One of the most charming aspects of Athens is that it’s a city of contrasts where you’ll come across a mish-mash of old and new. Especially over the last few decades, the Greek capital has been constantly regenerating in terms of cultural institutions, bars, restaurants, stores and entertainment venues, and there are by now endless options for new, novel and exciting places to visit.
Yet within the climate of change, Athenians enjoy the safe, nostalgia-infused feeling of being able to keep visiting old haunts, especially those that have hardly changed since they first appeared on the scene.
Here we present the five best bars where Greek and foreign writers, actors, politicians and everyday people have indulged in long nights drinking and chatting and where they – or their grandchildren – continue to huddle over drinks today.
Opened in 1972 and has hardly been unchanged since, as its décor testifies. The Galaxy has been a haunt for poets, politicians, artists and musicians. For 50 years it has drawn a loyal clientele and continues to attract people who are tired of buzzy, trendy bars and prefer a place with singular style and atmosphere, and owners who offer a warm welcome and serve high-quality beverages.
Galaxy Bar, 10 Stadiou Street.
Easy to miss as you trudge up the stairs of Ploutarchou street in Kolonaki, this vintage bar has operated for 30+ years, specialising in top quality whiskies and rums from around the world.
Photographs and fairy lights cover the walls and a piano is set on the side for the occasional live performance when the owner isn’t playing his sophisticated mix of jazz.
Plan to leave at least 15 minutes after you pay because when you head to the bar with your cash you’re likely to be offered several more rums to sample as you have a chat with the proprietor.
Bar 56, 56 Ploutarchou St, Kolonaki.
“Our distillery was founded in 1909, but our story is still being written today,” is the motto of this well-known and well-loved Plaka drinking hideout, where liqueur bottles are characteristically lit up by different colours of light and line the walls. Punters perch on barrels for a quick taste of Brettos’ liquid assets and often don’t re-emerge into the Plaka streets until several hours later. Here you can taste as well as buy from a selection of rakomelo (honeyed raki), liqueurs, brandy and ouzo.
Brettos Bar, 42 Kydathineon St, Plaka.
Located on pedestrianised Delphon street in Neapoli, a zone between Kolonaki and Exarcheia, Ippopotamos has since 1978 offered a low-key and familial nighttime escape. Originally a French bistro that within two years was turned into the bar it is today, it was the first place in Athens to serve a delicious homemade Sangria, which it is still known for today. Visit on a buzzy summer night and sit at a table along the pavement.
Ippopotamos, 3B Delfon St, Neapoli.
Jazz In Jazz
A late bloomer in comparison to the older bars mentioned in this article, yet a classic by any standard, this bar opened in 1996 bringing a special jazzy vibe that remains unique. With walls and shelves covered in classic jazz memorabilia, from statuettes and a gramophone to photos of jazz greats and original concert posters, the place definitely got style. Cosy especially during winter but also a welcome air-conditioned hideout in the summer months, the classic bar plays a very broad variety of jazz and occasionally hosts live gigs too.
Jazz In Jazz, 3 Deinokratous St, Kolonaki.