Anyone who knows anything about Athens will have experienced – either first or second hand – the pressure-free calm of sitting at a cafe for hours on end without being shooed out of your seat so that the business can make more money via turnover. Add to that a selection of good books to pore over in between upward glances of the world going by, and rain or shine (well perhaps more rain) you’ve got a winning combination.
Despite being by now highly addicted to their smartphones and gadgets, Athenians still are book lovers, as attested not only by thronging participation to the two-week-long annual Athens book festival in Zappeion (last September celebrating its 47th anniversary) but also the fact that this year Athens is the UNESCO World Book Capital.
Apart from good coffee and tasty bites, all the places we list here also serve as intellectual and artistic hubs for periodical talks, book presentations, music performances, readings, and discussions.
Little Tree Books & Coffee, Kavalotti 2, Makryianni
Ideal for chilling with your own guidebook before exploring the area (this is just around the corner from the Acropolis Museum), novel, or anything you’ve picked off the store’s shelf while sipping tea or a glass of wine and enjoying a wholesome homemade breakfast, brunch. snack or dinner. Foods are freshly made using a variety of PDO ingredients from around Greece like Naoussa cheese and Corfiot prosciutto, and the desserts (try the lemon tart) are grandma-style-comforting. This is also a great place to bring your laptop and get some work done before inviting a friend to join you for some banter.
Free Thinking Zone, Skoufa 64, Kolonaki
A key meeting spot for free thinkers – from writers and poets to filmmakers and politicians – this place is constantly inventing new ways to get people talking, debating and learning about what matters to them. Indeed, there is an ongoing flow of events (readings, discussions, presentations) organised here, usually during the evening hours, almost daily. If you’d rather just sit in silence cradling your book and sipping a steaming cup of java that works perfectly well too.
Books Plus Art & Coffee, Panepistimiou 37, Omonia
Located across the National Library, this tranquil and smoke-free zone is a book lover’s haven. A book and menu are set on every table and most of the walls are decorated with bold and beautiful artworks, as the space hosts ongoing exhibitions too. With an excellent choice of books as well as tasty salads, sandwiches, and drinks, this is a wonderful escape spot right in the heart of the city.
Poems and Crimes, 17 Aghias Irinis, Monastiraki
The owner of this place doesn’t like it being described as neither a cafe or a bookstore (although it is both) – instead, Mr Gavrilidis describes it as a publishing house where indeed, poetry and literature are published and sold. It is also a performance venue for jazz musicians such as regular saxophonist/poet/professor Dimitris Vassilakis and you can also attend talks, presentations, and readings. Snacks and drinks are sold throughout the day and the cozy, intellectually buzzy vibes encourage both quiet reading and vibrant conversation.
Ianos Cafe Bookstore, Stadiou 25, Athens
With α spacious and very well-stocked bookstore on the ground floor and a cosy and elegant cafe/bar/upstairs, at Ianos you can combine book shopping, study, relaxed reading and both introvert and extrovert-style pleasures like a work chat or a pleasant meal. In the evening the cafe regularly hosts musical performances, talks and arts-related events.