The neighborhoods of Makrigianni and Koukaki are south of the Acropolis and Mount Filopapou. They are bordered by Syngrou Avenue to the south and the beautiful pedestrian avenue of Dionissiou Areopagitou to the north and are therefore within easy walking distance of just about anywhere in Athens that you would want to be.
Makrigianni was really put on the map when the Acropolis Museum opened, along with the Acropolis metro station. Before that it was like any other area of Athens with its apartment buildings and lack
of green space. But the park-ification plans of Athens were good to the neighborhood and it is now one of the most popular walking areas in
the city. It is hard to remember the days when both Makrigianni Street and D Areopagitou were choked with buses, cars and carbon-monoxide and the Plaka stopped abruptly at the end of Byronas street. But now it is a continuation of walk-able Athens, not to mention ride-able Athens on Segeways and skateboards, bicycles and other more traditional means of transportation. The neighborhood has three major sites, the first being of course the Acropolis which rises out of the trees and ruins of the ancient temples below it. The second is the new Acropolis Museum, waiting patiently for the return of the Elgin
Marbles and attracting thousands of visitors a day. The third is the Temple of Olympian Zeus which is right across the street from the Royal Olympic Hotel which some people might call the fourth.
Makrigianni Street which runs next to the museum and leads to the wide pedestrian avenue Dionysiou Areopagitou, has traded in the small shops that sold tiropitas and jewelry for restaurants and cafes
seating. Yes they are mostly tourist places but by the intersection of Makrigianni and Hatzichristou street is one of my favorite restaurants, To Kati Alo (photo)which serves the kind of home cooked dishes and grilled meats and fish that you will find in some agricultural city like Trikala or Sparta. Kosta, the young guy who runs the place with his mother, is an articulate guy who speaks fluent English. The salads are made to order, not kept in the fridge and served with icicles like some
of the touristy
places. One of the specialties is grilled fresh farm-raised tsipura, a meaty fish that does not taste farm raised and for which he charges about 10 euros. Try getting a whole grilled fresh fish anywhere else around the Acropolis at that price. He also grills steaks, lambchops, porkchops, local sausages, chicken and usually has a couple whole chickens and kontosouvli (pork loin) turning on the rotisserie if you get there early. Excellent wine from the Peloponessos and tsipiro-raki from who knows
where? The menu is written in
chalk on the wall. It
looks pretty funky but the food is good. Check it out. Some of the clientele seem like the kinds of tourists who came for a visit 20 years ago and never left the restaurant.
Also worth visiting is God's Restaurant which is a family owned place that has excellent food for a tourist restaurant. Plus the owner actually looks like God, or at least how many of us picture him, sort of like
Santa but not fat. Next door is another good restaurant called Arkadia which features food from that part of the Peloponessos. Both restaurants are a few notches above the normal tourist restaurant and each have a friendly young staff. At the top of Makriani Street try Melaion for a glass of wine, food and people-watching. At 10 Falirou Street, Mani-Mani is a well-reviewed restaurant serving authentic recipes from the Maniregion of the Peloponessos. Also check out two other
restaurants on Falirou Street, a family run restaurant at #18 called Falirak owned by
Eleni and Mihalis where every dish costs 5 euros, and at #25 is an estiatorio called Magerio. Koukaki resident and food-lover Robert Wallace recommends Fabrika tou Efrosinou at An. Zinni 34 is a chef-owned modern, yet traditional restaurant that uses local ingredients in generous portions. Georgos Gatsos, the son of a fisherman who spent time cooking in the monasteries of Mount Athos, is the chef and his partner, Athina Tsoli, is a winemaker with her own label. Down the street
at Veikou 2 is Opos Palia, a mezedopouleion popular with locals and tourists.
The Strofi Taverna at 25 Roberto Galli has a rooftop garden with a spectacular view of the Acropolis. You won't find a more romantic
restaurant and the food is good too. (Call because you may need reservations: 210-921-4130). There is also a nice traditional Greek taverna with very low prices called Cabana run by Spiros and his wife Dimitra on 15 Petmeza Street. If you walk down Diakou Street just past the entrance of the metro and turn right on Porinou Street there is a very nice little wine bar called Wine Point. Have a glass of wine and then continue down the street to Aglio, Olio &
Peperoncino an authentic Italian restaurant, run by authentic Italians and one of my favorite restaurants in Athens. If you continue past the Italian restaurant and come to Lempesi Street there is a really nice little wine bar called Wine O'clock which I highly recommend for their wines and snacks and the friendliness of the owners. It is right across the street from the Gallery Marneri which is worth going into for a look at some Greek contemporary art. For more reviews and others places
to eat see Athens Restaurants (You can easily walk to any of the restaurants in the Plaka too). After dinner, or before dinner, or all day long and into the night if you are that type of person, you can go to the Athens Sports Bar at 3A Veikou Street where it is
likely that you can watch your favorite team while your family goes to the museums and archaeological sites.
Besides the Acropolis museum there is not much to see in the neighborhood itself but its proximity to the important places you'll want to visit make it an excellent
place to stay. Go up
Makrigianni Street and cross D Areopagitou and you enter the Plaka on Byronas Street. If you go right on D Areopagitou you come to Hadrian's Arch, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the National Gardens and the Panathinaiko Stadium. Go left on D. Areopagitou (I am going to know how to spell this name by the time I finish this section) and you pass the ancient Theater of Dionysious, the Theater of Herod Atticus, the entrance to the Acropolis, and if you continue you will go through the neghborhood
of Thission and wind
up in Monastiraki, and chances are good you won't have seen a car along the way. If you like the countryside you can walk for hours on the wooded paths of Mount Filopapou and there are few better views of the city than from the monument at the top where you can even see the ferries leaving the port of Pireaus. If you are a runner, walker, or bicycle rider this is the best area in Athens for you. If you are here on Katheri Deftera (Clean Monday) this
is where Athenians come to fly their kites in celebration of
lent and the streets and pathways are filled with food vendors, musicians and families.
By the way, one of the beautiful old buildings that stand in front of the Acropolis Museum whose owners went through years of legal wrangling when the city
to tear them down
because they spoiled the view is owned by Vangelis Papathanasiou, otherwise known as Vangelis, who wrote (or recorded at least) the theme song to Chariots of Fire and more importantly was the brilliant mind behind Aphrodite's Child, the most important rock group to come out of Greece. The owners of
these properties fought the city and publicized their plight with this flyer which was taped to one of the buildings which gives you an idea of how frustrating it can be dealing with the Greek bureaucracy. But thankfully the buildings are still standing so at least in this situation their ineptitude has actually been beneficial
to the city. The way the beautiful vines hanging from the rooftop are fake. But you gotta give them credit for trying. The neighborhood is full of beautiful old neo classic houses and if you are a student of architecture you will enjoy walking the streets and spotting them nestled amongst the 5 story apartment buildings that many of them were torn down to build.
There are a number of small shops owned by artisans who sell handmade products that are of a higher quality and a lot more interesting than the usual tourist fare sold in the typical tourist shops around Athens. Takis Artopoitis is considered one of the best little bakeries in Athens and the small wine bar/coffee shop across the street called Drupes and Drips at 20 Zitrou Street, not only has some of the best coffee in Athens but they also have delicious cheeses, salamis, prochiuttos, sandwiches
other snacks, micro-brew Nissos Beer on tap, and enough good wine to make you think you have died and gone to heaven or Italy. Also at #2 Kavalloti stop in at Little Tree Books and Coffee for coffee, tea, cakes, sandwiches and a quiet place to read or buy books.
The Arrival of Melissinos the Poet Sandalmaker
Perhaps the biggest event to happen in Makrigianni since the opening of the Acropolis Museum is when Pandelis Melissinos, son of the world famous Poet-Sandalmaker Stavros Melissinos, and himself a playwright, poet, musician, artists and philosopher, with a degree from Parsons School of Design, moved
sandal shop from the Monastiraki area where it had been for 100 years, to the corner of Daikou and Tzireon Streets just two blocks down from the Acropolis Metro Station and museum. With a lot more room to service his customers and fans who come from all over the world to buy his handmade sandals, the shop is a crossroads where travelers and celebrities meet to have their feet measured just as the Beatles, Jackie Onassis, Sophia Loren, Rudolph Nureyev, Margo
Fontaine, Anthony Quinn,
George Pappard, Ursula Andress, Joseph Cotten, Gary Cooper, Sara Jessica Parker, Brigitte Baku, Lily Tomlin, and many other famous people have in the years this family business has been open. Listed as one of the Top-10 things to do in Athens, a visit to The Poet Sandal-maker is probably the most fun you will ever have shopping.
In the last year or so the neighborhood of Koukaki has become yet another happening area to go to at night or even on a sunny day. Much of the activity centers around two pedestrian streets that connect Veikou Street with Syngrou Avenue. If you walk down Makrigianni Street with the Acropolis Museum on your right and
the tourist restaurants and cafes on your left and cross Hatzihristou street you can continue on Veikou Street and after about 3 blocks turn left on Drakou Street. The street is more of a park than a street with cafes, restaurants and a bar or two, all with tables and chairs outdoors. At the end of Drakou is the Syngrou-Fix metro station so you can get here easily from just about anywhere in the city. If Drakou seems a little too mainstream for you take a right before Syngrou on Androutsou Street
and there are several cool cafe-bars including O Pmampas (The Father) which has a nice selection of beers, not found in most places. For seafood try Skoumbri and for grilled meat try Ambrosia close to the metro.
|If you keep walking down Veikou or Dimatrokopolou or Androutsou streets you will come to the second of these pedestrian streets called Olymbou. One of my favorite old style cafeneons is here, called Cafe tou Lolou which has very nice mezedes and is about as un-trendy as you can get in Athens. Otherwise you have your
a number of bistros, ouzeries, psistarias, cafes, and family style restaurants on both Olymbou and Drakou. If you are coming from Syntagma you can take the 1,5 and 15 trolley and get off at either stop (Drakou or Olymbou) or if you take the #15 you can go all the way to the neighborhood of Petralona, a former refugee settlement which is now one of the centers of eating and nightlife. If you decide to walk it check out Dolixi, a cafeneon on Dimitrakopoulou Street owned by and frequented by the
people from the island of Ikaria.
The Acropolis metro station, which should be called the Acropolis Museum metro station because it is nowhere near the entrance to the Acropolis and is right next to the museum, is on
the corner of Makrianni
and Ath Diakou Streets and from there is it a 2 minute journey to Syntagma where you can take the metro or the X96 bus to the airport, and a 4 minute journey to Omonia Square where you can catch the metro to the port of Pireaus. If you walk to Vassillisas Olgas Street, by the entrance to the Temple of Zeus you can take the coastal tram to Faliron, Glyfada and Voula. The E22 bus that goes along the coast all the way to Saronida,
half way to Sounion stops near the intersection of D Aeropagitou and Amalias Avenue.
The #15 and the #5 Trolley will take you all the way to the National Museum and back and you can catch it on Dimitrakopoulou street or on Amalias Avenue in front of the National Gardens.
Hotels in Makrianni
There are lots of hotels in Makrianni, the majority being three and four star though there are a few economical
around. The best hotel would have to be the 5-star Royal Olympic Hotel with its views of the Acropolis, Lykavettos and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, its swimming pool and rooftop restaurant and bar. I have stayed here and it is very nice. Then again I didn't
have to pay for it. The area's other popular 5-star hotel is the Divani Palace Acropolis which also boasts amazing views of the Acropolis, a rooftop restaurant and a swimming pool. Leading the 4-star hotels is the newly rebuilt Athens Gate which has great views,
rooftop restaurant and bar, but alas, no pool. This hotel and the
4-star Airotel Parthenon are the closest to the Plaka and Syntagma Square for those arriving late on the X95 bus and dragging their luggage through the streets of Athens. The 4-star Herodion Hotel sits at
foot of the Acropolis and offers elegantly decorated air-conditioned
rooms. It has beautiful roof garden with sun loungers and 2 jacuzzis with spectacular views over Athens and is one of the most popular hotels in Athens, especially with travel agents who book most of the rooms for their clients since they rarely get complaints about it.
I absolutely LOVED the Athens Was Hotel which is a modern 4-star boutique hotel with a terrific view of the Acropolis (photo) and Lykavettos and our room came with a Nespresso Machine. It is located
Dionysiou Areopagitou, the pedestrian road that leads to the Acropolis and is right across the street from the Plaka. The 4-star Hera Hotel offers stylish, cosy and comfortable accommodation with beautiful views
of the Acropolis, as well as free internet access, meeting facilities and a restaurant and bar in the roof garden with an amazing panoramic vista. It is also where the Rick Steves tours stay.
The Philippos Hotel, Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel and the newly built Acropolis
Hill Hotel are all 3-star well regarded and within easy walking distance of the sites and restaurants. Though
the booking.com page mistakenly says the 2-star Acropolis View Hotel is in the Plaka, it isn't. In fact of all the hotels listed here it is the furthest from the Plaka. But it is an economical hotel within easy walking distance of the Acropolis, Thission, the Acropolis Museum and the Plaka so who cares if they want you to think it is in the Plaka. At least
it is not
in Metaxourgio. The Art Gallery Hotel is a cozy and comfortable inexpensive boutique hotel that is also an art gallery. For Backpackers I recommend the very popular Athens Backpackers. For those who need an apartment with kitchen facilities I suggest Athens
Studios, the Acropolis Modern Flats, the Athens Acropolis Apartment, Acropolis Boutique Suite, and the pet friendly Studio
Acropolis. Apartments sell out quickly so if you see one you like book it fast.
If these hotels are booked you can also use the Booking.com Hotel Search and if you still can't find anything try contacting Fantasy Travel. Most hotel booking sites only have a few rooms at each hotel and the Greek travel agencies can often find rooms when you can't. For getting to these hotels and apartments without
taking the metro or the airport bus and then wandering the streets with your luggage I strongly suggest using George the Famous Taxi Driver who will take you right to the door and make sure you check in without a problem.