Many of my childhood and teenage years were spent living in the northern suburb of Kifissia, which has expanded and seen several changeovers in shops and restaurants throughout the decades yet still remains pretty much the same.
As it was popular among Athenian gentry during the 18th and 19th Centuries as a cool summer from the city heat, Kifissia was bequeathed with some beautiful – or at least interesting or unique – neoclassical architecture. Its Alsos park, which leads directly from the train station (green line) to the main square, where when I arrived in 1982 was where ‘the cop in the can’ stood directing traffic, is still great for a nice stroll, with its large round fishpond, a café and a scattering of park benches (but no playground).
The temperature in Kifissia is thought to be around 4-5 degrees C lower than that of the city centre, largely owed to the greenery in the area, Syngrou park nearby and Mt Parnitha not far above. Although I moved to Athens in my early 20s and was happy to escape what I felt was a dull, sleepy suburb, today I relish the relaxed energy, fresh clean air, greenery and small(er)-town community vibes. As school kids, we went to the shopping centre for slush puppies and rollerskating (so 80s!) and walked freely and safely around at night after going to Chloe or Boboniera outdoor cinemas (both still there) in summer. Small yet pleasant Kefalari park (just a 15-minute uphill walk from Kifissia) was where the wild things went to skull down beers, kiss and throw each other into the pond.
Today, Kifissia still has low-profile energy when it comes to both day and night outings, but there are plenty more places to hang out for lunch, coffee, dinner and drinks, as well as more options for culture lovers and shopaholics. Like Kolonaki in central Athens, Kifissia’s shopping scene is generally for those willing to spend freely, but there are more reasonable and high-quality choices available too.
There aren’t many museums in Kifissia, but the one there is, the Goulandris Natural History Museum (Levidou 13 & Othonos) is special, as it presents a cornucopia of plant and animal species, fossils and the replica of a giant dinosaur skeleton. It also has a café and shop. Art lovers will enjoy a visit to the Kouvoutsakis Art Institute next door (Levidou 11) where over 1,500 paintings and sculptures that date back to the 1800s are showcased. Culture vultures should also visit Mamush Gallery (Panagitsas 3), which hosts a private collection of 500 works including originals by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Victor Vasarely, Keith Haring, and Pablo Picasso as well as internationally known Greek artists like Pavlos, Gaitis and Galerie Lefakis (Tatoiou 73) and Mihalarias Art.
There is a multitude of high-end clothing and jewellery boutiques to walk or gaze into in Kifissia, lining its streets and clustered in its three main shopping centres. We cannot list them all here, but you’ll be able to find both famous international and local brands. For fashion head to Detroit, Regent, Soho Soho, American Vintage and for jewellery to Minas, Ilias Lalaounis, Pandora and Swarowski Boutique. If you like concept stores with clothing, accessories and décor items, visit Safe House, Mixi Concept Store and Onar Candles.
The Playmobil Fun Park (Amaliados 4 & Kalavryton) is a playground, where young children will enjoy playing with all sizes of PLAYMOBIL toys. For interesting gifts, visit the Pehnidospito specialty toy store (20 Kiriazi) where most toys are made of wood.
Authentic toys from wood.
Why not get a massage when you’re in Kifissia? Le Hammam (8 Agiou Trifonos) is a great place for that. With décor and a steam room reminiscent of the original hammams in Constantinople and signature therapies using spices and oils, you’re in for a treat. A little out of Kifissia (15/20 minutes drive) is the Orloff Spa at Life Gallery (103 Thisseos Leoforos, Ekali) where the therapies on offer are also highly reputed.
As with the shopping scene, there’s much to discover here in this area depending on your tastes and needs, but some of the most popular hangouts are Nice N Easy (Papadiamanti 7) for delicious farm-to-table food made with Greek ingredients but inspired by Hollywood stars, Artisanal for Mediterranean cuisine, Buba Bistro Exotique (Papadiamanti 4) for Thai/Asian/Mediterranean cuisine, Blue Pine (Panagi Tsaldari 37) for classic French dining, To Koutouki (Kifissias Ave 308), Vathis (Kirou 7) and Elaias Gi (Dexamenis 4) for classic Greek cooking (the latter more on the fine dining scale), Monzu (Leof. Kifisias 317b) an Italian restaurant and spritzeria, the Dalliance House (Kiriazi 19,) for brunch and mingling, and new luxury steakhouse Drakoulis Dry & Raw (Pentelis 1).
How to get there: Kifissia is reachable by bus (550 or A7 from central Athens bus stops), the HSAP green line and by taxi (around 25-50 minutes at a cost of 11-17 euros, depending on traffic).
Main images Courtesy of The Dalliance House