Kifissia (Greek, Modern: Κηφισιά;, Katharevousa: Κηφισσιά;, Ancient form/Latin: Cephissia) or Kifisia is one of the more exclusive northern suburbs of Athens, mainly accessed via Kifissias Avenue, running all the way from central Athens up to Theseos Avenue in the suburb of Nea Erythraia. It has traditionally been home to the major Greek political families. It is home to ISAP's terminal station, presently a part of the Athens Metro project. The Cephissus river runs to the west of Kifissia and has his name derived from Kifissia, and half of the municipality is taken up by part of the Penteli mountain; the rest is made up of elegant urban areas to the west, surrounded by popular and upmarket areas such as Kefalari and Politeia to the north, and Nea Kiffisia to the south-west. Kifissia is a famous recreational neighbourhood for people of all ages (but mostly teenagers) from all over Athens, because of its many available forms of entertainment; the Cinemax Cinemas, the Kifissia Bowling Center, numerous more fashionable shopping malls, as well as many smaller designer shops and upmarket restaurants, bars and nightclubs. It is also home to the Kefalari Park, the most popular place for younger groups to socialize.
Kifissia, as Cephissia, dates back to ancient times, along with the ancient municipality of Epicephesia. It was the home of the dramatist Menander (circa 342-291 BC). Kifissia became a famous retreat of philosophers during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian, when the wealthy Herodes Atticus of Marathon, Greece built the Villa Kifissia. In his Attic Nights, Aulius Gellius describes the unique ambiance of intellectual ferment and aristocratic leisure in an idyllic setting which he created there. It was also the practice of Herodes to provide free instruction in philosophy for selected youths from Athens. The remains of the some of his family funeral monuments lie at the centre of the town in Platonas Square. He also beautified a sanctuary to the Nymphs in the ravine of Kokkinara, in the nearby district of Kefalari. The history of Kifissia during the medieval period is obscure, but the remains of a monastery church dedicated to the Virgin of the Swallow (Panaghia Chelidonas)is associated with a story about a battle fought there between local people and unspecified "invaders". This chapel is a rare example of a monastery church originally provided with a fireplace, for the chimney remains.
During Ottoman times, in 1667, Kifissia was visited by the Turkish traveler Evliya Tchelebi. He described a small country town set in a fertile plain of paradisaic beauty, with three hundred tile-roofed houses. Half the inhabitants of the town were Muslims and half were Christian. He records that there was a single mosque, without a minaret, and many small Christian chapels - some of which survive today. The temperature in Kifissia tends to be significantly lower than that of the city, so following the independence of Greece, it quickly became a summer resort of the ruling class of the new state.
Although its popularity faded somewhat during the middle of the nineteenth century when the danger of raids by brigands who infested the nearby mountains was very real, the suppression of brigandage, and the arrival of the railway in 1885, led to the dramatic development of the area. It became the fashion for wealthy Athenian families to build summer houses in Kifissia, and keen social competition led to the creation of a unique architectural ambiance, as villas in ever more exotic styles proliferated. For those unable to afford a summer house, many hotels were built, where the slightly less affluent could spend the holiday months rubbing shoulders with their social betters.
The heyday of Kifissia was probably during the inter-war period, when the leaders of the two main rival political parties frequented different hotels in the town together with their most important supporters. Following the liberation of Greece from German occupation in 1944, the British Royal Air Force ill-advisedly made its headquarters in Kefalari, taking over several hotels. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the RAF personnel were first besieged, then forced to surrender, and marched across the mountains into northern Greece; being released in Trikala only after a truce had been arranged.
In July of 2007, residents panicked as Kifissia was struck by a bush fire the origins of which are said to be arson related. The fire consumed much of the eastern, partially forested, portions of the area. It burnt tens of houses and buildings that had been built near the forest boundaries but did not cause as much damage as the fire in Penteli. The fire lasted several hours, finally being put out at about midnight. Firefighters made use of helicopters as well as airplanes to battle the blaze.
|1981||31,876||+18,885 or +145.37% from 1951||1,229.0/km²|
|1991||39,166||+7,290 or +22.87%||1,510.0/km²|
|2001||43,929||+4,763 or +12.16%||1,693.7/km²|