Discover Neoclassical Athens and Kolonaki, the kingdom of urban elegance

Full of shops, offices, galleries and cafes, Kolonaki is vivid, classy and very representative of modern Athenian lifestyle trends.
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Lovers of urban adventures will adore Kolonaki, being elegant, modern and busy all day long. Representative of modern Athenian lifestyle, it has it all: business meetings, politics, entertainment, shopping and more!

Τhe architecture of the district belongs to “modern movement” that followed neoclassicism and was developed during the interwar era. Its buildings host art galleries, boutiques, cafesrestaurants as well as offices of the most famous lawyers and doctors of Athens.

Probably the uniqueness of Kolonaki lies in the amazingly authentic combination of the old and the new. Chic ladies with pearls and vintage two-piece suits sit next to young people dressed in the latest fashion trends. The minimal interior design of the galleries and the cafes contradicts charmingly with their old style architecture, giving a mysterious touch in the atmosphere of the neighborhood.

In Kolonaki you will find almost everything that would make it for a Vogue cover, from haute couture studios and classy restaurants, to carefully designed delicatessen shops and retro cafes. Be prepared to pay a premium, but it is worth it.

Ideally visit Kolonaki during the day that shops are open.

Below route is designed to help you see the best and most representative parts of the district. 

Kolonaki_Route Map

– Start your walk from metro station “Panepistimio” in line 2 of the metro.

Athens-Metro-Map_Kolonaki

– First stop: “The Athenian Trilogy”, the outstanding neoclassical three-building complex
Just out of the metro station (exit “Academy” or “Panepistimio”) you’ll see The Athenian Trilogy, symbol of Athenian spiritual life. The three mansions, built in the 19th century, are the National Library, the University of Athens and the Academy of Athens.

National Library (left):
More than 2,000,000 books are hosted in the National Library, sculpted from Pentelic marble.
GreekNationalLibrary_Inside_Athens_dreamingreece.com  GreekNationalLibrary_Inside_Athens_iv4nmoreno

The Library, inspired by the first governor of independent Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias and designed by the Danish architect Theophil Hansen, was built in 1888-1902. By the end of 2017, the Greek National Library will have moved to its new premises, in Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre.

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday: 09:00 – 15:30
Saturday – Sunday: Closed.

Photos: by dreamingreece.com (left) and @iv4nmoreno (right)

The University of Athens (middle):
The form of this neoclassical masterpiece that hosted the university for many decades was inspired by the Propylaea of Acropolis. Currently it is used mainly for graduation and other ceremonies.
University of Athens_wikipedia    University of Athens_closeup_lenouka

The 45-meter long building proudly standing in the middle of the Athenian trilogy is the University of Athens, designed by Christian Hansen, the older brother of Theophil Hansen and completed with the supervision of the Greek architects L. Kaftanztoglou and A. Theophilas. Hansen tried to create a building that would be at the same time emblematic and in harmony with the simple surroundings of the time (1839).

Many artists worked for the decoration of the mansion, including the impressive colorful murals in the portico, designed by Austrian artist Carl Rahl and painted by Eduard Lebiedzki. The interior of the building was completed with the grant of Nikolaus Dumba, a wealthy benefactor of Greek descent.

In front of the building stand the statues of the first Governor of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias, the hero of the War of Independence, Regas Pheraios, Patriarch Gregory V, the great Hellenist Adamandios Korais and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, William Ewart Gladstone. In 2016 two olive trees 700 to 1,500 years old were transplanted in the garden of the university, reminding the eternal tie of past to the present and the future.

Photos: by Wikipedia and @lenouka

The Academy of Athens (right):
Characterized as “the most beautiful neoclassical building in the world”, the Academy of Athens was designed in 1859 by Theophil Hansen and constructed under the supervision of Ernst Ziller.

The construction of the Academy would not be possible without the generous donation of the Greek expatriate Simon Sinas.

Academy of Athens_politisonline

The main building of the highest research establishment in Greece is made of marble from Penteli and stone from Peiraiki and is decorated with sculptures and paintings of outstanding beauty. The pediment of the entrance, made by Greek sculptor Leonidas Drosis, represents the birth of Goddess Athena, the patron of the city. On its corners are placed stone carvings of Sphinx. The other eight terra-cotta pediments, made by Austrian sculptor Franz Melnitzky, show Athena as the the patron of agriculture, small industry, shipbuilding and the sciences in general. On the two sides of the entrance stand two statues, God Apollo on the right (3.71 m high) and Goddess Athena on the left (4.11 m high). In front of the Academy are seated the statues of two major Greek philosophers, Socrates on the right and Plato on the left.

 Academy of Athens_2_Vangelis Zavos 

Academy of Athens_Vangelis Zavos

Apart from its historical value, it is worth mentioning that there is no other building in the country with so much gold on its external decoration. For its latest restoration, completed in 2015, were used 22-carat gold leaves.

Photos: by Vangelis Zavos and politisonline.com

– Walk on Panepistimiou Street (meaning “University Street”), the six-lane avenue, also called “Eleftheriou Venizelou Street”. The stunning neoclassical architecture of its buildings is the reason behind its fame as the most beautiful street of Greece and among the most beautiful ones in the world.

Walking towards Syntagma square, you see the Bank of Greece on your right and the Athens Eye Clinic and the Numismatic Museum on your left. Walking a bit more, you reach City Link, a neoclassical complex that houses Attica Department Store and many cafes and restaurants, among which the historical Zonars’. The little square formed by City Link and the back of the imposing Grande Bretagne Hotel is a true “good life” corner with theatres, a large performance venue – “Pallas” – and high end boutiques, among which Hermes. Enjoy your coffee in cosmopolitan style and head to the most luxurious street of Athens!

Zonars_Voukourestiou_City Link_Athens
Photo: @christina.ros.martini

– Discover the latest fashion trends in Voukourestiou street: Welcome to the world of fashion and luxury! Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Ermenegildo Zegna, Cartier and not only…are all there!

– Turn left to Akadimias street and then to Lykavittou Street, the entrance to Kolonaki neighbourhood. In Akadimias Street, always busy on weedays, you may meet by chance some of the most famous lawyers of Athens, or even Greek politicians. In Lycavittou Street you will find small art galleries, antiquities shops, the shoe shop “Lemisios” making handmade shoes since 1912 and little by little…Lycabettus Hill!

Lemisios_handmade shoes_Athens

– Walk on Skoufa street: old fashioned cafes, modern bars, law firms, galleries and sophisticated shops; yes, this is Kolonaki!

Stop for a coffee at the retro cafe Filion (= friendly); watch out, most probably the man next to you is a Greek politician, actor or writer. Well, the who-is-who rule is simple: with the street in front of you, “politicians on the right, artists on the left”.

Just next to Filion is Agios Dionysios Areopagitis, the church dedicated the first bishop and patron saint of Athens. An architectural masterpiece by itself, it is the church where many couples dream to get married. If you pass by on Sunday afternoon, you may be lucky to see a Greek wedding taking place.

Filion_Athens
Photo: Andreas Simopoulos

Agios Dionysios_Kolonaki
Photo: Eirini Cheimoniti

–  Head to Kolonaki Square, the heart of Kolonaki district: Turn left into the small Iraklitou street and then right in Tsakalof street with Gucci and some remarkable designers’ boutiques. At the end of it you will see Kolonaki Square, also named “Platia Filikis Etairias” (= Society of Friends Square) after the secret organization that initiated the Greek War of Independence in 1821. On the square you will see statues of Filiki Eteria founders, Nikolaos Skoufas, Emmanuil Xanthos and Athanasios Tsakalof. Before getting on the square, stop by at Katerina Vassou Jewelery at the start of Skoufa street to buy some authentic, yet affordable, handmade jewels for you or your friends. Around the square are many cafes and restaurants, serving as meeting points for both relaxation after shopping and important business meetings.

Kolonaki_1

If you have the courage to walk uphill for a few minutes, you can deviate from our path and instead of turning to Tsakalof street, continue walking on Iraklitou street, climb up the steps and find yourself in Dexameni (=cistern) Square, with the park, the open-air cinema and the outdoor cafe that is open only on sunny days and in the summer. In the past the square was indeed used as a cistern, built by the Emperor Hadrian in 134-14 BC and used for the water supply of the whole city for many decades until the Ottoman Occupation and then again from 1870 to 1940. Next to the playground of the square you can see the statue of the Nobel awarded Greek poet Odysseas Elytis, one of the many members of the Greek intelligentsia that used to spend their evenings in cafe Dexameni.

– Discover Kolonaki hidden corners: When you reach Kolonaki Square, go through it and at the end of it, turn left in a small street, called Kapsali street and see one of the most representative corners of Kolonaki: beautiful buildings with large entrances and little, elegant shops where you will find the finest collections of tea varieties and chocolates, but also jewels and bags. Turn left again on Dimokritou street and walk to the end of it to find Patriarchou Ioakeim street, another shopping paradise, made of modern bookstores, handmade jewelry shops, interior design houses, chic boutiques and delicatessens. Among the nice restaurants and cafe-bars that you’ll meet on your way, Ante Post – on the corner of Patriarchou Ioakeim and Ploutarchou streets – is worth mentioning, being one of the very few places in Athens where you can enjoy your coffee or drink, while listening to classical music.

Antepost_Athens
Photo: by Ante Post

– End your walk with Ploutarchou street: Peaceful and vivid at the same time, Ploutarchou street is the last part of your walk before getting to Vasilissis Sofias Avenue and finding yourself in front of the Athens War Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum, as well as many embassies, among which that of the United Kingdom.

– Next stops: Continue your exploration at the Museum of Cycladic Art or the Benaki Museum (Main Building) that are nearby, or take the metro from Evangelismos station and head to another Athenian neighborhood!

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