Koukaki Athens: Falling in Love with its Understated Charm

Koukaki Athens
Koukaki Athens

In the heart of the Athenian city centre, beneath the shadow of the Acropolis, awaits Koukaki – one of the most charming, yet underrated neighbourhoods in Athens. Here, tourists and locals alike sit outside quirky coffee shops, sipping freddo cappuccinos beneath cabanas on unevenly paved espanades. While Koukaki does not boast any specific tourist attractions or “must see” sights, there is just something about this area that makes it magical.

As you venture around the Greek capital on your Athens itinerary, it’s likely that your schedule will lead you along the ancient winding pathways of Plaka, to the crumbling sunbleached ruins of the acropolis, and to the bustling central square of Syntagma. You are unlikely to spend any real amount of time in Koukaki unless you book accommodation here which is a shame because it is one of the most delightful areas in Athens.  

If you have a little longer to spare in Greece, my recommendation is that you spend a lazy day or two exploring the various Athenian neighbourhoods at a more relaxed pace (Koukaki, Pagrati, Kolonaki, etc). Each area of the city has its own distinct personality, and a little urban wandering can be much more rewarding than a simple crossing off of a touristic to-do list.

Koukaki Neighbourhood Highlights

Koukaki Athens
Koukaki Athens is more than just a sleep residential district
  • Koukaki possesses a laid back ambiance during the day, with filopappou hill being a wonderful place for a scenic afternoon stroll.

  • Atmospheric squares and piazzas where young and old Athenians come to socialize, dine at tavernas and sing at small bouzouki bar.  

  • Incredible restaurants boasting cuisines and flavours from across the globe.

  • A seemingly infinite number of quirky coffee places perfect for a peaceful afternoon of people-watching.

  • Art galleries, eccentric shops and antique stores

  • A perfect location that places you close to the main sights of Athens without being in an over-priced touristic area.

Coffee Culture in Koukaki

Koukaki Athens
Koukaki Athens is delightfully quirky

Coffee culture is huge in Greece in general. If there was a national sport, sitting around sipping freddo espressos would probably be it. Koukaki is jam-packed with quirky coffee places that are perfect for a spot of brunch or an afternoon spent people-watching.

As a Writer based in Athens, my schedule allows me to discover a different coffee place almost every day. Perfect, eh? If you’re done seeing the Acropolis and want to stop for a quick cup of Joe without the crowds, venture outside of Makrygianni and into one of the popular below haunts in Koukaki.

Little Tree Books & Coffee

Where: Kavalloti 2, Athina 117 42

Providing a quiet retreat away from the boisterous coffee shops that occupy central Athens, Little Tree Books & Coffee is an adorable local coffee shop whose setting feels almost like something straight out of a movie.

Every wall, nook and cranny is filled with piles of books, old and new.. Though most of these are in Greek, the coffee shop is worth a visit for the old-world library atmosphere alone. Nestle down into one of the comfy, oversized armchairs as you sip a cappuccino and sink your teeth into one of the cafe’s delightful homemade cakes. The only downside? Little Tree Books & Coffee is approximately the size of someone’s living room and so it can be a little tricky finding a seat here at times.

Lotte Cafe Bistrot

Where: Tsami Karatasou 2, Athina, 117 42

The Lotte Cafe Bistrot is a charming little spot that is tucked away down a tree-lined residential street in Koukaki. The cafe walls are painted in delicate pastel shades, and the vintage Parisian-inspired decor transports patrons back in time to Montmartre in the early 20th century. A mishmash of shabby chic decor, and antiquities scattered inside make this the perfect place to stop for a pot of tea.

Kinonó

Where: Falirou 48, Athina 117 42

Kinonó Koukaki boasts a very zen, minimalistic and relaxing atmosphere. The recycled wooden furnishings, the tall ceilings, the grand ceiling to floor windows and the spacious interiors create an altogether pleasant ambiance for typing away here on your laptop, enjoying brunch with friends, or cosying down with a good book and a strong coffee.

Monsieur Barbu

Where: Mark. Mpotsari 49, Athina 117 42

Regarded by locals as serving up one of the very best brunches in Koukaki, Monsieur Barbu is equal parts adorable, quirky, and eccentric. The cosy space makes patrons feel as though they have been invited into someone’s home. The pale blue walls are cluttered with knick knacks and artwork pieces, and the mismatching furnishings add to the shabby chic ambiance. For enjoying great conversation with friends while digging into the perfect eggs benedict on a lazy Sunday, Monsieur Barbu is the place to go.  

Fourteen

Where: 42 Dimitrakopoulou, Athina 117 42

Fourteen is a chic, upscale place to grab coffee, lunch or cocktails in Koukaki. In the summer months, the outside tables provide a perfect vantage point for observing local life as you look out to quaint Greek piazzas. Inside, the theme is reminiscent of an elegant New York lounge – with plush furnishings, moody lighting and the gentle undertones of rythmic jazz music.

Shopping in Koukaki

Though the main draw of Koukaki is not the shopping, there are some adorable places and boutiques here that are very worthy of your time. Koukaki antique dealers sell an array of weird and wonderful trinkets, while independent apparel stores such as Lovecuts sell clothing items that fit a vintage style of fashion.

It’s worth wandering the streets and narrow passageways of Koukaki to browse through the various vintage and offbeat clothing stores for one-of-a-kind pieces that are unlike anything else.

Where to Eat in Koukaki Athens

Kalamaki Bar

Where:Drakou 15, Athina 117 43

If you are looking for a taster of all of the things that make Greek cuisine so wonderful, Koukaki’s Kalamaki Bar is the place to stop by. Think sumptuous marinated meats, fresh salads, decadent feta drizzled with organic oil, and so on. The special thing about the Kalamaki bar is that not only do the chefs marinate the meats, they also marinate their skewers too! The skewers are marinated for a minimum of 12 hours to ensure a maximum taste impact.

The traditional taverna style eatery prides itself on its modern, contemporary approach to traditional Greek classics. The design of the place is charming in itself – simplistic white furnishings are accompanied by pale blue decorations mirroring the shades of the Greek flag.

Tuk Tuk Thai Street Food

Where: Veikou 40, Athina 117 42

Though sampling the local delicacies is a highlight of travelling to different countries, sometimes you want a little variety and that’s understandable – especially if you have already been travelling in Greece for a while. Though there are few authentic Asian restaurants in Athens, Tuk Tuk Thai boasts authentic Thai cuisine with a team of chefs from the land of smiles.

For a change of flavour, dig into some sumptuous chicken satay sticks, a delicately spiced green curry, or a filling massaman, then wash it all down with a bottle of Chang, Thai beer. The best part of this place? Tuk Tuk has been designed like an Asian hawkers market. Patrons sit on wooden stools overlooking the kitchen as the chefs do their magic. Expect a short wait to get a table, but know that it will be well worth it.


The Fabrica of Euphronios

Where: Anastasiou Zinna 34, Athina 117 41

Escaping the eyes of most tourists, the Fabrica of Euphronios is a tasty secret that Athens locals have kept for themselves. The establishment is a Greek taverna with a twist – much like the innovative menu that it boasts. The intimate setting, decorated with wooden furnishing and shelves stacked full of wines from across Greece, is given an eccentric vibe with the sprawling Salvador Dali style unusual art pieces and paintings that decorate the walls.
The menu too is not quite as it seems. The eatery is renowned locally for its excellent meat dishes, however, it also boasts an array of more ‘daring’ and adventurous platters. Raw carpaccio style meats make an appearance on the menu, as does crab, and even scorpion. A visit to such a unique place does not have to break the back either. Tapas style dishes can be purchased here from between 3-9 euros.

Skoumbri

Where: Drakou 12, Athina 117 42

If you do not consider yourself as much of a meat eater, dining at Skoumbri makes a nice alternative to visiting the Kalamaki Bar. The two places are in fact owned by two brothers – Antoni and Christos. Where Kalamaki prides itself on its meat dishes, Skoumbri (meaning mackerel in Greek) specializes in fresh fish and seafood dishes.

Athens may seem like a built up, cosmopolitan city but in reality, the sea is in fact just a stone’s throw away and the fish served up at Skoumbri are the latest catches. The seafood menu here is diverse, and the place is decorated with adorable nautical touches that seemingly transport you to an old Greek fishing village.

Mani Mani

Where:Falirou 10, Athina 117 42

Locals and tourists alike consider Mani Mani as being one of the very best restaurants in Athens. The Greek cuisine served up here is a little different compared to what you may have come to expect in Athens. The restaurant owner comes from Mani in the Peloponnese. As such, the menu focuses on Mani delicacies, and utilizes ingredients that have been freshly sourced in this region. Meats from Areopolis are lovingly marinated and prepared in dishes alongside handmade pasta and organic dairy produce from Gythio. The exquisite wines come from Laconia, an area close to the sea that is renowned for its wonderful vineyards.

Hopefully your Greek travels will eventually take you to Mani, however if they don’t, a stop by Mani Mani in Koukaki Athens is a good way to transport your taste buds there in the meantime.

Nightcaps & Cocktails in Koukaki

Hitchcock Tales

Where:Porinou 10, Athina 117 42

Hitchcock Tales is a Koukaki cocktail bar with a twist. As the name suggests, the bar has been named after the man, the myth, the legend himself – Alfred Hitchcock. Sprawling pop art style paintings decorate the walls and exterior, depicting scenes from Hitchcock’s best-loved movies such as Psycho. The cocktail menu offers both the classics, and an array of house recipes that are affectionately named after Hitchcock movies, and often served with some kind of prop or gimmick.

Ρίζα Ρίζα (Riza Riza)

Where: Drakou 19, Athina 117 42

If you were looking for a real “local” place to sip cocktails and hang out with hip Athenians on a Friday or a Saturday night in Koukaki, Riza Riza would be it. This wonderful day to night bar has a charming, homely atmosphere during the day and is a popular spot to grab a spot of lunch or dinner. Come nightfall, Athenians flock here in their dozens to enjoy Greek style cocktails infused with local liquours such as ouzo or raki. It is not uncommon to walk by Riza Riza and find that it is so crowded that people are spilling out onto the street clutching their drinks.

Places of Interest in Koukaki

Koukaki Athens
Koukaki Athens: Several art galleries have sprouted up in Koukaki over recent years.

Stroll Around Filopappou Hill

Filopappou Hill does not make it onto most touristic guides to Athens. It’s a shame in some ways since it is a nice place to stop by. In others, it’s a good thing, since it means you have the beauty of the place to yourself. Filopappou Hill is a grassy, pine tree shaded woodland area that is situated just a few blocks away from the Acropolis. The major draw of visiting here is the fact that you have an incredible view out to the Acropolis and across Athens from the peak.

As you make the ascent, you pass by several notable shrines, churches and historical sites, such as the Church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris which houses numerous beautiful frescoes, and Socrates prison.

Note: Though Filopappou Hill is a beautiful place to watch the sunset over the Acropolis, it has been the location of several violent muggings in recent years, and so I would advise that it is best to make your visit here during the day.

Check Out the Koukaki Art Scene

Koukaki’s offbeat personality is reflected in the number of independent art galleries that have sprouted up here in recent years, showcasing everything from contemporary style art, to surrealism pieces. The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) is nearby, as are several independent galleries. One spot well worth stopping by is the “State of Concept” gallery which introduces non-mainstream Greek and International artists. In addition, exhibitions, talks and events are often hosted here too.

Where to Stay in Koukaki

Booking.com

Koukaki was recently named as being one of the best Airbnb neighbourhoods in the world, in addition to being widely regarded as one of the best areas to stay while in Athens. Many of the hotels and accommodations in Koukaki reflect the neighbourhood’s artsy vibe. Koukaki is the perfect place to stay if you are searching for a hotel that is a little kitschy and a little different. Browse the map above to find a Koukaki hotel that perfectly suits your style and taste.

Disclaimer: This article on Koukaki Athens may contain affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase something through some of the links on this page, I will gain a small amount of commission. This is received at no extra cost to you and helps me manage the costs of this site. Thanks for your understanding.

9 Comments
  1. Sounds like a great area, so many cute restaurants and cafes. I would also love to walk up Filopappou Hill, too bad it’s not a good idea to watch the sunset from there anymore.

  2. It took me several years of traveling before I realized that the best part of traveling is exploring smaller neighborhoods away from the tourist areas to get a real sense of life in that city. Koukaki looks wonderful, especially the large art scene. A great place to just slow travel and enjoy. Thanks for sharing!

  3. So I don’t actually drink coffee, but I love the coffe/cafe culture in Europe. Just sitting in a cafe (or on a terrace), sipping coffe (or tea in my case) and watching people pass by. I could do it for half a day if I had the time! So I’ll definitely be putting Koukaki on my list!

  4. OK, I’ve starving!!!!! I love that you’ve incorporated some really interesting and delicious looking places to grab food. I love grilled fish, especially when it’s fresh like that. I’ve seen lots of posts on the highlights of Athens so I appreciate the smaller spots in this one.

  5. What a great post! I have actually not been to Greece at all yet. But posts like this one really inspires me to go, I absolutely love your pictures!

  6. When I went to Greece I had soooo many freddo espressos! They were delicious so this place sounds so perfect because it seems to be filled with charming cafes.

  7. I am such a foodie and during all my travels I always eat a lot. After reading your post I can tell that Koukaki has tons of great food, coffee, and atmospheric places. Sounds like a perfect place for me, can’t wait to visit!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>