by Anastasia Valti-Spanopoulou
When you visit Athens (or any other new place, for that matter), you want to experience the real deal. Sure, the 'Zorba style' dancing and drinking you find in a lot of touristic places in the centre can be fun but, contrary to their claims, they're much less authentic than the real Athens nightlife we locals love so much about this occasionally chaotic, but still so full of life city. So: if you're looking for things to do in Athens after hours, look into little streets and not-so-well lit neighbourhoods of downtown Athens, and you'll be blown away by their innumerable bars, each with its own individual character, and all filled with jolly-molly people. For the most part, you can tell the owners of bars in Athens put a huge effort into perfecting their drinks and decor, so you will easily be able to find a good cocktail in a nice atmosphere somewhere in town. Nevertheless, there are a bunch of local bars you wouldn't be able to find without help - this city is full of surprises - and luckily enough for you, we're very helpful people. We hereby present you with our essential guide/list/call-it-what-you-want of the best bars you wouldn't know about in Athens (you're welcome).
#1 Bar '42' | Syntagma
Hidden behind the central Kolokotroni street, 42 bar became a sensation since day one, thanks to its mixologists and the mind blowing, totally original cocktails they prepare for you. You can get other drinks of course but, frankly, if you go to 42 you go for the cocktails - all of which are inspired by ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by the way, hence ‘42’, the ultimate answer to life according to the series. The cocktail menu changes every three months to include only seasonal ingredients which are all fresher than air. And if that wasn’t enough to impress you, know that all syrups, as well the different flavored ices used to accompany your drink, are prepared by the 42 staff itself. If you’re a non smoker, you’ll be thrilled to know smoking is actually not allowed in 42’s chic wooden indoors (hallelujah!), but most people prefer to sit outside, in its small yard, which is great in the summer. If you don’t mind the hubbub, we suggest you sit at the bar, so you can watch the bartender put together your intricate cocktail and/or ask him or her to pick one that matches your taste.
Where to find it: Kolokotroni 3, Athens
Where to call: +30 213 0052153
When to visit: 5PM-3AM
#2 CV Distiller | Ilissia
This truly classy (yet not pretentious or snobbish) whiskey bar is not so much hidden as it is overshadowed by the more obvious attractions of Kolonaki - you wouldn’t think to look for a place like this on a small, relatively uninteresting street behind the Hilton and the biggest avenues of Athens. If you do notice it, however, you’re in for the treat of possibly the longest list of whiskeys, bourbons and rums of the country, as well as a wide range of wines and other drinks, including a decent number of cocktails. Jazz tones, wooden furniture, and smiley staff are only a few of the things we like about CV Distiller, not to mention its downstairs floor which operates as the bar’s cellar as well as an autonomous space hosting tasting events. This place is an experience in itself, both for the ‘layman’-drinker and the hard-to-impress customer.
Where to find it: Chatzigianni Mexi 7, Athens
Where to call: +30 210 7231767
When to visit: 12PM-4AM
Certain you'll go drinking tonight but less sure about unique things to do in Athens during the day? Read about how to make the most of your 48 hours in Athens.
#3 BIOS | Kerameikos
In a relatively dodgy spot near Gazi you will (not easily) find an industrial building that looks like nothing much on the outside. But on the inside…! The ever-popular multispace of BIOS hosts a tiny cinema, an exhibition area, an underground club and so much more, but most importantly, in the summer it opens its terrace to the public. Here you will find one of the most interesting rooftop bars in Athens, with edgy music, a projector on the wall playing artsy clips (that we often don’t quite get, to be honest), and a breathtaking view to the Acropolis. There are no chairs here - otherwise what kind of hip bar would this be? - but beach chairs, metal barrels, and a big bench in the center of the space instead. The service is a little slow, given how busy this place always is, but the young crowd and that view that you just.can’t.beat. make up for it. You’ll see everyone ordering a cocktail with a whole sorbet ice-cream stick in it, so we’ll save you some time and tell you it’s BOIS's famous ‘papoto’ - do try it, it’s a lot of fun.
Where to find it: Pireos 84, Athens
Where to call: +30 210 3425335
When to visit: 11AM-4AM
#4 Couleur Locale | Monastiraki
Another impossible-to-find terrace bar, Couleur Locale is nevertheless very popular among young locals, as it serves yummylicious cocktails and has one of the best views of the Acropolis in town. It’s found on the top floor of a seemingly abandoned building, on a small dodgy street of central Monastiraki. There’s a ground-floor service area too, but you only want to sit there if you can’t get a table on the terrace, really. If you feel like taking a break from drinking (we feel you), you can try going during the day - both bar levels operate as a cafe during the day, and the rooftop’s perfect for getting some of that good summer sun. Beware though! Couleur Locale is usually packed day and night on Fridays and weekends.
Where to find it: Normanou 3, Athens
Where to call: +30 216 7004917
When to visit: 10AM–2AM
Rooftop Bars are not always hidden, but they're always awesome! Find our list of Athens' top 10 rooftop bars here.
#5 The Clumsies | Syntagma
On the outside, the only noticeable thing about Clumsies is a pink light leaking out of its front door. You have to really use your imagination to guess what a huge space lies behind that door, and more specifically: a spacious vintage-meets-industrial bar on the ground floor; a ‘lets sit and talk’ bar on the second floor; and ‘The Room’ on the top floor, with a pool table, reclining chairs, and much more, which you can book for group events. This youthful, vivid bar counts on its personalized service and awesome cocktails, which made it a sensation way before it entered the list of the world’s 50 best bars in 2016. Given how sure we are you’re gonna love this space, we’re happy to tell you it also functions as a cafe during the day, offering a selection of artisan coffees and light snacks, and recently started serving brunch on Sundays - don’t you just love life?!
Where to find it: Praxitelous 30, Athens
Where to call: +30 21 0323 2682
When to visit: 10AM–2AM
#6 Cabezon | Metaxourgeio
It’s difficult to explain this place - we have never seen anything quite like it. It’s hosted under the roof of a not at all hidden building, only it looks like a house on the outside so, unless you hear music coming from it on the weekends, you wouldn’t guess it’s a bar. And, to be fair, it’s not just a bar. Sure, if you choose to stay inside, you can have a drink and dance to funky tunes with a good cocktail in your hand. But if you move onto its back yard, you’ll find an entirely different scenery: this is a simple garden, with taverna-style chairs and benches to create a laid back atmosphere, where you can order a Greek meze or two, and get some house wine to share with your friends. Prices are very affordable by the way, as the area of Metaxourgeio, where Cabezon is found, mainly appeals to younger people and is generally not interested in selling a mainstream, high-profile kind of nightlife. So if you want to get a taste of authentic hip Athenian nightlife, there’s probably nothing less touristy than Metaxourgeio and Cabezon.
Where to find it: Keramikou 110, Athens
Where to call: +30 215 5506414
When to visit: 1PM-3AM
Did the word 'meze' make your belly complain? We have a few suggestions for Athenian streetfood for you.
#7 Black Duck | Panepistimio
Another popular interior garden in the center of Athens, Black Duck is nevertheless a place you wouldn’t think existed unless somebody told you so. The entrance is on the side of a big building (one of those that are all over Athens, nothing to write home about), and once you walk through it, you get a brief ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feeling - it’s like you’re transported from the noisy, urban landscape of Athens to a peaceful and cool garden somewhere far away. Black Duck’s location is definitely its best asset, but the friendly staff is also a nice change from the attitude you get in so many other places. Apart from drinks and cocktails, you can also come here for coffee and a light meal during the day, although keep in mind the prices are a bit on the high side (this place is close to all the theaters, so its main clientele comes from there, including a few famous Greek actors every now and then). Still, the atmosphere is very relaxing, especially after a day of sightseeing, and so is the shade you sit under. If you visit during the winter, you can also sit inside - the interior is beautifully decorated and has a cozy feel to it, although it’s more of a cafe/restaurant than a bar.
Where to find it: loannou Paparrigopoulou 5, Athens
Where to call: 210 3252396
When to visit: 10AM–2AM
#8 TAF (The Art Foundation) | Monastiraki
Just a few minutes away from the busy tourist neighborhoods of Monastiraki and Psyri you will find yet another old building that looks straight up abandoned. In fact, it looks like it’s about to collapse on itself. But keep an open mind, nothing is what it seems in this city! Crossing that front door will bring you to an interior garden, where The Art Foundation (TAF), an art coffee-bar, is waiting for you. This garden bar has a really friendly and cozy vibe to it, and it’s been a favorite of younger crowds’ for years now. The whole area is decorated with artifacts and relics, and inside the building that surrounds the garden, TAF often holds interesting exhibitions that you can enjoy during the day, before or after you try one of their artisan coffees. Don’t worry, we’re not sending you into one of those pretentious places that make you feel unwelcome - we mean it when we say TAF is a cozy place, it’s just interesting and different at the same time.
Where to find it: Normanou 5, Athens
Where to call: +30 21 0323 8757
When to visit: 11AM–3AM
We have a feeling you'll be taking pictures of these awesome secret bars. If you're interested in more instagrammable spots in Athens, check out our blogpost.
#9 Speakeasy | Syntagma
You can walk past this street of Syntagma a million times, and you will still not notice anything special about this scruffy building’s old door. Well, now you know that it leads to one of the coolest underground bars in Athens. The concept is of course borrowed from the Prohibition era secret bars, and so the design is very 1930s, but the clientele and cocktails are both very 2016. And speaking of cocktails, the mixologists serving you at Speakeasy really know how to put an original drink together, so if you’re undecided just ask them for suggestions. Keep in mind this is a small space, and the music (mainly jazz and swing) is usually quite loud, but the staff is all very sweet and accommodating. Shhh...you didn’t hear all this from us!
Where to find it: Somewhere along Lekka str. in Syntagma. Unfortunately, that's all why can tell you...because this is a speakeasy! For more information on location and opening hours, drop Speakeasy an inbox message on their Facebook page.
#10 Six d.o.g.s. | Psyri
Who would have known that the heart of Athenian nightlife on a Saturday night would be beating on one of those dirty, stinky little streets of Psyri that just say ‘stay away from me’. Well that cover wasn’t enough to keep Six d.o.g.s. a secret for long, as this multispace attracts tons of people all day long, be it to have a coffee in its interior garden, enjoy an exhibition in one of its small gallery rooms, or watch a band play literally two steps away from them in a tiny performance room. In fact, so many people are lining up for a drink at Six d.o.g.s. in the summer, that the few benches they have set outside its entrance are nowhere close to being enough, and the entire aforementioned little street is packed with youngsters holding a drink in their hand and either sitting on the pavement or just standing. If you’re not the type to enjoy this urban kind of socializing, then you can always have a drink sitting at a normal table in the garden, as long as you visit early enough to find a spot.
Where to find it: Avramiotou 6-8, Athens
Where to call: +30 210 3210510
When to visit: 10AM–3AM
Pretty sure you'll be hungover after a night exploring Athens' bars? Here are our suggestions for the best brunch restaurants to get you out of bed.
#11 Fouar I Monastiraki - Syntagma
In a tiny lane, this time in Monastiraki, we challenge you to spot yet another inconspicuous old building that hides way more than you'd think on the inside. We'll give you some hints: it's pink(ish), built in neoclassical style, and found only a few minutes away from the Monastiraki train station. Found it? Good - now jump on that elevator and go directly up the first floor. Welcome to Fouar! This is definitely one of the most promising (and best hidden) bars we've seen open recently, as it combines a lively bar with a really awesome restaurant within the same space - a large room designed to remind you of a patio, with a beautiful mosaic in the middle of the floor, and lots of indoor plants to decorate the area. Technically, this blogpost should encourage you to go for one of their cocktails - they are indeed great, and with hefty amounts of alcohol - but as we are not the kind to ever ignore a good meal when we see it, we also encourage you to try Fouar's Soul Kitchen mnoms, which are all very well priced. If you are not covered yet - who are you?! - let us inform you that on the same floor Fouar also hosts a small gallery, and a tiny little soundproofed club where you can continue your night later. Don't worry, all spaces are distinctly divided so there's no chance you'll smell curry from the restaurant when you're sitting at the bar, or find yourself before an art piece while you're still chewing on that honey and thyme duck.
Where to find it: Mitropoleos 72, Athens
Where to call: +30 210 3211381
When to visit: 6PM - 3AM (Closed in August)
#12 The Trap I Syntagma
Of all the traps you'll come across in Athens, this is the only one you want to walk straight into - we're not sure if we should call this a French bistrot or an American bar, because it is in fact both, that's what's great about Athens' nightlife. Either way, this place is just plain beautiful, from its hand-painted ceiling, to its vintage furniture and the colorful bottles parading behind the bar. Nobody would guess that this sophisticated little space used to be a popular cabaret in the '60s, but we'll pretend we didn't find that out because we know what it's like to have an embarrassing past. Although Syntagma is literally the center of the center of Athens, The Trap is found in a very quiet spot, in a stoa just behind the stop where you'd take the bus to the airport. So if you're just about to catch a plane, or are simply in the neighbourhood, do pop in to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of this place, be it by trying one of its (still quite few but very well thought through) drought cocktails, having a bite of classy bistro-style food, or just getting a coffee. If you're visiting during the summer, we suggest you take one of the tables they have set 'outside' in the stoa - it's not the kind of set-up you come across every day.
Where to find it: Othonos 10, Athens
Where to call: +30 210 3215561
When to visit: 9AM - as long as customers keep walking through the door! (Kitchen open 12PM-10PM)
Cover picture courtesy of The Trap
P.S. All opinions expressed above are personal, from the heart, and never promotional!