If you're planning a visit to Athens you've probably already added some of the best-known neighbourhoods to your bucket list, such as Plaka, Koukaki and Exarchia. As cultural check-ins go, the National Archaeological Museum on Patission Avenue* should definitely be on that list. And that’s probably as far up as you are planning to go on that side of the city. However, if you’re looking to veer off the beaten track and digest as much real Athens as you can, then you should look further up Patission Avenue. At four and a half kilometres long, Athens’ longest street backpacks decades of architectural, cultural, and gastronomical history and is to this day one of the city’s most essential and diverse axes.
Patission takes its name from Patissia, the neighbourhood it stems from. Back in the early 20th century, Patissia was a rural area, well outside the limits of the capital, where Athenians built their holiday homes. Patission was the street that led to the city centre, cutting through vineyards, orchards, and empty fields. As the rapid urbanisation of Athens, during the second half of the 1900s, filled these lands with polykatoikies (apartment buildings), new neighbourhoods and districts emerged, such as Kypseli, Viktoria and Plateia Amerikis.
What makes a walk along Patission so exciting is how one can witness the way the city changes, in some cases gradually and in others swiftly. At the farthest end of the avenue the vibe is decidedly low-key and residential; a typical Athenian neighbourhood. As we move closer to Kypseli, the social fabric becomes more multicultural, as this area is home to many people of African, Asian, and Balkan descent.
At Plateia Amerikis, where the Acropolis clearly becomes visible (Patission follows a straight line that leads to the foot of the Acropolis), the setting becomes more metropolitan; the street widens into a multi-laned avenue and the surrounding buildings become more stately and imposing. From here on and until the end of Patission where it meets Panepistimiou Street, at Omonia Square, you’ll encounter a large number of imposing architectural landmarks, before landing right in the very heart of the modern city of Athens.
We’ve mapped this guide to Patission starting from the far end next to Ano (Upper) Patissia metro station and finally arriving at Omonia Square. We’ve also added something extra for those of you who want to keep going and reach the Acropolis while following this walk of sorts. If you want to start at Omonia then make sure to check out our suggestions in reverse order.
*From its start at Panepistimiou junction all the way to Plateia Amerikis, the street is called 28is Oktovriou Street (28th October Street). This change in name was made in 1946 in order to commemorate the country’s opposition to Italian forces. From Plateia Amerikis to Ano Patissia, the street is called Patission. To this day, Athenians always refer to the entire street as Patission.
Patission is like a living, life-size gallery of the city’s rich architectural heritage. We stop by some of the street's most iconic examples of different periods, from Art Nouveau to Mid-century Modernism and beyond.
History and Culture
Almost every building and facade on Patission has a story to tell. Together, these stories weave the social and cultural fabric of the street, and as a result, the city itself. Some buildings, however, stand out as markers for their significance in the history of not only the country, but the world.
From traditional lunch spots, to lively markets, ethnic delis, syrupy desserts and street food joints, the culinary-minded urban traveller will be pleased to discover that the food landscape of Patission is lush and diverse.
Parks and Squares
Athens is notoriously known for being densely built and open spaces are sparse. This is why every pocket of green, whether it’s a park, a square, or pedestrianised road, is treasured by locals and put to good use for exercising, dog-walking and socialising.
Daily life along Patission retains the patterns of previous decades and has an almost nostalgic charm. Here you won’t find the specialty coffee and vegan cafés that abound in other parts of town like Pangrati and Koukaki. But certain shops and venues along the street have gained a reputation that stretches to the far ends of the city.
Patission continued, all the way to the Acropolis
Patission ends where it meets with Panepistimiou, at the area known as Hafteia. This vaguely defined district took its name from the owner of a famous coffee shop (or maybe it was a horseshoe maker, or a hotel, opinions differ widely) in the late 19th century. A mere 50 metres from the eye-catching fountain and buzzing sidewalks of Omonia Square, Hafteia always was, and is to this day, one of the busiest parts of Athens.
From there onwards Patission changes its name to Aiolou Street and with it wears a new vibe. The cobbled pedestrian street of Aiolou picks up where Patission left off, and continues in a straight line carrying its wayfarers to the shadow of the Acropolis hill. The multi-storey office and apartment buildings give way to smaller ones lined with shops and cafés. You’re now entering the area known as the Commercial Triangle, home to dozens of workshops, fabric shops, haberdasheries, restaurants and cocktail bars.
Plateia Kotzia is the first square you’ll come across, with a view of the Athens City Hall to your right and the splendid neoclassical building of the National Bank of Greece to your left. You’re standing at what used to be the fortification walls of classical Athens—look for the glass covered excavated section in front of the National Bank. A couple steps down Aiolou, you’ll cross Evripidou Street and the Central Food Market (to your right), the city’s food tube. This part of the centre is rapidly changing as old office buildings give way to hip hotels, followed by all-day haunts and a blooming scene of street food eateries.
Nowhere on Aiolou is the latter more obvious than the blocks around Plateia Agias Irinis, Athens’ epicentre of social life and a popular LGBTQ+ hangout. A few steps further you’ll cross Ermou Street, the city’s main shopping lane that lands into Monastiraki Square, the most touristic part of town. From there, Plaka is just a stone’s throw away, following a straight line that runs along the back wall of Hadrian’s Library, before stopping right in front of the Tower of the Winds at the Roman Agora.
These last 900 metres of Aiolou Street is the epilogue of our long walk that started from an unassuming, residential neighbourhood and ended at the city’s ancient (and modern) agora. Looking back from here, you’ll come to realise that just as Patission (and Aiolou) cut through the dense fabric of the city, in a way they also cut through the history of Athens itself.