Plaka and Monastiraki Area
Athens is one of Europe’s most vibrant cities, steeped in history and alive with tourists. The epicenter of all this tourist activity are the districts of Plaka and Monastiraki, which are located inside a rough triangle bordered by the Parthenon, Syntagma Square, and Monastiraki Station. This area is famous for its winding streets and narrow alleyways, crammed with shops, restaurants and tavernas. One can easily fill several days wandering the area and soaking up the energy and ambiance. And you’ll not go hungry…this area boasts literally hundreds of restaurants, if they gave a prize for the most densely populated restaurant area in the world, Plaka and Monastiraki would win it.
As a group leader for our Go Get Lost Greek Island yacht adventures, I often end up spending quite a bit of time in Athens, wandering and exploring this fascinating area, always searching for new spots for my clients to eat and drink.
Although there are excellent restaurants sprinkled all over the city of Athens, I’ve confined this article to some of my favorite eateries that are within walking distance of any of the hotels in this area.
Here are some of my preferred bistros…in no particular order:
One of my favorite restaurants, especially if you’re looking for a romantic evening view of the Parthenon. Be sure to reserve a table on the roof, the closer to the front, the better the view. It’s easy to overlook Kuzina, as it’s located on Adrianou, in the midst of literally twenty or more similar sized restaurants, all with outdoor seating under umbrellas. Your search will reward your efforts, though. Kuzina serves classic Greek food in a contemporary style, which is a welcome change from the dozens of cookie-cutter menus nearby. Prices are definitely upscale, but worth it.
This is one of Plaka’s most unique restaurants. Located on a quiet side street just a few minutes from the Acropolis, Scholarhio brings the idea of “family style” dining to a new level. The waiter will explain their custom, which is to order a number of dishes, based on how many are in your party. From their assortment of eighteen traditional Greek dishes, two people can choose any five….or three people can choose seven dishes, or six people can choose fourteen dishes…and so on! Recently I was there with 8 others and we had an astounding array of twenty-two dishes of food on the table. This is a great way to try just about any type of Greek food you want, and all for only about 14 Euro per person, which includes a drink and a dessert. Good food and great fun, at a great price!
Café Abyssinia (or Avissinia)
Kinetou 7, Abyssinia Square
Located in an obscure corner of a quirky little square filled with antique dealers, the Café Avissinia is another unique hidden gem. You’ll need to brave a few blocks of flea market stalls to find Abyssinia Square, (just off Ermou Street), but the hunt will pay off. Popular with Athenians, Café Avissinia features an excellent menu of Greek cuisine, but the service, ambiance and charm are really what make this one of the most popular “off the beaten path” restaurants in Monastiraki. Opt for the rooftop terrace for great views of the Parthenon. Great for lunch or dinner, moderately priced.
The Old Tavern of Psaras
You’ll have to follow the signs to find this tucked-away gem. Located at the top of a broad outdoor stairway, the Old Tavern of Psaras simply oozes with traditional Greek charm. (Even with its secluded location, it’s normally busy with both locals and tourists. With seating both inside and out, you’ll find the ambiance is wonderful, especially at night. The menu selection is very good, waiters are fun, expect the prices to be a bit north of moderate.
If you’re looking for a change from the “Greek Taverna” atmosphere and menu, and price is not a consideration, opt for 2mazi. The artistic, tasteful décor is stunning, and lends a sophisticated urban ambiance. Phenomenal cuisine and impeccable service round out a truly outstanding dining experience. Perhaps one of the finest restaurants in this area, and certainly in the top twenty for all of Athens. Be prepared to pay at this level, too, as 2mazi is one of the pricier eateries you’ll find in Plaka. (But worth it!)
If you find yourself are in this area, but don’t want the high-end atmosphere of 2mazi, consider Palia Athina, right next door. Family owned and with a laid-back, simple atmosphere, this taverna will delight you with its menu of traditional Greek dishes. You’ll notice a definite tendency toward “home-cooking” in the selection, ask the owner for his recommendation for the day. You’ll notice that they have a steady stream of locals picking up their take-out orders…always a good sign! Prices are very reasonable, a great value!
Lysiou and Mnisikleous
Located in the heart of Plaka, this is another of the typical simple Greek taverna with both indoor seating (for privacy and romance) and outdoor seating, (for people watching). Nothing fancy here, just great food, great atmosphere, lively waiters, and all at reasonable prices. Its central location makes it a spot-on choice for lunch as you explore Plaka.