Kypseli is a neighbourhood in central Athens and one of the oldest urban areas of the city. Kypseli until the beginning of the 20th century was a rural area with a few estates and country houses (Konstantinos Kanaris a hero of the Greek revolution lived here). In 1908 it was bounded and planned by the engineer Athanasios Georgiadis. The urban transformation started in the 1930s when family houses and the first modern apartment buildings began to be constructed. The earlier houses were built in neoclassical style but after the 1930s the newer houses and apartment buildings were influenced by international trends such as Modernism, Bauhaus and Art Deco. In the 1960s Kypseli was inhabited basically by middle and upper-middle-class families and at the same time had a vibrant nightlife with theatres, night clubs and restaurants, especially around Fokionos Negri Street.
During the 1990s the popularity of the area began to decrease and most of the families moved to the northern suburbs of the city. At the same period, due to the fall in rents and houses prices, immigrants from Africa and other countries began to rent and occupy houses and flats in the area. Kypseli also was for many decades a place where many artists, actors, writers, musicians and intellectuals used to live and work, and therefore has a strong artistic tradition. At the same period many well-known theatres were operating at Kypseli and therefore was a favourite place of the actors and actresses who worked there.
In the last decade Kypseli is gaining back its identity. New Greek families are moving here, while immigrant families, after so many years, consider themselves natives. Many new shops open, among the old ones that exist here for many generations, along with new cafes, restaurants and bars, which are reviving the nightlife of Kypseli. Kypseli has been transformed into a melting pot of ethnic identities and civilizations. It is an urban area that signals the transformation of Athens into a new metropolitan city. It is an area that catches the vibe of a changing city and transforms it into a way of life. The new jazz bar, the old tavern, the Pakistani barbershop and the African hair parlour could co-exist side by side in the same street. The road is still long but its starting point is here. No wonder Time Out magazine has put Kypseli in the 16th place of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world (read here the whole Time out article).
A small walk around the center of Kypseli will convince you of the unique identity of this part of the city. Start north at Konstantinos Kanaris Square, with the statue of the Greek hero, walk down the pedestrian Fokionos Negri Street and at no. 42 you will meet the building of Kypseli Municipal Market. A historical landmark of the area was built as a food market in 1935. The building was recently renovated by the Municipality of Athens and now operates as a local hub for small businesses and events. In the market, there is a flower shop, a bar with fresh juices, a second-hand shop, an art gallery and a few other establishments.
Continue your walk at Fokionos Negri Street and you will come across many cafes, restaurants, shops and some fine examples of urban architecture. Great choices during your walk along this street are the grill-souvlaki tavern Rigani (at No. 15), the Italian restaurant Roka kai Rodi (at no. 31) and the cafe Select (at no. 26), a characteristic place that has been operating at this location since 1945. The old Athenians remember this place as a pastry shop where you could find the famous “serano” cake, named after the soprano Rozita Serano, who sang at various clubs of the area during the 1950s. Finally, if you are a music lover, you should visit Fokionos Records (F. Negri & Plateia Kypselis 12-13) a shop with a significant collection of rare vinyl and music CDs.
From Fokionos Negri follow left Drosopoulou Street. Drosopoulou used to be the main commercial road of the neighbourhood during the previous decades but today only a few shops survive. Along the street you can see some of the most important and pure examples of interwar architecture in Athens. From Drosopoulou Street turn left at Ithakis Street in order to reach the new heart of Kypseli, the upcoming St George’s Square with the characteristic brass lamppost at the center [pictured at the top of the page]. The lamppost pictures three small love gods was placed here during the first decade of the 20th century and resembles the lampposts of Pont Alexandre III in Paris.
Around the square, which has become extremely popular in the last years, you could find excellent choices for food, coffee and drink. Kyveli is a Greek restaurant with dishes originating from various regions of Greece. Nostimies tis Mairis is another restaurant with great fish, meat and traditional dishes, which has a loyal clientele consisting of artists and actors. Another choice is the grill-souvlaki tavern Dionysos. This place is the oldest on the square, with a tradition of many decades and the reputation that serves the best gyros in town. Two popular spots on the square for coffee and drink are Allotino Jazz Bar and It’s a Village. An interesting detail is the half-made block of flats above It’s a Village. According to the urban legend, the owner abandoned the construction when a fortune-teller told him that if he do so, he will die.
From St George’s Square move on towards Kypselis Street, another central street of the area. At the corner of Kypselis and Ithakis Street, the cafe Kypselaki will amaze you with its coziness and old-Athenian style. A little further from there at no. 65 on Lesvou Street you will find the best bakery in the neighbourhood. Stergios Bakery is ideal for fresh bread, pies, sweets and its specialty, croissant stuffed with cheese and ham. Finally head towards Patision Avenue, an important main road of the city. The part of Patision Avenue along Kypseli was for many decades one of the most commercial streets in Athens and also an area where many of the most well-known cinemas were located. After a downfall, the previous decade, Patision along with Kypseli is claiming again its place in the everyday life of the city. At no. 136 the historical bar Au Revoir is operating without stop since 1954 and has been the meeting point of the Athenian intelligencia since then.
Kypseli is not a tourist destination, it is a place where you could catch the city’s real vibe. If you visit Kypseli you will see the beginning of a new era for the city. A mixture of civilizations and cultures, tolerant to all kinds of diversities. Come here without prejudice and feel the beating heart of a city, which is trying to change.