The Ilisian: Reimagining an Icon of Modern Athens

The former Hilton Athens is being transformed into a multi-faceted destination that aspires to forge exciting new connections between the Greek capital and the rest of the world.

“I agree with those who believe that the Hilton Athens is the most beautiful Hilton in the world,” Conrad Hilton declared at the hotel’s grand opening in 1963. This iconic example of architectural modernism brought to Athens a spirit of optimism, openness and cosmopolitanism. It came to define an entire era, culminating in the 2004 Olympic Games, when it became the official hotel of the International Olympic Committee.

In 2022, the Hilton Athens closed its doors so that something new could be born in its place. The historic structure is being transformed into a multifaceted destination boasting a new hotel and luxury residences under Hilton’s award-winning Conrad and Waldorf Astoria brands, as well as a lifestyle members’ club, and outstanding facilities for gastronomy, entertainment, wellness and shopping, creating a unique ecosystem of experiences that will help the world experience contemporary Athens to the fullest.

This new destination is called The Ilisian, named for the historic Ilisos River and the surrounding Ilisia neighborhood; the name itself denotes a timeless connection to the city and its residents. Integral to The Ilisian, soon to be a vibrant meeting place for Athenians and visitors alike, is a cosmopolitan spirit that embodies the building’s original identity and embraces the essence of modern Athens; it will be a place where the city’s fabled cultural heritage lives comfortably alongside contemporary international trends.

The announcement of the name and the presentation of the first 3D renderings of the new destination, expected to be completed by the end of 2025, took place on the construction site, at a special event attended by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He expressed his hope that The Ilisian would become a city landmark for the 21st century, similar to what the Hilton represented for the 20th century. “The Ilisian has been transformed into a bridge that connects the present with the past, leading the capital as a whole to a more hopeful future,” he remarked. “This significant investment contributes to the vision of an Athens that is welcoming and visitable 12 months a year. Its modern operation will also become a part of the new image of a country that once again has new and grand horizons.”

“With great respect for the unique legacy of this landmark, we carry the responsibility of its repurposing so that it continues to be a beloved destination, creating lifetime memories,” says Achilles V. Constantakopoulos, Chairman of TEMES S.A., the majority shareholders of Ionian Hotel Enterprises, the new destination’s developers. “Our ambition is for The Ilisian to become a meeting point and source of inspiration, where international concepts blend harmoniously with the local character.”

“Athens has been home to the Hilton for more than six decades, and we’re incredibly proud to be evolving such a key city landmark on the site of the iconic former Hilton Athens,” adds Dino Michael, Senior Vice President & Global Category Head, Hilton Luxury Brands. “The city is a perfect destination for today’s global luxury traveler, with a thriving cultural scene and a rich history – and the stunning location of the property overlooking the Acropolis perfectly complements the property’s modern luxury design. We are excited to begin welcoming guests next year.”

This strategic investment, which totals €340 million (including the acquisition of the building), will impact Athens significantly. According to a University of Piraeus study, THE ILISIAN’s overall economic contribution during its first five years of operation will top €1.25 billion. The project also holds substantial employment benefits, having created over 800 direct jobs during the construction phase and poised to generate up to 800 direct operational jobs – nearly triple the number previously employed at the location.

The Ilisian is designed to highlight contemporary Athens and support the Greek capital’s emergence as a premier European travel and residential destination. Making its debut in Greece, Conrad Athens will offer 278 well-appointed guest rooms and suites, each providing expansive views of historic Athens, along with a 400-square-meter mega-suite. Furthermore, 18 private residences are available as Conrad Residences and 37 as Waldorf Astoria Residences, the latter located on the building’s upper floors.

The cornerstone of modern design is storytelling; with its rich history, the original building provided ample narrative material for today’s creators to serve a vision of modern luxury that invites you to experience it. Spaces, materials, lines, textures, and colors all pay tribute to the design language of modernism and the optimism it expressed globally in the first post-war decades. The designers envision a return of the building to its glorious days, with the architectural study by AETER Architects preserving and highlighting all its iconic elements. The most prominent are the two reliefs by famed Greek artist Yannis Moralis on facades made of Pentelic marble, each 626 square meters and featuring scenes inspired by antiquity that combine elements of hospitality, travel, and entertainment. Moralis, like all his contemporaries of the ’30s Generation who helped shape the landscape of modern Greek art, is present both as a source of inspiration and as a spirit – restless, bohemian, daring, artistic: all elements embodied in the character of the emerging destination.

The sunny climate of Athens and the Hilton’s privileged position in the most prominent expanse of central Athens, a spot considered a suburb even at the beginning of the last century, are integral to the design narrative. The Ilisian gives a strong sense of being surrounded by nature, with gardens, plants, and water features that evoke a sense of well-being, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior environments, with natural light adding nuances to the overall atmosphere throughout the day.

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