Plaka, built in the shadow of the Acropolis, is an authentic sample of where old-world Athens meets the new.
It’s a place where you will find ancient ruins on almost every corner; as well as a variety of charming cafes serving coffee, drinks and desserts, with the most historic views.
Here, we’ve rounded up our favourites when visiting this beautiful part of the city!
Yiasemi is a picturesque spot that’s become the Instagrammable bistro-café in the neighbourhood thanks to all the jam-packed tables lined along the staircase. You can sit and relax, watching people go by, while also sampling the great vegetarian buffet breakfast that features delightful dishes made using fresh, local produce. A: (Mnisikleous 23)
Café Melina is a retro café dedicated to Greek actress and political activist Melina Merkouri, features plenty of images and decor honouring the late actress. With an indoor and outdoor seating area, the all-day menu includes mezedes, as well as crepes and homemade desserts. A: (Lysiou 22)
Kimolia Art Café, a colourful and unique cafe that’s hidden in the alleyways of Plaka; Kimolia is set in a historic 1925 building, allowing visitors to step back in time with its traditional decor and ambience. A: (Ypereidou 5)
Anafiotika Café, located on the most famous steps of the neighbourhood; is the ideal place for a coffee during a morning stroll or a Greek meze later on in the day. A: (Mnisikleous 24)
Café Plaka is a great place all year round but we love it even more in winter for its fireplace and a wonderful roof terrace where you can sit and enjoy the sunny mornings. Tip: try the pancakes and take photos in front of the pink house. A: (Tripodon 1)
O Glykys is a traditional kafeneio that serves great Greek coffee, tsipouro, and homemade delicacies. Here you will find locals enjoying a game of tavli (backgammon), of course. A: (Geronta 2)
Dioskouroi, located right in the centre of old Athens, this cafe recently received a new design without losing its traditional atmosphere and appeal. It’s a favourite amongst students, locals and tourists alike, who come here for a coffee in the morning and a cocktail or wine during the evening. A: (37-39 Adrianou)
Athens will become home to Greece’s first hotel complex featuring luxury serviced apartments that are perfect for longer stays. Located in the Plaka district, in the centre of the city, guests will be able to access a meeting room, two restaurants a gym area, and a rooftop bar with views of the Acropolis.
Radisson RED Mitropoleos Square Athens will be run by the Radisson Hotel Group, under the Radisson Red brand and is set to open in the second half of 2023.
Radisson has partnered with the Greek investment company Gnosis Investments, which already owns 15 assets in Greece from hotels to residential properties and this project sees the conversion of an existing office building into modern lifestyle apartments.
“We are proud to partner with Gnosis Investments in this first project together to bring our real-estate efficient, urban, Radisson RED brand to the historic centre of the Greek capital,” says Elie Milky, Vice President of Development at the Radisson Hotel Group.
The property will be situated on Mitropoleos Square, in Athens’ famous Plaka neighbourhood, next to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, near Syntagma Square. It’s in the heart of the CBD, and close to plenty of restaurants, bars, museums, and shops- making it easy for guests to walk to the nearby historic centre.
“Our goal is to create one of the most beautiful buildings in Athens, with an emphasis on luxury and creativity. We are developing short-term rental in Greece by offering a complete experience. We want to breathe new life into the city,” added Petros Politis, co-founder and CEO of Gnosis Investment.
In total, the Radisson RED Mitropoleos Square Athens will feature 94 serviced apartments with kitchenettes, as well as a 150 square metre meeting room, a fitness area, and two restaurants- one located on the ground floor, while the other will be found on the top-level (with direct views of the Acropolis)- where there will be an all-day rooftop bar and a restaurant run by a renowned chef.
Planning a trip to Athens soon? We’ve chosen a handful of the top neighbourhoods in the Greek capital that are perfect to visit during your holiday. And with so much rich history and culture, plus great cafes, eateries, and boutiques, these spots are sure to delight all the senses.
Reminiscent of a small Cycladic island with its white cubic houses and blue doors and windows, this area is partially covered by beautiful bougainvillea. Anafiotika is an oasis of tranquility in the centre of the Greek capital and a spot to take amazing photos.
An older residential neighbourhood, Koukaki is close to Plaka, but far less touristy and much quieter than the more popular central neighbourhoods. Here you will find some great spots to grab a coffee and bite to eat.
One of Athens’ most upmarket neighbourhoods, Kifissia is about 45 minutes from the centre of Athens via metro. Perfect place to stroll around and enjoy the greenery, and also the place to go if you are looking for some boutique stores and gorgeous cafes.
A wonderful place buzzing with colourful taverns, cafes, and bars, Psirri comes alive at night with locals and international visitors who gather to enjoy a casual dinner at one of the many traditional taverns.
This is Athens’ central square and home to the Greek Parliament House and where you will catch the Evzones (changing of the guards.) It’s also the top of famous Ermou Street, the city’s busiest shopping strip.
Upscale, and filled with designer shops, museums, cafes, restaurants, and bars, Kolonaki is a glamorous neighbourhood at the foot of Lykavittos Hill and a place where you will find locals wining and dining on any given evening.
The Northern suburb of Chalandri is one of the hippest neighbourhoods in Athens and a great place to visit. From a great range of eateries, bakeries, and cafes to unique bookstores, jewellery shops, and cinemas, there is something here to suit all tastes.
With an array of amazing places to eat and drink, Pangrati features some trendy shops, art galleries, and some amazing buildings. Pangrati is also home to Athens’ oldest cinema, Pallas, which opened in 1925.
This neighbourhood in Athens has received a major makeover over the last few years and has now become one of the most popular spots for Athenians. With some must-see galleries, all-day cafes, and ancient sites, you can spend all day here and it’s still not enough.
A great place, especially over summer as it’s a favourite venue for open-air events and festivals. Athenians love coming here for a catch-up with friends at one of the many cafes. Make sure you check out the museums and the open-air Cinema, which opened in 1935.
Another upscale area of Athens, Glyfada features seaside living complete with endless restaurants, bars, and boutique stores. The area is very popular, especially over summer where it gets packed with international visitors making the most of the Athenian Riviera views.
Also along Athens Riviera, here you will find some of the city’s best beaches and swimming spots, as both neighbourhoods (located next to each other) are upscale residential areas. The “downtown” of Voula has lots of restaurants and cafés, and Vouliagmeni is home to some of the most luxurious hotels in Athens.
From fine dining restaurants to little-known archaeological treasures, there’s a lot more to Piraeus than its port. With great bakeries and cafes to the Piraeus Archaeological Museum, make sure you add this neighbourhood to your list. Zea Harbor is also located here; it’s a promenade of restaurants, cafés, and home to lots of fancy yachts.
This is actually a small section of the central suburb of Pangrati that has a character of its own. Less than a 10-minute walk to Syntagma Square and to the Acropolis, where you feel as though you are in a small town rather than a big city. It’s away from the crowds and tourists and a place where you will get a real sense of old Athens.
Only a ten-minute walk from the Acropolis Museum and lots more historical sites, this is another lesser-known neighbourhood in Athens. Full of charming cafés with outdoor tables, it’s a great place to stroll around. Make sure you stop off at the National Museum of Contemporary Art.
Known as the “neighbourhood of the Gods” Plaka, built in the shadow of the Acropolis, is the most authentic sample of old Athens, with hints of the new romantic side to the city.
This wonderful neighbourhood has been continuously inhabited since antiquity, which is why you will find a combination of the Ancient Greek, Roman, and Ottoman empires. Neoclassical buildings, car-free alleyways, charming cafés, and small gardens with bougainvillea and street art are a few reasons as to why this neighbourhood is our favourite in Athens, and one we believe needs to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
How to get there?
From Syntagma Metro station you can take Voulis Street straight ahead until Kydathinaion Street. From Monastiraki Station, walk Adrianou Street from the flea market. Alternatively, from Acropolis station, you can cross Dionisiou Aeropagitou and then enter at Vyronos Street.
For Brunch or Lunch
Bakaliarakia tou Damigou – A family-run fish taverna, opened in 1864. It is situated in the basement beneath Brettos Bar. Don’t miss the battered cod with garlic sauce. (Kydathineon 41)
Vyzantino Restaurant – A traditional spot that has been here since 1948. (Kydathinaion 18)
I Palia Taverna tou Psarra – The oldest restaurant in Plaka, first opened in 1898. Famous for its fresh fish. Try the spaghetti with seafood and loukoumades. (Erotokritou & Erechtheos 16)
To Kafeneio – Housed in a 400-year-old building, which from time to time was the residence of many famous Greeks, they serve traditional but creative Greek dishes. (Epicharmou 1)
Scholarhio Ouzeri – Known to locals as Kouklis (named after its owner) it boasts a dining room from another era. (Tripodon 14)
7 Food Sins – A gourmet Greek gastro-pub offering a distinguished atmosphere and exquisite Greek dishes. (Filomousou Etaireias Sq. 1)
Best Cafes in Plaka
Yiasemi, a picturesque place that is the most Instagrammable bistro-café in the neighbourhood, with tables outside on the staircase. You can just sit and relax, watching people go by. (Mnisikleous 23)
Café Melina, a retro café dedicated to Greek actress and political activist Melina Merkouri. (Lysiou 22).
Kimolia Art Café, a backstreet, colourful and unique café, hidden in the alleyways of Plaka. (Ypereidou 5)
Anafiotika Café, stands out for its position, on the famous steps. Ideal for a coffee during a morning stroll or a Greek meze later on in the day. (Mnisikleous 24)
Café Plaka, for its fireplace during winter and its calming roof terrace for the sunny mornings. Taste the pancakes and take photos in front of the pink house. (Tripodon 1)
O Glykys, a traditional kafeneio for coffee, tsipouro, homemade delicacies, and backgammon, of course. (Geronta 2)
Dioskouroi, a favourite student hangout – and not only! (Dioskouron 13)
For Casual Street Food
Souvlaki O Kostas – The best souvlaki of Athens. For almost 6 decades it remains untouched by the modern attempts of Greek souvlaki stores. It used to be at Adrianou 116 in Plaka since 1950 but in the last years, it was transferred a few streets further down. (Pentelis 5)
For a Cocktail/Wine
Brettos Athens’ oldest distillery- established in 1909 by Michail Brettos, it’s almost impossible to pass by and not pay attention to the illuminated bottles displayed behind the bar, filling the walls up to the ceiling. Specialising in colourful cocktails. (Kydathineon 41)
Mono Wine Restaurant– An all-day wine restaurant with a cozy atmosphere, fancy cocktail recipes, and more than 120 choices of wine, it’s two steps away from Plaka. (Mpenizelou Palaiologou 4)
Oinoscent – Just a step outside Plaka’s borders too, this wine bar has more than 1000 bottles to choose from. (Voulis 45-47)
Insider Tips- Something you may not know about Plaka is that during the 60s it used to be the place for traditional boîtes,small live music venues, like cabarets, inspired by the French Nouvelle Vague cinema movement. Today most of them are closed (like the legendary boîte Esperides) but you can still find a few, like Apanemia and Vatraxoi. For traditional Greek live music, you can also visit Lyra, which fills the alleyway with music every night, and the Perivoli tou Ouranou, one of the oldest venues for laikain Athens.
For Some Fine Dining…
2Mazi – boasting modern interiors inside a neoclassical mansion, they serve inventive gastronomic creations using local products. It’s a tasty twist on Greek (island) cuisine. (Nikis Street 48)
Daphne’s Restaurant – One of the most famous Athenian restaurants with Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, a hot spot for politicians, artists, and celebrities. (Lisikratous 4)
Best Desserts in Plaka
Arte Athens – Unique and traditional handmade gelato, using fresh ingredients. (Tripodon 16)
Maniera Gelateria – based on traditional Italian recipes, using natural Greek ingredients. (Adrianou 87)
Places to Shop
Flâneur – Here, contemporary Greek artists sell innovative handmade products, such as prints, t-shirts, and gifts. There are also items such as outdoor gear, backpacks etc. (Flessa 1)
Forget me Not – Souvenirs from contemporary Greek designers, including gifts, stationery, home accessories, clothing, and books as well. (Adrianou 100)
Ioanna Kourbela– One of the most celebrated contemporary Greek designers. The Kourbela family workshop opened in Plaka in 1971, offering handmade knitwear. (Adrianou 109)
Elaias Gi – At this shop, you can find a big selection of good quality olive oil and tree-based products, like soaps and kitchenware. (Adrianou 122). Same at Evonon (Adrianou 124)
Byzantino– Since 1987 Kostas and Babis have created ancient pieces of gold jewellery. (Adianou 120 & Pandrossou 17)
Angelo– The Ouzo King sells a great variety of Ouzo. (Adrianou 120)
For Greek leather sandals visit Sandals4u (Adrianou 88), Achillion (Adrianou 110) and Christonia Vintage (Adrianou 83).
Athens Protasis, for handmade products, designed and manufactured in Greece by taking raw materials from around the world. (Adrianou 136)
For Pre-Loved Items
Martinos Antiques – Since 1895, it is as much a museum as a shop. It boasts an impressive range of furniture, decorative items, Islamic art, fine art, and jewellery. (Pandrosou 50)
Elliniko Spiti – Dimitris Koutelieris makes in his workshop furniture and art of dismantled ships, houses, and other recycled materials. (Kekropos 14)
For Something Unique…
DotAhartis a special art lab, where you can apply your imagination to create your own ceramic inspired by Athens. A special place to buy handmade gifts as well. (Afroditis 12)
Best Parks & Gardens
Ragava Park or “Eleokipos” (Olive Garden), is a tiny park, where you can find the steps that lead to Stratonos Street and the gate to Anafiotika neighbourhood.
The charming Lysikrates Square with views of the Acropolis and the imposing Choragic Monument of Lysikrates.
The Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments opened in 1991, it’s constituted by the collection of musicologist Foivos Anogiannakis.
Frissiras Museum, opened in 2000, with contemporary European art.
The Jewish Museum, with a collection of rare books, textiles, and domestic and religious artifacts.
The Athens University Museum, with many transcripts and old photos,
The Museum of Pavlos and Alexandra Kanellopoulou, with archaeological finds and artworks from the prehistoric period up until nowadays
The Benizelos Mansion, the oldest house in Athens has been transformed into a museum.
The Children’s Museum, with art created by children.
Plus, the Roman Agora, was built between 19-11 BC as an expansion of the ancient Agora to the East, from donations of Julius Caesar and Augustus.
The Fethiye Mosque, the Agoranomion and the Tower of the Winds, a 12-meter-tall clocktower designed by the astronomer Andronikos of Cyrrhos, considered the first-ever meteorological station, and worked as a sundial, telling the time of the day by the position of the Sun in the sky, a waterclock (with water coming down from the Acropolis) and a wind vane.
The Choragic Monument of Lysikrates, a wealthy patron of theatrical plays performed in the theater of Dionysus. In 1658 a French Capuchin monastery was built on this site, where Lord Byron also stayed during his second visit to Greece. In 1818 the first tomatoes ever in Greece were planted in the monastery’s garden.
The 11/12th-century church of Agios Ioannis Theologos, the interior decorated by 13th-century Byzantine wall paintings, as well as the beautiful 11th-century church of Agios Nikolaos Ragavas. Moreover, the church of Agioi Anargyroi – Holy Metohi Panagiou Tafou, was constructed in the 17th century as a convent, and from the 18th century, it functioned as an embassy church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The two-storey house at Periandrou Street was once the home of the great poet Kostis Palamas. There is also a marble slab to indicate so. At Kydathinaion 9, there is the residence of the families Seferiades and Tsatsos. The ground floor was allocated to Giorgos Seferiades, the famous Greek poet Giorgos Seferis. The upper floor was the residence of Ioanna Tsatsou, sister of Seferis and wife of Konstantinos Tsatsos, President of the Hellenic Republic during the period 1975-1980. At Dioskouroi Street 4, you can find the personal archives of Nobel Laureate poet Odysseus Elytis and an exact representation of the poets’ study room as well.
Cine Paris, an outdoor cinema where the screen is on the rooftop with a stunning view of the Acropolis. Its trademark is the Greek collectible versions of foreign films’ posters.
Anafiotika, is a unique neighbourhood within a neighbourhood. Like a small Cycladic island with white cubic houses and blue doors and windows, it’s partially covered by bougainvillea – built by craftsmen who were called by King Otto to build his palace-, Anafiotika is an oasis in the centre of the Greek capital.
The street art– Many philosophical artists have left their marks on the walls or stairs of Plaka. You can find phrases like “Next to you, I learned to live, I learned to exist” as well as, “Whatever we lost in the fire, we will find in the ashes” and “By stepping backward no one has ever moved forward” among others.
A museum showcasing modern Greek culture over time is set to open in May 2021 in Athens’ historic Plaka district.
According to Greece’s Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, the Museum of Modern Greek Culture will feature exhibits that highlight the country’s culture through different periods, with the Minister stressing the importance of the location of the museum, which attracts millions of local and international visitors each year.
The layout of the complex is set around a central courtyard, in a style identical to that of the 19th and early-20th centuries, enabling visitors to experience the atmosphere of urban living in Greece during that period.
The property, which has been recently restored, is situated between Adrianou, Areos, Kladou, and Vrisakiou streets and has architectural remains from classical Greek and Roman antiquity.
The 18 preserved buildings will include the 1759 Tzisdarakis Mosque, which was the first premises of the Museum since its establishment in 1918 until 1973, and The Bath House of the Winds– the only public bath of Athens surviving today.
“The 18 buildings constitute a neighbourhood of Athens, as it was formed in the late 19th to early 20th century. It has very strong features of that period, which are revived through the exhibitions and collections of the Museum of Modern Greek Culture,” says Mendoni.
The nine buildings within the complex house the museum’s permanent installations which include over 25, 000 functional and decorative objects. Dating from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and originating from all geographical areas of Greece, the objects include items used in the home or at work as part of everyday life and traditional customs.
Other permanent exhibits will include folk art, the history of Plaka, and traditional Greek shadow puppet theatre.
The first show to open in May will be dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution as part of the bicentennial Greece 1821-2021 events.
The gyms are closed, but the bakeries are open, and those little blue delivery bikes are buzzing around the city dropping off their parcels of (fattening) comfort food. But if, like me, you are not quite ready to roll over and hibernate in front of Netflix, here are five things you can do to stay fit and healthy in Athens during the lockdown.
By Christopher Nicholas
1. Go jogging in Athenenian History
Put on your running shoes and go for a jog in the National Gardens, the best ‘park’ of Athens, directly behind the Parliament in Syntagma Square. The sun is still shining and palm trees line your track, and once you work up a sweat you will forget that winter is upon you. Pedion Tou Aeres is another big park in central Athens, and smaller, but quite unique is Akadamias Platanos, where you can take a jog through the ancient ruins of Plato’s Academy (where else in the world ?!). Finally, a satisfying route is to be found on Dionyssiou Aeropagitou pedestrian road that connects with Apostolou Pavlou St, starting from Acropolis metro and ending all the way down to Thisseio. For more inspiring runs around the city, check out Great Runsand search for suggestions in Athens.
2. Flex Venice Beach style at Technopolis Gym Park
If working out in the sunshine is your thing, then you will love this outdoor gym. Tucked away in the corner Technopolis (the old gasworks factory of Athens, recognisable by its tall brick tower that’s lit by red lights at night) arts and leisure park in Gazi, this is my favourite place to exercise. There is strict social distancing, and entrance is limited to 3 people, so this is a safe and comfortable place to train. The “calisthenic” gym machines and bars, use your body mass as resistance, so if you are used to lifting heavier weights in the gym, this might not hit the spot at first. But slow down the motion and aim for higher reps, and you will soon start to feel the burn in all the right places!
3. Get on your Podylato!
Ok, so I would not recommend this during normal times, but as Athens is grinding to a virtual halt, there’s never been a better time to discover the city by bicycle. To be fair, and Covid aside, the city of Athens is steadily making significant progress in greening the city centre. Panepistimiou Street, one of the major arteries running from Syntagma to Omonia Square, now has a dedicated cycle lane, for example. Mysteriously, many bicycle shops remain open, but you can also find a bargain on skroutz.gr, whilecar.gr is a good place to shop for second-hand bikes. Another option is to rent a bike from Funkybikes. In these tourist downtimes, you can pick up a very affordable weekly deal.
Do be careful, however, because unlike some other European cities, biking is not so commonplace and car drivers do not always have the instinct to look out for their two-wheeled compatriots. And make sure your lights go on as the sun goes down. To help you plan your cycle route around town log on to Bike Map.
4. Walk around Old Athens at dusk
Simple but there you have it – just take a nice, long walk. Start at Thission station, and wander up the cobbled streets towards the foot of the Acropolis, carry on past the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticus, before curling back into the Plaka and the maze of charming streets, taking in the beautifully lit Roman Agora and Hadrian’s library, before entering the eerily quiet passageways of the flea market, ending up at Monastiraki station.
A brisk walk is proven to build stamina, burn excess calories, and make your heart healthier. The ideal is to walk about 5km an hour to get the physical health benefits, and you can use the free Active 10 App to check your speed. But even a gentler stroll, under the moon, in the shadow of this iconic ancient hill will be deeply soothing for the soul, and good for your mental health.
5. Workout at home and travel the world
You don’t need to waste hundreds of euros on a running machine that will gather dust as soon as lockdown is over – a yoga mat and a couple of resistance bands are all you need. If you need some inspiration, many gyms run online courses for their clients. But then again, why visit the same old gym? The beauty of working out on Zoom is you can tour the world as you pursue your fitness goals.
Try Yoga on the banks of Lake Orta in Northern Italy (www.mandali.org), or Pilates in Sydney (@movewithnicole), or jet off to New York and join a ballet class with Sarah Jessica Parker (search for New York City Ballet workout on Youtube). I like Alex Crockford (@alexcrockford), fitness model turned coach on social; he will help you work up a sweat and maintain muscle mass. Evolve do some great high energy sessions. For something closer to home, Maria and Alikis of Twinsfit (@twinsfit.gr), have taken their pilates, yoga, and TRX training out of the studio and into your living room with Zoom. Or tune in to Charlie’s (founder of GaziCrossFit) “Quarantine workout core crusher” on Instagram (@charliemakkos). Street Workout Athens, have come off the streets, and are offering a wide range of classes, from Combat and Bootcamp to Spinning and Pilates on Zoom.
Whatever you decide to do, try and do a little every day; just 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day will have significant health benefits. We would love to hear what you are doing to stay fit and healthy during lockdown. Stay safe, stay healthy, and try to say no to these lovely Greek cheese pies!