When planning my Balkan adventure over the summer, I saw that Macedonia spilled out into northern Greece and there happened to be a Hyatt Regency near the airport in the city of Thessaloniki, where I could catch a non-stop flight back to Frankfurt on Aegean. Why not, I thought. Hyatt room rates were reasonable and I surmised it would be a good place to rest for a few days after a week of roughing it in a cluster of countries where western hotels were few and far between. I arrived expecting a standard airport hotel. This, it was not. Not even close—it was a luxury resort that was incredibly pampering, comfortable, and restful. I did not want to leave…
The hotel staff was superb—very warm, very friendly, and very professional. I have not spent enough time in Greece to know if that is just how Greek people are, but there were repeated “wow” moments throughout my stay. I was warmly greeted by name the second morning at breakfast by the hostess who remembered me from the morning before. I suppose everyone loves having their egos tickled, but little touches like remembering my name make a difference—they show that someone cares. At the fitness center, same story—welcomed by name the second day. The ladies in there were smiling and brought workout towels to guests without request. Just a little something extra, but very appreciated.
At the spacious outdoor pool, there were numerous attendants walking around with towels and complimentary glasses of chilled water as well as taking food and drink orders from an extensive poolside menu. My brother and I had a poolside lunch one afternoon and were pleased with the food—a simple bowl of tzatziki with hot bread, then some Greek yogurt with blueberries hit the spot. The weather was great—in the low 80ºs (F) with a breeze—and lounging by the pool with a good book and good snack really helped me to relax.
I was upgraded to a junior suite and spent a good amount of time in the room. I am always busy with work, and the room provided plenty of space to work with a couch that was a bit too comfortable (I won’t lie—I fell asleep on it one night and did not wake till morning). The bedroom had a plush bed and the bathroom was spacious. In other words, plenty of room, very cozy, exactly what you’d expect from a Hyatt hotel. I should add that the wireless internet was fast and complimentary for all guests. A Diamond welcome amenity of wine and fruit was also waiting.
And check out the room’s patio—I spent one afternoon just relaxing on a chaise reading a book.
The Regency Club lounge was either closed or under renovation, but I think that was a blessing in disguise—it allowed me to dine each morning in the hotel’s main open kitchen restaurant, Ambrosia. I mentioned the hostess earlier and to repeat, everyone could not have been more friendly. Fresh squeezed juices, cook-to-order omelets, and all the necessary ingredients of a complete Continental, European, and Greek breakfast. Of particular favorite was the Greek yogurt drizzled in Greek honey—very local and very delicious (so delicious, I have it most mornings for breakfast wherever I am in the world…). I am not a coffee drinker, but my brother raved about both the hot and iced coffee.
We also had dinner at Ambrosia the first night, opting to try the evening special—sea bass schnitzel. The German-inspired dish (with locally-caught fish) was very tasty. A salad and delicious little cheese-wrapped-in-zucchini appetizer made for a filling meal, although I did save room for some pistachio ice cream. The three-course meal was a reasonable 29EUR. Add 10EUR for a glass of local white wine, and you’re looking at a very inexpensive dinner just a few paces from your room.
We dined on the patio and with the exception of an annoying German woman who was totally bad-mouthing Americans in a grotesquely jejune and ignorant manner to her Greek companions at the table next to ours, it was the perfect evening for eating outside. The weather was moderate—as it is for most of the year in Thessaloniki—and the atmosphere just a general din of voices and candlelight—no annoying music or bright lights (other than the flash of my camera...).
Oceana is another restaurant at the hotel, where my brother and I sat down for a drink after we arrived. It is close to the pool and specializes in seafood. The lobby also has a bar where my brother sat down enjoyed a cappuccino and the International Herald Tribune each morning.
The hotel is not exactly close to the heart of Thessaloniki (as in within walking distance), but the hotel offers frequent complimentary shuttle service into Thessaloniki and back (it takes about 20 minutes). The hotel also offers complimentary car service to/from the airport—about 10 minutes away.
The concierge knows Thessaloniki and can recommend restaurants and bars that truly are off the beaten path and full of locals rather than tourists. My brother and I ended up at a rooftop bar called Fragile in the southeast part of town, where no English words were spoken or menus offered.
I am not a gambler, but as an aside, the hotel has a large casino on the property if you are into that sort of thing. So with the pools, fitness center, restaurants, comfortable rooms, great patios/balconies, and even a jewelry store (pictured above) you could spend your whole stay on the premises. But don’t do that—
Thessaloniki is like an undiscovered treasure in Europe. It’s only 2-3 hours away from most points in western Europe by air and is a welcome relief from the overpriced mainstays in Greece like Athens and Santorini. Room prices are often under 200 USD and you are not nickeled and dimed at this property (even the water bottles in the room are free).
The Hyatt Thessaloniki was just an afterthought to my Balkans trip—or so I thought. It turned out to be far from it. In many ways, it was the highlight of the trip. Vacation is about seeing new places, eating new food, and meeting new people, but it is also about relaxing, and there are ample opportunities to relax at this resort property. I must rate Thessaloniki as the most underrated city in Europe. Check it out—and check out the Hyatt.
Also check out Damian's review of the Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki.