A little hotel in the centre of Thessaloniki opened its doors three years ago. Immediately, our attention was drawn to this exceptional new acquisition of the city. It was definitely something we had never seen before in Thessaloniki, although we have all experienced similar places during our trips in other European cities.
"We both love travelling and wanted to bring what we most liked as tourists to Thessaloniki, as we thought it was something that was missing."
Colors, many colors, pop aesthetic, design, service that could easily be of a five star luxury hotel and at the same time prices … of a hostel.
Fotis and Christina Drakopoulou are two siblings in their early 30s. Christina is a dietician and has already pursued that profession for many years, whereas Fotis studied hospitality and tourism management and has worked in several popular hotels in Greece and abroad. At a certain point he decided to return to Thessaloniki, as he had an idea on his mind.
What he thought of was a low cost budget luxury hotel with relatively few rooms, that would change the way people saw urban tourism of the city, by staying in a casual yet easy-to-get-to and smart residence for the first time.
Their main philosophy was to create a space that first and foremost they would enjoy. They started setting up their idea, without any help from decorators or architects, in the neighborhoods of the populous Valaoritou. Recently, a brand new COLORS opened, COLORS Ladadika Central, which is located in one of the most distinguishable listed buildings of the city.
The rooms have Nintendo Wii consoles, Fair Trade toiletries, mp3 docs, free Wi-Fi, espresso machines, and other services, such as breakfast in bed (without any further cost) at any hour you wake up (it was about time!), late check out, a library, a book crossing zone, the ability to rent a fixed gear bicycle and photographic exhibitions. When I found out about all these, I caught myself regreting having my own house here, and not being a tourist. What about the prices? They start at 45 to 50 per night for a deluxe double room and they could reach 70 euros for a suite.
We met Christina and Fotis at their new hotel in the Ladadika area and we found out about everything!
- How did this idea of a modern low cost hotel come about?
Through traveling in foreign countries, we observed that there is an intermediary level in hotels, in which one can stay in a beautiful and casual environment and chose the service they desire. The prices of these hotels are reasonable and they can be managed through smart, quick and sustainable methodology.
- The unstable economical situation of the country wasn’t a deterrent to this new business?
I would say no, actually. When you have a good idea, don’t wait. If you are sure about what you want to create and you can predict that your project is economically viable, then the only reason that could stop you is the fear of failure. From the beginning, we knew that our operation would beckon people, as it is something that was missing and as it seems, our predictions were right.
- If I am not mistaken, you undertook the decoration of both hotels. Why didn’t you ask for a professional’s help and advice?
From the beginning, what we wanted was pretty clear to both of us. We aimed at creating comfortable, fresh and bright spaces with a beautiful yet low budget design, exactly like what you would like to create at your own home. More and more of our homes are getting more pop, so why choose to stay at a hotel with heavy velvety curtains and dark, stifling colors?
Initially, we worked with a well-known designer of the city, but it was unsuccessful, as we had different visions for the project. We ended our cooperation and then Christina undertook the decoration with our associate Sofia, who is a graphic designer and had some experience with such projects.
- What is the thing that makes your philosophy unique, compared with the other hotel firms that we are used to?
We observed that the city didn’t need another hotel that would charge 120 Euros per night for a room with the impersonal services of a 5 star hotel. Οn the other hand, the majority of the hotels that charge less that 50 Euros per night offer only a few things to the visitors and they are usually dilapidated.
What we wanted to create is something in between. Value-for-Money Accommodation. We want our customers to be pleased, because they feel that they pay reasonable amounts of money for their stay. They stay in a very central area of Thessaloniki, in pristine and refreshing rooms and they pay only for what they consume. There are no hidden charges, no services that the customer won’t use.
One more thing that we felt that was missing from this city is the genuine Greek hospitality. It’s the feeling that one has when they visit a small guesthouse. You get to know the people that you are hosted by, and you feel that the host is pleased to have you in his home. We want our visitors to feel like they are at home, to call us by our first names. We recommend activities that we would also enjoy to do, we resolve their queries. We also often help people visit and explore other cities of Greece.
Thessaloniki is a city where you can feel warmth, as it isn’t too touristy. The visitor feels like he could easily live here.
- How would you describe the average visitor of COLORS?
We realized that our vision is welcome by people of all ages and we are really happy about that.
If there is a main characteristic that our visitors have in common, is that they have travelled a lot, they know what they look for and they search a lot in order to find it.
We live in the era of the Trip Advisor, the online reviews and social media, so positive reviews attract future visitors. During winter the majority of the visitors are Greek people that live in other cities, whereas during the summer, the hotel usually hosts people from other countries, especially from Balkans, central Europe and the USA.
Image by G. Planakis/LIFO magazine
- The new hotel is located in a listed building in the area Ladadika. What is the building’s history?
The building was built at the beginning of the 20th century and was a hotel, named "To Kentrikon" (meaning "The Central"). In the neighborhood there were many shops, warehouses and other enterprises. Soon the area was degraded and many buidlings of the area housed brothels, something really reasonable as it is an area next to the harbor. Ladadika changed completely during 90s, when all disreputable operations stopped working, the whole area was pedestrianised and the majority of the buildings were characterized as listed.
The building of COLORS stayed unoccupied for many years until 2010 when it housed the Ukrainian Embassy. It was entirely renovated last year and it has housed COLORS Central since then.
- It is a centenary building. What architectural changes and interventions needed to be done during renovation?
We were able to participate in the renovation of the building, so rooms were redesigned from scratch. The building was gorgeous so we kept all things that created its glory. We added a lot of color in order to achieve a modern and cosy result. The visitor is pleasantly surprised when he enters the place, as he expects different things based on the exterior of the building.
We kept all the charming aspects of the building: mosaic floors, plaster ornaments, high ceilings, traditional railings, external ornaments. We interfered only regarding the selection of the colors and the interior decoration, thus we combined the traditional style with minimal aesthetics.
Image by G. Planakis/LIFO magazine
About Thessaloniki …
- How touristy is Thessaloniki? What is the thing that visitors find most impressive?
Recently, important steps have been followed to make Thessaloniki a more extroverted city and this has been done, from our point of view, also thanks to the new mayor and deputy mayors.
Thessaloniki was not a city known abroad and now people get to know it through cheap flights. Moreover Thessaloniki has been voted as the European Youth Capital City of 2014. Tourists love the fact that the character of the city hasn’t changed and admire its interesting history. Thessaloniki is accessible, safe 24 hours a day, lively and youthful.
Most of the tourists want to extend their stay at the city, as they enjoyed their stay more that they expected and this is something that makes us really proud.
- Ultimately, please share with us the Top 5 of tourist tips for Thessaloniki. What are the things that a visitor must definitely do when visiting the city?
1. Starting from the White Tower, you should get on the hop-on/hop off bus (bus number 50) that, within an hour, takes you to all the important monuments of the city. Αt the same time you will find out many things concerning the charming history of Thessaloniki. If you learn a few things about the city’s history, then you will understand the people, the architecture, the philosophy, the food, even the oddities of the city.
2. To stroll around the narrow roads of the area Ano Poli with a camera and descend towards the sea.
3. To walk along the seaside, or rent a bike and enjoy the sea no matter what hour it is.
5. Don’t miss the exciting nighlife of Thessaloniki. Go for a coffee in one of the cafes that you can find along the waterfront, or on Zefksidos Street, enjoy a cocktail at La Doze, Cantina Tropicana or a drink at Bor de l’eau, Thermaikos or Ilios. To end the evening, go to Flou, Taksidi or Berlin. If you prefer Greek music you should try bars on Niki’s Avenue.
Comfortable shoes are more than necessary!
Are there any hotels in the city you love similar to COLORS?
The original article, published in Greek, can be found here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.