|Kolonaki is the area that the elite of Athens used to live before many of them moved out to the suburbs. It is an area full of high end shops and ritzy cafes at the base of Mount Lykavettos.
, if you cross Vassilias Sophias street and
continue up the hill from Irodou Atikou past
the beautiful mansion that houses the
Museum , you will be in Kolonaki Square, one of the
most famous and enjoyable places to sip
coffee, watch people and eat in the cafes that
line the street and remind many people of
Paris. The neighborhood is full of cafes and
expensive shops, fancy restaurants and fancy
people and shopping in this area is like
shopping in the finest areas of New York or
Paris. In the winter giant heaters are placed
outside and during the summer they have some
kind of hook-up that blows cold air through
some tubes into the covered area on the
street. During the Greek Civil War Kolonaki
and Syntagma were the only parts of Athens not
under the control of the communists. Check out the Kioupi restaurant across the
street from the Square. It is one of the last of the working-class
tavernas in the neighborhood. It's not exactly working-class in
the blue-collar sense, but guys in suits and ties work too.
Walk past the cafes and turn left up
Anagnastopoulo at the top of the square and go
right on Iraklitou, then up the steps and
through the small park. If you have kids you
can leave them in the playground while you
take a seat at the Ouzerie in Platia Dexameni.
This is one of the best spots in Athens, high
enough to be breezy and cool, with excellent
food. Very nice place to go for lunch and one
of the few places in Athens where you can
share your lunch with a rooster and some
chickens. You can get an ice cold beer here and a plate
of shrimp. Excellent sausages, salads and very
friendly service. One of my favorite places
for ouzo too. And where else in Athens can you
be entertained by a goat? A live one
Dexameni means cistern which is what the
square sits upon. It used to be the water
supply for all of Athens and was actually built by the Emperor Hadrian and the ancient walls are still there. On Friday there is an organic market here from 9am to 1pm. There is also an
outdoor movie theater that shows mostly
English language films.
One day when a friend of mine was sitting in the square he saw some city workers digging up all the bushes on one side of the square. They replaced them with beautiful flowers that were all in bloom and in front of it they put a podium with microphones and a public address system because the mayor at that time Dimitris Avramopoulos was coming to give a speech. The mayor showed up and gave his speech with the beautiful flowers as a background. When he finished the city workers packed up everything, including the flowers and left, without replanting the bushes which lay in a corner of the square until someone eventually threw them into a dumpster. My friend who witnessed this died so I don't have anyone to back up this story but I have no reason to believe he made it up since he had no reason to and it sounds like something that they would do in Athens.
across the street from the park is the Hotel
Saint George Lycabettus, one of the best
hotels in Athens. Great views, a swimming pool
and excellent rates in August make this a
hotel a favorite of regular travelers to
Greece especially in August when they have really low rates.
Kolonaki is named for the small column which sits in a corner of Kolonaki Square one of the most under utilized platias in Athens since most people prefer to hang out in the cafes, which have so much sidewalk space that they don't need to expand across the street and into the square. But they spent a lot of money to remodel it and make it more people friendly. It is also one of the few places in Athens where you will find Astroturf.
The Benaki Museum and the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art are two of the best private collections in Greece and both are located in Kolonaki. The Museum of the History of Greek Costume and the Theater Museum are also in the neighborhood and all you have to do is cross Vasilissis Sofias Avenue to visit the Byzantine Museum, and the War Museum of Athens. The National Gallery is just a few blocks further. (See museums) Also while in the area have a look at the newly discovered Lyceum of Aristotle.
If you are in the mood for breakfast, or even lunch or a hearty desert, Melinikon is owned by a Greek-American who left a successful career in New York City to open the first pancake house in Greece. It is located on 37 Skoufa Street which runs parallel to Akadamias Street.
The Gennadeion Library, across from the
American School of Archaeology following
Dinocratos street, contains the best collection of
Hellenism in the world as well as the notebooks
and letters of Henrich Schleiman, the records of
Ali Pasha, the despot of Epirus, and the papers of
Nobel Prize-winning poets George Seferis and
usually don't go any further but if you are
adventurous keep walking uphill on Ploutariou
street until you reach the tree-line. You are now
in the wilds of Mount Lycabettus. You can take the
Funicular Railway to the top or you can walk.
Whatever you do it's worth it because at the
summit is a church with a spectacular view of
Athens, the Acropolis, and the mountains
surrounding the city.
From Mount Lycabettus
you can see the ships in Piraeus, the Aegean
sea, and on a clear day the islands beyond, all
the way to the mountains of the Peloponessos.
It's worth being here for sunset and there
just happens to be a cafe-ouzerie up there
too. On the back side of the mountain is an
outdoor amphitheater. Read the back page of
the Athens News to find out if anyone of
interest is playing or check Athinorama, the weekly entertainment magazine of Athens. Yes it is in Greek but if someone famous is playing the ad will be in English too. Lykavettos is one of the finest
places to see a concert and you never know who
will be performing up there. Anyone from
Leonard Cohen to Peter Gabriel. I saw James
Brown there one summer! You can also take a taxi
and for those doing the Athens tour with George
the Famous Taxi Driver, Lycabettus should be included.
Edmund Keeley's excellent book
Paradise: The Greek Journey 1937-47
One neighborhood that almost every Athenian knows
to a degree is Kolonaki, or little column, named
for the column once standing alone on the edge of
town but now in a busy square close to the city
center. Kolonaki used tobe regarded as the
ritziest if most conservative part of Athens to
live in, until too much traffic and polluted air
bagain to tarnish its upper-class image, though it
always had a bohemian fringe around the slope of
Lycabettus, where writers and artists, both
foreign and domestic could find fairly cheap,
congenial homes in the few two and three story
houses left over from the early days when the
streets were unpaved. The square that used to
provide open-air tea and coffee for the elite in a
paved figure-of-eight island known affectionately
as "the Kolo Bidet" (the Ass Bidet) has now been
cleared away to make room for the young who cruise
in on motorcycles to eat pizza at the new mall or
hang out over a drink to see who else may show up
for a revved-up move into some serious nightlife
elsewhere. And very recently some Athenians on the
rise who chose to live in the distant suburbs
where the air is cleaner and the parking easy have
begun to come back to Kolonaki because they miss
the sidewalk cafes and restaurants, however
upgraded, where the talk about politics and films
and trips to the islands still has some wit in it,
and where the boutiques that have taken over the
ground floor apartments on street after street are
as classy as any in Europe.
more about Edmund Keely see
If you are looking for something bistro-like the neighborhood is full of them Try Cafe Boheme at 36 Omirou Street in Kolonaki but come early if you want to eat because at night it becomes the smallest big party in Athens and is a popular hangout for x-pats.
Hotels in Kolonaki
Despite being some distance from the archaeological sites Kolonaki is actually a pretty good place to stay. First of all there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops in the neighborhood and if you want to go for a walk in the woods or reach the higher elevations Lykavettos is right there. Plus you can walk to all the sites because they are downhill and you can just take a taxi or the metro back. The nicest hotel in Kolonaki is the 5-star Saint George Lykavettos which has one of the best views of Athens you will find. After that there is the 4-star Hotel Periscope just a couple blocks up from Kolonaki Square. The 4-star Athens Lycabettus Hotel is centrally located within walking distance from the business, cultural and shopping districts of Ermou Street, Syntagma and Kolonaki square and of the three is the closest to the sites and museums of central Athens.