Makrigianni – Veikou - Koukaki

The new talk of the town is right beneath the Acropolis and 5´ away from the city center. As you walk right there on Drakou str. it feels that you are walking through another era. The buildings are of all sorts. Neoclassical, apartment buildings from the 30s, coffee houses and modern bars are all coexisting in this complicated city. There are not many places where you can find large department stores, multinationals and small shops together with one of the most important museums of the world. People living here seem to know each other and seem ready to welcome you to their homes. Seven out of ten own a pet and the other three are animal lovers, people at a pet shop tell me.

On Tsami Karatasou street, the last street with neoclassical houses, salvaged thanks to Melina Merkouri, I stumble upon the “mosaic” house. In the museum – house, owned by Mrs. Theodoraki, daughter of the famous composer, there are mosaics from Tunisia, Turkey, and even mosaic of Van Gogh's paintings coming straight from the Netherlands adorn the inner court. On the purple door there is a sign welcoming you “the soul of the house” and a stairway full of blooming dahlias. As you walk towards Dionisiou Areopagitou, next to the Weiler building, you will find the Acropolis Museum inaugurated in 2009. The walkway still maintains the tram bars and ends up at Veikou street with the hostels, launderettes and souvenir shops.

The economic crisis which has been quite evident in this neighbourhood had one positive aspect. Many of the empty buildings have drawn new artists which all gather around the cafés at Olympiou street. I enter one artists studio and I find him teaching little kids but he doesn't seem to get disturbed. “In this neighbourhood whoever wants may come in and take lessons. Koukaki, during the last few years has become a silent art space which everyone can share in” he explains. Small artists' studios, music schools, small theatres and record shops are hidden away in the alleys and are always open to the public.

If you had no idea how up and coming Koukaki is, you can check with Airbnb, the largest house renting network. The company researched the best neighbourhoods in the world and 40 million travelers from 150 countries voted on its international platform and Koukaki is fifth on the list of favourite destinations in the world. Its position so close to the city center, all the small restaurants and bars make it a favourite among tourists, students from the nearby universities and night owls. Take a walk to the Acropolis, the Filopappou Hill to count the stars, have a 2€ coffee at Dimitrakopoulou and go to the parallel of Syngrou Ave. with the underground scene, the famous “Koukles” drag show, sex shops and whatever your heart desires.

During the last few years rents have gone up but the whole area is always a good reason to leave your house. All the old residents hang out in the parks and all agree in that “we live in a neighbourhood where you can go buy a newspaper in your pajamas but at the same time you risk becoming a big city stranger”.

Friendship Club

The Friendship Club at Drakou street is a program run by the Athens City Council and aims to keep the elderly moving. Gymnastics, self defense, physiotherapy, art crafts, music, painting are some of the Club's activities. The program is working with the Alzheimer Association to perform memory tests, has a day care for holidays and organizes talks, bazaars, museum visits and trips. You can become a volunteer at the Friendship Club and help with the program Drakou 24, 2109200269

Emotions Museum of Childhood

What is going on in the world of emotions? In the three museum rooms and at the lower ground floor children and adults can discover their emotions. The exhibition “Hello Mr. Fear" is also translated in English and accepts visitors of all ages on the weekends, specializes on fear. Through games we can find out which are our real fears, when fear protects us, when fear is fun and how this emotion is shared by everyone around the world. This year there is a summer camp organized for elementary school children called “Secrets of the emotions”. Karatza 7 & Tsami Karatassou, 2109218329, www.mce.gr

Action Aid

At the basement of the Action Aid building at Falirou 52 you will find an african hut. Once you have your ticket you sit in an airplane seat and you land at the farm area “Bama”, where you get to be a student at the local school. Action Aid's educational program aims to sensitize school children transporting them to schools where children live in much more different and difficult conditions. The program works with all classes and all schools and you can volunteer and help Action Aid. 2109212321

Avli

The story begins with someone's childhood. The childhood in particular of Kiriakos, Tassos and Konstantinos whose mischiefs upset this neighbourhood so many years ago. They all lived next door to each other and became best friends who hang out at this place. Avli is the oldest place at Koukaki. That's where they had their first dates, smoked their first cigarettes. But amidst the economic crisis Avli closed down. For days and later months the three friends would see the windows shut and thus made up their mind: “We will open it again!” they agreed. And so it was. The old place came back to life and was filled with colours. There is a bicycle on the wall to remind you of the old days and then Avli became the place with the coloured chairs and the talk of the town. It is not clear if it's the familiarity, the low prices, the unique homemade dishes, their excellent pizza, their fine coffee and home made biscuits, their nice cocktails, their great beer selection or all of theses combined. You come once you become a regular. G. Olimpiou 4, 211 4051412, Fb: Êafeneio "Avli”

Barou

All day coffee bar with an attitude, minimal and comfy with empty frames on the walls and cool musicthat becomes more mainstream as the day advances. You can enjoy well made coffees,cold dishes, fresh cocktails. Civilized and friendly Barou opens up at 9 in the morning and stays up till late while once a month they organize theme parties not to be missed. Check them out on fb. Drakou 19, 212 1041879, fb: Barou - Coffee & Drink

Orthi Gonia

Orthi Gonia is a tsipouro place operating like the traditional tsipouradika in Volos. That means when you order 50cl of ouzo, raki or tsipouro you get a small plate at 2€ while the same happens with beer at 2,50€. If on the other hand you are really hungry, their menu contains fish and meats and other dishes like seftalia, kebabs, traditional sausages from Florina and much more. Remember that wines and raki come from a village in the mountains of Crete. Opens at 8 in the morning for coffee. Dimitrakopoulou 82 & Á. Æßííçò 24, 210 9233487, fb: Ïrthi Gonia cafe-snack-raki

Mpampas

On the quiet Falirou street you will find tables out on the little square from early in the morning for a nice coffee until late at night. Great platters for sharing, delicious burgers, snacks and a large Greek beer list. Apart from the bottles there is a great selection of tap beers while every month there is a different guest barrel to try from. Also ouzo, tsipouro, drinks, cocktails all in very nice prices. Falirou 53, 215 5505565,fb: Ï MPAMPAS cafeteria-bar

Garifallo - Kanela

Excellent home cuisine with many oriental dishes you will love, like hünkar be?endi which is small veal pieces with aubergine puree and elbasan which is pork cooked in curcuma and then put on the oven in a yogurt bechamel. The menu is different every day but you can also preorder on the previous day the food you would like. Serving daily except Sundays 10.00 to 18.00, and also make deliveries. Ïd. Androutsou 35 & Zan Moreas 28, 210 9245332, www.garyfallo-kanela.gr, fb: Garifallo Kanela

Fabrica tou Efrosinou

For those unaware Efrosinos is the patron Saint of cooks. This restaurant opened a year ago and apart from the name it also has a blessed cuisine. It's owner, George Gatsos, had a lifelong dream to open a restaurant where he can showcase Greek tradition and culture. He himself studied theology and is fascinated by the Mount Athos cuisine which is based on fresh produce and love. “As cliché as it sounds, cooking with love is the secret to goodfood. And as they say at Mount Athos “love to cook and love the ones you are cooking for”. Unforgettable meat dishes (most of which he cures himself), handmade pies, spectacular salads and so many mezes stand together with an extremely well informed wine list. Love at every bite! Á. Æinni 34, 210 9246354, Fb: Fabrica tou Efrosinou

Laluk

This is much more than a shop. It is true you may come here to have a nice cup of coffee and fresh fruit juices or a rich club sandwich, a burger or a delicious omelet, and a the day passes to enjoy yourself to the sounds of funk and soul rhythms. But Laluk is all that and much more. It has a unique personality and Pitsi the cat (things here are completely pet friendly) on it's own stool. Here pets get treated, fed and even fixed in collaboration with the Athens City council. At the same time there is always a “coffee on the wait” for those in need. You can participate in this just by paying for a coffee and leaving a small sweet note to the one who will drink it. Laluk has on top of all that an attic, ideal for reading and meetings where often life coaching seminars are organized. Oh! If you are a student or unemployed there is a 20% discount G. Ïlimpiou 15, 213 0271894, Fb: Laluk Café-bar

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©Thanassis Karatzas

©Thanassis Karatzas