by Katherine Poseidon
Athens’ historic centre is a definite must-see - the classic tourist attractions, the Acropolis, and more historical sights than you could imagine - but there are so many things to do in Athens outside the centre. We’ve already got you covered for 8 awesome Athens neighborhoods beyond the Acropolis, and though we touched on the area of Kolonaki, it deserves a whole post of its own!
This neighbourhood is on the slope of Mount Lycabettus, and its slight distance from the busy centre made it THE place to be for the crème de la crème of Athens. Nowadays both northern and southern suburbs offer quieter and more spacious alternatives, but Kolonaki is still one of the places to see and be seen.
We’ve gathered together a list of some of the best ways to experience Kolonaki like a local - explore the list and get out there, for one of the most unique things to do in Athens!
For Coffee, Munchies & Good Company: Dexameni
As long as the weather is remotely decent, you’ll find this little leafy square full of people from midday on, enjoying either a coffee and relaxing while watching the world go by. At Dexameni, the tables are nestled on either side of the square, and the playground nearby makes it both a great family spot (and check our other ideas for things to do in Athens with kids). The food, delicious takes on classic Greek cuisine, comes in little plates of mezedes, and make a delicious meal or snack.
For Coffee & People Watching: Da Capo
The centre of Kolonaki is its main square, Platia Kolonakiou, which houses the ‘little column’ (kolonaki) the area is named for. One of the institutions in the square is Da Capo, an Italian-style coffee shop with chairs facing out for the best people watching. Grab an espresso (they’re just as good as you’d find in Italy) and take a seat for great people watching, and one of the more quirky things to do in Athens.
For Classic Greek Cuisine: Philippou
This restaurant is a Kolonaki institution and among the best places to eat in Athens. The food at Philippou is traditional and no-frills, centred on the Greek classics they've been cooking up for nearly 100 years (you’ll be able to check off a number of our ‘Greek foods to try before you die’!). Everything is always top quality and presented with white tablecloth service. Again the people watching here is a local attraction all on its own. Stop by in the summer to dine al fresco in a little sheltered patio.
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For Nuts & Dried Fruit (& Coffee): Carpo
Carpo is a one stop shop for all kinds of nuts, seeds and dried fruit, made with the highest quality ingredients. Here you really can taste the difference, and they make delicious mixes with various combinations of their goodies. As if that wasn’t enticing enough, they also make great coffee and delicious chocolate. What more could you want?
For Brunch with the In-Crowd: IT
Brunch is not a traditionally Greek institution, but it’s become increasingly popular in the last few years – so much so that we wrote a whole post about the best brunches in Athens. One of the classic choices in Kolonaki is IT, which serves delicious and high quality dishes that change with the seasons. During the week the breakfast scene is low-key and relaxed, though on the weekend the place is hopping and you may need to reserve a table.
For Fish & Seafood: Barbounaki
You may not think that a central Athens neighbourhood is the most logical place to enjoy great seafood, but think again. The recently-opened Barbounaki is the little brother of the classic Papaioannou, an elegant, Michelin-starred seafood restaurant in the quaint little port area of Mikrolimano, in Piraeus. They definitely know what they’re doing here – take a break from your sightseeing tour for a proper Greek-style lunch (i.e. a long one!)
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For Cocktail Hour: Minnie the Moocher
This bar is located on a hopping pedestrian walkway that really wakes up once the sun goes down. Athens bars have a lot to offer, and Minnie the Moocher is a prohibition theme spot with great cocktails and jazzy music. It's hard not to feel glamorous while sipping a drink and watching the locals meander past on their way for a night on the town. To make a bar crawl out of it, check out our definitive guide to ... metro bar.... plus some of Athens' best hidden bars.
For Wine: Stinking Bishop
This little place is probably not what you’d expect for Athens, but, as we keep telling you, you really can find everything if you know where to look! For the wine connoisseur, Stinking Bishop is the place to go, and offers you one of the most unique experiences in Athens - sip from their wide selection and enjoy their great offering of cheeses too! The atmosphere is warm and cozy, and it's a great place to go with friends to unwind.
For Musicians: Jazz in Jazz
This little bar is a tiny place that’s easy to miss if you don’t know where to look, and so it’s one of our best Athens secrets. At Jazz in Jazz you can enjoy either a quiet drink in a cosy and intimate setting, or sip your cocktail to the tunes of live jazz. They bring the best musicians in town here most evenings until late – and it is a staple of low-key Athens nightlife.
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For the Locavore: Nice ‘n Easy
The ‘farm to table’ movement isn’t huge in Greece yet (though we do have some great contenders, like the Margi Farm!), but Nice ‘n Easy offers one of the best choices for both delicious and high quality Greek food in Athens. Their menu is extensive, ranging from rich salads to steak and burgers, and all of the ingredients are sourced from a list of suppliers detailed in the menu. There aren’t many places in Athens were you can find such transparency but this is one – they also do a great brunch! (Don't forget we have a whole guide to eating healthy in Athens, if this is your thing!)
For Greek Bakery Heaven: Lykavittos
Sampling the delights of a classic Greek bakery is one of the best things to do in Athens, and Lykavittos is one of the best in the city. They have a classic selection of the usual spinach pies and cheese pies, as well as lots of sweet treats. Not to mention of course their incredible bread – the choices here are endless, but make sure you go early in the day so you can enjoy the full selection.
For the Gourmand: Nora’s Deli
If you’re looking for some more exotic edibles, Nora’s Deli definitely has you covered. They specialise in all kinds of incredible and diverse flavours, importing sauces, spices and goodies from all over the world. If you’re looking for any deli goods as well, this is a good place to stop for stocking up on smoked salmon, all kinds of cheese, cured meats, and a lot of other delicious things you didn't realise you 'needed' until you discover them on the shelves!
For a Walk in the Woods: Mount Lycabettus
Mount Lycabettus is a hard-to-miss Athens landmark, punctuating the skyline and topped with a picturesque white chapel. If you want to take a break from urban exploration, this hill is a great place for a spot of green in the city (more of our top picks here). If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb up to the top and enjoy incredible views of the entire city, or you can also zip up to top in the cable car – all the views and a lot less effort. Bring snacks from Carpo or Lykavittos, the bakery, to make it a totally multi-sensory experience!
For the Greek Foodie: Yoleni’s
To stock up on all the Greek flavours we’ve raved about (check our souvenir guide for some ideas!), Yoleni’s is the place to go. The flagship store has just opened, building on a thriving online business delivering classic and quality Greek goodies all over the world. Now the browsing experience is a lot more multi-sensory - in addition to gathering together the best Greek products from throughout the country, they also serve fresh baked goods like a 'pita of the day.'
For Retail Therapy: Voukourestiou & Stadiou Streets
If you're looking for a little more luxury, first make sure you consult our luxury guide to Athens, and then head towards Voukourestiou and Stadiou streets, where all the major designers are represented. You can also check out Linea Piu, the only boutique that collaborates with CHANEL, Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Dior, and John Galliano, and the 'Attica' department store for everything under one roof.. Don't forget that if you want to explore more, we have a whole guide to shopping in Athens.
For Special Occasions: Ratka
If you're looking for a really top-notch meal, look no further than Ratka. This is a classic Athens bistro that was a meeting point for both chic and influential Athenians. It's both elegant and cosy at the same time, without being at all pretentious. The menu is eclectic, so you're sure to find something for all tastebuds! Ratka is also a good choice for a romantic date night - pair it with one of our other ideas for lovebirds for a memorable travel experience.
For Museum Goers: Benaki Museum & the Museum of Cycladic Art
These museums are among the best things to do in Athens, and we definitely couldn’t include one without the other. Both the Benaki Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art house impressive permanent collections, as well as travelling exhibits that bring some of the most impressive global artistry right to the heart of Kolonaki. Check out our most recent list of this season’s highlights here - and don't forget that both museums also have delightful cafés if you need a break from sightseeing and adventures!
There you have it - a pocket guide to one of Athens' many neighbourhoods. If you're feeling like your pockets are distinctly lighter after exploring Kolonaki, we've got you covered with 50 (yes 50!) FREE things to do in Athens right now!
As always, these opinions are all our own, and nothing is promotional. Fantastic cover pic by Paolo Todesco / Flickr.
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