After living in hot and lively Athens on and off for almost four years, I’m now on to new adventures. About high time for a small, and very personal, guide to my favorites in the city! Also, just in time for Tala’s visit and I can’t wait to see how she will experience the city and what she will add to this list.
I absolutely loved living in Athens, it’s such a bubbly, messy and creative city. Times have changed though in the last years and I’m so happy that the owners of my favorite places are still going strong. If I would have to say why I would recommend most of the places below, it’s because they are lovely people (do take your time to chat with people here), they promote either local produce or local design, and usually give a modern twist to Greek tradition which I thoroughly believe in and, not unimportant, enjoy immensely. Most are located in amazing central spots, aren’t ‘touristy’ and simply serve great stuff. All of these are based in or very close to the centre (no suburb recommendations, sorry!). Thus, easy to find if you’re in town only for a couple of days or great to frequent if you’re staying here for a longer time, as I have done. Do wander the backstreets of Athens, you’ll surely find many more hidden gems.
I hope this guide will help you explore and love this city with all its contradictions as much as I do.
Acropolis & around
Filistron | Restaurant
Apostolou Pavlou 23 (in between Acropolis & Thissio Metro stations)
Close to one of the oldest open-air cinemas in the centre of Athens, an upscale tavern with great versions of traditional Greek food (pictured is the delicious Greek bottarga with dried figs & cream cheese), good wine list and the absolute best view of the city. Do make a reservation for the roof terrace (not open in winter), it’s one of the few places in Athens that needs one. Open for dinner only.
Fabrika Arts & Crafts/PSIT Jewelry/Sous-Sol Furniture & Lightning | Shops
Veikou street 9/6 (Acropolis Metro station)
Our little neighborhood behind the Acropolis is up and coming. More and more little independent shops have opened, offering you great hand-crafted alternatives for the traditional souvenirs. If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon one of their street parties!
Gelatopoli | Ice Cream & Coffee
Dionysiou Areopagitou 8 (Acropolis Metro station)
Close the new Acropolis Museum (which I believe we will continue to lovingly call the ‘new’ museum forever), simply sweet ice cream and delicious fair-trade freddo cappuccinos that are very reasonably priced for this area. Do try iced coffees if you’re in town during the summer. The Greek generally prefer ‘frappes’ made with nescafe, but I personally like either iced espresso or cappuccino. When you order, add whether you want it sweet, semi-sweet or without sugar and you’ll be sipping your favorite cold coffee in no time.
Makriyianni 3| Coffee Shop & Sandwiches
Makriyianni 3 (Acropolis Metro station)
Click on the link to check out an earlier post I wrote about our favorite neighborhood cafe. In the past years it has been surrounded by new cafes and bistros, but we still return to this lovely shop.
Fresko | Dessert
Dionysiou Areopagitou 3 (Acropolis Metro station)
With frozen yoghurt being the hype for a couple of years now (and being mainly very disappointing), Fresko serves actual Greek yoghurt with your choice of traditional Greek spoon sweets. Do ask to sample all their different yoghurts, you’ll be surprised by the flavors.
O Takis | Bakery & Sandwiches
Misaralioutou 14 (Acropolis Metro station)
Known by virtually everyone in the center of the city, Takis is hands down the best bakery in town. A family store for generations, they serve absolutely amazing traditional fare such as cheese pies, koulouria and little bread rolls with olives and feta, but also delicious carrot cakes, rye bread, sandwiches with grilled veggies and fresh croissants oozing with chocolate. Go early in the morning before it’s all gone! Usually closed for holidays a few weeks in August.
Monasteraki & Plaka
TAF (The Art Foundation)| Art & Coffee/Drinks
Normanou 5 (Monasteraki Metro station)
The door always seems closed, but push it open and you’ll find yourself in a lovely courtyard surrounded by tiny traditional houses filled with ever changing art exhibitions. During the day it’s a cool hang-out for a coffee, at night delicious cocktails and good music.
Six D.O.G.S | Art & Coffee/Drinks
Avramiotou 6-8 (Monasteraki Metro station)
The bars are a bit too hip to my taste but walk down the steps through the tiny tunnel and you’ll find their garden, to me one of the nicest surprises in town. They serve just about anything: coffee & snacks (mediocre), organic wines and cocktails. One of the coolest places in summer during the day and with all the lights on in the trees at night. Click here to check out an earlier post I wrote about Six D.O.G.S.
Ice Scream | Ice Cream & Coffee
Pandrosou Street 19 (Monasteraki Metro Station)
Conveniently at the edge of the neigborhoods of Plaka & Monasteraki and close to the main shopping street Ermou, Ice Scream easily serves the prettiest (and perhaps tastiest) ice cream in town. They also serve milkshakes (hard to find in Athens) and my favorite frothy freddo cappuccino.
Yiasemi | All-round Cafe (coffee, dessert, drinks)
Mnisikleous 23 (Monasteraki Metro station)
Smack in the middle of the beautiful old neighborhood of Plaka, this seems the only cafe not catering towards tourists. Lovely people, home-made pies which you can pick out from a huge table (savory and sweet, all delicious!) and a few small dishes (the garlic and butter-filled mushrooms are my favorite). Great to have a break while showing your friends around the old town. In the summer sit at the lovely steps, in winter sit next to their fire place with some rakomelo. Click here to see an earlier review.
Hellenic Art & Design| Shop
Herefondos 10 (Acropolis or Monasteraki Metro station)
Tiny store selling beautiful and funny modern arts and crafts from Greek designers (including from the people at Greece is for Lovers and Paper Kingdom). The lovely owner loves a chat and tell you all about her wares.
Syntagma & around
Oinoscent | Wine Bar & Shop
Voulis 44A in between Syntagma and Plaka (Syntagma Metro station)
Awesome wine bar and shop. I love these guys (we got engaged here so I might be partial) and ordered lots of really good Greek prosecco from them for our wedding. Knowledgeable about wines, serving delicious ones from all over Greece and abroad, wonderfully paired with their plates of cheeses & cold cuts. Take your favorite bottle with you from their shop or get it delivered.
Ippolito | Shop
Voulis 38 (Syntagma Metro station)
If you’re looking for a unique bag or clutch to take home with you, this is the place. Gorgeous Pavlina designs beautiful, elegant and quirky leather bags in small quantities, accompanied by her adorable Geppetto (look at him striking a pose in the picture below! His dog collar is also by Ippolito).
Filema | Tavern
Romvis 16 (Syntagma Metro Station)
Our favorite laid-back tavern and the one I’ve visited most of all restaurants in town and the one I request to go to every time I come back from abroad. Real central Athenian vibe (a bit gritty and extremely likable at the same time) just behind the bustle of Ermou street. In the summer you sit at the side of this little street. Service is personal and informal, food is simple, fresh and of great quality. You will find all your Greek favorites here from beef burgers and tzatziki to fried anchovies and Greek salad. Check out this post for pictures.
Ermou street (Syntagma Metro Station)
The beauty products of Korres are sold in all pharmacies throughout Greece (and are also popular abroad), but since the beginning of this year Korres also has its very own store at the start of the main shopping street of Ermou. Natural products that smell delicious (such as Vanilla Cinnamon and Bergamot Pear shower gels) with great design. I’ve been a loyal fan ever since I first came to Greece seven years ago.
Mama Roux | All-round Cafe (coffee, lunch, drinks)
Aiolou Street 48, near Kolokotroni Street (Monasteraki or Syntagma Metro Station)
Mama Roux is one of Athens’ internationally oriented places serving American pancakes for Sunday brunch (brunch! Impossible to find elsewhere in town), falafel for lunch and cocktails & music for your night out. I’ve tasted just about everything on the menu and find it all delicious. Great, relaxed vibe. Check ahead if you’re coming this August, they’re closed part of the month.
Heteroclito | Wine Bar
Fokionis 2 (Syntagma Metro station)
Just off Ermou street, this new and hip wine bar also serves other hard-to-source local drinks such as specialty beer from the island of Zakynthos (which even my Zakynthian husband had never even heard of and absolutely loved). Great fresh snacks too.
Cantina Social |Bar
Leokoriou Street 8 (Thissio or Monasteraki Metro Station)
Hidden at the end of a little stoa, this bar has a great garden with videos playing on the huge wall that surrounds it. Also serves coffee. Good music, cocktails and relaxed crowd. Visit after having taken a stroll throughout the neighborhood of Psyrri during the day when it is quiet and serene before the party-goers arrive.
Bios Terrace & Elvis Souvlaki | Bar & Mid-night Souvlaki
Peireos 84 & Plataion 29/Leonidou (Kerameikos or Thissio Metro Station)
Excuse the photographs, but I really wanted to add these two to my list of go-to places. During the summer the Bios terrace is open with an absolutely amazing view of the Acropolis (for the surprise factor I didn’t add that specific picture, ha!). Just turn into the side street when you reach Peireos 84 and go up the stairs. When you’re done sipping your drink, meeting some nice new friends and staring at the view (they have one of those old-school coin-operated binoculars) you can head into the gritty neighborhood towards Elvis and get the traditional late-night snack of Greece: souvlaki. Great night out.
There is so much more to see and to eat than what I’ve mentioned above.
- Go take a walk up Filopappou hill at dusk to get an awe-inspiring view of the city and the sea.
- Go visit the Acropolis museum (gorgeous! the light! nice restaurant too) and Benaki museum (roof terrace, beautiful building!).
- I would definitely recommend visiting the neighborhood of Exarcheia (originally the anarchist area of town) where there are great bars and taverns to be found and to understand the versatility of this city.
- Also the residential area of Petralona is worth a visit food-wise. A favorite among all my friends there is the French bistro Chez Lucien where you can practice your French with the patrons and imagine you’re in Paris for a little while.
- Look around you at all the great street art: stencils, graffiti and stickers.
Lastly, if you don’t have the time to go explore on your own or simply want to see Athens like an insider, check out Alternative Tours of Athens. I’ve been on one of their free tours (great concept) focusing on new designers and I loved it!
p.s. A little warning to prevent disappointments: most Greeks go on holidays during August and some shops might be closed if you visit during this month. Check ahead, I added links whenever available.
p.p.s Athens sadly is not the best European city to visit if you have a mobility impairment. However, the areas around the Acropolis (including the museum and the pedestrian street of Dionysiou Areopagitou), Monasteraki and the main streets of Plaka are doable. Plus, in general people are extremely helpful if you need a hand.