The Suburb that Never Sleeps
Glyfada sets the pulse of southern Athens. Its coastal location gives it a feel of the French Riviera – or Miami, with endless selections for shopping, clubbing, eating and drinking On Zissimopoulou, competition is so hot that café owners compete to entice famous personalities so that the rest will follow.Lifelong Glyfada resident Anastasia Luisa Moschos takes a tour of the most elegant boutiques, the trendiest cafes and most ostentatious clubs.
Growing up in Glyfada, my teenage years were spent hanging out at Royal and Queen Burger and going to the movies at Anna Dor Cinema. These stekia (haunts) no longer exist: today’s teens while away the hours at Starbucks, which is so popular that there are no less than three in the suburb, MacDonalds and Cinepolis, an impressive four-screen indoor cinema.
Gone, too, are the airport – or at least all activity on the now silent, desolate expanses of runway – and the American air force base, the personnel who gave a Yankee flavour to the area replaced by well-heeled Russians and Serbs. And gone, contrary to all pessimistic predictions, are the nose-to-tail traffic jams and double-parked cars that used to line Glyfada’s main avenue, which is now traversed only by Pinfarina-designed trams, shoppers and strollers. (The traffic jams and chaotically parked cars have simply moved out a block or so, but of that more presently.)
With the advent of the tram, providing a direct link to Syntagma Square and the construction of ambitious sporting venues on two sides of the suburb ahead of the 2004 Olympics, Glyfada has had not just a facelift but an all-over body reshape. But, in all the changes, it has retained its character – and its inimitable allure.
Located at the foot of Mount Hymettus and embraced by the Saronic Gulf, Glyfada is one of the most expensive residential areas in Greece (the municipality has attracted more than 30,000 residents) and hosts the main shopping district of the southern suburbs. As well as all the latest clothing and accessory stores, Glyfada features countless elegant cafes, restaurants and the city’s most breathtaking open-air waterfront night clubs, which come alive during the summer months.
Metaxa Street is the main high street that runs through the centre, from Agios Konstantinos church all the way to the indoor swimming pool and sports facilities of Glyfada. Comprising a wide variety of fashion shops, beauty salons, cafes and many other stores, Metaxa was once a heavily congested traffic trap. Before the grand arrival of the Olympics, tram lines were hastily laid down along the centre of Metaxa and the remainder of the street was pedestrianised.
This initiative to take Glyfada into the future as a greener, more pedestrian-friendly shopping centre has largely been successful, bringing a pleasant change of character to the high street, with the green grass growing between the tracks, the sleek tram slipping along the central reservation, and the dramatic reduction in air and noise pollution now that the cars are gone from Metaxa (all but a few, the owners of which seem to feel they are above the law). However, the flipside has been that the traffic has overflowed onto the surrounding roads as people continue to prefer their cars to the tram, and a desperate parking problem has been created around Glyfada’s central hub. This issue is gradually being addressed by the construction of several underground pay parking facilities, which will no doubt attract even more cars.
The pedestrianisation of Metaxa has also angered some shop-keepers along the main drag, who complain about a drop in business since cars were diverted. Increasing rental charges on the high street have forced many shops to move into cheaper neighbouring streets – creating new retail havens.
The larger, more commercial stores, like Kalogirou shoe shop with its great variety of designer shoes and the well-known Spanish chain Zara have maintained their position on the main high street, but smaller boutiques have moved into the parallel streets. This shift has transformed Kyprou Street, at the level of Esperidon Square, into an important shopping destination, with high-fashion shores like Ensayar, one of the oldest boutiques in the area stocked with upmarket brands like Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana and Paula Ka. A refreshing Milan-style boutique, Ensayar’s experienced sales assistants make every effort to ensure that their customers walk out of the shop content with their new purchases.
Nearby Kokkoris Eyewear is a paradise for anyone addicted to eyewear (I must confess here that I fall into this category). It offers a selection of models, ranging from classic Ray Bans to the latest from Tom Ford, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, to name but a few. The customers flocking into the store daily create an atmosphere that resembles the fever of sales time at Harrods!
Moving out into the adjoining streets around Esperidon Square, Body One Lingerie stocks reasonably priced lingerie basics in classic designs but also more seductive evening sets, as well as exotic collections of colourful swimwear and beach accessories. Meanwhile Enny di Monaco is the main supplier in Greece of Christian Louboutin red-soled shoes. Anyone who has had the privilege of wearing these shoes (they come with a heavy price tag) will agree that, despite the incredible height of the heels, they are extremely comfortable. Alongside the fabulous shoes, customers can browse the well-selected collections of day- and eveningwear displayed in this store.
Metaxa high street mainly consists of little shopping centres, fashionable in the 80s and 90s but unfortunately not designed in any unison to compliment each other. Many shops are located in and around these shopping centres. In the Florida Mall there is a little shop called the East of India, one of my latest finds, with a selection of home accessories, traditional fabric teddies and ribbons imported from England which are used to decorate and are purchasable by the metre.
In the Oscar shopping centre, a friendly smile welcomes you into ZerTeo, a new jewellery shop where consumers can shop or just lounge in the relaxed and hospitable atmosphere. Browse the attractive collection of jewellery and favourably priced ornaments, before enjoying a kerasma (offering) whilst waiting for your gifts to be wrapped. It is owned by twin brothers whose gentle disposition ensures that just browsing is perfectly acceptable, and it’s an ideal place for purchasing original gifts – or just for treating yourself!
When you’re ready for a break from shopping, you’ll find that there is a tempting café or restaurant within a few steps of all the main stores. The beauty of living by the sea is the relaxed pace that the sea air encourages – and what better way to relax than sitting at one of the many comfortable and sophisticated cafes.
On this side of the high street you will find the newly relocated Ache Café Bar Restaurant. Divided into three main lounge areas with minimalist décor, Ache (the name means ‘blessed place’ in Spanish) is open all day long. In the Express lounge area coffee-lovers sip away against a background of sky-blue light reflected from the interior wall, which creates a soothing and relaxing ambience. Further into this ‘abyss’ is the interior restaurant, serving a variety of international dishes and creative sushi selections influenced by the colourful flavours of the Far East, and the bar area where trendy people mingle whilst sipping cocktails to the beat of music carefully selected by the DJ until the early hours of the morning.
Before its transformation to an innovative new entry on the Glyfada nightlife scene, Ache was called EgoMio and was a staple on upbeat Zissimopoulou Street, Glyfada’s café central. Here, busy cafes overflow with customers sipping their coffee at a snail’s pace while people-watching through their sunglasses. On Zissimopoulou, competition is so hot that café owners compete to entice famous personalities so that the rest will follow. Café Café – furnished with designer fabrics and serving fusion cuisine alongside a variety of teas and coffees – is a favourite, particularly in summer months for its chilled interior and exterior fans that emit a gentle, cooling spray. It would be rude not to mention Oscar, the original café that turned this street into what it is today. Despite all the competition, this classic café has firmly managed to keep its prime position in the café scene.
Further along Metaxa, don’t miss Del Corso, an Italian-style espresso bar where customers can buy excellently brewed coffee, and Magnolia, a trendy café/bar designed in shades of grey stone with fresh white touches, serving quality coffee, light snacks and sushi during the day and cool cocktails at night.
Due to the residential nature of Glyfada and the Mediterranean culture of bringing the kids along on all occasions, there are many family-orientated restaurants in the area. Balux Home Project, a spacious beach house located right on the sandy coast with a breathtaking view out to sea, is a place where children can run around the spacious grounds whilst their parents watchfully enjoy their breakfast or lunch, young adults can pass their time surfing the net or playing pool and board games in the playroom and couples and friends can enjoy each others’ company in the relaxed atmosphere of this establishment, which is divided into eating, living and lounging areas like a home.
Escaping onto the quieter sidestreets of Glyfada, you will find many hidden gems. Liana’s Kitchen serves home-cooked dishes prepared by Liana and her assistant with totally organic ingredients in her open kitchen. Decorated with delicate pale wooden furniture, this charming eatery makes you feel that you are eating in a friend’s kitchen and is a quiet and healthy alternative to the noisy fashionable cafes prevalent in Glyfada.
Situated on the upper side of Glyfada, Aioli serves home-cooked meals by Despina, a Greek-Canadian who adds her delicate personal touches to the Greek menu, while Vincenzo is a family-friendly Italian trattoria specialising in tasty pasta dishes and clay oven-cooked pizzas. The seating area in the garden at the back of the restaurant is particularly popular.
When the shops start to shut in the early evening, the restaurants step into the limelight. There are enough restaurants in Glyfada to satisfy every gastronomical preference, from the timeless Tartare – a French Bistro next to the golf course, where Odysseus and his mother offer their clientele exceptional service complimented by the kind of food that would be enjoyed in a Parisian bistro – to the simple trattoria Il Salotto, where the pasta is homemade and the olive oil used is transported directly from the owner’s olive grove in Kalamata.
Taking advantage of the seafront position is La Tienda, a restaurant bar located between the blue shades of the sea and the swimming pool around which the tables are situated. The Argentinean rhythm of the soundtrack compliments the flavours of the prime steaks and meat dishes on offer, along with the refreshing exotic cocktails served on hot summer nights.
At Babae night club, a seaside open air club popular amongst the energetic new-comers to the club scene, the party begins late in the night and clubbers dance all night long to the beat of the latest dance tunes. Thalassa, within the complex, was once a purpose built night club called Amfitheatro, due to its resemblance to a theatre – with the stage being the sea. With live performance of Greek music from popular singers, the night begins in a subtle mood of drinking and socializing and turns into a vibrant mood of everyone dancing everywhere and especially on the tables in the early hours of the morning.
Capri Bay is the next hit on the club scene, a new venture of Jimmy Stathokostopoulos, the man behind many of the city’s trendy restaurants and clubs. A sister establishment to the well-loved T-Palace in central Athens, this chic Moroccan-style venue with its mainstream rhythms is the latest fad of the summer.
Glyfada sets the pulse of southern Athens. Its coastal location gives it a feel of the French Riviera – or Miami, while the endless selections for shopping, clubbing, eating and drinking make it an attractive year-round destination for Athenians or visitors from further afield. The suburb that never sleeps, it is enticing all year round but truly irresistible in midsummer, when the sea breeze and salt spray offer immediate relief from the white heat of central Athens.
By car: Glyfada is connected to Athens by two major avenues: Vouliagmenis, which starts from the Temple of Zeus, and Posidonos, which runs along the palm-lined coast.
By tram: Take the tram from Syntagma Square in the direction ‘Kolymvitirio’ (Swimming pool). It is a roughly 45 minute ride to Metaxa Street in Glyfada.
- Body One Lingerie – Laodikis 41 – 210 8946465
- East of India: Metaxa 33, tel 210 894 0135
- Enny di Monaco: Laodikis 41, tel 210 894 0153
- Ensayar Donna: Kyprou 55, Esperidon Square, tel 210 894 3034
- Kokkoris Optics: Esperidon Square 3, tel 210 898 0850
- ZerTeo: Metaxa 24-26, tel 210 894 6682
- Ache Bar Restaurant: Kyprou 57, tel 210 894 2949
- Aioli Restaurant: Artemidos 9, Esperidon Square, tel 210 894 0181
- Café Café: Zissimopoulou 9, tel 210 894 4996
- Del Corso: Metaxa Street 22, tel 210 898 0215
- Il Salotto: Botsari 13, tel 210 894 8397
- La Tienda: V Georgiou B 58, Asteras Glyfada, tel 210 894 1620
- Liana’s Kitchen: V Georgiou B 10 & Laodikis 30, tel 210 894 7924
- Magnolia Café Bar: A Metaxa 6, tel 210 894 8522
- Nest Café Bar: Zissimopoulou & Lazaraki 45, tel 210 898 6035
- Tartare: Panagouli 52, near Golf Course, tel 210 968 0320
- Vincenzo: Giannitsopoulou 1, tel 210 894 1310/210 894 1425
- Balux Home Project: Posidonos Avenue, Asteras Glyfada, tel 210 898 3577
- Babae night club: Posidonos Avenue, Asteras Glyfada
- Capri Bay club/restaurant: Grigori Lambraki 2, Asteria Glyfada, tel 210 894 9995
- Thalassa – Possidonos Avenue Asteras Glyfada