Kolonaki is the area in Athens located between the Panepistimiou Street and Mount Lycabettus. It is spread along the foothill of the famous mount with many cozy tree-lined streets. 1960’s brought a rapid increase of the Athens population. People were migrating to the city from the rural areas of the country. Most of the buildings in Kolonaki were constructed during that period of time. It is a more upscale area with lots of trendy restaurants and boutiques as opposed to the more traditional Plaka Neighborhood.
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So, how did Kolonaki become the most expensive part of Athens?
Local elite wanted to create its own comfortable neighborhood with high living standards. The buildings had to have central heating, the sidewalks had to be clean and the air fresh. Luxury clothing boutiques and expensive restaurants occupied local streets to fulfill the growing demand associated with elegant lifestyle. As a result of these transformations, by the mid 1990’s upper Kolonaki has become the most upscale part of Athens inhibited by the wealthy locals.
Kolonaki: Some Upscale Atmosphere in Athens
Kolonaki has a high concentration of law offices. Walking around you’ll see a great number of people wearing suits. Local cafes are occupied by the trendy looking young people wearing their Rolex watches. This is not typical for other parts of Athens.
It’s very convenient to live here when your cabinet is located at the Greek Parliament. It’s just minutes away by foot. During lunch time it’s easy to escape the cabinet and get lost at one of the Kolonaki restaurants for some private discussion. Kolonaki Square is the central part of the district that has a number of places to sit down for a cup of coffee and enjoy people watching.
Any sign of crisis?
I found several articles about Kolonaki on the Internet. Their authors wrote about the decreasing number of cafes, restaurants and shops in the area due to the economic conditions. Well, you can see that the number of businesses has decreased.
But on the other side, the restaurants that remain to be open look very busy, especially on weekends. You can always see customers at the expensive boutiques like Hermes or Louis Vuitton. The Attica Mall was packed with people when I visited it for my Christmas shopping. What this means is that the businesses will continue to operate but on a greatly reduced scale.
In general, shopping is something not associated in my mind with Athens today. The falling economy has resulted in the shutdown of a great number of stores. The selection and prices are uncomparable with what you’ll find in Italy.
On the other side I was able to find a number of great deals at some of the premium brand boutiques. Kolonaki is the most expensive shopping area in Athens. First thing to mention is the Attica department store located on Leof. Eleftheriou Venizelou. It borders the district from the west.
The store has 5 floors and carries about 800 clothing brands. There is also a home decor section that has some stuff for the house. Attica Mall reminded me Galeries Lafayette in Paris. The only difference is that the number of brands and goods you can find here is much smaller. This is a result of the shrinking consumption. On the other side it had some nice corners of the more upscale brands like Burberry, Paul Smith, Fred Perry and La Martina.
There is a pedestrian street in Kolonaki called Voukourestiou. It has all the main luxury boutiques in Athens.
Voukourestiou Street Ahead.
Most of the high end brands like Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Dior are located here.
These premium boutiques appear to have a lot more space inside than you expect by looking at them from the outside. Looks like it has been done on purpose not disturb the general public with the luxury store fronts during the hard times.
Then there is another street called Ttsakalov that has more shops including Gucci boutique. Walking several blocks down Tsakalov will bring you to the Kolonaki Square that has plenty of nice places to have a meal or a drink.
Kolonaki Athens Restaurants
Most of the restaurants in the Kolonaki district of Athens are less touristic. It means that most of people who eat there are locals. I like to visit several places when I come there.
Malconi’s is a small restaurant located at the intersection of Ploutarchou and Patriarhou Ioakim. It serves great Italian dishes. There is a nice outside sitting area right on the adjacent sidewalk.
What to order?
I always order the 250 gram Black Angus minced meat burger served medium rare for 16 Euros. It comes with a large portion of French fries.
Ravioli with crab meat are really good. So as the fresh Burrata served with cherry tomatoes.
The wine list has a number of good options served by the bottle and by the glass. The prices are reasonable.
There is one thing that puzzles me every time we visit Malconi’s to have our meal without a reservation.
The person who manages the table seating always tells us that the restaurant is super busy and all tables have been reserved. Then he finds a table where we can sit down for 2 hours before the upcoming reservation. After two hours the restaurant remains to be half empty. We don’t get any reminders about the upcoming reservation and continue our dinner well beyond 2 hours.
What’s the deal?
2. Food and Wine (F+W)
Another nice restaurant in Kolonaki I wanted to mention is called Food and Wine (F+W) on Xenokratous, 49. Located in a quiet residential area of Athens this restaurant offers signature dishes created by the French chef Olivier Campanha.
As you have already guessed the cuisine at F+W has a strong French influence. The wine list is extensive and has plenty of options offered by the glass. The restaurant’s menu changes 4 times a year. They try to keep it in-line with the availability of seasonal products. In addition to the main menu they have several gastronomy tasting menus. Each dish is paired with a particular wine there. Inside K+W has a modern design. The outside area is nicely setup under the trees.
L’Abreuvoir is one of the top restaurants with French cuisine in Athens. It is owned and operated by the Kotsis family. What’s remarkable is that it was opened in the mid-1960s. Today it is managed by the children of the original owners. L’Abreuvoir is located near the F+W restaurant on Xenokratous 51.
Original French dishes made of high quality ingredients make up the main focus of the restaurant. It really holds on to the most traditional approach in terms of how the food is prepared. No molecular experiments just the all-time classics.
What to eat?
Try the French onion soup (15 Euros) and Foie gras sauté with apples and Calvados (27 Euros). This strategy has proven to be successful throughout the decades! I love places with history and this one is definitely one of them. Ask them about their fixed tasting menus when you are there.
4. Prytaneion Restaurant
Milioni is one of my favorite streets in Kolonaki. It is a short pedestrian area with a number of open verandahs that belong to several upscale venues. The verandahs are hidden from the sun under the shade created by the trees that grow along the street.
The cozy feel of Milioni has originally attracted me to the area. Prytaneion is located in a historic building and serves mixed cuisine.
Local veal, pasta and various fish dishes are all on the menu. The portions are large and the prices are above the average. Location and atmosphere make it a great place to go out for a special occasion or a business dinner.
5. Meat Meat Meat
You don’t have to spend much if you decide to have a meal in Kolonaki. There are plenty of places where you can have something more traditional and less pricey. There is a famous street called Tsakalof. It’s small part adjacent to the Kolonaki square is a nice pedestrian area with a number of restaurants.
Want some souvlaki?
All of them have really cozy outside sitting areas. As opposed to the venues on Milioni street the ones located here are more casual. One of the restaurants is called Meat Meat Meat that serves a number of dishes ranging from souvlaki to grilled chicken and burgers. The food is good and inexpensive. This area gets packed in the evenings by the locals.
Walking just several steps towards the Kolonaki square will bring you to one of the main people watching areas. Da Capo Café has a large outside sitting area which guarantees the availability of a table.
It’s a self-service venue where you can have all kinds of coffees, beers and some light snacks. Keep in mind that it’s a central location that assumes higher prices on everything. Da Capo Café has been in place since the early 90s that makes it one of the local attraction points.
7. Dybbuk Night Club
Athens has a very exciting nightlife. The night clubs are spread between various parts of the city. In summer all of the main nightlife activities take place on the Athenian seaside. So a lot of the clubs located in the city get closed during summer months. There is one upscale nightclub in Kolonaki I wanted to mention called Dybbuk.
Located on Stadiou 7, this is a stylish venue that has a strong focus on high quality house music. That’s basically an underground NY type of club. It gets really packed starting every Thursday.
8. Simul Restaurant
Another restaurant I wanted to mention is called Simul. It’s located deep inside the Kolonaki residential area. I have been so many times here but I always ended up walking around the central parts of Kolonaki close to all the shopping and cafes.
Our visit to Simul revealed the “real” Kolonaki where people actually live. It was a new experience. The restaurant is located in the basement of one of the residential apartment buildings. Outside it is a very nice quiet and green area.
Make your order!
The restaurant is focused on modern cuisine. I had a fish Ceviche and pasta with mushrooms. My girlfriend tried their degustation menu for 35 euros. Our total bill was 75 Euros and included a bottle of beer and a bottle of water. The staff was really friendly, helpful and professional. Overall it’s another nice place you should visit when you get tired of all the tourist places with more traditional dishes.
There are several museums I would recommend you to visit in the Kolonaki area. I think its one of the greatest options not only to explore Greek history and culture but also have some rest from the burning sun during hot summer days.
1. Monetary Museum
In addition to the collection of various coins and medals Monetary museum located on Panepistimiou, 12 has a hall dedicated to its original owner Heinrich Schliemann.
He was actually the person who discovered the ancient Troy. So this used to be a private mansion before it was sold to the Greek government by Mr. Schliemann’s widow. It’s closed on Mondays. The working hours are from 9:00 till 16:00. Tickets cost 3 Euros.
2. Benaki Museum
Despite its close proximity to Syntagma Square the museum is not packed with tourists like some other city attractions.
It is located in a beautiful private mansion owned by the Benakis family. Islamic art used to be one of its main focuses before the reconstruction. Today it’s a great place to explore Greek culture.
3. Byzantine Museum
Byzantine Museum on Leoforos Vasilissis Sofias 22 is located slightly outside the Kolonaki district of Athens.
It’s worth visiting this place to explore Byzantine history and art. The museum has more than 20,000 ancient artifacts some of which date back to the 3rd century.
4. Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art
Another museum I would recommend visiting is Goulandris Museum located on Neofitou Douka, 4.
It takes 4 floors and has numerous marble sculptures and ceramic articles discovered on the Greek islands. The museum is very modern and interactive. Great place to visit with a family. They offer some workshops for the kids where they can create their own artworks.
If I had to choose the area to live in Athens I would definitely choose Kolonaki. It has lots of things not very typical for the rest of Greece.
The restaurants I have mentioned here are great If you become tired of the regular Greek food. In general, Kolonaki reveals a different side of Athens. Sometimes it’s nice to transform into a more trendy atmosphere enjoying a glass of Brunello after extensive shopping. After that it feels really good to return back to the Varkiza Beach area and more traditional pitas with grilled octopus.