With almost year-round sunny weather the norm in Athens, most venues have some sort of outdoor seating. Even during the coldest months of January and February, many people still choose to sit outside – if weather permits – with heaters beaming down on them.
The options are seemingly endless – you can teeter on the sidewalk, hide away in a courtyard or relax in a luscious garden, with each setting providing a different vibe. Though it’s difficult to name the best spots, here are some of our favorite restaurants and bars with outdoor seating that we gravitate towards in the summer months (and particularly this summer, as the pandemic has forced us all outside). We tried to pick something for every kind of occasion, whether you’re looking for a terrace with a view, a hidden downtown oasis or an escape to the leafy suburbs.
By the Glass
A great downtown spot for wine lovers, By the Glass is located near Syntagma, right behind the Russian Church, on the historic Rallou Manou Square. During Roman times, this area housed baths. Centuries later the square was named after Rallou Manou, a prominent Greek dancer who founded Hellenic Choreodrama, a performance group that presented Greek dance-dramas – she lived in the area with her husband, architect Pavlos Mylonas. We enjoy coming here for dinner in their garden, especially on one of the jazz nights they often organize during the summer. While the food is delicious, the focus is undoubtedly on the wines: They have a very wide variety of wines with labels from Greece and abroad, many of which you can taste and enjoy in either 25 ml, 75 ml or 150 ml glasses.
Ama Lachi stis Nefelis
A hidden oasis of fragrant lemon trees, geraniums, bougainvillea and jasmine in the densely built neighborhood of Exarchia, Ama Lachi stis Nefelis (If by Chance at Nefeli’s) is a modern mezedopoleio housed in a historical neoclassical building that used to be the public primary school in the area. The crowd here is usually young and includes intellectuals, university students, hipsters and couples, all enjoying the enchanting stone-paved courtyard and the casual, vibrant atmosphere. The kitchen turns out traditional Greek dishes with a modern slant, such as baked chickpeas with smoked pork – one of our favorites. They have a great selection of traditional cheeses from around Greece that can pair with glass of wine or tsipouro, depending on the choice.
To Steki tou Ilia
When we’re craving lamb chops, To Steki tou Ilia is our first port of call, especially in the summertime. Here we can combine the pleasures of eating fantastic charcoal grilled lamb chops and dining al fresco. There are two branches on the same road, both equally good and with the same menu. The choice comes down to what kind of mood we’re in. The first branch on Eptachalkou Street, right next to the Church of Saint Athanasios, opens into a breezy and shady secret courtyard. Whereas the second branch down the road has tables on the sidewalk, under the shade of trees, where we like to watch people walking by (it’s a pedestrian street) and the waiters running to and fro carrying huge trays full of food.
Trattoria Italia D’Onofrio
When it comes to food, Onofrio Ioakimidis takes his inspiration from both the north and the south. His love for cooking blossomed in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, where he was born and raised, but his grande amore with the culinary arts really began with his grandmother Constanza who was originally from Napoli. Trattoria Italia D’Onofrio, his first venture in Athens, is our favorite spot for southern Italian food. Not only is everything handmade, but there is a quiet, charming little courtyard at the back, beautifully lit and decorated with Onofrio’s special touch – it’s ideal for a romantic dinner or a friendly summer gathering around the table.
Formerly the site of Cine Psyrri, an outdoor summer cinema, the lovely, welcoming garden of To Lokali offers shade and often a breeze, both of which can be in short supply in the peak of summer. Before opening last year, the space was redesigned; now small and large tables are scattered among olive and mulberry trees (typical to Athens) and other greenery. The mix-and-match chairs are retro and funky – some were even sourced from old summer cinemas. Lokali is a hip “Greeklish” word for true locals, which is who you’ll find here from the late afternoon until the wee hours. We like to come for Greek breakfast and one of their excellent coffees, or later in the day with friends for mezes and Greek-inspired cocktails.
Smack dab in the Monastiraki flea market area, the city’s oldest bazaar, Avissinia Square is always a great spot for discovering beautiful treasures (and junk!). It’s also home to Café Avissinia, which Ketty Koufonikola opened here in 1986 because the location reflected her own interest in art and antiques (Ketty’s son Nikolas runs things now). Although we love sitting inside and admiring the antique-filled interior, the rooftop terrace is equally enchanting, mostly because of its stunning view. It’s often too sunny to sit up there in the middle of the day, but from sunset until closing time, the terrace is pure magic.