Anticipating lunch with a view of the beautiful city of Athens? Look no further than the Byzantine and Christian Museum boasting some of the most beautiful gardens in the city. Located in the centre of Athens, this museum has one of the biggest collection of artifacts from Byzantium. The building is of historical importance as it once was the palace of the Duchess of Plaisance. Its café is housed in an extension of the building in the courtyard. The café is also a passage to the recently renovated garden.

Ilissia is the name of the café-bistro that comes from the name of the river Ilissos, buried beneath the buildings and the streets. The palace of the Duchess was also given the name Villa Ilissia. The museum, also, has a magazine named Ilissia. The Ilissos River was once the border of the ancient Athens’ walls. In the mythology, Ilissos was personified as a river-god. It should not be confused with the Elysian Fields which presented the concept of afterlife in ancient Greece.

Photo: Lina Patmali
Photo: Lina Patmali
Photo: Lina Patmali
Photo: Lina Patmali

Even though the museum is located between the most crowded street in the centre of Athens, the moment you enter the place you suddenly leave everything behind. This transformation happens because the museum is surrounded with trees and plants of a truly beautiful garden. The aesthetics of the exterior of the museum gives you a glimpse of the 1840’s and 1850’s Athenian aristocracy. The café looks like a small Parisian bistro with neoclassical details. It maintains the vibes of the old Athens blending them with modern touches. Though, it is small and narrow and doesn’t fit many guests, there is an extension in the courtyard overlooking the newly renovated garden. These area is great if you want to catch the warm Athenian sun!

The café offers visitors a relaxing atmosphere in the shade of the garden. Locals and tourists come here for a coffee, a snack, a dessert or a light meal. The menu is inspired by the Byzantium and the Minor Asian cuisine. However, you can find western dishes like club sandwiches and burgers or Asian aperitifs like spring rolls. There are easy dishes and more delicate and gourmet ones but always, the emphasis is on the Greek elements and ingredients of the Mediterranean.

Visitors can access the café without buying a ticket and after the museum is closed. It is simply perfect for those who want to combine their museum visit with a lunch and for those who look for a quite restaurant or café with green surroundings. The calm and serene atmosphere it preserves can easily offer a small getaway from the hectic urban lifestyle. You can breathe, smell, relax, read a book, meet up with friends and family and taste delicious mediterranean flavours.