Compared to the beach paradise of the Greek islands, Athens is sometimes dismissed by travelers as a bit too urban, gritty or colorless for their taste. They might rethink this after spending a night at the Semiramis hotel.
Located in the center of Athens’ upscale Kifissia neighborhood, the Semiramis is an explosion of bubblegum color, modern design and quirky details that quickly banish the word “dreary” from your vocabulary. A bright pink lobby with a giant, blinking “YES” on the wall and wave-shaped seats that resemble black-and-white edamame more than couches tip off visitors that this is not your typical hotel.
Art fans may recognize this “YES” as a light sculpture by British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster—it comes from the collection of Dakis Joannou, owner of the Semiramis and four other properties in Greece, all under his brand, “YES! Hotels.” Joannou shows off pieces from his contemporary art collection throughout all the YES! properties (including the brand new 79-room New Hotel in central Athens), making creative expression and memorable imagery central to the experience.
But Semiramis’ main artistic force is designer Karim Rashid, who was given free reign in creating innovative designs for everything from the topographically colored pool, to the light-box artwork (complete with dimmer switch) in each room, to the futuristic ice buckets.
The hotel’s 51 rooms have no numbers, instead each is represented by a unique symbol such as an hourglass or triangle. “Do Not Disturb” door hangers have been ditched for electronic tickers on the floor outside each room, scrolling messages like “Welcome to the Semiramis,” and “Please Attend to the Room,” to those outside.
Inside, each room is of a piece with the rest of the property. Curved, sliding bathroom doors, neon green balconies and colorful bedspreads all add to the fun, futuristic aesthetic. In addition to single and double standard rooms, three penthouse studios and a penthouse suite are available, as well as five poolside bungalows, which include their own backyard gardens.
Sun bathing on the Semiramis’ deck is a special treat, with the hotel’s upbeat staff providing towels, complimentary sunscreen and even specially designed flip-flops. Visitors can go for a swim and put their head under the artificial waterfall rolling down the side of the pool, or just order a cocktail or appetizer from the Mediterranean bar-restaurant and enjoy the sun (though I should note that the appetizers were the one disappointment of my stay at the hotel—a bit pricey and surprisingly bland for a property so lively in every other way).
Most evenings a DJ rolls in at 5pm to kick off the evening for the dinner crowd. At the gym next to the pool, personal-trainer or massage sessions are available by request.
As a visit to the Semiramis comes to an end, guests feeling a bit sad to be leaving the bright colors of the hotel may be heartened to learn that they can take a piece of the property home with them: Rashid-designed items from cuff links, watches and the now-familiar ice bucket are all available for purchase in the lobby.
48 Charilaou Trikoupi Street
Kifissia, Athens 14562