Monastiraki is located in the centre of the liveliest part of the city and has many of my favourite spots for shopping or a coffee. The area is named after Monastiraki Square, which in turn is named for the Church of the Pantanassa that is located within the square.
Coffee and the Greeks
Speaking of coffee, you must be wondering what the Greeks have to do with it. Well, coffee is often associated with the Italians and their espresso or morning cappuccino, but coffee time is part of the Greek culture. You’ll notice the number of crowded cafes in the city where people hang out for hours on a daily basis. And what do we drink? Sometimes an “Elliniko”, the traditional Greek coffee, but mostly a frappé, an instant, quite strong coffee, shaken with a bit of water and served with ice cubes.
So, I would invite you to stop at the Booze Cooperativa for a coffee, or another drink if you prefer. The place is a small bohemian paradise, mostly occupied by artists and young people who like alternative and authentic places in the city. You can enjoy beautiful jazz and rock music, small theatrical performances, and photographic and painting exhibitions. If you are a chess fan, stop and play a quick game of chess on the chessboards provided here.
Shopping experiences: Ermou Street and flea market
You can’t possibly be in Monastiraki without a shopping session at Ermou Street. This commercial avenue has been turned into a pedestrian-only street where you can find all your usual brands, as well as some local ones. Pass by Fokas, the Greek department store hosted in a beautiful neoclassic building, or Hondos Center (the local Sephora) for all your cosmetics products. These are not the small local shops, but the locals definitely go shopping there!
Flavours in Monastriaki
If you have a sweet tooth (like me), head to Meliartos bakery for a praline éclair, or a more traditional Greek Baklava. Another of the “must-try” stops in the area is Da Vinci Gelato, on the pedestrian street of Andrianou. I always buy an ice-cream cone with a new flavour, ranging from classic pistachio to the very local mastixa, but I confess that I have never pushed my chances enough to try flavours like fennel. With your ice-cream cone in hand, you can continue wandering the streets around Monastiraki Square.
While you’re there, if you want to be introduced to the sought-after Athens, then head to Six Dogs. I’ve been coming here with my friends since my university days. We used to start the day with good coffee, and kept going with drinks and small bites until very late at night. I love the industrial style and artistic atmosphere. Going up the colorful steps – the place’s trademark – you reach an outdoor space like a huge yard surrounded by residential buildings. A real oasis in the middle of the city, with trees and plants, cool music, great coffee and drinks.
Monastiraki has so many little places that you’ll enjoy. For a good meal, I would definitely recommend Collage, which offers a Greek cuisine with a modern-fusion take. The food is delicious, and the dishes are beautifully presented. Trust me, and try the tarama, grilled calamari and Greek salad.
For a dinner overlooking the acropolis, try Diodos. The place is in a very touristy street, but you’ll definitely enjoy their mezzes and grilled meat. Another alternative is to book a table at the rooftop of Kuzina for an amazing refined local cuisine.
Then you can start the night party at Kuko’s Bar, in the alley of Kalamiotou, to choose between many choices of cocktails and drinks, accompanied by dance music.
Go the extra mile
If you want to get your way with the locals, say Efharisto instead of Thank you, they will appreciate you talking their language.