In a nutshell: the InterContinental Athens offers friendly service, nice rooms, and a lovely top-floor terrace with views of the Acropolis. However, the hotel doesn’t quite have that luxury feel you expect from the brand, and the food is run of the mill. Plus, the location is a bit of a pain if you’re in Athens to see the historic sights.
It has been years since I’ve stayed at an InterContinental property. I’ve stayed at only a couple, anyway. Years ago, they were the go-to for uncapped IHG free night certificates. Now I find myself settling for your run-of-the-mill Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites properties with the chain most of the time. So a stay at the InterContinental Athens would be a treat.
With a good number of hotel certificates to burn in 2021, I waffled on which property to book in the Greek capital. There are properties in multiple major hotel chains, and I had three different options for certificates alone. Offloading one of my three IHG 40,000-point free night certificates for a night at the InterContinental Athens ended up making the most sense. The cash cost was €183 (~$215 USD), which is a fine deal from a card that costs $49 (or even $89) per year.
Oddly, the property was only charging 26,000 points per night. I suspect that the InterContinental Athens is often under the threshold for certificate use. I’m excited about the new IHG Rewards developments that will allow you to combine points plus a certificate to stay at properties that cost more than 40,000 points.
Arrival in Athens
I was thankful to arrive on schedule on a short hop to Greece from Albania, leaving my nerve-wracking Tirana Airport experience far behind. I’d have 24 hours to explore the city before heading home. Two whirlwind days of sightseeing after spending a week with friends. I do still enjoy fast and furious travel. Figuring that will change over the coming years.
Athens Airport isn’t exactly convenient to the city center. It took over an hour to get from the airport to the InterContinental Athens using public transportation. I used the light rail, making one change. At the end I had to walk just over a quarter mile to get to the hotel. I pack light, so this wasn’t an issue at all. With a bunch of bags, I’d opt for a taxi. Taxi ended up being my option for getting back to the airport due to a metro closure.
InterContinental Athens First Impressions
The bland exterior of the InterContinental Athens greeted me when I walked up. It’s a pretty typical concrete tower, and there isn’t much that belies luxury from the outside. Inside, you are greeted by a blue man.
My room wasn’t ready when I arrived, but the front desk staff greeted me warmly and apologized profusely for the delay. She also welcomed me as a Spire elite member and mentioned that they would offer me 50% off breakfast. I hadn’t planned to eat at the hotel, but I figured that I would, as this brought the cost to just €16.
I decided to drop my bags and grab lunch at a nearby restaurant instead of the hotel. This ended up being a real treat (and far cheaper). But enough of that aside.
Returning to the hotel, I found myself still waiting. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my limited time in Athens. The staff were apologetic and assured me a room would be ready shortly. Given the quietness of the hotel, I figured they must be short-staffed.
I explored the large lobby. The InterContinental Athens is a convention center hotel, with expansive space on the lower levels. They also have a lobby restaurant and bar, Artbistrot. It was super quiet that afternoon, with one guy enjoying a drink while talking on the phone.
I don’t understand the art prominently displayed on the floor of the lobby. Someone thought a mini-asteroids of burlap with lights is what the hotel needed. I don’t share the sentiment.
Swords, though, those are cool. The hotel could do with more swords if they are hurting for art. Finally, my room was ready, and I headed upstairs.
InterContinental Athens Standard Room
Rooms at the InterContinental Athens are very nicely appointed. There is a nice living area and an excellent desk. The bed was very comfortable, and I slept great for the single night. The TV might be a little small for U.S. standards. I typically don’t touch it while on vacation. The wall it’s mounted in swivels so that you can watch more comfortably from the bed or living space, depending on your preference.
My other comments include the sad fact of the typical instant Nescafe as the in-room coffee. I get it. It’s Europe. I should get coffee in a coffee shop. Let’s just dispense with the in-room coffee completely rather than provide Nescafe, though. The room also has a minibar, but it isn’t stocked. Finally, while there are plenty of outlets, none of them are universal. You’ll need your plug adapter at the InterConintental Athens.
The bathroom is what really makes the room feel dated. It’s in serious need of a remodel. It’s very standard and not big at all.
The tub-shower combo need the most help. The bottom of the tub curves, and there is very little flat space to stand. I also hate the half-screen things for showering. I’ve never understood why it became a thing. This one swung out over the toilet, something I found out during the middle of a shower.
So, in general, room: nice. Bathroom: sad. The view from my room was also sad. Overall: mixed bag.
Premiere Rooftop Restaurant
After a jam-packed afternoon seeing as much of the old city as I could (Acropolis excepted, as I had a ticket for a morning tour), my final stop for the evening was Première. The rooftop restaurant is open daily for dinner. I’d already eaten in the heart of the old city at another (much cheaper) restaurant with Acropolis views, so I settled for a drink. Even that was pricey at €14.
The hotel is about a half mile from the Acropolis, but the famous hill is well lit and the view is actually really nice. You can see other hills within Athens as well, such as Filopappou Hill (left, dark) and Lycabettus Hill (right, at distance).
In the morning, the InterContinental Athens serves breakfast at Cafezoe, the hotel’s ground floor restaurant. The typical buffet price is an eye-watering €32. I would have easily passed. But at 50% off, I decided to give it a try. Cafezoe has a pleasant ambiance. The restaurant isn’t showy, but you do feel like you’re at a nice place.
The buffet was open, even during COVID-19 (this visit was all the way back in September 2021). You were required to wear a mask when not at your table, and everyone had to use giant one-size-fits-all disposable gloves when serving themselves through the one-way-only buffet line.
In terms of options, the InterContinental Athens offers a decent spread. You have green and Greek salad fixings, fruit, dried fruit, nuts, yogurt, rice pudding, cold cuts, pastries, donuts, sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, potatoes, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, and cereal. Beverages include coffee and juices, and the servers will make you a cappuccino if you’d like. You can order from the coffee bar.
If you’re in Athens to tour the historic sights, the hotel’s location is a downside. You’re within sight of the Acropolis, but it’s a good walk at around 30 minutes from the hotel. The old Plaka neighborhood is even further. You’ll either want to take mass transportation, or make sure you plan to walk.
I decided to explore the neighborhood a bit and wind my way over to Filopappou Hill. This gave me a good view of the city in the process, and an excellent first view of the Acropolis. Getting a view of it was one of those moments that doesn’t quite feel real. It was weird. I experienced the same thing when I first saw the Colosseum in Rome and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The InterContinental Athens had no problem fielding a late check out request for a 2:00 PM departure. This gave me the whole morning to explore the Acropolis and enjoy lunch and another hour in Plaka. Then it was back to the hotel, grab the bags, and have them call me a taxi to the airport.
Overall, my stay was nice. There are aspects of the hotel I liked, including the room (minus the bathroom that needs an overhaul), rooftop bar with views of the Acropolis, and friendly, helpful staff. The location is a downside. Food and beverages are pricey, but that’s what you can expect at a 5-star hotel. It was a great value overall for one quick night in the Greek capital.