Once upon a time, the central Athenian district of Kolonaki (far right) was a wealthy residential area where families lived in neo-classical mansions. Here, the long, hot silence of the afternoon siesta was broken only by the screech of cicadas, and the evening promenade to Zappeion Gardens was peopled with suited gentlemen and their bejewelled wives. Fast forward 50 years and the area has changed dramatically. Most of the magnificent old buildings were torn down in the 1960s to make unsightly but profitable apartment blocks, the streets are jammed day and night with double-parked cars and motorbikes, and the air is rent by indignant hooting, shouting and swearing from frustrated drivers. The promenade still takes place - not in Zappeion but in Kolonaki's central square. Despite its transformation into a modern urban jungle, Kolonaki retains some of its old character and class. A visit to the capital is certainly not complete without a morning in Kolonaki, even if you don't plan to patronise the pricey boutiques. Aim to get there at about 10am, when the square's multitude of cafes are beginning to fill with businessmen on their first coffee break, and the rich and beautiful embarking upon an enviably laid-back day of socialising. The best place for people-watching is Da Capo cafe (Tsakalof 1, tel: 210 360 2497) at the start of one of Kolonaki's main, partly pedestrianised, shopping streets, where you can rub shoulders with ministers, models and TV personalities over cappuccino from the self-service bar. Then head up Tsakalof, gazing at the up-to-the-minute selections of Italian, Spanish and Greek shoes in Prasini (Tsakalof 7, tel: 210 364 6258) and Rollini (Tsakalof 11, tel: 210 360 9643), passing the fabulous Gucci shop housed in a refurbished neo-classical house (Tsakalof 27, tel: 210 361 0870), and dropping in at Ice Cube (Tsakalof 28, tel: 210 362 5669). At this high-class lifestyle shop, modelled on Paris' Colette, one can browse through delicious designs by Alice Temperley and Gharani Strok, precious prints from Greek label Aesthetic Theory, and sumptuous evening gowns by local design duo Deux Hommes. Turn right up Voukourestiou Street past the windows of Lakis Gavalas' fashion emporium (Voukourestiou 50, tel: 210 362 9782) and climb a block to aristocratic Anagnostopoulou Street, where Sotris (Anagnostopoulou 30, tel: 210 363 9281) sells goods by a plethora of designers from Prada to Viktor & Rolf. Enjoy wandering along this prestigious street popping into tempting boutiques, then turn into Pindarou Street to find Bettina (Pindarou 40, tel: 210 339 2094), which sells creations by Sophia Kokosalaki, Comme des Garcons and many other formidable talents. Stroll back along Anagnostopoulou until you find a hairpin turn into a narrow road called Xanthou, in which lurks the hidden treasure of Elena Votsi, goldsmith extraordinaire and designer of the latest Olympic medals (Xanthou 7, tel: 210 360 0936). In the parallel street, pop into Left (Leventi 1, tel: 210 723 8937), which stocks, among a variety of Italian shoes, stylish leather flip-flops from the Greek shoemaker Ioannis. Follow this road back down towards Anagnostopoulou Street, keeping ahead of you the clothing emporia Central Prince Oliver (Anagnostopoulou 3, tel: 210 364 5401) and Sofos, an enchanting if pricey girlie paradise where you can buy Diane von Furstenberg tea dresses, among other must-haves (Anagnostopoulou 5, tel: 210 361 8713). Cross Patriarchou Ioakim, Kolonaki's main thoroughfare, to join the crowds peering in the windows of Kalogirou (Patriarchou Ioakim 4, tel: 210 335 6401) at the latest Prada and Dolce & Gabbana heels. Passing Da Capo again, head towards Kanari Street on the other side of the square and amble down this store-packed street until you see a tiny, old-fashioned little parlour with a window full of pretty, colourful shoes and print bags. This is Old Athens (Kanari 17, tel: 210 361 4762), a nostalgic accessories shop created by ex-stylist Vassilis Zoulias, who takes inspiration from the films of the 50s and 60s for his luxury handmade sling-backs, Capri thongs, ballet pumps, totes and clutch bags. Finish off your morning of window-shopping by strolling back up to pedestrian, cafe-lined Milioni Street and stopping for a refreshing cold drink and snack at Armani Caffe (Emporio Armani, Milioni 3, tel: 210 338 9101) to watch the world go by behind the discreet palm fronds of its lush pavement garden.