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Fine Arts, Maritime Heritage, and Sustainable Transportation on the Cosmopolitan Greek Island of Hydra

Fine Arts, Maritime Heritage, and Sustainable Transportation on the Cosmopolitan Greek Island of Hydra

Hydra is one of the Saronic Gulf islands which are the nearest to Athens. It is elegant and authentic, the most stylish version of a Greek island. Get ready for a quick boat ride to Hydra with a crescent-shaped port that is even more amphitheatric, surrounded by old stone mansions built by wealthy naval war leaders and ship owners through the last centuries. This cosmopolitan and artistic island has been a maritime stronghold, a cultural center, and in recent decades a discreet haven for the rich & sophisticated. The strict no-car/motorbike policy – only donkeys, mules, horses, and water taxis are allowed for transportation – will encourage you to walk all these short distances and exercise, which is also a very attractive concept to those focusing on wellness. Art connoisseurs such as billionaire art collector Dakis Joannou and singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen have shared publicly their affinity for the island. In the 60s and the 70s, it was visited by icons such as Sophia Loren, Richard Burton, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Pink Floyd, Joan Collins, Brigitte Bardot, John Lennon, and Jackie O. Elizabeth Taylor owned a home there until her death. Famous conceptual photographer Juergen Teller is a regular along with an eclectic list of elite foreign visitors. Kate Moss loves it too.

Accommodation in Hydra

Bratsera Hotel. This is our favorite choice in Hydra and coveted among A-listers too. Bratsera means the mother ship where Greek sponge divers relaxed after solitary hours in the sea. It is a serene boutique hotel inside an 1860s renovated sponge factory. Today, this building, with the only hotel swimming pool on the island due to limited water reserves, features many luxury amenities. Rooms and suites are decorated in the traditional island-chic style.

Leto Hotel. Without a pool but with the authentic aura of a 50-year-old 5-star hotel hidden in a picturesque alley near the port, it emphasizes Greek hospitality in roomy spaces accented with neoclassical and traditional island-style furniture.

Four Seasons Hydra. Right on the beach of Vlychos, you will also find this estate (renovated in 2008) comprised only of suites plus one villa and offers cruises with their own wooden sailing boat.

Orloff Hotel. 6 rooms and 2 suites in a house built in 1796 by a Russian noble sent by Catherine II to assist the Greek war of independence against the Turkish rulers comprise the first boutique hotel on the island that opened its doors in 1986. Renovations with respect to the traditional island style have turned it into a highly recommended option.

Cotommatae 1810 Guest House. One of the most important mansions at the port of Hydra has been lately restored as a special type of boutique hotel. It belongs to the Historic Hotels of Europe, dating back to the early 19th century. Exceptional architectural elements such as the masterful ceilings of the hall and of the drawing room, the wooden walls, and the chestnut tree wooden roofs have been preserved. Beautiful outdoor spaces include a garden, courtyards, and verandas. It has 5 suites, each very special in terms of the interiors.

Image: Hydrea Hotel and Castello restaurant, Hydra, castellohydra.gr

Hydrea. Originally built in 1803, this beautiful archontiko (the Greek word for ‘mansion’) was restored to all its former glory in 2010 and since then guests are invited to enjoy the exclusivity of staying in one of the island’s stately, historical homes. The sea-view building has a handful of suites, masterfully renovated and some overlooking the port. Hydrea invites its guests to its official partner restaurant, Castello, to taste delicious Mediterranean dishes from breakfast to gourmet lunch or dinner. It is in a fully renovated 18th-century fort-like building in the neighborhood of Kamini, with a breathtaking sea view from its romantic terraces and a sunbed-equipped beach lounge. Hydra Hotel is another partnering boutique hotel of similar allure with modernized, minimalist interiors.

Restaurants/Bars & Beaches in Hydra    

If you are daring enough to swim in springtime, take a dip in the water from the iconic rocks of Spilia, Avlaki, and Hydronetta (not exactly beaches); the last one is also suggested for its famous sunset-cocktail Hydronetta bar that is literally hanging from the cliff. Regarding other beaches, you can walk to Kamini and Mandraki with a resort & beach services (sushi is an option!) or take one of the many water taxis to the beaches of Saint Nicholas, Vlychos, and Bisti.

Omilos restaurant. For cocktails and a cosmopolitan dinner, try the exact building of the internationally known legendary nightclub Lagoudera – that has seen Brigitte Bardot, Aristotle Onassis, Jackie Kennedy, The Rolling Stones, Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, and more VIPs dancing or flirting in the 70s. It’s renamed, yet it is still a magical place.

Téchnē restaurant. Gourmet is served by young yet experienced chef Yannis Michalopoulos who is lately receiving great reviews for his farm-to-table modern Greek kitchen offerings.

Sunset restaurant. Another one at the port with a great view, it has been awarded 2nd place globally among ‘restaurants with a view’ by the ABC news.

Sightseeing in Hydra

Lazaros Koundouriotis Historical Mansion & Museum. Take a glimpse of the grandeur of the famous local captains’ mansions from a visit to this home-turned-museum, where you can be guided to the affluent 19th-century island lifestyle.

Museum of Hydra. You should also check this one located in a majestic stone building right on the port. It houses many items donated by the descendants of the families who dominated the island’s social structure in the 1800s and were instrumental in launching the Greek War of Independence. The museum has a distinctive nautical theme which reflects the strategic importance that Hydra held during that time as a safe harbor from which to launch the Greek fleet.

Image: Hydra Artistic Annex of Athens School of Fine Arts, asfa.gr

School of Fine Arts. The Tombasis family Mansion has been an art education institution since 1936 that exhibits paintings of historical ships and events. Modernist Marc Chagall lived and taught there for a while. Although only students are allowed in, visitors can take a look when the school is open.

Image: Hydra Slaughterhouse, DESTE Foundation, deste.gr/hydra

Hydra Slaughterhouse. This Project Space, in a building renovated in ways that reflect its past and present use, is part of the DESTE Foundation’s program of contemporary art exhibitions and events and holds every spring/summer season a project by one or more guest artists. Art-collecting industrialist Dakis Joannou, the founder of DESTE, along with curators, has been behind incredible initiatives and big-name art projects with Jeff Koons on the schedule for 2020, to be finally taking place in summer 2022. The location – right on the edge of a rock – and the raw nature of this stone-wall premise has already been proven an ideal setting for creativity since 2009.

Prophet Elias Monastery. Finally, hikers should definitely walk up mount Eros ending up for chilled water and a loukoumi dessert at a monastery graced by a breathtaking view of the port.

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