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The Excelsior’s large family, friends, visitors and partners have always been our heart and identity. 2019 marked the ten year anniversary since the hotel’s rebirth. We celebrated our successful decade with everyone who became an intrinsic part of our history over the years, revealing the most beautiful feelings and memories.
Celebrities from the cultural scene, members of the city’s political and business community, artists and actors from across the globe had a beautiful thought to share inspired by The Excelsior.
The Excelsior has been operating since 2009, and during the last decade we have had the opportunity to host, meet and rub shoulders with numerous celebrities and public figures. We have welcomed everyone from local journalists and politicians to foreign businesspeople and artists. What they share with us as their most special Excelsior moments, are truly remarkable and inspirational.
Being local, I haven’t had the pleasure of staying overnight at The Excelsior, but I have had many guests stay at the hotel and I know for a fact that they were all delighted. My personal experience is from the lovely Charlie D Brasserie, where I recently attended an event, and was quite impressed by the ambience, the wonderful service and positive attitude it inspired even in the most demanding guests.
The Excelsior is one of the city’s unique architectural gems. I would say it is an ideal and unique facility for its guests, but it is also an important meeting and networking point for the city’s business people and residents.
My wish is that we continue to strengthen the city’s multiculturalism and the provision of exceptionally high-quality services, so that we may contribute to elevating the perception of Thessaloniki as a city with special significance in the wider region of Southeastern Europe. With the right collaborations, institutions such as The Excelsior and Anatolia College can truly make a difference.
Every time I have stayed at The Excelsior it has left a lasting impression on me. The hotel’s serene ambience, the staff’s politeness and eagerness to serve, and the appeal of the building’s history make every moment spent here unique. And the collaboration between the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and The Excelsior has been impeccable in every respect. Our VIP guests who have been accommodated in the hotel’s exceptional rooms were absolutely charmed. Interview and press conferences with the festival’s distinguished guests are always perfectly organised, thanks to substantial support provided by the hotel’s staff. Formal receptions, more casual cocktail parties and exceptional dinners that we have hosted at Charlie D Brasserie in the context of the festival have always received enthusiastic praise from the attendees. And that is why, for us, The Excelsior is not just a valuable professional partner, but also a beloved landmark for the city of Thessaloniki.
I would say that if my favorite director, Wes Anderson, had the opportunity to stay at The Excelsior even for one night, he would choose to film here a different, more minimal version of his renowned Grand Hotel Budapest, with Thessaloniki becoming the – perfectly symmetrical and beautifully colorful – backdrop of an adventurous pursuit that begins and ends at The Excelsior.
I will never forget when, as a journalist, I had the privilege of conducting one of the most important interviews of my career with author Waris Dirie, an incredible woman, at the Mezzanine of the Excelsior. It was in 2010 and the film Desert Flower had just been screened at the 51st Thessaloniki International Film festival. It was a shocking film on the subject of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Somalia, based on the book of the same title that recounts the personal experience of Waris Dirie, who had come to Thessaloniki to speak loudly and clearly and with no inhibitions about such an important issue that the Western world still largely ignored.
I wholeheartedly wish that The Excelsior will continue to be ranked among the best hotels in Greece, offering us on our every visit to Thessaloniki this truly rare feeling of sincere hospitality.
My first memory of the name “Excelsior” refers to a hotel in Loutraki, in the Prefecture of Korinthia, where I had spent summer holidays with my grandmother when I was eight or nine years old. I came across it again when I lifted my gaze and noticed the relief sign on the building at no. 23, Mitropoleos Street, the Matalon Mansion as it was formerly known. That year, I installed myself on the building’s second floor and my architectural practice subsequently took over four offices, staying in the building for two decades. I left in 2006, when the Macedonian Hotels acquired it in order to fully render the meaning of that sign, to make it a truly excellent hotel above all others, by renovating and modernising one of the city’s architectural gems.
In 1992, I photographed all the building’s interiors, with an emphasis on the emotions I experienced due to the sense of abandonment and decay, the marks of time on the walls, floors, doors and window frames, and wrought-iron railings. In fact, even though I am an architect, I defended the right to experience decay, to push back against its negation through maintenance and restoration. My attitude was both romantic and utopian, but it became the launching point for the book Thessaloniki of The Excelsior where, together with author Sakis Serefas, we recorded 50 important landmarks of Thessaloniki, sort of like a personal insider city guide.
My strongest memory, as is to be expected, is from the years that predate the hotel, from the large number of transactions and studies that occurred at my office, within the building’s walls. From the associates who shared the space with me to the attorneys and notaries public that made up most of the building’s inhabitants; among the young jurists I remember Maria Houkli, the newscaster, and Nikos Paraskevopoulos, the former Minister of Justice. From the building’s current phase, during its decade of being a hotel, my memories may not be as strong, but they are constant: every Saturday, together with my childhood friend Dimitris, at the be* Café – and regardless of the décor, which is in its third iteration – we enjoyed the best coffee in town and the great music, we miss the tiny croissants that were served with the coffee under the previous management, and made incisive discussions, usually as grumpy old men that rebel in vain against the ignorance and abuse of the Greek language by the media and the younger generations.
How could it not be interesting? It is a building first erected in 1924, in a city that was still trying to heal its wounds after the great fire; it has masterful architectural details, art deco balconies, tall neoclassical-style windows, and endless stories in its history. Today, it has been subjected to an exemplary restoration that not only respected its glorious past, but also granted to the contemporary future of hospitality the elegance of continuity.
As a place of exemplary aesthetic value that preserves remembrances and creates memories for the city’s future visitors.
Sometime before the beginning of the restoration, hotelier Nikos Tornivoukas invited me for a private tour of the worksite. It was a true revelation. We went up staircases leading back in time. This deserted masterpiece on Mitropoleos Street held stories from eras when architecture was both a vision and a duty for the city. Climbing up the floors, I felt that I could hear the hum of legend - hospitality stories from eras long gone - and at the same time awe before the style and inspiration of the people who designed it. When the hotel was completed, on the very elegant hall on the top floor, the Tornivoukas family welcomed us one night with the first sense of the new. Emotions were just as strong as the first time, but now there was also a feeling of optimism for the new journey that was just beginning!
The Excelsior Hotel is a true gem for the city of Thessaloniki, both because it is housed in a historic building whose wonderful architectural character has been fully preserved, and because it has succeeded in becoming one of the most emblematic hotels in the city. And that is because it maintains the high-quality standards that it established since its opening in the context of the hospitality sector, and so as time goes by it is becoming an enduring value. Personally, I have some lovely memories from events that were hosted at The Excelsior, always perfectly coordinated: the warm accommodation of photo shoots for GLOW magazine with brilliant results since the hotel’s interiors are incredibly tasteful and lastly, countless moments spent with friends at the hotel’s restaurant café.
To be perfectly honest, I believe that being one of the most interesting hotels in the city center, it has created its own unique history simply by its very existence, and at the same time it has one of the most popular and hospitable all-day hangouts for coffee and dining. To wit, exactly what the city needs – a timeless hangout with consistently great quality and a wonderful ambience.
All the hotel’s interiors are perfect for me with their wonderful aesthetic, but the hotel’s new addition, the Charlie D. Brasserie, which has charmed both the locals and visitors with its elegance and sophistication, stands out.
Warm and welcoming – that is how I would describe my stay at The Excelsior! From the minute you set foot inside the hotel, the staff devotes time and attention to you; you do not feel that you are in a luxurious but impersonal reception area of a hotel, but rather as if you are starting out on a journey back in time, enjoying the nobility and luxury of time of the past, together with the abstract minimalism of the present that prepares you for the future. At the restaurant, in a relaxed, friendly environment strongly reminiscent of a French bistro, you can enjoy the charm of now!
I don’t like sharing best moments or memories since this distinction seems to imply that since there are best, there must also be worst. But when I leave some place, event or meeting with such a good feeling, I am content with this sense of warmth and completeness! Without labels!
In the rooms, the harmonious coexistence of a majestic style with linear minimalism would certainly work as the setting for scenes from Das Dreimaederlhaus, by Franz Schubert and Heinrich Berte – an operetta inspired by Schubert’s own life that was presented by the Greek National Opera in 1954-44, if memory serves.
The story of The Excelsior developed parallel to the city’s history. It was built during the city’s (multicultural and multiethnic) prime, in the interwar years; it flourished along with the city’s commercial boom, and it declined in the period when the city became introverted and geopolitically marginalised. The hotel was triumphantly reborn in the beginning of the 21st century, almost like a harbinger of a new era for Thessaloniki – an era of extraversion and cosmopolitan attitude, of tourism development and positive expectations which, in my opinion and in the opinion of many others, was brought about by the then administration of Yiannis Boutaris, who took over the municipal authority of Thessaloniki in 2011.
As the first (ever) Deputy Mayor of Thessaloniki in charge of Tourism Affairs, I always remember during the initial, tough years between 2011 and 2014, when we were trying to convince our interlocutors abroad that Thessaloniki can become an international destination, I used The Excelsior Hotel as an anchor, as living proof of sophisticated accommodation offering luxurious hospitality in our city. I don’t know if it was by chance or if it was due to the foresight of experienced hotelier Mr. Tornivoukas, the fact that he invested in a boutique hotel of exceptionally high standards and services at a time when this did not appear needed in our city. But I do know that the city has not yet reached the point of being able to return to the owner of The Excelsior the value that this investment should be yielding. But it is auspicious for us that the Tornivoukas family always invests not just for the next generation, but even more so for the one after that!
For me, since I am de facto not a guest in the rooms, the most wonderful experience unfolded at the hotel’s restaurant. It was there, a few years ago, and in the presence of Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, that in the course of a charity dinner, organised in the context of the Thessaloniki Food Festival, we got to taste the wine from our urban vineyard, the Gorgona (Mermaid). The Malagouzia varietal by Domaine Gerovassiliou, the exceptional food, the many friends who offered to help and the positive vibes of that day have remained indelible in my mind!
Luxuria! It is the absolute connecting link between my art and my relationship to The Excelsior. It is this particularity of austerity that is contained in luxury. This absolutely snobbish thing that becomes completely familiar and pleasant. Without the luxury of simplicity, the brain doesn’t function!
The title, of course, would be “Excelsior my dear”! A series of videos and installations inspired by the hotel’s premises, filmed within 24 hours. It is a project that I often think about, when late at night I walk by the hotel’s brightly lit façade and see the white leather armchairs, dreaming up scenarios out loud that take place at that specific location on Mitropoleos Street. It will happen at some point!
The strongest moment was in the hotel’s reception area during the Christmas holiday season. An edible art installation was set up in the main area of the restaurant, in collaboration with the hotel’s chef and with the unequivocal support of Ms. Lena and Mr. Dinos (Tornivoukas); it was about as Excelsior as you can get, a perfect marriage of art and gastronomy. An evening that brought forth wishes for blissfulness and wellbeing, and goals that we may always be excelsior!
For me, The Excelsior has always been like a sheltering port after a day of rough seas. That is how I experience it. With its location in the middle of the city’s busy center it has acquired a sense of cosiness and warmth. The ease of access, the proximity to the city’s commercial center and its nightlife, grant it a great strategic advantage that quickly becomes emotional. And so, in an almost magical way, when you are standing in front of the hotel after a long and grueling day, you get the unique sensation that you have reached your destination. And that is the source of the feeling of the warmth I spoke of.
Anyone who has visited The Excelsior knows that it could be the setting for a vast variety of performances. But personally, I would undoubtedly nominate “Searching for Attic”, a very special show that I was honored to be a part of.
The architectural style of The Excelsior, its distinct beauty and luxurious surroundings combined with its long history give it an air of nobility, almost like something for eras past. In my mind, it is this cosmopolitan aura that links The Excelsior to that specific show.
Undoubtedly, the strongest memory is the press conference we held at The Excelsior for the play “All of Shakespeare in one hour!”. The entire cast got to the hotel exhausted, after having rehearsed all night long, sleepless and very tense, as is expected under such circumstances, for a press conference that wasn’t easy. But when it was over, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the hotel staff had prepared for us an amazing buffet. Dishes that looked great and smelled great led us to devote ourselves to the buffet, almost with a lack of dignity, seduced by the flavors. As a wish for the future, I will let you in on a secret: I am amazed every time I think that it has been 10 years since The Excelsior’s restoration – my sense always being that it never ceased operating. And that is my wish for the hotel. To continue to create the impression that time stops!
The word excelsior is Latin. If we had to explain it, we would say “that which is always moving upwards”, “that which is always improving”. So, in my mind, The Excelsior is exactly that – a precious jewel in the heart of Thessaloniki, whose purpose is to always be better, to always offer the very best, and to never stop improving.
The artworks that decorate the hotel’s premises are, as I am sure you can understand, the product and outcome of my relationship with the space from the very beginning. I tried, and I like to think that I succeeded, to create images that are directly relevant to the hotel and its environs, the overall ambience generated by the Excelsior, and so to invoke in the hotel’s guests and viewers of the work, a sense of emotional identification.
As I said, I was lucky to be present at the hotel’s earliest stages, and I still can’t believe it has already been 10 years since then. Inevitably, I would say that my strongest memories are from those days, when the hotel was still in the process of restoration. The space was crowded, full of people who worked feverishly and machines that whirred and clanked. Until the time of completion came – when the final beauty was revealed and everything else was eclipsed. This beauty that visitors see and enjoy to this day - a beauty that I wish will continue to shine forever!
Meet our Excelsior employees, the heart and soul of our hotel in Thessaloniki and the reason why we are known for our unique hospitality. They are dedicated and passionate about their respective roles and about each guest – the new visitors and the returning visitors, all who have become part of The Excelsior family. We asked them to share some of their best Excelsior memories throughout the years.
He has worked at The Excelsior for 10 years, from its very first day. He started out as a trainee; today he is front office manager.
The goal of my job, and my own professional vice if you will, is to successfully grant even the craziest wishes of our guests! One example I recall was a guest who wanted to tour the city with his wife and show her the sights from the skies, by piloting a private aircraft. I was able to secure a private two-seater plane for them! It was a unique experience for him and after checking out he sent me a letter to thank me personally.
At The Excelsior we are truly a family, and I was reminded of this in the best possible way after I finished my mandatory military service and returned to my post at the hotel. I was warmly welcomed by the Tornivoukas family, by my colleagues, and even by our guests. We have many repeat guests at our hotel, and when I returned many guests told me that they had been asking about me while I was gone. This display of affection was a pleasant surprise, and very moving.
I enjoy the fact that every day I meet so many guests, people from different countries and cultures. But mostly, I draw immense satisfaction from making each individual guest feel at home; by helping them to love Thessaloniki, to have a real experience in the city and in the hotel.
He started working at The Excelsior in 2014, with the opening of be* bar-restaurant.
One evening, after I had finished my shift, I was called back by the front desk because a couple had decided that they wanted a private cocktail presentation in their room. I hadn’t gone very far so I returned – I knew the couple because I had already served them at the bar. So, I prepared the cocktails in their room, presented and discussed it with the guests!
One of the most pleasant moments was when I served the global ambassador for Bacardi. He is one of the people in our industry that I truly admire, but I didn’t recognise him. After hours of talking about cocktails and spirits, he gave me his card and when I realised who he was I was shocked in a good way and greatly honored that I got to meet him in person.
What I really enjoy is that through my work behind the bar, I have the opportunity to meet and serve people from many different cultures.
He worked as a front desk trainee at City Hotel in 2008 and started as a groom at The Excelsior when it opened. In 2014 he returned to City Hotel as a groom and subsequently also did some night shifts at the front desk. In 2017 he returned to The Excelsior.
In 2018 there was a tremendous rainstorm in the centre of Thessaloniki that resulted in the flooding of many buildings in the city, including The Excelsior. It was a very difficult situation; there was a lot of water coming down the hotel’s spiral staircase, creating a torrent! Thankfully, the management and all staff members that were present at the time grabbed buckets and mops and we were ultimately successful in avoiding more serious damages and in restoring the hotel’s image for the guests relatively quickly. The next day it seemed like nothing had ever happened. The strange thing was that during the great upheaval, with water running everywhere, a guest came to the front desk and requested early check-in as though there was nothing out of the ordinary going on. Even though the whole thing was surreal, we were able to accommodate him right away and got him upstairs to his room before he figured out what was going on!
Despite the many years I have spent at the hotel, my strongest, and at the same time most emotional, memory will always be the arrival of the first guests when the hotel opened on November 13, The whole team worked together to make everything go off without a hitch; my memory of that moment is so strong that I wish I could turn back time and relive it.
It is impossible to pick out a single thing; what I find fulfilling in my work is a whole mosaic of experiences. The satisfaction and pleasure I get when I see the hotel’s guests leaving happy and smiling and coming back frequently, and the excellent relations with my colleagues and with management, help maintain my desire to continue to contribute, even after all these years of service at The Excelsior.
She started out as a trainee in 2013, in the F&B department of Eagles Palace Hotel for 31⁄2 months. She continued her training at the front desk of City Hotel. When she completed her training, she started work at the front desk of The Excelsior.
I wouldn’t call it strange. The most recent incident involved a lady of advanced age who wanted to put on the new earrings she had just bought, but because her eyesight was bad, she asked for my help. She thanked me several times for my help. She was so cute and sweet! Later that same evening, she told me that she had made quite an impression with her friends!
I will never forget the surprise I experienced when I read the very positive evaluation of the SLH Mystery Guests, whom I happened to serve in two consecutive years, without a clue as to who they were!
What I like most is being in contact with people. It is wonderful to associate with people from all over the world, to exchange views, to see the similarities and differences between guests of different nationalities, and to learn new things.
She started as a receptionist in 2014 at City Hotel and today she is front office manager at Excelsior.
There was a couple with a young girl, about 6 years old, who had stayed at The Excelsior long enough for me and the little one to become friends. Every day she brought me pictures she drew of me and gave me big hugs. What was noteworthy was that on the last day of their stay, in the reception area before their departure, the little girl started telling her parents how she had had a wonderful time, she liked the hotel, and everyone loved her so much that she refused to leave. Then she started pulling on my sleeve to take me with her on their return home; even though I explained to her that I couldn’ t go but that there was always a time and a way for her to come back, she kept crying and shouting. Following tough negotiations and a signal from her mother, I promised her that I would not give her room to any other child and that I would never love another little girl as much as her! That was the sweetest and the strangest experience.
The strongest and most emotionally charged memory was on the final day before I took my maternity leave, when management together with the rest of the staff organised a surprise party for me with a board that had the hotel’s sign on it, filled with wishes of love for our new family member. The board still hangs in my son’s bedroom and that memory is as strong today as when it happened.
The positive atmosphere and excellent relations we have with management and with all my colleagues and the affectionate relations we have built over all these years with the people we host at The Excelsior, sharing their own experiences and becoming a part of them.
She was here since before The Excelsior opened, for the cleaning and preparation of the hotel.
The strangest thing that has happened to me was several years ago, in room 15, when the guest was in the room and requested me personally to clean, but also wanted me to describe everything I was doing while I was doing it, e.g. now I am dusting, now I am making the bed, etc. When I was done, he told me, very content, that he hadn’t seen such good housekeeping since his mother’s time.
My best memory is from repeat guests whose rooms I have cleaned, and they commented on how clean they have found it.
The friendly relations with my colleagues.
He started as a trainee at Eagles Palace Hotel, where he worked during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons. Since 2014 he works at the kitchen of The Excelsior.
One of the strangest things that happened during my years working at The Excelsior was one morning during breakfast, when we found a guest in the roof garden kitchen who had opened the refrigerator and was helping himself to breakfast! Thankfully, when he was informed that this wasn’t allowed, he handled the situation politely and with good humor.
Being lucky enough to work at one of the loveliest spots in Thessaloniki, I would say that one of the best times at the hotel every year is the New Year’s Eve party. It is wonderful to spend the last moments of the year doing what you love, together with your team in a festive atmosphere.
As a person who truly loves what he does, The Excelsior’s kitchen has taught me to do it in a spirit of teamwork with opportunities for development.
She started out as a trainee at Eagles Palace Hotel in 2012, and she has been at The Excelsior since 2013.
A strange story that comes to mind occurred at the roof garden. I was in the kitchen making coffee for some guests when I heard a man’s voice. I turned around and saw a gentleman who got into the fourth-floor office, went up the stairs and came into the kitchen; he said he wanted to charge his phone. When I asked him if there was anything wrong with the power in his room, he answered that he didn’t want to wake up his wife. Without further questions I took his phone, he went back downstairs, and we saw him again with his wife in the breakfast area, where I handed him back his phone fully charged.
I can’t be very specific because I have many good memories and it is difficult to single out just one, so I will just say meeting so many people. People that make you better at your job but more than that, better as a person.
The thing I like most about my job is, again, the people, but this time the people who have come to be entertained and I am part of their entertainment. I serve and get to meet different people and each time I must adapt to each personality individually, and that is a challenge.
He has worked at The Excelsior since its first day of operation. Starting from 2016, he also does night shifts at the front desk.
One of my strangest memories involves the help we provided to a guest regarding a minor health issue. I still distinctly remember the guest’s upset daughter, who called the hotel terrified, saying that her mother was not answering her phone, while earlier she had said that she was not feeling well, and she was going to get some rest. We called her room but there was no answer. We went upstairs and knocked on her door and still no answer.
As we were unable to contact her, the daughter was getting progressively more worried. She asked us again to try and wake her, confident that she was in her room. We knocked again; there was no answer, but we could hear the lady’s cell phone ringing inside the room, as her daughter was trying to reach her. We decided to go inside. The lady was lying on the floor. Shocked, we tried to establish whether the woman was okay and if she was conscious. Thankfully, she regained consciousness and we immediately gave her something sweet to eat and water, because as it turns out she had fainted due to hypoglycemic shock. At the request of our guest, we told the daughter a little white lie to calm her down, that the guest had been asleep. At checkout, they both thanked us warmly for what we did, as the guest had told her daughter the truth. Despite the tension, fright, and slight panic, having reacted quite well and thinking that we managed to save a life, I felt very happy and proud.
One of my pleasant memories is when I helped a guest propose to his girlfriend. The guest had stayed at our hotel before and he enjoyed it so much that he thought it was the perfect place to put his plan in action. We talked with the guest on the phone in order to organise everything properly – and secretly – down to the last detail. We prepared one of our best rooms, a junior suite on the third floor. We put rose petals on the floor leading to the bed. There was also a bouquet of flowers (that I had picked up from a florist nearby, after discussing with the guest the size and type of flowers he wanted) on the table, along with the champagne. The gentleman came by the hotel earlier and we went up to the room so that he could see all the preparations. He placed a pretty box in the center of the bed. He then thanked me for our wonderful work and left to return with his girlfriend an hour later. The couple went up to the room to rest, but the lady had no idea what was in store for her. An hour later, they came down for their evening outing. She was emotional and excited and thanked us for everything we did. It is lovely to be a part of the guests’ special moments and memories. I felt happy and proud of all of us.
What I like the most about working at the hotel is meeting and associating with many different people. Also, being able to help with my knowledge and services to make the guests’ stay as pleasant as possible.
He has been with the company since 2011 when he started out as front desk manager at City Hotel. Today, he is deputy hotel manager for The Excelsior and City Hotel.
The strangest thing that has happened to me while working at the Excelsior involved one of our foreign guests. He contacted us after his stay, asking to purchase a new bathrobe like the ones we use in the rooms. He paid for everything: the bathrobe, shipping, customs. We just sent it and asked him to let us know by email when he received the package, which he did. Except, to prove that he had received it and how happy he was, he attached a picture of himself in his living room wearing the bathrobe! He thanked us multiple times and he looked truly very happy... we should have given to him as a gift.
There have been many good memories from when I started working at The Excelsior until now. If I had to pick one, it was when a frequent guest, during a discussion as he was checking out, told me this: “I want you to know that for me, you are not just the hotel where I choose to stay – you are my home in Thessaloniki.
Remember that,” he said. This gentleman is still a very frequent guest at the hotel, and we are very proud of that.
What I like most about working at The Excelsior is the quality of the hotel’s human resources. There is a great atmosphere of collaboration among colleagues, who are all consummate professionals and always focused on pleasing the guests. Working within such a team I feel that every day I become better and go further. That is the best part of my job.
10 Komninon St. & 23 Mitropoleos Av.,
Thessaloniki 546 24, Greece
T: +30 2310 021 020
F: +30 2310 021 030
T: +30 2310 021 005
T: +30 2310 021 000