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History of Xenia Hotels in Greece

In the early 1950s, everybody was talking about the new “Xenia” hotels – a nationwide group of ultra luxury hotels that were expected to grow the tourism industry in Greece. The Greek state was mostly bankrupt after the world war and its own civil war, so the Greek government decided to start the ambitious Xenia project – a group of hotels that they hoped would boost the economy. In the height of the “Xenia” days, there were 59 working Xenia Hotels. 

 

But where are those hotels now? What happened to them?

Theoxenia, Kos Island, 1960s

What is a “Xenia” Hotel?

Xenia is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, and it means the hospitality shown to a guest. This was a custom in Ancient Greece, where certain rules were required when hosting a traveler. The law was sacred and you were required to show hospitality to a visitor. 

 

The hotels were designed in a similar way – to provide hospitality to foreigners visiting Greece, mainly near as many tourist destinations as possible. The ideal customer was an international tourist in the middle class who came to enjoy the nature and weather of Greece.

Theoxenia, Kos Island, 1960s

Between the years 1938 and 1962, the number of tourists visiting Greece by car grew very quickly because of the new ferry between Greece and Italy in Igoumenitsa. As a result, all the xenias were designed to have parking lots for easy car access. 

 

Who Designed the “Xenia” Hotels?

The Xenia resort hotels were designed under the team of Aris Konstantinidis, a well-known architect of modernism in Greece. Konstantinidis believed strongly in local architecture and never built outside of Greece. He didn’t like the “romantic” architecture like columns and pediments that were actually European forms. Konstantinidis believed that true Greek architecture was in modest countryside homes. 

The Lynx Mountain Resort and Casino, Florina

Where are the Xenias Now?

In 1983, the Xenia program was abandoned, and each of the hotels has taken a new form. Some are renovated and work as hotels, some were sold to private companies, and others are abandoned for now.

The Lynx Mountain Resort and Casino, Florina

Xenia Hotel Corfu

This xenia was built in 1955 and it was heavily changed by the Hilton Hotel Group. Right now, the building is operated as the Corfu Holiday Palace. The Palace keeps the classic 1970s “look” and is perhaps the most historic hotel in Corfu. The Prime Minister of the time, Konstantinos Karamalis, loved to spend time with his family here, where he could enjoy the beautiful view. 

 

The Corfu Holiday Palace is also famous for the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only” where Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset acted on set. Nearby, an added bonus for the guests is the Corfu Golf Club, one of Greece’s best golf clubs.

Corfu Holiday Palace

Makryammos Xenia

This famous Xenia hotel is on the island of Thassos in northern Greece. 50 years ago, it had 70 rooms and hoped to make Thassos a more loved tourist destination. He hoped to use local marble to build a jetty on the beach.  Makyrammos Xenia has a beautiful garden, which blocks the view of the bungalows from the sea, but still allows you to see the water. 

Makryammos, Thassos

Xenia Kos

Kos island is the birthplace of Hippocrates, and it was designed in the 1960s, just a few meters from the central market. Its original name was the “Kos Aktis Art Hotel.” It had 42 rooms when it was built, making it one of the first tourist destinations of the area. Today, the hotel is known as the “Theoxenia” and it continues to benefit the tourism of the island of Kos by creating new jobs. 

Kos Aktis Art Hotel
Theoxenia, Kos Island, 1960s

Xenia Sfakia

This small hotel in Crete was built in the early 1960s and major improvements were made when the Greek National Tourist Organization sold the hotel to Giannis Braos, the current owner. The hotel was renovated and now features 24 modern, simple rooms with wooden ceilings and sea views. Sfakia is definitely worth a visit when spending time on the island of Crete, Greece’s largest island. 

Xenia Hotel, Sfakia

Xenia Florina

Florina, found in northern Greece, has its own Xenia that has now become a high-end luxury hotel on the hill of Saint Panteleimona. The Totti brothers bought it in 1975 and kept operating the residence until the 1990s. Then, the Xenia was rebuilt in order to make room for a casino. It is know known as The Lynx Mountain Resort and Casino, featuring 40 decorated rooms and terrific views.

The Lynx Mountain Resort and Casino, Florina
Florina

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