Athens Coffee & Meze Culture

Greece, Athens Guide (D): Athens Coffee & Meze Culture

This directory includes 21 diverse cafes ranging from "kafenia" (old men cafes) to hip, modern coffee shops, all located in the city center. Offering options for both drinking and eating, this strictly insider's guide is a valuable tool, whether you are looking for an espresso or raki with meze. Food and coffee are favorite local pass-times, if you are looking for a slice of real life, there is no better place to start!
This article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play. You can download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the attractions featured in this article. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Attractions Map

Guide Name: Athens Coffee & Meze Culture
Guide Location: Greece » Athens
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (D))
# of Destinations: 21
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Six Dogs   Cafe "Panellinion"   Kimolia Art Cafe   Booze Cooperativa   Bartesera   Sokolata 56   Inoteka Jazz Bar   Dexameni   Braziliana   Red Lotus (Κόκκινος Λωτός)   Exostrefis   Lux (Λούξ)   Cusco   School of Fine Arts Alumni Cafe   Ypovrichio   Yperokeanio   Traditional Kafenion Kythera   Tailor Made   The Dark Side of Chocolate   Cantina Social   Kafenio Ivis  
Author: Margarita Athanasiou
Author Bio: Margarita was born in NY and raised in Athens, Greece. She likes writing, walking around the city and a good sci-fi novel. She hopes her guides will act as traveling guardian angels, saving visitors from unnecessary hassle and bad food. She wants you to visualise said guides with big, purple wings.
Author Website: http://margaritaathanasiou.tumblr.com/
1
Six Dogs

1) Six Dogs

Six Dogs is as hot as July in Athens. Right next to Monastiraki station, it has been bustling with constant energy since it opened in 2009. From art and music performances to quiet coffee breaks in the garden and again to busy, bustling nights under the stars by the open-air bar, Six Dogs just keeps going! The space was redesigned by Athens based Point Supreme Architects -the work in the garden is a smart landscape design solution to a relatively small space as they tripled their sitting areas by adding height. Six Dogs is not so much the favorite of the really young crowd anymore, but you will spot a mixed range of Athenians gathering here (ranging from unemployed art students to yuppies). If you are not up for mingling, the seats further up are perfect for people watching.
2
Cafe "Panellinion"

2) Cafe "Panellinion"

The neo-kafenio culture is booming and has defined entertainment for young(er) Greeks as they offer cheaper alcohol as well as food and coffee. Old-school cafenia still exist in neighborhoods all over Athens but one has to really go looking to find one that has survived inflation in the city center. Cafe Panellinion is a proud exception. It has remained in the same spot for decades, hosting chess games and offering "Greek" coffee, soft drinks, beer as well as ouzo and tsipouro. As for meze, all you have to do is name the amount of money you want to spend and they will prepare your meze platter accordingly! Decorated with pictures of chess champions, this is a gathering place for local chess enthusiasts. If you are a fan of chess I would urge you to challenge one of the regulars, it's more fun that way. Keep in mind that Cafe Panellinion is a popular place to watch football and is often crowded on game nights. A must-see!

metro: Panepistimio
3
Kimolia Art Cafe

3) Kimolia Art Cafe

Kimolia Art Cafe is housed in a beautifully restored 1925 building, in the quiet side of Plaka. It is the brain child of three artist friends who have gone the extra mile with the decoration of this charming cafe. Kimolia Art Cafe hosts exhibitions of painting, jewlery and craft, live music (funk, jazz, blues and more) and book readings. The menu offers coffees and teas (including organic options), a wide range of wines, cocktails, beers, local spirits, salads, sandwiches and deserts -all made by the people working there. If you are unemployed or a student bring your card and the coffee will be €2 (the regular price is around €3).

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metro: Sintagma
4
Booze Cooperativa

4) Booze Cooperativa

Booze was the first of the “multi-spaces” that opened in Athens, in 1989 and is since regarded as the most innovative of its kind. It takes up all three floors of a neoclassical building nearby Monastiraki station and offers a more than impressive range of places to sit, things to see, people to talk to. There is an art gallery in the loft, two separate bars on the ground floor, a sitting area outside, a communal bench in an arcade, a separate book reading area (the "Etage Litteraire"), a restaurant and more! At Booze they love art, movies, chess, music, people and even yoga sometimes in the mornings. If you are interested in architecture, this neoclassical building is well worth exploring –and you never know who you are going to meet in the process!

Metro: Monastiraki

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Bartesera

5) Bartesera

Bartesera is housed in a small Arcade on Kolokotroni Str. They offer great coffee, alcoholic beverages and quick, delicious bites. One can seek refuge here from both sun and rain, as the arcade offers a perfect combination of indoors and outdoors space. Unlike a lot of arcades that feel claustrophobic, Bartesera combines an amazing sense of space (due to its high ceiling) with a cosy, relaxed atmosphere. There is always art exhibitions on the walls and they often host events. For more information you can visit their website.

Metro: Sintagma, Monastiraki

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Sokolata 56

6) Sokolata 56

The square of Saint Irene (Agia Irini) is bustling with cafes and has become a prime coffee drinking location in the past couple of years. There are a lot of options around but if you are craving chocolate, Sokolata 56 is the place to visit. It is the smallest of all surrounding cafes and apart from its french bistro atmosphere and relaxed jazz music what really sets it apart from the rest is its excellent chocolate drinks. Unlike most places, it offers real chocolate as well as coffees and homemade cakes. The price for a chocolate drink is €5 while the coffees range around €3- €3.5.

Metro: Monastiraki

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7
Inoteka Jazz Bar

7) Inoteka Jazz Bar

Inoteka is nestled among the antique shops in Avissinias Square, very close to Monastiraki station. It is a beautiful place to enjoy your coffee on a sunny morning while watching the antique dealers and restoration craftsmen at work. Feel free to leave your table and test your bargaining skills! There is food served after 13:00 and Jazz shows often going on at night. For event schedule it is best to check their facebook page.
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Dexameni

8) Dexameni

Dexameni (meaning “water tank”) takes its name from Dexameni Square, where it is situated at. A large water tank, now defunct, can be seen from the top of the square. This classic cafe is an historical part of the city and a great example of Athenian neighborhood culture. Generations of writers, journalists, politicians and artists have sat at Dexameni’s tables. This is the place were Papadiamantis, Kazatzakis, Souris and other Greek writers gathered in the beginning of the 20th century. Today you will spot locals (famous or not) drinking ouzo, grabbing a quick lunch or slow dinner. Despite being in the up-scale Kolonaki district, Dexameni cafe retains its unpretentious nature (and comparatively very low prices). There is a playground, a historic open-air cinema and an exchange library on the square. It is best to visit Dexameni in the evenings or weekends when the locals are out. Also take a moment to absorb the view of the Parthenon on the top of the first set of stairs. This is a must, must, must see place, a true gem.
9
Braziliana

9) Braziliana

Nestled right in the heart of recently rediscovered Petralona neighborhood, Braziliana is favorite spot of hip, alternative Athenians. Do you fancy coffee in the morning, a beer and a quick bite in the afternoon, dinner and wine in the evening and cocktails afterwards? Well search no more, this is the place for you. Braziliana does it all and does it well. The space is maxed-out in color, soul & funk. You will see locals at all hours here, playing jenga or fuse ball during the quieter hours or chatting and drinking later on at night. Rarely seen empty, Braziliana is a great example of the relaxed-yet-up-beat bar culture of Athens. It also offers a good opportunity to acquaint yourself with the mostly residential neighborhood of Petralona.

Train: Petralona

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Red Lotus (Κόκκινος Λωτός)

10) Red Lotus (Κόκκινος Λωτός)

Red Lotus (Kokinos Lotos) is a quirky bar, fashioned in “Eastern-style” pillows, plants, carpets, vases etc. It is very relaxed, atmospheric and, despite what one could expect from the decor, totally unpretentious. The Red Lotus is also the cheapest place for coffee and drink in the city! With coffee costing a maximum of €1,60 and cocktails around €5 this is a favourite spot in this area. The coffees on offer are a laconic and humorous response to the exhaustive coffee drink lists at trendy cafes, here you can order a “hot or cold coffee”, "with or without milk"! Feel free to lie on the pillows or sit on the communal table outside but remember to order your drink at the bar as you might not get served otherwise!
11
Exostrefis

11) Exostrefis

Literaly meaning "outgoing", you will find Exostrefis on Strefi hill -one of the Athenian vantage points least frequented by tourists. Located north of alternative Exarchia district and up a couple of long flights of stairs, Strefi hill offers romantic views of the cityscape and a quiet place to walk around. Exostrefis cafe is a good resting point after the ascent as well as a lively meeting point for locals. During the daytime it offers peace and quiet among the trees (rare for Athens) while in the evening it is crowded with 20-30 somethings drinking ouzo with meze accompanied by live bands playing rebetiko music most of the weekends. The food and drinks on offer are standard but the atmosphere will reward you.
Image by Εξωστρεφής Downstairs under Creative Commons License.
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Lux (Λούξ)

12) Lux (Λούξ)

One is bound to get hungry while exploring touristy Thissio district. Unfortunately most restaurants in the near vicinity are overpriced and lack in that certain atmosphere that makes local tavernas enjoyable. A nice alternative is Lux, a small kafenio on the edge of Thisio’s busy streets -less than a 10 minute walk from Thissio's overground station. Lux is a relaxed mezedopolio, with friendly vibes and much lower prices than anything else in the area. There is coffee, raki, ouzo, beer and a few meze dishes on the small menu. The tables outside are a pleasure on sunny days and are usually crowded with locals.
13
Cusco

13) Cusco

Cusco is located in Exarchia district, in a pedestrian street full of places to sit. It is a good example of student cafes in the area. Regular quality, price and service. Great place to watch people, talk to people, draw people, get annoyed at people, share things with people, only make sure you ask people before taking their picture -people might be funny about that in this area! Take a moment to see the plaque in the middle of the pedestrian street, devoted to young Alexandros whose death sparked riots across Greece in 2008.
14
School of Fine Arts Alumni Cafe

14) School of Fine Arts Alumni Cafe

This self-service cafe-bar is a meeting spot and creative hub for all ex and current students of the prestigious Athens' School of Fine Arts. It is housed in the garden of a neoclassical Athenian villa, hidden in the whirling streets of Plaka. The arduous ascent will reward you with amazing atmosphere and a relaxed service ethos. There is no menu but whoever is working at the time is (very) happy to inform you of what is currently available. There usually is an exhibition going on on the second floor or in the surrounding area, ask there for details.
15
Ypovrichio

15) Ypovrichio

Ypovrichio (“Submarine” in Greek -hence the submarine on the sign) despite being a few minutes away from the noise and havoc of popular Gazi clubbing district, offers a laid-back, neighborhood experience. With its mosaic floor, simple wooden tables, woven seat chairs and rather relaxed service, Ypovrichio really feels like stepping into a time machine. It is quiet in the mornings but often gets crowded in the evenings. If it’s a nice day, you will love the tables on the square across the street. Apart from coffee, ouzo, raki and tsipouro there are usually no more than 6-7 delicious meze dishes on the menu, all cooked in-front of you.

metro: keramikos
16
Yperokeanio

16) Yperokeanio

Yperokeanio (“Ocean liner” in Greek) is a cute neo-Kafenio in an arcade on Perikleous street. It offers cheap coffee, ouzo and wine as well as an assortment of no more than 10 meze dishes with a contemporary twist, to try from. The atmosphere is relaxed and the service friendly. Yperokeanio is mostly frequented by people in the 20's and 30's margin and has been rising in popularity ever since it opened in 2012. This is a good place to try tsipouro as the owner brings it from Tirnavos -guaranteed no hangover! You can also sit in a separate space upstairs.

metro: monastiraki
17
Traditional Kafenion Kythera

17) Traditional Kafenion Kythera

Don’t be fooled by Kafenion Kythera, it might look like a neo-Kafenio but it has stood in the same spot for years. You will find it in Tositsa Arcade, in a breath-taking indoor space of a 1930s neoclassical apartment block. Take a moment to admire the high alabaster ceilings and gorgeous indoor balconies that twist and turn all the way to the top floor. Kafenion Kythera was recently redecorated and offers a calm, inexpensive and truly beautiful setting to relax. The coffee, ouzo and meze on offer are basic. There has been no attempt to modernize the menu so you will only find simple, traditional flavors here. Kafenion Kythera is a counter-proposal to Yperokeanio which is right down the street from it and caters to a slightly more gourmet crowd. These two places offer, due to their proximity, a good opportunity for comparing and contrasting crowds.
18
Tailor Made

18) Tailor Made

Located in Agia Irene square, near Monastiraki, Tailor Made is a temple devoted to the gods of coffee. All coffee served is roasted that day, in the in-house micro Roastery and all staff members are actual coffee experts, counting a few participations in international barista competitions. Anyone in the store will be able to assist you in choosing the right coffee blend for your palette and will be happy to inform you on just about every part of the process the beans went through before getting to your cup (down to the altitude and humidity levels they were grown in). Apart from the excellent coffees on offer, you can go for a tailor made cocktail or a homemade desert (a lot of them with a coffee twist). In Tailor Made they pride themselves in carefully choosing everything they offer, from the tea selection to their state of the art espresso machine, the quality is rare. Tailor Made is usually crowded with the hip, the young and the gorgeous, here you can experience the outwards looking crowds of Athens. Bring a dog and a book for extra kudos.
19
The Dark Side of Chocolate

19) The Dark Side of Chocolate

This petit, adorable shop is located on the cusp between hard-edged Exarchia and up-scale Kolonaki districts, and succeeds in creating a dreamy atmosphere with an edge –the kind of place that feels romantic even if you go by yourself. The owner, a true chocolate artist, prepares the small chocolate treats in his in-house "lab" and fills the space with the delicious smell of roasted cocoa, just like a painter's studio smells of fresh paint. As for the unbeatable (and huge) chocolate drinks, each customer gets a unique combination of ingredients to match their personalities. Imagine Julliette Binoche in Chocolat only Greek and… male! The window seats offer a lazy view of the passers-by and there is a small library if you are there solo. Excellent!
20
Cantina Social

20) Cantina Social

Cantina Social only a few years ago replaced an old cafe that catered for the surrounding businesses in the area. Despite making a lot of changes, Cantina Social never made any real effort to advertise itself -not even a sign, it retained the previous owner's "KAΦE BAR" sign- and rose remarkably in popularity relying solely on word of mouth and killer indie tunes. Cantina Social is a fusion of Berlin and New York's arty, urban joints but more laid-back, more... Greek! Here you will find good art, great music and an adorable "garden" in the back which is especially nice on those summer nights. Great place to watch a cult movie and get acquainted with Athens' indie crowd.
21
Kafenio Ivis

21) Kafenio Ivis

This charming neo-kafenio is very near Monastiraki square but is officially included in the otherwise busy area of Psyri. Fortunately it is remote enough, remaining peaceful and somehow hidden despite its central location. Covered almost entirely by an impressive amount of crawling ivy, Kafenio Ivis offers a very pleasant environment. The place is small but in the summer there are a few additional tables on the pavement outside. The menu is tiny and truly exquisite. Every dish is thoughtfully prepared in the tiny kitchen right in front of your eyes. Clean and delicious as the food might be it should be noted that the portions are rather small for their price, especially in comparison to other kafenia. In all honesty however, the food quality surpasses the regular kafenio standards, and in addition to the beautiful location and atmosphere, Kafenio Ivis might just be worth the extra euros.

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