Kolonaki Athens neighbourhood is where stylish coffee lovers share artisan patisseries over a double espresso or local favourite, espresso freddo. Art lovers browse minimalist galleries with concrete walls and subtle spotlights, while those weary of shopping relax in a hamman next door.
Delis with shelves of cured meats are dotted along the streets in between glistening French gateaux stores. And, if thick, Greek coffee, at once grainy and smooth, is not to your taste, then you can enjoy Kolonaki’s answer to street food – ‘grass-fed, dry-aged burgers’ take-out style.
The city of Athens is split into a series of areas or districts, which is helpful for travellers trying to figure out where to stay and visit. Having already spent a week on the edge of the Exarchia district known for its edgy style, and walking across the clashing streets of the city centre to get to some of the main sites, Kolonaki was a feast for the eyes and a rest for the ears. (Readers from home will know what I mean when I say, we’d landed in Athen’s Holywood or Hillsborough.) We treated ourselves to a taxi and the day proceeded much in the same pampered fashion.
Our first visit in Kolonaki (Greek: Κολωνάκι) was to one of the ‘best bakeries in all of Athens’ and we asked our taxi driver drop us off at Queen Bee on Patriarchou Ioakim street for brunch (where we returned for a late lunch). Our little table was soon laden with lush pistacchio-creme filled croissants, cinnamon beignets, serious coffee, and hot tea in a heavy, cast-iron pot. We also ordered a side dish of fries, as it seems to be the Athenian way.
While we’d rocked up to Queen Bee in joggers and chunky trainers, the resident hoi polloi know how to ‘catch up’ in style. Almost every woman, old and young, wore a uniform, opulent ensemble signifying she was in elegant brunch mode: a sweeping, coiffed ‘do; full-length, oversized, camel or cream wool coat; polo neck adorned with a chunky gold pendant; slim, dark cigarette pants; heeled boots; a designer handbag; and a glamorous layer of stage make-up. Suited older men in particular looked like they were en route to a wedding. I even saw one English-speaking resident had adopted the same look; she fooled me until I heard the Estuary accent.
Along the streets of Kolonaki, particularly the sprawling shopper’s paradise of Patriarchou Ioakim street, travellers can recombobluate after a long walk down from Mt Lycabettus. The easiest way to get down the hill, once you’re off the mini forest area surrounding the top is to descend slowly down one of the many tree and flower-strewn staircases that stretch through apartment buildings. Cat lovers will love spotting felines lazing in the still-warm, late afternoon Athenian sun.
Taking to some serious promenading and shopping like the locals following our visit to Mt Lycabettus, we bought some essential oils; dropped into the beautiful Carnicero deli laden with wine and chutneys for some Brie and a tray of prosciutto; then picked up two mini French patisserie before catching a taxi from the ranks lined up around 5pm on Marasli Street hill.
Late in the evening, smart couples pose nonchalantly on tall stools on the edge of classy wine bars whose benches spill out into the pavement.
With ubiquitous outdoor seating, and an average December temperature of 17 centigrade due to the heat bowl effect with the mountains surrounding the city, the Kolonaki neighbourhood really makes the best use of Athens being one of the warmest cities in Europe. Be sure to check out the prosperous Patriarchou Ioakim street and surrounding area of the Kolonaki district when you visit the city for a louche day of shopping, galleries, spas, and the classy brunch scene. Don’t forget to extend the indulgence by taking home some Athenian deli goodies.
To get to the Kolonaki district in Athens, head in the direction of Mt Lycabettus. You can exit the metro at either the Syntagma or Evangelismos station or take the 660 bus route and exit at ‘Ploutarhou’ (OASA Telematics).