Mary Katrantzou’s Athens

The Greek-born fashion designer’s creations, featuring inventive digital prints and dramatic architectural shapes, are stocked in more than 200 stores in 47 countries

Mary Katrantzou
Mary Katrantzou | Image: Grigoris Digkas

I go home to Greece to visit family and friends several times a year. It’s a four-hour flight from London, so I usually take a long weekend, much of which revolves around relaxing meals, trips to the beach and chatting. Of course, the current economic situation is a subject of debate. My friends are experiencing it now more than initially, and I think everyone wonders what the future will bring. As a visitor, you don’t notice so much, as everyone still likes to go out to cheer themselves up.

My first evening is usually spent with my family at Dionysos, a restaurant I’ve been going to with my parents since I was a child. It’s in the city centre with a great view of the Acropolis from the terrace and is a real heritage place – the homemade taramasalata and lamb stew are fantastic. Later, I’ll meet friends for drinks in Karytsi Square, where there are lots of cool, casual bars. I love to drive around the city when it’s late and quiet, to pick up a good cappuccino before going home to watch a movie.

On Saturday morning I’ll take a look at the shops in Kolonaki. I particularly like Luisa boutique, which sells my favourites, such as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Bottega Veneta, alongside my own designs. Nearby is one of the city’s best museums, the Benaki, a privately funded foundation with more than 90,000 Greek artworks and artefacts, from ancient times to the last century.

For lunch I might meet my boyfriend at the Grande Bretagne, one of Athens’ best hotels, where the GB Roof Garden restaurant and bar is surprisingly laid-back, with a great modern menu of healthy Mediterranean food. Afterwards, I like to walk in the Eleftherias Park, which has a very peaceful coffee place that not many people know about.

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I’m always excited to go to the sea and as I’m starved of sunshine in London, on Saturday afternoon I often meet friends at the Astir Palace Resort, which has its own beautifully kept beach where I have a long swim. We’ll have coffee and a snack nearby at En Plo, a popular all-day bar with views over the Saronic Gulf, followed by more beach time.

Later, we’ll head to Balux, which is also by the sea. It’s like a house with different rooms – dining room, library, games room and so on – and you can swim until late, then relax on big cushions with a drink and listen to lounge music. We’ll probably have dinner there, maybe sushi, and then move on to a couple of the more elegant cocktail bars at Glyfada, such as Mosaiko, which has a fantastic atmosphere. I’m afraid I don’t go clubbing any more – an evening’s drinks catching up with friends is as far as I go.

I think Greece has a subconscious influence on my work rather than a direct one, but there are some very inspirational aspects. On Sunday morning, for example, I love to go to the Deste Foundation, which supports emerging artists and has incredible exhibitions; it’s a beautiful, modern space in an old building. I also love to drive to Koukaki in the southeast of the city and walk around – the colours and architecture of the neoclassical buildings can be seen in my designs.

And I can’t go to Athens without a visit, usually with my parents, to Blue Pine – a very old, unchanging restaurant that does an amazing veal Milanese. This might seem a strange thing to eat in Greece, but it’s just so good. After that I need a walk, so I’ll go to Mount Ymittos, where all my friends with children and dogs like to meet on Sunday afternoons. It has a relaxed atmosphere, and there is also the beautiful Byzantine Kaisariani Monastery there, hidden in the hillside. It gives me a good, recharged feeling before I head back to London.

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