Kaphenia Culture In Athens: Historical Greek Cafés You Must Visit

Courtesy Oraia Hellas
Courtesy Oraia Hellas
Anastasia Georgouli

The kaphenia are an integral part of Greek culture, places for locals to talk to each other and share news. They first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century, and some of them still exist. Described as historical cafés, kaphenia sustain their classic atmosphere by serving both traditional and modern desserts with coffee of supreme flavor. Here are our favorite kaphenia if you want to explore Athens’s unique historical café culture.

1. Zonars

Restaurant, Cafe, Greek

Zonars, Athina
Courtesy of Zonar's
Zonars sits at the junction of Panepistimiou and Voukourestiou Streets, in the center of Athens; it has been there since 1939. It was founded by a Greek businessman, Charles Zonaras, who opened the cafe upon returning to Greece after living in the US for some years. Famous patrons include Greek actors, musicians, composers, and others. Today it maintains its distinct style, offering a variety of desserts and flavored coffees. Its paneled design and impressive decor and lighting create a classic atmosphere. At lunchtime, try the delicious salmon and brios.

2. Dexameni

Coffee Shop, Coffee

A 15-minute walk from Zonar’s, Dexameni café is located in Kolonaki. It was a favored hangout for artists of the 20th century. The Greek authors Alexandros Papadiamantis, Kostas Varnalis, and others were among its first customers. Dexameni is an excellent choice during the summer months, a place for a relaxing break after shopping or sightseeing, where you can enjoy a cool spot on a hot summer day; in the evening, you can relax under the stars of the Athenian sky. Its tables and seats are mostly under the trees, and it offers a variety of refreshments and delicacies. It is open all day during the summer and caters to every taste and age.

Oraia Hellas

The story of Oraia Hellas conveys a love for Greek folklore and traditions. It is situated on Mitropoleos Street, Monastiraki, in the heart of Athens’s historical center. The building dates back to 1920 and was created by a fabric merchant, John Gerolimatos. His son, Panagiotis Gerolimatos, who loved Greek traditions, made it a center of Greek traditions more than 30 years ago. He dedicated time to making his idea come true; when you visit the cafe you can now see interesting Greek exhibitions. The cafe is on the first and second floors, where you can enjoy wonderful views of the Acropolis. Come here to enjoy Greek coffee with loukoumi (a Greek sweet), as well as other kinds of coffees and desserts.

Oraia Hellas, Mitropoleos 59, Μοnastiraki, Athens, Greece, +030 210 3216 850

Courtesy of Oraia Hellas

3. Café

Cafe, Nightclub, Coffee, Tea , Vegetarian, Fast Food, Mediterranean, Greek

111 Café in Monastiraki has been a popular hangout for more than 20 years. The building was constructed in 1918, and it has retained its original style. In the early ’90s, it was transformed into a traditional Greek cafe. It has a lovely, warm interior where wood and stone materials prevail. Seated at its wooden tables and seats, you can enjoy a delicious Greek coffee. This kaphenio offers a variety of food, as well: meat and/or cheese accompanied by Greek tsipouro or ouzo. You may even be lucky enough to encounter a live group of musicians playing Greek folk music.

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