Frederic & Annick’s Favourite Article of the Year. Athens looks towards modern art – World Meanderings (n°96)
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Athens is not all about Antiquity. The proof is in the recent opening of the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, a modern and contemporary art museum displaying the collections of these two art lovers. This opening highlights Pangrati district and a visit to the museum will also be an opportunity to discover this authentic and picturesque area of the Greek capital.
The Goulandris Museum, a new opportunity to discover unique masterpieces
Basil Goulandris ((1913-1994) and his four brothers made a fortune in the post-war era as shipowners. He married Elise Karadontis (1917-2000) who was known as an “Athenian beauty”, and they both shared an immoderate love for the art of the twentieth century. They passionately collected paintings and sculptures and today their collection give us a unique overview of the golden age of modern art. When Elise Goulandris died the collection was worth 3 billion US dollars. They died childless and it took years to settle the estate.
After 26 years of planning and 6 years of construction the modern and contemporary art museum of the Goulandris Foundation was finally able to open in October 2019. It is set in a building of the 1920’s extensively renovated and enlarged proposing a huge exhibition space of 7,000 sqm. With an unerring taste the Goulandris chose the very best of the 20th century art production. Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, Van Gogh, Rodin, Monet, Gauguin, Picasso, Klee, Cezanne, Miro, Giacometti, Lichtenstein, Leger, Kandisky, Modigliani, Bacon, Ernst, Soulages, Schnabel… their collection is an extraordinary list of the major artists of the last century. It also highlights Greek artist such as Takis, Parthenis or Christoforou. The Goulandris museum is the new must when visiting Athens. https://goulandris.gr/en/
Lively Pangrati district
Pangrati clearly is the in-vogue district of Athens, an area where you will meet authentic Athenian people living their day-to-day life. It attracts many musicians, writers, film directors, academics and journalists, creating an artistic atmosphere that can be found in the numerous lively cafés of Platia Proskopon and Platia Varnava, the two main squares of Pangrati. With its many restaurants, art galleries and art house theatre the district is like a village in the heart of the city. No wonder that it now is a sought-after area where apartments are pricy and hard to find. The opening of the Goulandris Museum made it even more desirable.
Back to history at the Panathenaic Stadium
Close to Pangrati a few minutes’ walk will take you to the Pananthenaic Stadium. This antique stadium was built in the early 4th century BC and opened in 330 BC for the great Panathenaic games. It was first restored in 140AD during the Roman era. Entirely made of marble, able to welcome 50,000 spectators, the stadium was a marvel of its time.
After being abandoned for centuries the stadium was restored a second time in 1896 for the first modern Olympics. It was rebuilt in marble in full respect of its antique design. Today it is open to visitors all year long and is also used for major sports events such as the 2004 Olympics or the annual November marathon. Its unique design is truly impressive and being there makes us find the same feelings as an Antique spectator.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus
At a walking distance you can go to another ancient monument, the Olympion also known as the Temple of Olympian Zeus. After entering Hadrian’s Gate you will discover the vestige of this beautiful temple that was one of the largest ones of Antique Greece. The temple was looted in the Middle Ages and its stones used to build houses. But if today only stay a few of its 104 Corinthian columns the site still holds an enchanting charm.
Next, go to the National Gardens of Athens and have a rest in the welcome shade of its trees. In the heart of the gardens stands the Zappeion, a modern monument epitomising the classical Greek architecture, built in the second half of the 19th century it was the first construction made for the revival of the Olympic Games.
The “Grand Hyatt Athens”, the new trendy hotel of the Greek capital
The Grand Hyatt Athens is a new luxury hotel that opened in 2018 and is ever since one of the ten best hotels in town. It is located on the large Syngrou Avenue that links Athens city centre and the main point of interest in town to Piraeus port. If you intend to continue your trip to the Greek islands a taxi will quickly take you from the hotel to your ferry without having to undergo Athens’ heavy traffic.
The hotel’s highlight undoubtedly is its luxurious rooftop terrace with bar, restaurant and an infinity swimming pool, all featuring panoramic view over the Acropolis. Wow effect guaranteed!
The Grand Hyatt Athens offers a wide choice of rooms and suites, all with top quality amenities. Filled with light, thanks to the floor to ceiling windows, they all are spacious with living and working areas, and big marble bathrooms. They have a luxurious contemporary decoration with warm, soothing colours and blond wood panelling. Soundproofing is very good and if you have the chance to book a room on Syngrou Avenue to enjoy the Acropolis view the noise from the road traffic won’t be a problem.
The hotel has no less than three swimming pools. One is on the rooftop and you will enjoy the incredible view swimming or sunbathing with a drink and a true feeling of bliss. Sometimes life is simply beautiful. The second pool is in a quiet patio garden and has its own bar. The third pool is near the gym and spa and is amazingly large for an inside pool and most of the time empty. Ideal for a real good swim!
The main restaurant “The Grand by Iterni” is on the rooftop and is open from breakfast till late at night. A row of tables along the windows are reserved for the “World of Hyatt Club” members to enjoy the view. The breakfast buffet proposes a wide choice of international and Greek specialities including the strong Greek coffee. Special mention for the quirky teapot! “The Grand” is also open for lunch and dinner. Going through the menu you may opt for “Black Angus rib-eye with truffle vinaigrette” or “Beef Tataki in sesame crust” or “Sea bass ceviche with mango” and finish with a “Baklava, mastic with rose pepper ice cream and praline pistacchio mousse”…
The lobby bar and restaurant is open 24/7 and the “World of Hyatt Club” members can enjoy complimentary snacks for lunch or a light evening dinner. Whatever your choice the staff is always kind and happy to offer you the best.
More information and booking at www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/greece/grand-hyatt-athens/athgh
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes
To discover Mani Peninsula read our lat week article: https://b-c-ing-u.com/architecture/back-to-greece-the-mani-peninsula-to-the-end-of-the-world-world-meanderings-n94/
To discover the beautiful Zakynthos Island: https://b-c-ing-u.com/countries/back-to-greece-zakynthos-island-could-boast-being-greece-paradise-island/
To discover the exclusive island of Spetses : https://b-c-ing-u.com/architecture/back-to-greece-spetses-a-one-of-a-kind-gem-island-world-meanderings-n92/
To learn more about Volos and Pelion : https://b-c-ing-u.com/architecture/back-to-greece-de-stress-on-volos-enchanting-seashore-world-meanderings-n91/
To discover the impressive ancient Messini: https://b-c-ing-u.com/architecture/back-to-greece-unjunstly-unknown-ancient-messini-world-meanderings-n95/