Varsos is an emblematic Historic Café that has been operating for over a century in the north of the capital of Greece, in Kifissia, with a great tradition of excellent coffee and distinguish pastry.
Its location characterizes it since Kifissia has always been a summer and permanent residence of many high-income Athenians, but it was also located between the center of the capital and the summer palace of Tatoi since many ministerial and state cars stopped for a short rest or for simple use of the telephone, especially during the turbulent times of the 1960s and beyond.
The Café continues to serve pastries, the way they were made in the past. Using amazing products, they make cakes, cookies, ice creams “made for the kings”! It is a place that you shouldn’t miss when in Athens!
In the 19th century, and specifically in 1890, the founder of the company, Vassilis Varsos left Kastriotissa of Fokis with his brother and came to Athens. At the age of 16, in 1892, he opened a milk product shop at the corner of Panepistimiou and Santaroza Street in the center of Athens.
Already in 1810 Varsos was flourishing as it employed 24 people and had one of the largest refrigerators at the time, with 20 blocks of ice.
In 1922 the family decided to relocate the business in the center of Kifissia because during this period, people there had the major buying power.
During the harsh times of the German Occupation many Athenians came to live in Kifissia, as it was easier to find food there. Pure milk was very hard to find as it was usually watered down. Varsos, in Kifissia, as soon as they received the milk from the producers, immediately distributed it to its clients, thus guaranteeing that it was pure and clean. The respect, honesty and responsibility Varsos showed in his clientele was the main reason that the brand had many loyal customers since.
Konstantinos Varsos, the son of the founder expanded the company’s business before the war, with cheese producing units in Aliveri, Oropos and Kalavryta, which he kept until 1950.
In 1950 Konstantinos Varsos gave a new impetus to the company, as for the very first time in Greece, he imported cows from Holland. A Dutch cow yielded 35-40 kgs of milk, while a Greek one yielded only 8-10 kgs. Of course, the Dutch were selling only cows and no bulls to keep their exclusivity. Konstantinos, as he was a very clever businessman, managed to buy some pregnant cows during his trips to Holland. Most of them lost their calves during their steamship journey, but of the few saved, he managed to get two bulls. He now had the ability to reproduce and improve the breed, something that was a revolution for farm management and milk yield.
1950: Kostas Varsos during the transport of Holstein cows from the Netherlands to Greece
In 1965, the next generation, George and Vassilis Varsos took over the company. Their passion for work increased their business very quickly. In fact, within a few months, an inconceivable number of people were frequenting the Café. According to history, there has been a day that police protection was needed because of the large crowds of people cramming into the Café! The queue of customers had reached Kifissias Square (Trohonomos)!
During the turbulent political times in Greece (July 1965), Varsos was established as a point of reference. On the night of July 14th, ministerial cars began to gather outside the Café. Ministers set up and used the Café’s phones. The store was closed to the public and Catherine Varsou served coffees and croissants to the politicians gathered inside. In the morning hours, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Dimitris Papaspyrou, and Stelios Alamanis arrived and stepped up their efforts so that Papandreou would not resign.
Varsos is the first in Greece to establish in 1980 a microbiological laboratory for milk processing. Entering into a new era, the company operates with the highest standards for quality product production and consumer safety.
In 1992 Varsos celebrated 100 years of continuous operation while in 2012 the salon (living room) and the back interior room of the Café were completely renovated.
Today, the fourth generation is in charge of Varsos, Konstantinos and Antonis Varsos have already put in place new innovative ideas combined with traditional principles. Therefore Varsos is Kifissia’s response to the extremely demanding market environment, technological progress, internet and social media.
For all visitors, Varsos is a comfortable and welcoming Café that has kept its character during the history. The old with the new coexist harmoniously: some of the company’s first machines continue to be housed there in display, as museum items.
“Couple” (1998) in the garden of “Varsos” of Sarantis Karavouzis (1938-2011) Copper smelter: Skurdos Nikos
The New York Times: A wonderland for Greek food souvenirs
“Travelers looking for a sense of where locals in Athens hang out should head to Kifissia, a leafy, upscale suburb north of the city center” wrote the New York Times in an article on Sept. 26, 2017.
Varsos was between the 5 places to visit:
This airy family-run bakery, dating to the late 19th century, is a wonderland for Greek food souvenirs. Bags of pistachios and almonds, jars of honeys and jams (the sour cherry is a best-seller) and packets of dried figs beckon, but the most tempting purchase may be an assortment of the 40 types of cookies, baked in-house daily. The butter and cinnamon varieties are house specialties”.