Neighbourhoods: old Athenian chic vs nouveau riche in Kolonaki
Gone are the days of the old Athenian chic and the nights of the nouveau riche in Kolonaki. Kolonaki was once thriving even during the weeknights, but most certainly when Saturday lunch goers were getting on the tables of the infamous Sea Satin restaurant on Fokilidou street. The years of the economic crisis have left their dent on the city's once most opulent area, melding both worlds into a blend of two (supposedly) opposing sides: the old and the new. And recently, we witness that vibe more and more.
Lycabettus Hill and Dexameni square
It's early Saturday morning and the sun is out, so on I go for a walk up Lycabettus hill - the uphill trek is only about 15mins long so I entertain the though of taking the teleferik but quickly I decide not to. The view atop is gorgeous and because of the early hour, the hill is not packed with tourists. On the way down I go past Lykavittos bakery for a quick snack on the go - once a year on Ash Monday they prepare the best lagana bread in town!
Dexameni square has been getting back its old mojo in the last few years with Dexameni café uniting everyone, the young and the older regulars enjoying some of the Athenian sunshine and some good ol' Greek meze. As you go down the stairs towards the main part of Kolonaki, I stop by the delicate windows of Myran Scandinavian Design, one of the best furniture shops in town, and Noras's deli to pick up some upscale treats perfect for a cooking night in.
Patriarchou Ioakim, Kolonaki square and Skoufa street
The area around Patriarchou Ioakim street was once known as the main artery and shopping destination of the busy mountainous hill of Kolonaki. The years of the economic crisis have even impacted posh Kolonaki and its retail fashion shops that have now given way to smaller (and more cute) food shops instead like Era nuts, Fresh patisserie and Kostarelou cheese shop. At least some of the old habits haven't gone away I'm thinking, as I sit down at Da Capo for a perfect espresso and a lot of people watching.
Further down on Solonos street, once can visit the multi-purposed buildings of Yoleni's, for food and groceris, and the Apivita Experience Store, for cosmetics and spa. Philos Athens is still catching some of the hip action with its cool vibe of curated retail accessories and its peculiar menu if you want to combine the two, otherwise head slightly north and settle for old school tradition (and lots of art aficionados) at Filion café - also serving great cheese pie!
When you're done with all the eating head over to the lower part of Kolonaki near Vasilissis Sofias avenue and check out the exhibitions and main galleries at Benaki museum and at the Museum of Cycladic Art - great overview of where the Greek civilization rooted from and a cute little café for a quick stop. If classic is not your thing, then pop into Nitra gallery for the latest modern contemporary art exhibits!
- Mount Lycabettus - rocky hill at the backdrop of Kolonaki, offering 360 views to the city at the very top where a café and a church are located
- Benaki Museum - the renowned Benakis family mansion that was transformed to a museum of pre-historic art. Interesting exhibitions and a recently launched sister complex down in Pireos street featuring more modern stuff
- Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art - ancient Cycladic sculptures and artefacts, forming a great collection across several floors. Nice hidden coffee spot on the main floor, as well as a cute museum shop
- Nitra gallery - modern contemporary art exhibits in the sister location of the famous Nitra gallery of Thessaloniki. Ask Aliki for a personal tour!
- Cocomat Hotel - boutique hotel by the same brand that manufactures mattresses, pillows and everything of the sort. Centra location but tiny rooms
- Periscope Hotel - very stylish compact boutique hotel of the Yes group. Nestled in the upscale Haritos street and with some of the rooms overlooking the city
- Capanna - one of the best pasta in town, although the service could be better. Make sure you make a reservation beforehand
- Ratka - one of the oldest and most traditional hits of Kolonaki. Proper bistro dining with the relevant crowd and a menu ranging from beef fillet to escargots!
- L'Abreuvoir - the finest French restaurant in town with old school feel and the perfect entrecôte cafe de Paris! Best to visit during the winter months, although it offers a lush terrace when weather allows
- Malconi's - mostly known for its glamorous nightlife, but also offering a very tasty menu both on weekdays as well as on weekends with a delicious brunch. Great patio at the back
- Stinking Bishop - very cosy wine bar with a few dishes -mainly Greek-inspired cuisine- that could complement your night
- Nikkei - Peruvian-meets-Asian cuisine in this fancy place that is great for a funky night out
- Barbounaki - tasty and simple seafood in this sister restaurant of Barbounaki in Kifisia
- Papadakis - traditional upscale seafood and fish restaurant in a quiet location of the residential part of Kolonaki
- Ikio - Greek comfort food for a casual lunch
- Filion - old chic coffee and pastry shop, where artists and other intellectuals tend to hang
- Dexameni - coffee, drinks and meze, all in this perfect outdoors location of Dexameni square
- Da Capo - the most famous café of Kolonaki, serving very good self-service coffee since the 1980s
- La Esquina - tasty burgers in what is mostly a bar, on the pedestrian street of Haritos
- It - great all-white café with some tasty bites for a quick meet-up