seat at the aquamarine-glass bar and dip into one of the city’s finest wine lists. Armatolon kai Klefton 48, Ambelokipi (00 30 210 641 1082); dinner about ‚110 for two without wine © Corfu’s best Italian chef, Ettore Botrini, has bagged the . dazzling roof terrace of the Athenian Callirhoe Hotel for his new restaurant Etrusco. Expect
good views of the Acropolis. Kallirrois Avenue 32/Petmeza (00 30 210 922 3923); dinner about ‚110 for two without wine
© Costas Spiliades reinvented Greek cuisine at his restaurants in Montreal and New York; now he’s brought the Milos phenomenon home, to the Athens Hilton.
Vassiiissis Sofias Avenue 46 (00 30 210 7244400); dinner about ‚140 for two without wine © Hellenic chic meets French gastronomy at To Bakaliko, courtesy of owner Eric Artigaud. Pick up organic olive oil in the deti, and-brunch onswordfish carpaccio and sour-cherry cordial in the loft.
Skoufa 48, Kolonaki (00 30 210 362 5700); brunch about ‚40 for two without wine © Start the day with cheesecake and cappuccino at Cake, a tiny pit stop and a great place for people-watching. Irodotou 13, Kolonaki (00 30 210 721 2253); closed Sun © Looking like an ark adrift in an industrial wasteland, the new Benaki Modem Art Museum is a magnet fo’ design j^nkes. The red-marble fagade conceals an atrium lined with steel mesh and blinds, a cafe, bookstore and an-architectwal archive. 138 Pireos Avenue, Gazi (00 30 210 345 3338)
Cultural traveller thatanartsfe sans frontiers such as Isamu Noguchi – who moved between fine art and furniture, stage sets and gardens – should have designed his own museum. Before he died in 1988, aged 84, Noguchi oversaw the meticulous transformation of a 1927 former industrial photo-engraving plant in Long Island City into 13 galleries grouped around a sculpture garden. It closed for refurbishment in 2001 and has now reopened with a programme of temporary exhibitions (in addition to the original permanent collection), a redesigned cafe and shop, and a new design gallery due