Koukaki holds a special place among Athens’ inner-city neighbourhoods. Wedged between the ancient glory of the Acropolis hill and the rumbling traffic and sex shops of Syngrou Avenue, it’s a district of intriguing contradictions. A blend of cultural kudos, green oases and interesting architecture that happily accommodates both the locals who live here and the tourists who love it, without sacrificing its true self. As one of the most rapidly-evolving pockets of central Athens, cool Koukaki combines intimacy with authenticity.
You cannot have a true Koukaki experience without a pit stop at this local institution. A family of four has run this popular sandwich bar since 1988. If you get lost in the array of fillings and options on offer, do ask for their suggestions. The bread comes from Takis, a renowned local bakery, and the same attention to freshness applies to all the ingredients. You’ll have to queue, but satisfaction is guaranteed.
Being so close to the Acropolis, Koukaki is jam-packed with souvenir shops. While most sell cheap museum copies made in China, Mon Coin is far more sophisticated. The eye-pleasing selection of items made by Greek designers ranges from ceramics and jewellery, to cosmetics and postcards. The delicate and unusual ceramics are a highlight.
Located across from a brutalist carpark, ME THEN is a local fashion brand specializing in minimalist menswear. In Greek methen means ‘zero’; the quirky use of typography and wordplay is part of the brand’s identity, such as graphic t-shirts emblazoned with Epos (‘Epic’ in Greek). Run by a group of Greek and international artists and designers, the clothes and accessories reflect street life in Athens today.
This handsome little organic deli binds Koukaki’s residents together. The name means 'Greek goodies' and that’s exactly what you’ll find here. Stamatis, the owner, handpicks everything to the last detail and remembers everyone’s tastes. After he’s explained the stories behind all the products, you won’t want to shop for groceries elsewhere. The tasty quinoa and trout salad comes straight from a local cook’s kitchen on Tuesdays—be quick, it runs out fast. The prettily-packaged herbs make great gifts. If you’re planning a picnic on Philopappou Hill, definitely try one of the Greek wines.
Drupes & Drips
Although a relative newcomer to the neighbourhood, Drupes & Drips has a real local vibe. There’s no better place for an early aperitif. It’s where hip Athenian worker bees go to relax after a long day over a spritz and bruschetta. The bar opens from early morning for coffee and pastries (sourced from Takis bakery opposite, owned by the same crew). Coffee, aperitif or wine—whatever your poison, make it quick because Drupes & Drips closes early for Athens, at 10 pm.
Meerkat Cocktail Safari
If you want to tap into Koukaki’s trendy bar scene, make your last stop Meerkat. It’s located on the strip towards Syngrou Avenue, which used to be full of car mechanics. There’s a garage right across the street from the bar. Enjoy the jungle-style decor and trust seasoned French bartender Romaine Krot to create a cocktail that satisfies your cravings. No need to remember the peculiar names on the drinks list, there’s definitely a cocktail for everyone and Romaine knows exactly what that is.