Zografou Athens is a primarily residential district that sits on the southeastern edge of downtown Athens. The bustling promenade of Vasilissis Sofias separates Zografou from Kolonaki and Ampelokēpoi.
Uncovering Zografou, Athens
This is not an area that you will typically stumble across during your Athens itinerary. Not only is the district a little out of town, there are not really any famous historical attractions to draw you here.
Zografou is just east of Kaisariani, Hilton, and Ilisia respectively. It is approximately 4km away from the city centre.
However, that is not to say that Zografou is not worthy of your time. Zografou is filled with charming plateias (squares) lined with traditional coffee shops (kafenions) and cosy dive bars.
In recent years, Zografou has become known as one of the city’s main student districts. This is on account of the fact that the National Technical University of Athens campus is situated here, and the rent in the area is generally very affordable.
Heading slightly farther south, you leave the neighbourhood limits of Zografou and find yourself at Kaisariani Monastery and the foothills of Mount Immitou. This is simultaneously one of the best, and most underrated hiking trails in Southern Greece.
If you have only a day or two to spend in Athens, it isn’t necessarily worth coming to Zografou. However, if you have ample time to spare, consider stopping by for a coffee and a stroll.
Zografou is just one more of many of Athens’ little districts, each with their own personalities, that combine to make up the rich tapestry of modern Athens.
A Little History of Zografou
Zografou Athens takes its name from Sotirios Zografos, the first president of the community here. Historically, Zografou was nothing more than farmlands and forests.
It was not until the mid 20th century that housing developments started to pop up in the region in order to service Athens’ growing population. Zografou became a municipality in 1947/8, encompassing the neighbouring zones of Ano Ilisia and Goudi.
Things to do in Zografou, Athens
Shop for Fresh Produce at a Laiki Agora
Many Athenians still prefer to buy their fruit and vegetables at local farmers markets as opposed to supermarkets. After all, the products are fresher, and more competitively priced. These markets are known locally as “laiki agora”.
Once a week, certain streets around the neighbourhood are closed off as farmers set up stalls. Freshly picked, colourful Mediterranean produce is sold in abundance.
So too, are homemade pies, pastries and jams. It is not uncommon to see stalls of people selling their old, unwanted clothing and bric a brac at Athenian farmers markets either.
Similarly, this can be an opportunity to sample Greek street food. Sumptuous, marinated meat is often barbecued over grills and prepared into gyros and souvlaki.
An Athens street food favourite is surprisingly, the simple and unpretentious corn on the cob. In Autumn and Winter, you will note a lot of vendors preparing chestnuts.
Hike to Kaisariani Monastery
The mention of Athens may conjure up images of a bustling, congested megalopolis. However, the city does have its share of green spaces and nature.
From Zografou, you can walk or take the bus to Vyronas forest. From there, it’s a short twenty-minute walk to the spectacular Kaisariani Monastery.
Surprisingly, the monastery does not make it into most Athens guidebooks. It dates back to the 11th century. However, it is widely believed that some form of a shrine has stood here for centuries – even before the current monastery’s construction.
A small stream runs parallel to the monastery and it was once said that the water had healing properties if consumed or bathed in. Sadly some of this magic has somewhat disappeared today.
Instead, you will find a sign adjacent to the monastery which reads “not potable, unsanitary water”. It’s not quite so alluring or mysterious!
The interiors of Kaisariani Monastery are as impressive and beautiful as its external facades. The walls inside are laden with colourful frescoes depicting various scenes from the bible.
There is a little coffee shop here where you can stop for a Freddo espresso or a cool glass of water. From there, it is up to you if you want to continue hiking up Mount Hymettus or backtrack to Zografou.
Trek up Mount Hymettus
Various footpaths weave through the woodlands on the slopes of Mount Hymettus. Here, shaded by fragrant pine and cypress trees, you can follow worn trails to secluded woodland monasteries and the ruins of old churches.
In particular, look out for the ruins of an old Christian basilica on Taxiarchis Hill,
If you so wish, and you are prepared, you can hike to the summit of Mount Hymettus. A transmitter park and a military radar are located.
An asphalt road runs all the way to the top. So, if hiking isn’t your thing, its possible to drive up here.
At the peak, you can enjoy sweeping vistas across the entirety of central Athens and its surroundings. The port of Piraeus and its bright blue waters are visible from up here. On a clear day, you can see all the way out to the Saronic islands.