Kolonaki is central Athens’ most socially and financially high-end neighbourhood, packed with swanky clothes boutiques, sophisticated restaurants, cafes and galleries, and impressive neoclassical architecture with background views of Lycabettus hill. Like all of Athens – and especially in recent years – the details in its landscape keep changing, with new arrivals and trends emerging at every turn. But the classic hubs that are part of the area’s original soul, where you’ll sit next to millennials as well as octogenarians – among them often local legends from the cultural, business and political world, for whom these cafes are home away from home – remain the nostalgic backbone of the area’s cafe culture.
Da Capo (Tsakalof 1)
Bang in the heart of Kolonaki Square, this self-service restaurant with green front-row seats to busy Tsakalof street is a central hang-out especially for those who love to see and be seen. It’s appeal also comes from its vintagey, understated elegance and air of Italy. The clientele here is a complete mix of locals, politicians, fashionistas, professionals, friends, couples, families and anyone interested in a quick (or hours-long) indulgence of a crowded buzz and quality coffee (created especially for the cafe by Milano’s Cova coffee-makers) or brioche panini. Tip: The service can be a little brusque.
Filion (Skoufa 34)
What used to be Dolce, ‘the’ hangout for Athens’ artists and intellectuals, turned into Filion in 1991. Although it changed its name it kept its loyal clientele, and the tradition of the city’s intelligentsia returning daily to the cafe on the corner of Skoufa and Lykkavitou continues to make it a charming, laid-back and eclectic hangout. Located right next to the majestic Agios Dyonisios (patron saint of Athens) church, the cafe is an ideal place for writing, reading and making polite and stimulating conversation in old Athenian spirit. The service is friendly and professional. Tip: Go beyond coffee and try one of the tasty dishes or desserts.
Numismatic Museum Cafe (Panepistimiou 12)
Whether you’re keen or not to explore the dazzling coin collection of the museum (you should be!), the cafe is a wonderful change from Athens’ usual spots. Set in the Garden of the Muses of the neoclassical museum building (the former mansion of archaeologist Henry Schleimann) and overlooking the mansion of architect Ernst Ziller, you can enjoy both the gentile vibe of late 19th/early 20th Century Athens and a soothing sense of being hidden away, despite being off one of Athens’ most central avenues. Generally, the cafe attracts a culture-vulture crowd and also hosts live jazz and other music performances. Tip: This is a great place for breakfast, lunch, dinner or after-theatre drinks.
Dexameni (Dexameni Square)
With tables sprawled along the sides of a steep, pedestrianised slope that ends at Dexameni Square (named as such because of the indoor – and sadly not visitable – cistern that remains there, which was part of Emperor Hadrian’s aqueduct), this chiefly outdoor cafe is the epitome of Greek outdoor, all-day cafe culture. It has little tables where customers of all ages enjoy coffee, cakes, and tasty meze dishes while watching the world go by and kids run around playing football in the square. As it is located at the foot of Lycabettus hill there is also greenery all around. Tip: Here you’ll also find an open-air cinema that screens classic and current films throughout the summer and a recently renovated playground that’s open all year round.
Vivliothiki (Kolonaki Square 12)
Hidden away at the bottom side of Kolonaki Square, this upscale cafe is where you’ll find yourself sipping coffee next to a former minister or museum director eating an omelette and reading the paper. The decor is reminiscent of Athens in its belle epoque without being too ostentatious, but the ambiance is only for those who don’t mind a sense of snobbishness in the air. The menu is Greek/Mediterranean and the flavours are of good quality, although the prices are a little on the steep side. Tip: This is a great place for a business chat.