Located on a strip of rather touristy-feeling restaurants, Kafeneio Oraia Ellas (“Cafe Beautiful Greece”) is one of Athens’s oldest kafenion, traditional coffee shops. Dating back to 1839, it was a former gathering place for Athens intelligentsia, as well as visiting literati. Hans Christian Andersen drank here not long after it opened. During WWII, the space took a darker turn as the site of a Gestapo HQ.
The cafe’s history is apparent today in the old ads and posters that coat the walls, and its glass cases stuffed with quirky, ancient bric-a-brac.
Today, the place feels like more of a restaurant than cafe, but it continues to serve unfiltered Greek coffee. You’ll be asked how much sugar you prefer, and your order will arrive at your table in the form of a briki, the tiny, handled copper pot used to prepare the drink, and an espresso cup paired with a cube of Turkish delight.
Simply pour the liquid layer of the briki into your cup, being careful not to also pour the grounds. Because the coffee is prepared the traditional way, slowly roasted over heated sand, it takes a while to arrive—Starbucks this is not.