Best of Athens Nightlife

Greeks, especially Athenians, are high-spirited partiers, and don’t stop till they get enough. For those seeking glamour it’s fun to sip cocktails on a rooftop bar, but it’s just as fun to dance in a grungy music venue. Wander near the Technopolis in Gazi or the clubs near the sea during summer, when the party simply spills out onto the streets. Start late, and pace yourself until sunrise, which is when most locals only begin to think about going home.

Kidathineon 41, Athina 105 58, Greece
With its walls of colorful glass bottles, this charming little bar can be elusive—nestled deep in downtown Athens, in the warren of streets that make up the Plaka. Day or night, Brettos (pronounced Vrettos in Greek) is frequented by locals and tourists alike—the oldest distillery in Athens. While you can opt for beer, wine, homemade moonshine, or perhaps a cocktail, you might kick yourself later for passing up the chance to have an ouzo, Greece’s signature anise-flavored liquor, in such a storied watering hole. Who knows where that first sip might lead?
Melanthiou, Athina 105 54, Greece
Brit-born cycling fanatic Gareth Jones first opened a bike shop called Vicious Cycles, then expanded into the next-door space with the Handlebar, a funky restaurant/bar/“cycle” cafe on a grungy, graffiti-lined backstreet in the increasingly touristy Psirri neighborhood. The simple brunch, bagels, and (mostly vegan or vegetarian) snacks fare here consistently earns rave reviews, and so do the DJs’s mad mixes of house music and more. The beer is cheap, and the young, edgy crowd is consistently enthusiastic. The bar closes at midnight so this isn’t a late-night venue. But where else can you eat well, drink inexpensively, listen to great tunes and get your bike fixed, all at the same time? Keep an eye out for occasional record launches, live gigs, and street parties.
57 Kolokotroni
Booze Cooperativa is “a brain hub of tribes and nations in creative disruption.” That certainly sounds like millennial trendspeak, but the Cooperativa—a three-story neoclassical textile mill repurposed in 1989 into spaces for art, music, and people-meeting, and eating and drinking, has been promoting local artists, providing community for artists of all sorts (many of whom co-work, or play chess with their friends, at the six-meter-long—almost 20 feet—table by day), and acting as a nighttime watering hole ever since. Booze isn’t just about booze at all, but you can smoke here—its owner registered the building as a political party headquarters to get around the Greek indoor smoking ban.
6 Leokoriou
Blink and you might miss it. There’s not even a sign to alert you to Cantina Social, a hidden gem of a dance bar. It’s nestled into a vacant space at the end of an alley, wedged between two buildings in Monastiraki. By day, antique dealers and actors chat over coffee and cigarettes in the secret courtyard. After dark, the cool kids of Athens congregate at absolutely all hours to drink and groove in a low-key, intimate atmosphere. Simple but funky decor, intentionally inexpensive drinks, neighborhood regulars, and great music by resident DJs that veers wildly from indie pop to disco beats are standard; the occasional exhibition or event spices things up. Always open.
Pireos 84, Athina 104 35, Greece
Rooftop cocktail bars are a new craze in Athens, but this place was 20 years ahead of the curve. A prime Athens spot on a hot summer (or spring, or fall) night, Bios is a hybrid of watering hole and cultural center—the rooftop bar is legendary for perfect Acropolis views, but there’s a lot more going on inside: two music halls, a theater, rehearsal rooms, exhibition areas, and additional hangout zones. Events are well-visited by the Athenian cool crowd, but the atmosphere is relaxed, not contrived. Come for culture, company, and sweeping views over the city’s rooftops, under the stars of the warm Greek sky.
Leof. Vasilissis Sofias 46, Athina 115 28, Greece
On the rooftop of the Athens’ slablike Hilton Hotel, the Galaxy Restaurant & Bar serves elegant cocktails and delectable Mediterranean cuisine—but here the nearly cinematic view of the Greek capital steals the show. Come at dusk and take a seat on the terrace to watch the sky gently blanket the ancient city in blue, then darken and sparkle. Glamorous and alluring, this venue usually attracts an international crowd.
Inside Athens’ tony Hotel Grande Bretagne, Alexander’s is sophisticated, old-school, and incredibly appealing. Dark wood, dark marble, and tapestries (the one behind the bar, which dates to the 18th century and depicts Alexander the Great, is how the bar got its name) frame the elegant scene. Classic cocktails and a vast array of whiskeys, brandies, and cognacs are on offer from knowledgeable bartenders. The dress code is “smart casual,” so be sure to don your glad rags. There’s also a cigar lounge up on the first floor, with a roaring fire in the winter.
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