7 Places to Tap into Athens’ Cultural and Culinary Renaissance

From new restaurants to new arts institutions, head here to experience Athens’ remarkable revival.

Keramikou 49, Athina 104 36, Greece
It’s always fun stumbling upon places the locals frequent. If you’re in Athens, venture beyond Monaistaraki/the Plaka and all the typical souvlaki joints to the Metaxourgeio neighborhood. Here, you’ll find Seychelles—described by Buzzfeed as “one of the 31 places you should eat around the world before you die.” Here, not only are the clientele and interior space hip, but the menu is fun and creative with simple but elevated dishes such as chickpeas with feta and mint, tomato and zucchini fritters, and a fantastic selection of cheeses from all over Greece. The pappardelle with kavourmas (cured pork) was jaw-droppingly delicious! Do yourself a favor, and make the trek out this way ... take the metro to Kerameikos, then walk or grab a cab for under five Euros. You’ll be glad you did. Ask about the daily specials and always book ahead (in warmer weather, ask for a table outside on Avdi Square).
34 Anastasiou Zinni
Located in the Koukaki neighborhood, rustic Fabrika tou Efrosinou is all about tradition and simplicity. Fine wines—many made by the chef’s wife—accompany savory pies, plump cracked wheat meatballs, and other seasonal dishes that nod to various regions in Greece.
69 Kallidromiou
The large, leafy patio of this mezze restaurant in bohemian Exarchia was once the local schoolyard. Now cozy couples and animated gaggles of friends gather beneath the flowering bowers to enjoy some of the most honest and comforting food in town. Order as many dishes as you can fit on the table and share them all. Rather than traditional Greek fare, the menu is a tasty Mediterranean pick-and-mix. Try the cracked wheat salad with green apple, mint, and dried figs; meatballs seasoned with cinnamon and clove; and mini lamb kebabs. The high-ceilinged, well-lit classrooms make charming dining rooms in cooler weather. Service is unfailingly friendly and relaxed.

A school-turned-mezedopoleío serves delicious meze including bakalyaro (walnut-crusted fish fillets) and pita topped with yogurt and smoked eggplant. Bonus: a patio surrounded by bougainvillea.
Vrasida 11, Athina 161 21, Greece
Local ingredients take center stage at Vezené, a bistro in central Athens, where chef-owner Ari Vezené ages his own meats, sources the best seafood in Greece, and cooks 150 meals a day for people in need. This appeared in the January/February 2018 issue.
Λεωφ. Καλλιρρόης και Αμβρ. Φραντζή, Αθήνα, 117 43, Athina 117 43, Greece
The EMST (National Museum of Contemporary Art) has existed since 2000 and often mounted edgy exhibitions in the Athens Conservatory across town. The plan for its new home got a green light, but construction was scheduled to begin in the middle of the Greek crisis, so the process took much longer (and had more logistical and political bumps) than planned. When it finally opened, the stunning space got a big kick-start by hosting the Documenta megaexhibition in early 2017. Now the venue, carved out of a former brewery, has multiple stories of gallery space for all kinds of contemporary art. Tip: take the many escalators to the top floor and work your way down. (And check the website—this museum sat empty for months before Documenta and still has some crisis-related operational issues.)
Leof. Andrea Siggrou 364, Kallithea 176 74, Greece
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC)—new home for both the National Library and National Opera, designed by Renzo Piano and financed to the tune of €630 million—is a wonder to look at, walk through, and relax in. The library and opera are state of the art; the 42-acre grounds include a salt-water canal where you can learn to sail or kayak, fantastic playgrounds and fountains to keep kids entertained, and the Great Lawn where free concerts, open-air screenings and festivals are staged year-round. Take advantage of the center’s location and drink in the 360-degree views of the city and sea from the Lighthouse, a glass-walled lookout and terrace shaded by a vast solar panel that powers most of the sustainably minded complex. This neighborhood is, after all, called Kallithea, which means “wonderful view.”
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