The Weekly Getaway: Athens turns from ancient and classic to modern and hip
Travel Guides

The Weekly Getaway: Athens turns from ancient and classic to modern and hip

Dimitris Kossyfas | 12 October 2016
Athens, Greece
Best time to go:
Apr-Jun and Sep-Oct
Ideal trip duration:
3-4 nights
Last updated:
17 September 2023

Once thriving as a powerful city-state and a global hub with the port of Piraeus, Athens went through a rough patch and is slowly transforming itself back to a modern metropolis.

Over the last few years, retail space across the city centre went vacant and business overall plummeted. On the aftermath, creative minds and entrepreneurs alike started creating a new foundation that is slowly catching up with other modern capitals. Meanwhile, tourism is booming which may well mean you can easily find yourself visiting us soon!


The Panathenaic Stadium, the only stadium built entirely of marble, that hosted the first modern Olympic Games


The Erecthion up on the Acropolis hill

Acropolis, Plaka and Koukaki

Of course you’ll want to go off the beaten path when you get here, but first there is a lot of history in this area to go unnoticed. Take a stroll up the Acropolis hill to discover the foundation of the ancient citadel and the magnificent Temple of Parthenon. Some of the marbles have been carefully moved to the new Acropolis Museum (despite those still held at the British Museum) and a stop there can serve as a nice break.

You can then wander around the old city of Plaka with its pebbled streets and colorful backdrop. If you really want to explore the centre like a local, opt for Koukaki, an area that has recently attracted the youth with a bunch of new bars and cafes around. Kinono, Lotte and Salute are all great options for coffee. When you get hungry try one of the sandwiches at Guarantee – a legendary one that’s not to miss.

Travel Food People - Temple of Zeus, Athens

Temple of Olympian Zeus


Shoeshiners are not all gone from the city centre of Athens


The terrace at the Acropolis Museum directly facing the Parthenon


As you walk yourself away from Plaka and into the area below Syntagma square there’s so much to explore in what is known as the Historic Triangle of Athens. Narrow streets, small alleys and an abundance of shops all make for a lively atmosphere, especially as the sun rays hit the densely built area. Lunch is best served at Cherchez la femme if you want something Greek-oriented or at Dopios.

If you’re looking for more international options and a cool crowd, then Linou Soumpasis k Sia is your go-to place, one of the best restaurants around housed in what used to be a traditional candle making shop. For dinner, Wine Is Fine is also another similar option that was launched in 2022 by two French and a Greek in an attempt to revive this part of town by offering French-oriented delicacies and great natural wine.

Crayfish pasta - Linou Soumpasis k sia, Athens
Travel Food People - Linou Soumpasis kai Sia, Athens
Travel Food People - Linou Soumpasis kai Sia, Athens

Fine dining in a casual setting at Linou Soumpasis k Sia



Once thriving as mainly a luxury shopping district, this area went through a rough patch and is still recovering. Cafes and restaurants on the other hand are popping up like mushrooms. Whenever you visit, chances are it’s going to be warm so you can catch some sun at Dexameni cafe as well as some nice Greek meze. If you’re looking for something more modern and posh, Me Kolonaki serves an excellent brunch (including many healthy options) and is great for people-watching too. If you’re keen for some of that Greek culture, you can combine that with a visit to the Cycladic Museum that recently renovated its shop and cafe.

On the same note, Flower in Mavili square, a good 15min walk from Kolonaki, offers a relaxing vibe for a coffee or a small eat. Just opposite the square you can find a foodie’s heaven for pastries, Mike. Try the oven cheese pie (see below)!

Yoghurt bowl - Me Kolonaki, Athens
Travel Food People - Me Kolonaki, Athens

Delicious brunch at Me Kolonaki


Piraeus, Mikrolimano and the SNF

If you’re visiting during the summer then you definitely go by Piraeus port along the way to the Greek islands. If not, never mind! There used to be a commercial yet traditional and authentic feel to it, these days most of it has washed away even though recent investment in the area has been gentrifying the area for the better. You can enjoy great fish at Papaioannou in Mikrolimano or try more casual but delicious dining further west at Yperokianio, for authentic seafood meze, and Margaro, for fried shrimps, red mullets and Greek salad.

Finally, for some arts and culture, you can visit the newly opened Stavros Niarchos Foundation Culture Center spanning an area of 50 acres and an architectural masterpiece designed by Renzo Piano. Definitely worth a visit during the day, or better yet a stroll just before sunset. If you’re looking to combine that with great fish and a relaxed vibe you can have lunch at the lush patio of Ta Kanaria.


Far and beyond: Vouliagmeni and Kifisia

Further out towards the south, Vouliagmeni is the perfect destination during the summer months. With a coastline of more than 5km, it offers one of the best beaches around with both organised (think Astir beach) as well as more adventurous options (think below Island club). And then there’s Cape Sounio about another 20km down the road with the Temple of Poseidon which is another must.

Finally, if you want to explore the northern suburbs Kifisia has been bustling with shops against the real estate crisis. It also offers many options for small snacks, coffee and drinks. Different Beast offers a very tasty brunch after 10am, Paramalo is famous for its oysters and seafood and Eleftheriadis is a traditional taverna with almost just one specialty, their peinirli (see below).


Astir Beach in Vouliagmeni


Beach in Vouliagmeni


Options for your peinirli at Eleftheriadis in Drosia


  • Acropolis – the area surrounding the Acropolis hill, the Parthenon and the Acropolis museum is ideal for a stroll through history and culture. Make sure to get early and beat the crowds

  • Plaka – once the old city of Athens, Plaka is part of the historic triangle featuring pebbled streets and alleys, neoclassical residences with small manicured gardens and some interesting rooftop terraces with bars and cafes. Ideal for exploration walks and small treats and next to busy Syntagma square. Full Syntagma neighbourhood guide here.

  • Koukaki – recently attracted the hip crowd, this mainly residential area close to Plaka has now filled with vibrant bars and cafes. Best to visit during the night. Full Koukaki neighbourhood guide here.

  • Kolonaki – once considered the prime shopping location of the city centre, Kolonaki has slowly turned into a restaurant/bar scene with some businesses and museums around. Full Kolonaki neighbourhood guide here.

  • Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) – the most recent and largest land development in Athens (and nearly a $1bn project), the foundation includes the new facilities of the National Library of Greece, and of the Greek National Opera, as well as the Stavros Niarchos Park. Interesting to visit with many attractions and happenings

  • Basil and Goulandris Foundation – amazing private collection of classic and contemporary art from the likes of Picasso, Rodin, Degas, as well as some renowned Greek artists


  • Shila – an artsy and cosy boutique stay on the edge of Kolonaki with a hip vibe. try their rooftop when the weather is good!
  • Athens Was – boutique hotel on Aeropagitou street, ideal for business and pleasure around the Acropolis area

  • Inn Athens – urban small residences in the heart of Plaka, featuring a nice courtyard at the company of a wine bar

  • New Hotel – recently launched small hotel with a nice rooftop area and infamous brunch served on the ground floor, also located nearby

  • Ergon House – newly established in 2019, this 4-star food-oriented boutique hotel is a nice addition to the city centre with a carefully selected product list at its modern agora (super market for Greek) on the ground floor

  • The Foundry Suites – also new and a bit more spacious and colorful, The Foundry in Psyrri also offers a rooftop bar with pic nic baskets available for dinner (think cheese and cold cuts) from Wednesday to Sunday (pizza from a wood-fired oven on weekends too!)


Butcher at Varvakeios, Athens’ daily market


Coffee shops catering mostly to youngsters at Anafiotika in Plaka



  • Greek and Mediterranean food

    • Cherchez la femme – Greek bistro in the city center with great maze food and food service. Read our full review here

    • Cookoovaya – a team of 6 well-known Athenian chefs joined forces in this modern establishment offering Greek comfort food; big dishes and very noisy, worth a visit. Read our full review here

    • Linou Soumpasis k Sia – fine dining Greek-inspired dishes at a casual taverna setting, attracting a hip crowd both Greek and international. Read our full review here

    • Thanasis 1948 – delicious high quality meat in a very casual setting, great for some lunch under the sun. Read our full review here
    • Papaioannou – best fish and seafood in town, located in Mikrolimano next to Piraeus. Fast-paced professional service and delicious treats. Read our full review here

    • Paramalo – if you like oysters and seafood this is the best joint in the northern suburbs Athens! Read our full review here

    • Yperokianio – great for authentic Greek meze and a casual vibe. Make sure you reserve a table during weekends. Read our full review here.

    • Margaro – an authentic taverna of Piraeus serving just fried shrimps, fried red mullet and a killer Greek salad. great for something fast and delicious! Read our full review here

    • Ta Kanaria – a lush patio near the SNF park with a traditional old school vibe, serving great fish and seafood options. Read our full review here
  • Ethnic food

    • Wine Is Fine – street-side wine bar serving some French-inspired dishes for a cool crowd. Read our full review here
    • Capanna – Italian food in this nice trattoria in Kolonaki. Sit outside and enjoy the passers by. Read our full review here
    • Nolan – gourmet Vietnamese street food in the city of Athens by Sotiris Kontizas, a young but very talented chef. Read our full review here

    • Tanpopo – great ramen, also by Sotiris Kontizas, and a nice funky and fun vibe. Read our full review here
    • Sushimou – chef Antonis offers singlehandedly the best omakase in this side of the world. 10-seat sushi bar in the heart of Athens. Full restaurant review here

    • Birdman – a long and narrow Japanese pub that offers delicious yakitori bites. You can also try the best smash burger in town which is now served a few steps away at the newly launched EKIBEN Kitchen. Read our full review here

    • Trattoria – authentic Italian joint in the northern suburbs of Athens with a nice patio and small garden. Chef Vicenzo is the best! Read our full review here
  • Small eats, coffee and drinks

    • Dexameni – relaxed outdoor cafe in a pedestrian streets up the hill from Kolonaki square, offering some tasty Greek meze. Read our full review here
    • Thanasis kebab – traditional kebab just off Ermou street, Athens’ busiest shopping destination. That’s as basic as it gets
    • Flower – located next to the fountain Mavili square, a cute place for a breakfast coffee and snacks. Also serves tasty pizza in the evening
    • Ohh boy – modern coffee place in Pagkrati, serving mostly healthy brunch
    • Queen Bee – decent brunch in this carefully designed bistro in Kolonaki; also offering great coffee. Read our full review here

    • Me Kolonaki – the bets brunch in town hands down (try their granola and berries bowl!); also leaning towards a more healthy and sustainable practice if that’s your thing. Read our full review here
    • LOT 51 – specialty coffee at its best, in a hip environment that gets fired up after 4pm on weekends. Read our full review here

    • Couleur Locale – spectacular views to the Parthenon in this rooftop terrace bar, offering buzzing instrumental music and great cocktails

    • Kinono – nicely done bar at the area of Koukaki with a long bar and signature marbled floor, an ode to the ever lively 70s

    • By the glass – Greek wine bar with a nice garden opposite the street featuring live jazz nights during the summer

Travel Food People - Margaro, Athens
Travel Food People - Margaro, Athens
Travel Food People - Margaro, Athens

Delicious bites at Margaro in Piraeus

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