Athens’ best summer cafes are a great refuge from the heat and the urban intensity.
To be fair, it’s really difficult to have a bad coffee experience in Athens. Caffeine and leisure are both savored in the capital, and even when leisure is wanting, a coffee on the go will be bracing and rich. Coffee being such a ritual though, time permitting, it’s worth making an event of it if you can. These cafés offer the true Athenian coffee experience.
The Café in the National Garden- Athens’ Best Summer Cafe for Cooling Off
The Cycladic Museum, the Benaki, and the B & M Theocharakis foundation for the Fine Arts and Music have their own fine cafes, But the cafe in the National Garden’s quiet northeastern corner offers a refuge for the mind. It’s the perfect place to let your impressions of the exhibition settle. The prices are high and the service is average. The coffee absolutely is nothing special by Athenian standards. None of this matters. Here in the very heart of downtown, steps from the presidential mansion and Vasilissis Sophias Avenue, you find silence- deep green, shady silence, with a few sparrows. The tables are marble, the classic cafe chairs and canopy green painted metal, nestled in white gravel. Vines trail everywhere. It’s Athens’ most Parisian corner. Even on the hottest day you feel cool just looking out into the unrestrained greenery at your table’s edge. There is no music- just conversation flowing like a brook.
Dexameni- Athens’ Best Summer Cosmopolitan Summer Cafe
More classic green metal café chairs and tables to match spread out either side of the walkway though Kolonaki’s park at the base of Lykavitos. Dexameni (named for the reservoir that was once here) is more of a vital public service than simply a café. One of the best Athens’ Summer cafes, Dexameni is open day and night, for a full spread of meze, or just a coffee or a beer. It’s popular with parents with strollers and dogs, high school kids, matrons, old guys reading the paper, and everyone in between (except tourists- it’s pretty out of the way). The service is friendly and quick, huge pitchers of ice water keep appearing, and no one will hurry you along. It has no music. Although busy, it’s definitely not a scene. This is the perfect place for writing in your journal. The prices are excellent and the menu of small plates is too- in case coffee turns into lunch or dinner. And if you are looking for something do do after that, there’s an open air cinema across the way.
The Archaeological Museum- Athens’ Best Summer Cafe for Culture
A self service café makes the list? Yes. Even though it’s crowded and, obviously, touristy, the Archaeological museum’s cafe is a sweet surprise. In the museum’s inner courtyard, there are plenty of tables under the shade of a loggia and benches along the garden’s edge. Olive trees and antiquities share the garden with a turtle you can sometimes spot. There is a good internet connection for catching up with work, or maybe the visit has inspired you to write some postcards. A bonus- if you are on a budget, know that cafes in government places such as national museums and train stations offer some basic items like a small filtered coffee or a frappe at low prices. No ticket is needed to visit the café.
Now that you’re refreshed, you can try shopping like an Athenian.
The cafe in the National Garden is just inside the first entrance you come to on Irodou Attikou as you walk from Vasilissis Sophias. The cafe is open from the morning until shortly before the park closes.
Dexameni, on Kolonaki’s Dexameni square (right across from the St. George Lykavitos Hotel) is open daily from around 9:00 until after midnight, but sometimes closed during holidays. (+30) 21 0722 4609
The Archaeological Museum cafe operates during museum hours. Currently, Mondays 13:00 – 20:00 and Tuesday – Sunday 8:00 – 20:00.