Greece’s ancient capital emerges as a design powerhouse with colossal ambition.
From the Olympic Games to democracy, we’re all familiar with Greece’s most famous ancient exports. In modern times, the country’s capital continues to inspire as one of Europe’s buzzing hubs of creativity. Visions of Greece often go to the Cyclades islands—whitewashed buildings against the blue Aegean Sea. But in Athens, the word that comes to mind is plurality.
“The city is complex and multidimensional,” says Minna Kolaki, cofounder of AKA, a design and architecture studio based in Athens and Washington D.C. “Many architectural styles coexist there, from art deco to neoclassical, and of course, the Athenian apartment buildings.”
In Athens, covered walkways, rooftops, basements, and secret gardens host cafés, bars, restaurants, and clubs. “The commercial center is a maze, like an Eastern bazaar,” says Kolaki. “Then there’s Piraeus, the ancient port, which is experiencing a creative renaissance in between the auto-repair shops and old stone warehouses.”
World-class galleries like Gagosian, Rodeo, and Carwan have set up shop there, surrounded by a flood of stylish eateries, bars, and boutique hotels. Young Greek entrepreneurs are eco-aware, producing locally made goods from renewable, eco-friendly materials.
Kolaki credits Athens’s creative energy to several factors, among them its accessible, high quality of life and mild year-round climate. But as the country continues to rebound from an economic crisis, Greeks—particularly young Athenians—are thinking outside the box to stand out.
“Since antiquity, Athens has been a crossroad between the East and the West,” says Kolaki. “But this recalibration is bringing new ideas, the return of Greek diaspora, and an influx of foreign creatives.”
Bring the Athens Look Home
Shop Sophia for Athens-inspired objects, wall art, quirky bookends, and their famous rainbow-colored Ancient Greek busts ($215).
Coffee Table Cool
The big, beautiful book Athens Riviera (Assouline) ($95) has all you need to know about the iconic area.
Protect your home from negative energy with this handmade pendant (starting at $15), a modern version of the classic evil eye.
X Marks the Spot
Design-wise, there’s nothing more quintessentially Greek than the Greek key pattern. These X-benches ($330) use it in moderation, to very cool effect.
Christina Morali makes pieces inspired by Athens, including these adorable little ceramic figs ($36).
Better Beach Towel
These locally woven towels ($60) are sand- and mold-resistant and quick drying, and they’re cute enough to be worn as a sarong.
By Paul Jebara | Illustration by Amrita Marino | Feature photograph by Getty Images | Hotel photographs by Ioanna Roufopoulou for Monsieur Didot Hotel, Pia Riverola for Shila Hotel, and courtesy of Evripides Hotel | All product images courtesy of the brands