Despite the crisis-striken profile of Athens for the last 10 years, the area around Syntagma and the Historic Triangle has continuously been transformed to a mosaic of colors, flavors and some good ol’ hospitality. The hordes of tourists on Syntagma square may be not our thing, but pretty much anything south of the square definitely is.
Athens’ city centre used to be dirty, crammed and noisy. But in recent years, mostly due to initiatives from the private sector, the area is not just a hub for commercial and corporate activity. A range of restaurants/bars, start-up hubs and local merchants have attracted the locals’ attention to the point it now feels natural to hang out south of Syntagma square.
First it was Agias Irene’s square and the coffee culture that got everyone going with notable outliers like six d.o.g.s. and B.o.o.z.e. for the more alternative crowd. At the time, Baba au Rum’s cocktails were a thing (and still go strong) while Kolokotroni street was getting revamped by the minute. Loud nights at the eclectic Dude bar (great post-drinks snacks at Food str. next door by the way!), Sunday lunch at Plaka’s Kafeneio and a whole lot more initially got us down there.
Nowadays, regulars hang out at specialty coffee-shop Thirdplace, grab a bite at Cherchez la Femme or Nolan and wash everything down with some fine Greek wine at heteroclito wine bar. Another two delicious additions in the area as of 2023 are: Tanpopo, an authentic ramen place from famous chef Sotiris Kontzias (NOLAN, Proveleggios) and Wine Is Fine, where three friends, two French and one Greek created this cosy, street-side wine bar serving fresh wine and some French-inspired delicacies!
During weekends, I would walk down the local food market of Varvakios and taste some of the fresh produce artfully promoted by the picturesque staff yelling left and right in an effort to increase the day’s proceeds. The streets around the old establishment of the Athenian stock exchange on Sofokleous street were full with graffiti and Krinos’ loukoumades (Greek doughnuts) were just about the only reason for going down to Aiolou street after indulging into a deliciously heavy cheese pie at Ariston.
On weekdays, I would ascend to the rooftop canteen on Syntagma square for some homemade beef patties and a hearty omelette in the building once housing one of the most prominent oil companies in Greece.
Ever since 2015, the area has been somewhat polished with prominent food dining places Nolan, Birdman and Sushimou leading the race. Gaku, a more local type of sushi place, also opened its doors last year in the spot once made famous for its sushi Furin Kazan. Thankfully, parts of it has also remained relatively the same like the fruit market on Apollonos street.
Surely, more will soon happen with Athens’ tourism activity booming and lots of foreign investors following suit. Until then, there are still lots of things going for the area where the heart of Athens still beats!
A sashimi selection at Sushimou
- Plaka – the old historical city of Athens with a great labyrinth of streets and alleys and an abundance of local shops.
- Hellenic Parliament – 1800s palace that has been at the forefront of public demonstrations through the years. Nice to catch the change of guards.
- National Garden – beautiful park next to the Parliament building and close to Syntagma square for a quick stop away from the crowds.
- Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch – two of the most important archaeological sites of the city centre dating back to 6 B.C.
- St Irene’s Square – lively square full of cafes and ample people-watching; always hard to find a table during the busy hours of the day and night.
- Varvakios Central Food Market – great display of meat and vegetables in Athens’ most notable food market.
Seafood at Nolan by award-winning chef Kontizas
- New Hotel – posh hotel with a very good brunch and a nice small rooftop space. Book your stay here.
- AthensWas – upscale serviced apartments very close to the Acropolis hill. Book your stay here.
- InnAthens – very central boutique-style apartments with a nice inner courtyard and a cafe wine-bar at the lobby.
- Nolan – great Asian food by one of Greece most famous young chefs, Sotiris Kontzias. Make sure you get a reservation. Read our full review here.
- SushiMou – Athens’ best sushi, mostly offering an omakase menu with Antonis Drakoularakos winning a lot of awards globally lately. Must reserve in advance. Read our full review here
- Birdman – Tokyo-inspiread Japanese gastrobar, serving delicious nigiri bites and the best smash burger in Athens (now only served in their sister outpost EKIBEN right nextdoor)! Read our full review here.
- Cherchez La Femme – very tasty bites in this Greek bistrot with a nice vibe all day long. Hard to find a table so best to reserve ahead of time. Read our full review here.
- Tanpopo – serious ramen dishes and loud funky beats! Read our full review here.
- Wine Is Fine – elegant French-inspired, street-side dining; also good for people watching. Read our full review here.
- To Kafeneio – traditional taverna in Plaka with a delicious dish of meatballs in tomato sauce.
- Noel – known for their indoors Christmasy vibes and their brunch. Food is ok but the decor is really rich and interesting.
- Six d.o.g.s. – lush garden at the back and a somewhat alternative crowd in this art space comprising of 6 adjacent bars.
- By the glass – one of the best wine bars of Athens with a vast collection of mostly Greek wine. Also offers tasty nibbles and a nice crowd during weeknights.
Honey-glazed doughnuts sprinkled with crushed walnuts at Krinos
- Ariston – one of the best cheese pies in Athens, known for decades now. Must try!
- Kostas – the best souvlaki in town with queues forming most times of the day. Open only on weekdays until stock runs out.
- Syntagma canteen – hidden canteen gem at the rooftop of a corporate building. Read our full review here.
- Krinos – honey-glazed Greek doughnuts in a traditional self-service establishment.
- Le Greche – high quality artisanal ice cream on Mitropoleos street. Try their amarena and almando croccante flavours! Read our full review here.
- Anana Coffee & Food – great place for specialty coffee and brunch with a menu that changes often. Read our full review here.
- The Makers – retail concept store and the sister outpost of Me Kolonaki serving a killer brunch. Reservations are a must. Read our full review here.
Brunch at The Makers