Discover our guide to Ilisia, a must-visit Athens neighbourhood – with plenty of great places to eat and drink!
Named after the historic river Ilissos, which once ran through the surrounding avenues, Ilisia is an inner-city neighbourhood that skirts the landmark Athens Hilton hotel, the Athens Concert Hall and reaches up to neighbouring Zografou. History tells us that it was on the banks of the Ilissos River that Socrates once taught, and the Muses were rumoured to have lived. The river may have long since disappeared underground, but you’ll love spending a day in this central Athenian neighbourhood which seems to grow more vibrant every year.
Morning: Wake up with Coffee, Croissants and Culture
If you ask this writer, all good days start with great coffee. Lot51 at Ilisia’s Brasil Square opened in 2018 and quickly became a staple for coffee aficionados across Athens, and is a much-loved haunt among us locals. Stop in, enjoy the relaxed surf vibe and sample one of their daily coffee blends, served by a team that is as friendly as they are serious about good coffee. The brunch menu features classics like pancakes, scrambled eggs and banana bread with house-made banana marmalade. If you prefer to stock up on the go, grab your coffee takeaway and hop up the road to Tromero Paidi, an artisanal bakery that opens early and sells freshly baked sourdough bread, sweets, sandwiches and pastries (their Spanakopita is a must-try, along with their croissant). Now, ready for some culture? The newly renovated National Gallery houses over 20,000 artworks and is particularly known for its nineteenth and twentieth-century Greek painting and sculpture collection over two floors and multiple wings.
Afternoon: Slow down with Mezes, Gelato and the perfect Aperitivo
The great thing about Athenian neighbourhoods is being able to enjoy an authentic Greek meal, the way that the locals do. Two such places stand out in the area. Papagiannis Taverna may be low on ambience, located on busy Papadiamantopoulou street, however, the simple yet sumptuous classics written up on a humble whiteboard are served up consistently well day in, day out. Expect the basics like mageirefta dishes such as beef in red sauce, Pastitsio, fasolia beans baked in tomato and olive oil as well as favourite like lamb chops on the grill. The food is no-frills, authentic Greek cooking the way you want it to be. If you’re after mezedakia (small plates) to accompany your afternoon Ouzo, O Platanos Ouzeri is known and loved by locals for their morsels like fried sardines, marinated anchovies and Keftedakia (small meatballs). If a scoop of gelato is your ideal afternoon treat, Epik Gelato at nearby Mavili Square is a small shop doing big things with Greek gelato. Their locally-sourced ingredients and decidedly Greek-inspired flavours include mastic with sour cherry, Halvas, and Ouzo sorbet, to name a few. Early evenings in Ilissia call for an aperitivo at Cyrano En Ville, an all-day bar with a wonderful selection of craft beers and Greek wines. As the day slowly makes its way into sundown, you’ll see tables filled with Spritzes and what is possibly the best Negroni in Athens.
Evening: Enjoy dinner and a show, with a side of dancing
One of the highlights of the neighbourhood is the Athens Concert Hall. No stranger to big names, the concert hall (and in the summertime, its lovely garden) hosts all genres of music from classical orchestras to indie folk bands. Attending a performance at the Megaro Mousikis will undoubtedly be a special addition to your Athenian experience. Speaking of special, dinner at Tsiftis Gastrokoutouki is a must for any foodie visiting the neighbourhood. In Greek, a Tsiftis is a fun-loving man about town who is straightforward in his dealings and loves to have fun and enjoy life. The food philosophy at Tsiftis is based around locality and seasonality, with cheeses, cold cuts, fish, meat and fresh produce being sourced from producers all over Greece. The menu changes frequently and is a celebration of the produce of the season. While the feeling in Ilissia is mostly relaxed, the outdoor Summer restaurant/club Noah located near Megaro Mousikis metro station gives locals and visitors the opportunity to keep the good vibes rolling into the early hours, with a focus on cocktails and crowd-pleasing house music.
Papadiamantopoulou 24Β, Athens
Papadiamantopoulou 30, Athens
Leof. Vasileos Konstantinou 50, Athens
Papadiamantopoulou 53, Athens
O Platanos Ouzeri
Sevastias 6, Athens
Dorileou 2, Athens
Cyrano En Ville
Nimfeou 5, Athens
Megaro Mousikis (Athens Concert Hall)
Vasilissis Sofias, Athens
Michalakopoulou 88Α, Athens
Accessed via the small road next to Parko Eleftheria