In 2012, four friends - Varnavas, Vassilis, Antonis and Andreas- decided to set up a unique business offering travellers affordable accomodation and the ultimate Athenian experience. They set out to design spaces that were a lot more personal than a hotel and more exclusive than an airbnb. They decided on an empty building in Thissio- a cool neighbourhood below the Parthenon and from there the Live in Athens journey began.
Initially the boys were very hands on and did everything themselves- from painting, styling and cleaning- and only four years down the track they have managed to establish 11 apartments (two in Thissio, nine in Psirri) and 10 staff members.
Guests are welcomed with homemade Greek treats, a list of insider tips and are made to feel as welcome and “at home” as possible during their stay in Athens- as these four guys are the perfect hosts.
GCT spoke to the Live in Athens team about this great concept, which has received raving reviews.
Tell us when ‘Live in Athens’ began and how it all came about?
We were friends for years before we started working on Live in Athens and we used to travel a lot together. We usually stayed either at friends' places or at apartments. On our way back from a trip to Berlin in 2011, Andreas said something like "Why don't we create apartments for the visitors of Athens?"
A few months later we renovated the first Live in Athens apartment in Thissio and our first guests arrived in May 2012. We received amazingly encouraging feedback and realised that we can make a difference in the hospitality market in Athens. From there we became dedicated to creating value-for- money apartments for our city's modern travellers.
What is the core concept behind it all?
Love for the city. Apartments to make you feel at home. Open minds and hearts. Respect for different cultures. Friendship. Communication. Understanding. Positive energy. Real hospitality. Live in Athens is about living the city the way you really want, getting the most out of your experience in Athens and becoming part of a big family of like-minded people.
What makes staying in your apartments a great experience for guests?
The best answer to that would be our guests' reviews (you should check them out). In our words, it is the opportunity to stay in a "feel like home" apartment- it is like staying at a friend's place. This feeling makes you experience the city on a whole new level, it gives you a sense of safety and independence and is the right starting point for your personal adventures in the city of Athens.
How did you guys meet and what experience do you each bring to the ‘Live in Athens’ team?
We actually met all together on a boat to Crete- travelling was in our DNA and that is how we first met. We always work as a team and make decisions together. Varnavas is from Cyprus and came to Athens to study graphic design and instantly fell in love with the city- he turns our ideas into visuals. Andreas is a designer and responsible for making things happen- he recently created his own carpentry in the center of Athens. Vassilis was born in Athens, has a vision for making this city greener and makes sure there is nothing missing from our apartments- he also brings lemon trees, strawberries and sunflowers to our roof tops. Andonis is the guy that always takes a different road to work- he is behind numbers and in front of new business development plans and makes sure our feet are on the ground (even though we like to fly).
Who comes up with the creative ideas for spaces, styling and décor?
We do! It's a very creative process, we talk about it a lot, look for new ideas, chat with guests and friends, search for old furniture that we turn into functional pieces and try to create spaces that we would like to live in ourselves. Varnavas and Andreas are responsible for bringing the ideas to life.
How would you describe your apartments?
Functional with a creative twist and attention to detail- with everything you might need during your stay. And made with respect to the environment and the history of each building and neighbourhood, we might add. A perfect place to wake up in Athens and comfort that makes you want to stay in a bit longer.
Tell us about the areas you have chosen as a location for Live in Athens?
They are all centrally located in the areas of Thissio and Psirri. The center of Athens is an amazing mix of the old and the new, the glorious past and the diverse present of the city. Staying in the center is the best option for travellers that want to explore Athens. Both Thissio and Psirri are next to the Acropolis and the Acropolis museum, in walking distance to the Ancient Agora or the central market, the city's galleries and hidden bars. There is something for everyone just around the corner.
How do you make guests feel as though they are at home?
We are being ourselves. For us Live in Athens is our second home- every check in is like welcoming guests at our house. This attitude creates an unpretentious, feel-good atmosphere for every guest. Plus we have delicious little treats, like our homemade yogurt with fruits and honey, and we are always available to give guidance depending on the individual needs of each guest.
How many apartments are available and are you already full for this Summer season?
There are 11 apartments at the moment, all under the same concept, each one unique. We are very happy because our guests keep coming back, that's the best reward we can ask for. We are almost full for this summer, but if you are planning to visit Athens check out our availability.
What other services do you provide for guests?
We do not have a predefined plan. We give advice to each guest separately, depending on his or her needs and we think this makes us unique. We have lived in Athens for years, so we know where to eat great salads, where to see the emerging art scene of the city, where to mix with the locals 'tonight', which bars serve the best cocktails and where to buy unforgettable gifts. Over the last four years we have created tailor made experiences for guests that asked for it, like private dinners on the terrace, baby sitting services, alternative tours with the Athens Insiders team, surprise birthday parties, long nights out. You ask for it, we make it happen in Athens!
Are they all self-contained apartments?
Yes and that's part of the experience. Everything you need, just like being at home.
Can people with children also stay?
Of course, we are a family that loves other families.
Any new apartments or projects you are working on that you can tell us about?
We just opened a new space called Spiti Mas (meaning our home) on the basement of Live in Athens apartments #10 and #11 in Psirri. It is an open house for both guests and locals, where you can take a power nap on a comfortable bed, drink a homemade lemonade, try our signature cocktail "rakito", have a snack with fresh ingredients, do some work, take away your breakfast or have a soup before you go to bed. We are so excited and if you are in Athens you have to come by and say "Hi!"