It’s not about the recent gentrification of Koukaki, not even about the cool youngsters that now dominate this area… more likely it’s the sense of belonging, the feeling of a true neighbourhood that surrounds this urban city landscape just off the Acropolis hill.
Blessed to have lived very close to the hill, I’ve spent quite some time in this neighbourhood that since 2010 started getting transformed into the new Athenian urban chic.
Home to a few youth hostels and hotels, Koukaki has always been quite international thanks to the lively influx of travelers walking up to the Parthenon and, as of 2009, the Acropolis Museum, a building conceived by the famous architect team of Bernard Tschumi. Koukaki got it together when the streets around the museum transformed into a pedestrian zone, around what used to be an old area full of garages and car mechanics outlets.
Fast forward to today, the area has exploded as an alternative accommodation hub (thanks to Airbnb), boasting a number of trendy yet carefully crafted bars and cafés.
Bel Ray, a snack bar that opened in 2014, is a perfect example of that – a former car wash place transformed into a trendy bar above which one can see some playful cartoon illustrations homage to the mechanics that used to work there. Tucked in a sunny corner of Koukaki, Bel Ray is a nice spot for brunch when the weather is good.
Just across the street from Bel Ray is Kinono, a minimalist and urban space that was literarily created by hand from its owner Olga Manetta (famous for her time at Six D.O.G.S.). Kinono, now one year old, is a nice alternative all-day coffee place. Upstairs they house meet-market-style gatherings and other exhibitions, while downstairs at the long bar is where all the action takes place. Two signature cocktails you may wish to try (Kinono 0001 and Kinono 002). Above all, Kinono is a great example of local talent creating a very inviting space, as Olga partnered with Nullstellen Laboratory for bringing the project to life.
Koukaki wouldn’t be complete without the recent openings of some nicely done wine bars. Materia Prima is one of the best ones and also the newest (website coming soon). The concept here was to focus on the raw, fresh products and create a calming space inviting loners, couples and friends alike.
Further north and closer to Makriyianni, one can find the delicious baked goods of Takis. Now run by his two sons, Takis bakery has long been a neighbourhood favourite with patrons lining up for hours on Clean Monday to get their lagana (special bread eaten in Greece when Easter lent starts). To top this off, one of the two sons, Artemis, has recently launched Drupes & Drips just across the street and brought to life a very tasty small apperitivo joint (full review here).