Kypseli, the neighbourhood I’ve been calling home since 2014, is going through a revival of sorts. Yet one of its most attractive characteristics remains its multiculturalism: the area is home to thousands of people from Africa, Asia, and the Eastern Europe, some of which are second-generation immigrants, so while walking around Kypseli you will inevitably come across people of diverse customs, religions and languages. If Pangrati is like your preppy cousin working in fintech who likes pairing sushi with cocktails, then Kypseli is more like their younger sibling who doesn’t really like etiquette and sophistication, and would rather pick up a beer from the periptero before skating into the sunset.
Kypseli is so much more than its attractive real estate and digital-nomad lifestyle. It’s also about the open-air markets and the feel of a small, inclusive neighbourhood. It’s the 24-hour grocery stores and families leaving mass in their Sunday best. It’s the whirring of the trolleys going up and down Kypseli Street and crowds chatting outside the many theatres on Kefallinias Street. It’s the names of forgotten poets and actors written on plaques outside old apartment buildings. It’s the rows of ornate mansions and pre-modern townhouses on Drosopoulou Street. It’s the Asian barber shops, the way all the streets are named after Greek islands, and the constant feeling that, not far from the grandest Athenian monuments and the gravitas of ancient Greek history, the city’s past meets the present in a different way: quiet, unpretentious, unannounced, and very, very human.
Things to explore
The architecture is definitely one of Kypseli’s most interesting attractions. The area has a rare mix of architecture from different eras, creating a surprising collage of styles and periods that any architecture enthusiast will be excited to explore. You won’t find any ancient ruins in Kypseli; instead, you’ll come across buildings which are great examples of Neoclassical, Art Deco, Bauhaus, and mid-century Modernist design, most of them still inhabited and in good condition. Scale also varies here: you’ll find the monolithic tower of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) near Victoria Square—a modernist landmark that can actually be seen from the Acropolis—as well as small shanty houses surviving the rapid urbanisation of the area during the 1950s (on 18 Evias Street, if you were curious). There’s also a tiny church from the 1840s hidden somewhere in the dense grid of apartment buildings (hint: it’s between Zakinthou and Evias Street).
Urban hikers might also enjoy climbing north of Kypseli Square to explore the peak of Elikonas Hill (not to be confused with Mount Elikonas, the mythical home of poetry and the Muses). Rising at 184 metres, the hill has an abandoned quarry at the top, and also a small sports pitch. It’s not a very steep climb, and once at the top you can catch a rare view of the Athenian skyline, all the way to the sea and the western fringes of the city.
Art and culture
A good starting point is O Meteoritis bookshop, where Benoit—a French Kypseliot—will be happy to show you his selection of artist books, zines, and other finds. A few blocks downhill you’ll find TV Control Centre (KET), an independent venue for new music, theatre, and performance. Snehta Residency has been running for a decade, and has an artist residency programme, an exhibitions programme, a library, and an art shop. PET Projects is the studio and gallery of visual artist Angelo Plessas, where he organises exhibitions mostly with works by local artists. A bit further uphill is Bajramovic Unlimited, an artist-run space founded by Dorian Bajramovic and Marina Leonti. Other recent arrivals to the local art ecosystem are Bhive, the studio and art space of visual artist Gerasimos Avlamis, and OKAY initiative space, which has a programme of exhibitions by young artists. Right across the street is Pilos, a ceramics workshop where you can find locally made creations.
Eat, drink and shop
As hinted in the introduction of this article, Kypseli lacks the sophisticated dining options of other areas in the city. That said, there’s some really authentic flair in several local establishments that should keep you satisfied. For quick-and-dirty Greek souvlaki head to Rigani: the gyros is nice, and there’s also an assortment of grilled meat for two that is value for money. A more extravagant Greek street-food experience awaits at Kypseli Kalamaki, where all the food arrives piled on paper sheets instead of plates. If meat is not your thing, try the falafel at Tastes of Damascus, or check the meat-free options at one of the Athenian cookeries in the area, like Myrtia. If you like your fresh fish and seafood delicacies, then head to Vlasis, a traditional fishmonger’s and taverna under one roof. Mikra Asia is a staple in Kypseli, serving delicious Kurdish food and the city's best künefe.
For coffee and lighter snacks, Kick is a nice all-day option serving great coffee, sandwiches and pastries, with several vegan options. It’s a great spot for working on your laptop and also has a concept store-in-a-store and an art space in the basement. Williwaw is a super cute coffee shop with just a handful of tables outside, perfect for a quiet break while exploring the hood. Eprepe and Bateau Ivre are two new laid back all-day spots on the up-and-coming Agias Zonis pedestrian street, both with a strong number of outdoor seats, perfect for a taste of Athenian pavement café life. You will be extremely lucky if you can find a table at It’s a Vilatz, which is a very popular spot for drinks and coffee on St George’s Square.
On the shopping front, there are some interesting second-hand shops like Re:wearit and Beehive, where you can scout for local finds. There are also some nice shops inside the Kypseli Municipal Market run by social startups, where you can buy souvenirs, clothes, children’s toys and more and support their cause. Inside the market you will also find Entropia Records, a smart record store that stocks a great collection of experimental, fusion, library and obscure Greek vinyl, as well as books and apparel. (The Kypseli Municipal Market is currently under rearrangement so you may find that some shops are closed.) If you’d like to take some local flavours back home as a souvenir, you can browse the shelves at Oi Rizes Mas deli on Zakynthou Street.