ATHENS: Places We Love

A list of places we visit every time we are in Athens and a few places that we recently discovered

To Eat and Drink

  • The Center for Hellenic Tradition and Oraia Ellada Cafe: 36 Pandrossou | A rare find among the kitschy tourist shops in Plaka: shop downstairs for antique ceramics and regional handcrafts, then walk upstairs to enjoy a coffee and snack – not to mention the stunning view of the Acropolis. 

  • Alexandrino: 69A Emmanouil  Benaki | Located in Athens' bohemian district, Exarchia. Wine, vintage cocktails, coffee, jazz, and tango.

  • Heteroclito: 30 Petraki | Come for an old Athens experience and local wine. Don't miss the friendly bar-owner too.

  • Bougatsadiko: Plateia Iroon | A great alternative to the touristy cafes in Plaka and Monistarkai. Located at the square in Psiri, it's the perfect place for a coffee, pastry, and local people-watching during the day. At night, the square comes alive with revelry at the biergartens and ouzeris. 

  • Cafe Melina: 22 Lisiou | Named for the world-famous actress Melina Mercouri, "the last Greek-goddess." In the summer, lounge under the bougainvillea shade and enjoy a sweet pastry. One of the more quiet, peaceful cafes (romantic at night) in Plaka. 

  • Zorbas Restaurant: 15 Lisiou | Just aross the street from Cafe Melina, Zorbas serves classic taverna style dishes. Meat lovers, don't miss the paidakia, Greek for "lamb chops."

  • Melilotos: 19 Kalamiotou | A short walk from Syntagma square – look for the pistachio-colored cafe tables and chairs. Sample unusual dishes like sesame crusted feta with tomato marmalade. 

  • Taverna Saita: 21 Kidathineion | Authentic Greek dishes, great for families and large groups. 

  • Athinaikon Restaurant: 2 Themistokleous | An old-fashioned mezedopoleio, founded in 1932, serving ouzo and mezethes. Enjoy your ouzo with saganaki along with company – like Greek MP's on their break from Parliament. 

  • The Grasshopper and The Ant: 12-14 Mitropoleos | The name "Tzitzikas kai Mermigas" comes from Aesop's fable, "The Grasshopper and the Ant." Two blocks from Syntagma, they serve sophisticated twists on region-specific dishes as well as a small shot-glass of tsipouro at the beginning of each meal. 

  • Ariston: 10 Voulis | Greek for "excellent." Come here for a warm, traditional Greek pita or pie – over fifteen to choose from. Open since 1910; same location, same family.

  • Meliartos: A contemporary Athenian bakery with food and drink options to accommodate the whole family. Fast, reliable internet and breakfast daily. 

  • Strofi Tavern: 25 Rovertou Galli | Stop and eat here on your way to a performance at the Herdion theatre. A classic menu of cooked Greek dishes, with impressive rooftop views of the Acropolis. 

To See

  • Benaki Museum: an old family mansion downtown with an art collection spanning eight millennia of Greek history and prehistory. Right: a film dedicated to the Benaki Museuma and its founder.
  • The Museum of Cycladic Art: 4 Neofitou Douka | See how marble figurines from the Aegean world inspired the works of Giocometti, Picasso, Henry Moore, and others. A superb museum cafe too.
  • Monastiraki Flea Market: Avissynias Square | Dig for hidden treasures here every Sunday.
  • Lykavittos: One of the best views of Athens and its surroundings, with a cafe and small church at the top. The best time to visit is sunset. If you aren't up for the trek by foot you can opt for the funicular, which leaves from Ploutarchou and Aristippou Streets.
  • Anafiotika: Check map above | North of Plaka, at the base of the Acropolis, this picturesque neighborhood was build  by refugees from the island of Anafi when Greece gained its independence, in 1830. It resembles the whitewashed, stacked homes native to Anafi and the other Cycladic Islands. Explore the narrow streets and follow the signs to the Acropolis as you make your way to the Parthenon. 
  • Pittaki Street: Check map above | Pittaki Street is at the entrance to Psiri. Previously a dimly lit, poorly trafficked, and neglected street. Last year, Athenians decided to give Pittaki a makeover. Together, they gathered over 200 lamps and strung them overhead. 
  • Open-Air Cinemas: A favorite summer pastime for Athenians. Watch a film from the rooftop with views of the Acropolis or in the National Garden at sunset. Our two favorite cinemas are Cine Paris in Plaka (22 Kydathineon) and Cine Aegli in the National Garden (formerly The Kings Garden).
  • Hammam Baths1 Melidoni | Located in Thisio. Take a break from museums and relax with a massage and steam – just like in ancient times.
  • Lake Vouliagmeni: Take the metro (red line) to the end of the line and then a bus will take you to lake's entrance. Or take taxi all the way. Free to enter, but pay to swim. Located at 50 cm above sea level and fed by currents from the hot springs below, the lake has a unique composition of minerals known for its healing properties. 

To Stay

Credit: Ασπασία Κουλύρα

Credit: Ασπασία Κουλύρα

  • Athens Quinta Hotel: 13 Methonis | In the heart of Exarchia, this hostel is run by three siblings and everything in it is vintage furniture. Sit in the courtyard and enjoy a cold drink with them. 
  • City Circus Athens Hostel: 16 Sarri | An old neoclassical mansion turned hostel in Psirri district (right: video) 
  • Live In Athens: Short stay apartments located around downtown Athens, many near the Acropolis. 

  • New Hotel: 16 Filellinon | Formerly, Olympic Palace hotel, owner and Greek Cypriot industrialist Dakis Joannou renovated and renamed his creation New Hotel, and was keen that nothing from the original building be thrown away. Great modern design, 200 meters from Syntagma and excellent and helpful staff.

More Guides to Athens

  • 36 Hours in Athens by NYTimes.com 

  • It may seem unnecessary to pay a guide to scope out your drinking holes and restaurants, but many places are hidden either high above or below street level — most don’t even have a sign. Alternative Athens offers guided tours including street art, Athens by night and the historic city.