Review: Four Seasons Astir Palace

Review: Four Seasons Astir Palace

Nov 1, 2023


4th to 8th October, 2023


Seaview Bungalow with Pool, Villa #9

Booked with:

Select Collection, Astrid Sølvik (One&Only)



Traveling with:


noun (hos·pi·tal·i·ty)
the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

As you check into the Four Seasons Astir Palace, a book titled “Four Seasons - The Art of Hospitality” graces your path. It's the kind the management might find themselves flipping through, if they were so adventurous. By doing so, they would come across these words on the very first page:

“…Luxury service at its core has nothing to do with gold leaf, thread count, state-of-the-art spa facilities, welcome drinks, or Michelin stars. All these bells and whistles are table stakes, signifiers of luxury in today's high-end hospitality arms race. True luxury has everything, however, to do with people.”


If you ever need a prime example of first-world problems, it's having your reservation at what soon might be one of Greece's finest hotels canceled, only to be tossed into a sea of equally luxurious options. The plan was simple: an opening week stay at the brand-new One&Only Asthesis, tucked away in a private pool bungalow with Anny. However, as travel often reminds us, plans are merely the universe’s suggestion. Last-minute construction delays led One&Only to cancel my stay. Wanting to make amends, they suggested a hotel swap—spending October 4 to 6 at Amanzoe, then switching to Four Seasons for the remaining days. The complicated shuffle was due to both Amanzoe and Four Seasons being fully booked for parts of the stay.

Amanzoe, a jewel in the crown of the world’s most exclusive hotel brand, Aman, did have its allure. However, it's like they say, fool me once... My previous stay at Amanbagh in India left much to be desired. Despite a swarm of self-confessed Amanjunkies (a term that seems to beg for a punchline) and every luxury travel blogger being head over heels for their hotels, it felt flat to me. Yet, the constant rave pushed a tiny inkling in me to give Aman another shot. Amanzoe was on the table, until my eyes caught the recent reviews. The acclaim for their culinary skills seemed to have gone from 'haute' to 'not'. The reviews hinted at a food experience that seemed to have lost its seasoning somewhere along the way. Besides, who fancies a mid-vacation hotel switch paired with a 2.5-hour drive from Athens? Not me.

Mandarin Oriental Costa Navarino was the most tempting alternative. As “I’m a fan”, and with its fresh new hotel smell from a recent August opening, it felt like the straightforward choice. However, the 4-hour drive from Athens was a logistical hurdle neither One&Only nor we were eager to leap over, especially considering our early return flight on Sunday and the short 4-day window we had. The lengthy drive could eat into our relaxation time, making it a less than ideal option for such a brief stay.

Given the hurdles, my go-to travel advisor at Select Collection, Astrid Sølvik, was right in the middle, managing the talks with One&Only. Eventually, they pulled some strings, securing a sea-view bungalow with a pool at Four Seasons for the entire stay, putting a stop to the hotel-hop shenanigans.

Getting There

Our flight from Oslo to Athens departed at the ungodly hour of 6AM, a time where only the birds or the utterly sleep-deprived are meant to be awake. The supposed silver lining? An early arrival in Athens, gifting us with a 'full' day under the Grecian sun. However, the early morning bitterness was compounded by some sour airline news. My go-to carrier, SAS, recently went through the rough patch of Chapter 11. And, as an end to their misery but a beginning to that of their passengers, they announced just yesterday a partial acquisition by AirFrance-KLM, along with a switch from Star Alliance to the not-so-starry SkyTeam. It felt like swapping a first-class ticket for a middle seat in economy. So much for being loyal.

Luckily for both me and all other customers, SAS President & CEO Anko van der Werff was quick to paint this shift as a new dawn, a better horizon. Very reassuring from a man whose hairline seems to be receding faster than SAS's benefits.

After another hour of sleep on the flight, bringing my total to a whopping 4.5 hours, we touched down in Athens. One&Only had decided they'd arrange our airport transfer to give us a taste of the “One&Only experience”. A bit funny, considering their hotel doors weren’t even open yet. But, who am I to question the whims of hospitality?

Navigating to the baggage claim, we spotted an assistant holding a One&Only sign, sans our names. Initially puzzled since we were headed to the Four Seasons, it cleared up when she approached us, indeed there for our escort. Although the priority luggage handling seemed to have missed the memo, our friendly assistant made the wait enjoyable with a delightful conversation. Once reunited with our suitcase, we were introduced to our driver, William, who awaited with a sleek Mercedes S-class. The car was a trove of comforts - cold sanitizing towels, nuts, face mist, and chilled water were handed to us, starting our journey on a refreshing note.

A brief 25-minute drive later, we found ourselves at the Four Seasons Astir Palace, nestled on a lush, pine-clad 30-hectare peninsula in the Vouliagmeni area on the Lemos Peninsula. The first thing that catches your eye as you arrive is the line of palm trees along Posidonos Avenue, the winding coastal road running the length of the Riviera, an unusual sight amidst the typical landscapes of Greece. These proud vanguards stand tall, overseeing the shimmering royal blue waters of the vast, well-sheltered Vouliagmeni Bay.


This area, affectionately dubbed the Athens Riviera, has a knack for pulling in the world's rich and famous. It's like a magnet on a vintage fridge, attracting a star-studded crowd ranging from Greek royalty to Hollywood glitterati and elite jet-setters.

The Astir Palace has a rich backstory, almost as rich as the folks who've graced its grounds over the years. This is where Brigitte Bardot turned more heads on the beach than a seagull doing somersaults, Frank Sinatra practiced his exits dodging paparazzi, and King Saud of Saudi Arabia handed out gold watches instead of tips, because who needs paper currency when you can flaunt horology? From royalty to Hollywood icons, to statesmen like Barack Obama, its guest list reads like a who's who of the global elite.

In the time before its storm of fame, the area of Vouliagmeni was under a monastery's care. They started by setting up small rental units around the lake, known for its healing waters. By 1930, the monastery had 30 rooms, and cafes and restaurants began popping up in the area, catching the attention of investors looking to build hotels and entertainment venues. However, World War II put a hold on these ambitions. Fast forward to 1954, the ASTIR company came to life, and by 1958, the government approved the peninsula’s development plan. The idea was simple: create a haven that takes full advantage of nature's beauty and bring some activity to the underutilized beachfront.

Known as ‘Astir Palace, the new chapter began with the “People’s Vouliagmeni Plage” opening its doors in 1960, quickly becoming the talk of Greece’s up-and-coming middle class and the celebrity crowd. The next year, 76 bungalows or cozy cabanas appeared by the shore. The resort expanded with eight more bungalows in 1969, and the hotels Arion and Nafsika opened their doors in 1967 and 1979.

Before the Four Seasons laid claim to the Astir Palace in 2016, the estate was shared by two distinct entities: The Arion, flaunting its status as a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, and the Nafsika, operating under the banner of Astir Palace The Westin Athens. In 2019, the property was treated to a $250 million facelift, reemerging as the Four Seasons, complete with all the five-star, state-of-the-art bells and whistles. Now, it’s a singular resort boasting two main buildings, Arion and Nafsika, along with the cluster of private bungalows.


As we pulled up to the Arion building, bidding farewell to our "One&Only experience," the descent into a less stellar reality commenced. Oh boy, did things go downhill from here.

There’s two kinds of hotels. One, where you crash when you're in town for something else. Two, the kind where the hotel is the main event. The second one, that’s a tough gig for a hotel. It’s not just about a bed to sleep in, but about creating a place where every person you meet makes your day a bit better. And oh, what a missed chance this was. Here they had a pair of guests who were set to nest at their soon-to-be competitor, One&Only, yet fate had them land here instead. What a perfect opportunity to leave a lasting imprint, to ensure when the guests face the choice next time, they'd lean towards returning here. But alas, the chance fluttered.

It's not that everything was a disaster, but nothing was notably impressive either. As you dive into the coming narratives, you might be tempted to think I'm fabricating tales, but the real joke here is the €7000 I paid to stay at this place. The folks who decide to stay here are either very rich or very foolish. However, a prerequisite of staying here is a fat wallet, so I guess that just leaves me foolish. And I apologize for the length of this piece, but there's just so much to cover.

The rough nature of the stay made itself apparent right from check-in. A bellboy graciously took our luggage and led us to the front desk. But after waiting in line, it seemed like no one had a clue who we were, despite having just given our name to the security guard at the gate a mere two minutes earlier, who even checked it off on an iPad. It's peculiar because, at this price point, a meet and greet or an in-room check-in, should be standard practice. In fact, this is the only place at this level where I’ve ever had to wait and check in at the front desk.

As we waited, we couldn’t help but notice the ambiance, or lack thereof, in the lobby. Its aura leaned more towards a conference hotel, despite the attempts at charm with some tastefully arranged flower decorations. The low ceiling height only emphasized the cramped feeling. Not to mention, the worn leather cushions near the stairway seemed as if they’d been airlifted straight from Heathrow Terminal 5.

During check-in, the first signs that this wasn’t up to standard emerged. There was no mention of our benefits. The only tidbit shared was a rather cold, transactional one: "We'll charge your card €450 in deposit per night." As expected, the room wasn’t ready at 11:30, with check-in set for 3 pm. However, the lack of any other useful information was disheartening. No rundown on hotel facilities, no guidance on when or where breakfast would be served. Not even an invitation to use the facilities while we waited or a gentle inquiry into what we might want to do. It was a welcome as flat and uninspiring as a pancake without baking powder.

Their only suggestion was to have a coffee while we waited, rest assured, our room was put on housekeeping’s priority list and shouldn’t take long. Given that we had been up since the crack of dawn for traveling and hadn't eaten since the day before, I inquired about food options. However, I was told that no food was available until noon, and that was just light snacks at the lobby coffee bar. For a proper meal, none of the restaurants would serve anything before 1 pm.

Feeling quite hungry, we decided to wait the short 20 minutes until the coffee bar kitchen opened for a light snack. The lady at the front desk walked us over to the coffee bar to get seated, and handed us over to a server. But then the server who was supposed to seat us just vanished. The lady seemed as surprised as us, and showed us to the balcony before she vanished too, leaving us a bit unsure on where to get seated.

It felt like we were being passed around, hoping to become someone else's problem. We found a place to sit down eventually, a server appeared with some menus, and then disappeared again. When she returned and asked for our order, I informed her that we were waiting for the kitchen to open, only to have her snatch the menus away without explanation. Puzzled, I asked if we could keep the menus as we hadn't made a decision yet.

As the clock ticked closer to 12, we eagerly anticipated placing our order, only to be informed that the kitchen wouldn't open until 12:05. There was no effort made to take our order beforehand, ensuring it would be ready when the kitchen opened its doors. Feeling impatient and frustrated, Anny requested her backpack from our luggage so that she could tackle some work while we waited. The staff assured us they would bring it, but time passed and it never arrived. Frustration mounting, we had to make a second request 20 minutes later.

Finally, after managing to order and munching on a mediocre quinoa salad that tasted overly bitter, I walked over to the front desk to ask about the room. The lady said she didn’t know when it would be ready. It was said as if it was my job to come back and check from time to time. I had to specifically ask if they could let me know when it was ready, either by calling or messaging me in the Four Seasons app.

After the bitter taste of the quinoa salad and the indifference at the front desk, we decided to step outside and look around, hoping a change of scenery would improve our mood.

The resort is really a sight to behold, easily one of the prettiest I've ever visited, making it a bitter pill to swallow when the service doesn’t quite match up. Its beauty is like a magnet, pulling you into its lovely, well-designed outdoors.

As an elegant curve around a bay, the resort cascades down to the waterfront where modernist architecture kisses looming flowerbeds emanating a hint of rosemary, beside crystal bathing waters and eye-soothing views. The ambiance is reminiscent of a Greek Island, yet, you're just a 20-minute drive away from the heartbeats of Athens city centre, one of the world’s most renowned and vibrant capitals.

Right in the middle of this pretty picture stands the Arion building, an ugly blot on this beauty. It sticks out like a sore thumb, making you wonder how something so unattractive found its way into such a beautiful spot. The brutalist 60’s structure, hosts rooms with views of either the ocean or the pine forest. It's also home the Pelagos restaurant, along with the spa and an indoor pool.

The glossier, newer Nafsika wing is more showy with designer shops, boutiques, and rooms and suites all offering ocean views. This wing houses the gym, main pool, the restaurants Helios and Mercato, as well as the cocktail bar, Avra.

Sprinkled throughout the resort is also an array of beautiful and thought-provoking art. Add that to the 3 private beaches, a beautiful pool area, and an amazing boardwalk along the water with sun lounges and cabanas, and it’s truly a sight to behold.

Another sight to behold was the staff's reluctance to lift a finger. When we received the text that our room was ready, we were enjoying a drink at one of the boardwalk restaurants. Yet, instead of bringing the keys to us, they seemed to prefer we trek back to the front desk. After us asking, a receptionist finally made the journey to hand us the keys, only to vanish as quickly as they appeared. We were then escorted to our room by a buggy driver, who bid us farewell with a rather uninspired "here’s your room," accompanied by a finger point. It was a rather limp affair.

Our home for the stay was a Sea View Bungalow with a private pool. Not quite villas, these standalone buildings are modest in size but are supposed to offer privacy. Most of them are located away from the main building, situated on the other side of the cove. But us? Turns out, we’re smack dab next to the Arion building and a service road. It's as private as a ground floor apartment in a bustling city. Our room also fell short on it's own room description: no soaking tub, and no twin vanity.

The current Four Seasons' style guide isn't really my cup of tea. Similar to Bangkok, it's like they took a page out of the 'all white everything' book. At times, it feels like they're trying too hard to be a hit on Instagram. This is one reason I have a soft spot for Mandarin Oriental. Their recently refurbished hotels have a cool way of blending modern luxury with design elements indigenous to the hotel's locale, crafting a unique style that couldn't be replicated elsewhere. Each one has its own personality, unlike the cookie-cutter vibe I sometimes get from Four Seasons. But, I'll give credit where it's due. Here in Athens, the Four Seasons’ minimalism takes a backseat, letting the stunning ocean views do the talking.

In the luxury segment, it has long been the norm for guests or their travel assistants to inform hotels about their preferences ahead of time. Whether it's a preference for still water or the right size slippers, these details aim to personalize the stay. In my view, one of the worst missteps a hotel can make is to overlook this curated stay list. It's a slight that signals to the guest their time and effort in communicating their preferences were wasted, or worse, that they're not worthy of personalized service. So that's exactly what Four Seasons decided to do. Despite extending thanks for sharing our preferences, they must have swiftly filed it under 'irrelevant'. Not a single item from our list saw the light of day, nor did the complimentary champagne courtesy of One&Only. What greeted us instead was a printed welcome note - so formal, so impersonal.

After both my travel agent, and One&Only had been in touch with them both to highlight the problems, I was assured that everything would now be taken care of, and that they would show me another bungalow with both a tub and a double vanity. Given the situation, I was perhaps expecting someone from management or guest relations to make an appearance, but they sent the buggy driver to show us the other bungalow instead.

Bungalow 33 didn't present a much better scenario. It was evidently prepped for another guest, with a conference goodie bag laid on the bed and a COVID test on the table. Located on the other side of the cove, it did afford less foot traffic by being situated further away from the main building. However, it had worse views and still lacked privacy from neighboring bungalows—a problem that seemed to be a common theme among all the pool bungalows. The lack of proper privacy screens gives a clear view into the neighboring pool area, going against the whole idea of having a private pool. Ironically, the rooms marketed as private seem to be the least private in the entire resort. On top of that, Bungalow 33 felt noticeably more cramped. Thinking about it, I can't find any advantages the bungalows have over a normal room.

We opted to stick with Bungalow 9, buoyed by a promise that upon our return from the beach, champagne would await us, and the overlooked stay list would be attended to. Everyone makes mistakes, and we're happy to forgive. What really sets luxury places apart is how they handle things when they don't go as planned or when problems come up, after all. However, it seemed like Four Seasons had a policy against getting things right.

The only change we found was the champagne and a bowl of chips. The rest of the stay list remained ignored: no dental kits, just one duvet instead of two, no body pillow, no chilled still water, and no washcloths. It felt like I was asking for corrections for the hundredth time. After dinner, we came back to see that our requests were finally honored. The lack of chilled still water was taken so seriously, that upon fixing the stay list, they provided enough water to have prevented the Californian droughts.

There comes a point when even humor finds a way amidst frustration. And so at this point, the idea of Four Seasons Total Landscaping not being the worst Four Seasons started to cross my mind. For a first-day experience at a high-end resort, I struggle to recall a worse one.

Things got a bit better as days went by, but problems kept popping up. It seemed, except for a few diligent souls, a game of ‘not-it’ was the popular choice among the staff. Tasks were shuffled around in hopes that someone else would pick up the slack, a strategy that unfortunately led to many unattended details.

Take for example the small but sweet gesture by housekeeping. I had told them I liked the first kind they brought, so on day two, they brought over two types of chips, hoping to nail down my preference and stock my favorite the next day. A commendable thought, yet the follow-through got lost somewhere. The empty bowl of the favored chips sat there, a silent testimony to good intentions meeting poor execution, while the other bowl remained untouched.

I had also initially been quite impressed with the cleanliness, until I spilled some water on the floor. When I wiped it up with a towel, the towel turned black, and it was clear the floor hadn’t been cleaned properly in a while.

On the second day, our bungalow decided to momentarily part ways with its water supply. Thankfully, we were heading out for dinner, and by our return, the water had decided to rekindle its relationship with the plumbing.

There were two times when the staff checked in on us. Housekeeping called on day two to make sure the stay list issues were fixed, and after the water trouble, a guy from the front desk came to find us at the beach to say sorry and ask if things were better. Not wanting to trade sunbathing for a litany of complaints, I defaulted to the universal code for discontent masked in politeness, “It’s fine”, and left it at that.

But as Aristotle once said, "It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light." So, in an attempt to seek some light in the rather dim experience, I found that despite the hiccups, there were a few things that Four Seasons did nail.

One of the highlights at Four Seasons is undoubtedly their bedding. It's often touted as one of the most comfortable in the hotel industry, if not the best. Their app is another great aspect. You can use it, or any major messaging app to send over requests, which is a great time-saver compared to the ordeal of calling up and explaining things over the phone. The app also allows for ordering food, beverages, amenities, and even browsing restaurant menus. It's a feature really I wish more hotels would adopt.

Another thing that often irks me is the use of single-use toiletries. It’s bad for the environment, and peeling off the foil of the shower gel with wet hands is a hassle. Here, they had large, refillable toiletries of great quality. A big thumbs up. This care for the environment was also visible at the beach, with water served in cartons, and at the restaurants that sported some of the best paper straws I’ve ever come across.

While I hesitate to single out individuals when the experience falls short, I think it's only right to shine a light on those who made our stay memorable. The service at the private beach below the Arion building was in fact really good, rivaling some of the best beach/pool service we've experienced, outshining Amanbagh, MO & FS in Bangkok, and O&O Mandarina. The staff was a breath of fresh air - every single person there carried a blend of friendliness and attentiveness that was in a class of its own. They recognized us, remembered our preferences, and genuinely seemed invested in making our beach time enjoyable. A nice touch was the handing out of fresh fruit at the beach. Sadly, I didn’t catch any of their names.

The concierge, Alexandros, was also great. He snagged us a table at Soil and helped plan a nice Athens afternoon visit.

Now, there's one name that deserves a special mention—Lineta at Taverna 37. Among a crew of great folks at the Taverna, Lineta was the epitome of exceptional service. Attentive without being intrusive, warm yet professional, genuine, she embodied the kind of service we had been yearning for since our arrival. Lineta owned that space, not just with us, but with all the guests. When she was around, it was almost like being at another resort. Her exemplary service was a masterclass in hospitality, and surely merits a promotion and a raise. While I made sure to convey my appreciation to her on our final day, I do hope someone will relay this commendation once more.

Certainly, Lineta wasn't the only highlight at Taverna 37. The boardwalk restaurant quickly became our go-to dining spot, thanks to its culinary offerings. The food mostly hit the right notes—fresh, flavorful, and evoking the rich tapestry of Greek culinary tradition. A highlight was their display of the catch of the day, beautifully presented as if on a fish market, ready to be freshly grilled or baked in a salt crust to order. However, a quirky hiccup with the fries—they remained obstinately raw three days in a row—cast a minor shadow on an otherwise delightful dining experience.

Food & Beverage

Unfortunately, the light of Taverna 37 couldn't shine across the entire resort. After cycling through lunch, dinner, and breakfast multiple times over, we got quite the flavor of the culinary level at the resort. And at one point, I was half-convinced it's the pool guy moonlighting as the F&B manager.

Breakfast, according to some the most important meal of the day, sadly turned out to be the least appetizing chapter of their F&B offering. The resort hosts two breakfast venues, one in each building, boasting different a la carte menus and operating hours. Yet, not a whisper about this disparity is shared with the guests.

The buffet presentation at both venues was notably sparse, perhaps one of the sparsest I've witnessed in a high-end establishment. While the offering at Mercato carried a tad more substance, it still fell flat. In fact, the buffet was so underwhelming, it looked more sparse than what a Greek mother might put together on a lazy Sunday morning.

Our inaugural breakfast at Mercato unveiled what would unfold as Four Seasons’ Achilles heel over the ensuing days—the seemingly Herculean task of poaching an egg. It's perhaps among the basics in culinary school, especially for those destined for the hotel industry's breakfast service, yet here it seemed all Greek to them.

On that first day, my avocado toast was graced with poached eggs that were so overcooked, it was as if someone had thrown them into a rolling boil and then decided to take a siesta. The sight was far from appetizing. This made the premade Eggs Benedict at Pelagos the next morning seem like a big upgrade. Was this where the skilled egg poachers were hiding? Guess not, because on our last breakfast, I had to send back the poached eggs twice before getting an egg with a center even close to runny.

In general, breakfast at Pelagos was an interesting affair. The first day we tried, we arrived at 10:50, a mere 10 minutes shy of closing time, and were greeted with the news that the kitchen would clock out at 10:55, so we needed to hurry. We were ready to make quick decisions, all we needed were the menus. We mentioned this to the server, who assured us 'someone else' would bring them over promptly. Tick-tock, the minutes rolled by and at 10:55, there was still no menu in sight. Taking matters into our own hands, we fetched the menus ourselves. But surprise, surprise, half the items listed were not available. Usually, it's common courtesy to kick things off by outlining what's possible, what's on offer, rather than starting with a list of can't-dos. It just sets a more upbeat tone. No one swung by to take our juice, tea, or coffee orders either. In a nearly empty restaurant, with over eight servers fluttering around and only two tables occupied, it felt like we had inadvertently crashed a staff meeting rather than come in for breakfast.

On the day of our departure, we thought to give Pelagos another shot since it was conveniently close to both our bungalow and the check-out desk. Even though half the menu items were still out of reach, I asked for the "Fried poached" eggs, just with a regular poached egg instead. The dish was supposed to come with pastrami and asparagus, yet what landed before me was a thin slice of bread topped with two “hard-boiled eggs,” accompanied by a rocket salad. After sending the dish back, it returned with the right sides, but the eggs were even more overdone than before.

Lunch at Helios, the poolside Latin American restaurant, also had its highs and lows. The elote street corn with a zest of Manchego cheese and Tajin spice was good, as was the homemade guacamole, though paired with store-bought chips. The tuna tostada, however, was a sorrowful homage to a brave tuna, its essence lost in a sea of mayonnaise, laid on a bland tostada with chunky avocado pieces. Its price tag of €19 seemed to pay tribute more to the idea than the reality of the dish. However, the churros for dessert redeemed the meal—really good and served in a playful manner.

As for the restaurants outdoor seating area, it offers more than just views of the pool and the sea. It's also a prime spot for parties celebrating the joys of lung cancer, something you’ll probably get after breathing the smoke fumes from the neighboring tables—a sentiment that extends to the beach and other outdoor dining spots at the resort.

We also figured to give the hotel's "upscale Italian trattoria" a shot. Surely, the place that fumbled with a poached egg at breakfast could redeem itself with some Mediterranean evening fare. The ambiance was about as upscale as Jamie’s Italian.

As we got seated in the almost empty restaurant, our ears were caught in a musical crossfire. On one side, the restaurant’s tunes, and on the other, the lively beats from a company party at the bar next door. The mix of music was as annoying as it was loud. Since muting the merry party would be both challenging and a tad gloomy, and the playlist, though pleasant, strayed from the Italian dinner aura, the sensible move would've been to hush the tunes on our end.

If the dueling playlists weren’t enough, our server decided to add a third layer to the auditory medley. She embarked on a monologue that felt more rehearsed than a Broadway play. With the enthusiasm of a game show host, she began listing every single item on the cocktail menu, extolling the virtues of each drink as though they were nectar from the gods. Without pausing for breath, she segued into the food menu, again praising every dish to high heavens. Not only did she seem to miss reading the room, it's hard to believe every dish or drink could be the culinary equivalent of a home run.

The culinary journey began on a dry note with their complimentary “house bread” — a focaccia, which seemed to challenge every other bread on this side of the Mediterranean on a 'who can be drier' contest, paired with olive tapenade. Serving such a bread in Italy could possibly get you exiled to Greece for a culinary penance.

The next dish was a caprese with burrata served alongside cold tomatoes. As anyone who's cooked beyond a beginner's level knows, the cardinal rule with tomatoes is to have them at room temperature. Cold tomatoes lose their aromatic profile and their rich sun-kissed taste, ending up with a mealy texture that is far from the soft creaminess of the burrata they were paired with.

When the server asked if we’d liked it, my honest feedback was met with a nonchalant "ok". Almost as if I had insulted her. However, after a while, someone who seemed to be a manager approached our table to inquire further about the tomatoes. Upon hearing my feedback again, he informed me that the tomatoes were not too cold, but they needed to be cold to maintain their freshness - a contradiction almost as informative being told that ice isn’t cold, but it needs to be cold to freeze.


The Four Seasons Astir Palace boasts a medley of awards that could fill a wall: a Forbes Five-Star designation, Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award, #35 in World’s 50 Best Hotels Awards, Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Award, and the title of Greece's Leading Luxury Hotel 2023 from the World Travel Awards.

I can't help but wonder how many of them are on a pay-to-play basis, or come from reviewers who haven't experienced truly great hotels and now are dazzled by anything that shines. The notable presence of press members on the voting panel for the World's 50 Best makes the over 300 rooms here seem conveniently ample for comped press stays.

Staying here is exactly what social media was created for: you can say you’ve done it and boy is it photographic, but when it comes to making you feel special, they’re missing the mark. It’s like they’re not quite tuned into what you might need or want until you spell it out, not once but twice. And in the race to stand out in the hotel world, that’s a lap behind.

There's a time and a place for everything, yet I'm left scratching my head trying to pinpoint the where and when for the Four Seasons Astir Palace. It's not devoid of charm, but with big names like One&Only and Mandarin Oriental stepping into Athens soon, not standing out in any way is a surefire ticket to being forgotten.

The thing with Four Seasons in general is that you never really know what you're gonna get. And what do you actually stand for as a brand when I don’t know what I’m going to get depending on where I go?

Rooms in the peak season rarely dip below €2,000 for a 30-square-meter space. It's a dramatic jump from before Four Seasons, when similar rooms were often less than €400. While the inflated prices reflect Four Seasons' brand allure and broader trends in Europe's luxury market, I question whether the Athens Riviera truly rivals the Cote D'Azur or if Astir Palace can justify a higher cost per square meter than competitors like Amanzoe or One&Only.

What might depress me the most is the missed opportunity. Initially destined for One&Only, it was the perfect shot for them to sweep us off our feet, ensuring the next time, we'd skip them and head straight here. When you snag guests right from your rival’s booking list, that’s your cue to dazzle, not to fumble. Yet, it felt almost as if they escorted us back to One&Only’s welcoming arms, and that’s precisely where I'll be when Athens rings again.