Kolonaki is an adjective as much as a district: chic, stylish, elite. The area, which stretches from near Syntagma to the slopes of Lykavittos Hill, is where old money mixes with the nouveau riche and wannabes. On a more practical level for visitors, it's also the location of several excellent museums and a delightfully green area. Its cool, tree-shaded streets make a lovely retreat after walking around sun-blasted ruins. Come here to sample Athens' good life, and maybe buy some shoes.
Visitors usually come to Kolonaki first for its superb museums. Given the size of both the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture and the Byzantine & Christian Museum, it's hard to recommend visiting both in a single day. The Museum of Cycladic Art is smaller, and a manageable add-on to the two biggies.
Whichever you visit, it's nice to fuel up with coffee first on the neighbourhood's main square, Plateia Kolonakiou. Lunch at the Benaki Museum is lovely, and then you're set for a little shopping at Kolonaki's many boutiques. If this appeals, be sure to note typical Athens shop hours, with 'late' opening (to 8pm or so) only on Tuesdays and Thursdays; other days, most places close by 5pm or 6pm.
As in most Athens neighbourhoods, there's a hill to climb. Lykavittos is taller than most, but it offers a funicular as a shortcut. The shady footpath up is pleasant, too, when the weather's not too hot. The view at night over the whole glittering cityscape is impressive, and there's a bar-cafe up here to enjoy.
- Benaki Museum of Greek Culture Treating your eyes to all the beauty of Greece, from ancient times through to the early 20th century – in a beautiful building, too.
- Byzantine & Christian Museum Descending into this, well, byzantine series of halls, each one filled with more dazzling gold than the last.
- Museum of Cycladic Art Seeing human life in the simplest forms, the spare marble figures that residents of the Cyclades carved more than 4000 years ago.
- Lykavittos Hill Zipping up to the top of the so-called 'Hill of the Wolves' in a funicular and admiring the view of the whole city.
- (Window) shopping Wandering Kolonaki's shady streets and pausing to admire – and maybe try on, and maybe take home as a precious souvenir – the latest from Greek designers, such as Katerina Ioannidis.
Locals treat museum cafes as regular lunch spots: the Benaki for an Acropolis view, the Cycladic for chic grains-and-greens dining, the Byzantine for the surrounding gardens, and the Numismatic for evening culture.