Greek Food in Athens, Greece
A note from Chef Denise:
Eating in Athens, Greece, can be a little intimidating and overwhelming if you’re not familiar with Greek cuisine or the city where more than 3 million Greeks make their home. In general, the food in Athens is outstanding, and you can find specialties from all around the country in the Greek capital. But if you want the best food Athens has to offer, you’re going to need help from a local. And that’s what this Athens food guide is all about!
In this Guide to Greek Food in Athens, we will explore Greek food culture, Greek specialty dishes, the best restaurants in Athens, the must-try Greek desserts in Athens, Greek wines and wine bars in Athens, Athens food markets, Athens food tours, and Greek cooking classes in Athens. In other words, everything you need to have the best Athens food experiences ever! Enjoy!
Greek Cuisine and Food Culture
One of the best ways to experience and understand a culture is through its food. In places like Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Spain, or Italy, the culinary offerings are a crash course in invasions, colonial eras, trade agreements, and the impact of visiting merchants. All of these elements infuse the simple Mediterranean diet with spices and flavors from far-off places. In Greece, home to one of world’s oldest civilizations, the local food and wine are central to the understanding of Greek culture. In Greece, food is inextricably linked to what it means to be Greek.
Traditional Greek Foods
Greek gastronomy has been recorded in images and texts from ancient times. As in so many other Mediterranean cuisines, the most common dishes of ancient Greece were prepared from wheat and olive oil, and were frugal meals.
Today, the most common vegetables are tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, capsicums, and onions. Beans add protein and bulk to vegetable dishes, stews, and soups. Fresh fish dishes are common on the coast, though you can also find meat dishes featuring lamb or goat, especially inland. Greek cheeses, like feta, kasseri, manouri, and katiki domokou, are plentiful.
Traditional Greek Dishes
Greek food tends to be very flavorful, with nuts and seeds, honey, oregano, mint, garlic, thyme, and fennel among the common ingredients used to create the spectrum of tastes. Many traditional Greek dishes also incorporate filo pastry. Examples include spanakopita (Greek spinach pie), kotopita (Greek chicken pie), and kreatopita (Greek meat pie).
Of the cultures that have influenced Greek cuisine, none is more dominant than the Italian. The Italians introduced pasta-based dishes like pastitsio (Greek lasagna) and pastitsada (Corfu chicken pasta), salami, and mandolato (Greek nougat).
Ottoman cuisine, with combined influences from the Levant, Persia, and Turkey, left traces of the Middle East in such traditional dishes as dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and tzatziki (Greek cucumber dip), as well as borek (savory filo pastry) and baklava. Long ago thought of as exotic imports, these staples are today considered some of the most famous food of Greece.
Regional Greek Cuisines and Greek Specialty Dishes
Cuisine of the Ionian Islands
Beyond mainstream Greek cuisine, you can find a number of regional dishes across the mainland and among Greece’s many islands. And what is iconic on one island may be nothing on another. Some regional specialties include pastitsada, kreatopita, riganada (tomato spread), and fogatsa (Greek sweet bread), all of which are found in the Ionian islands.
On Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, you can find dakos, a popular dish similar to the pan con tomate of Spain or the bruschetta of Italy, but with the addition of crumbled feta cheese. Another favorite dish is stuffed zucchini blossoms called kolokythoanthoi.
There are also plenty of cheeses unique to Crete. Cretan cuisine also includes regional traditional recipes for preparing delicious poultry and fish specialties. There are also many wines specific to Crete, which has been practicing viticulture since the Bronze Age.
In Macedonia, in northern Greece, the cuisine shares a lot with Balkan cuisine, as well as with Anatolian dishes. Lamb is prevalent here, but so is buffalo meat. The food in the mountains tends to be a little heavier than the dishes of the islands. Pork with vegetables, mushroom soups, wild boar meat, and sausages can all be found up here. Moussaka, an eggplant and meat dish, is very common in Macedonia.
Greek Street Food
A common and popular Greek street food is souvlaki, a skewered meat served with fresh pita bread and lemon. In some places, the pita is fried not grilled. Each region of Greece puts a distinct spin on even the classics of traditional Greek cuisine.
Best Places for Traditional Greek Food in Athens
There are great places in Athens for traditional Greek food. Here are some of my favorites:
Taverna o Platanos: Classic Greek Food in Athens
Located in a small square in Plaka, the oldest district in the heart of Athens, Taverna o Platanos is a quiet and picturesque restaurant serving delicious, classic Greek dishes. It has a connection to the arts as well, and this authentic Greek taverna is one of the oldest restaurants in Plaka. It’s a special place near the city centre to relax between taking in the nearby sights and to drink in the Greek tradition of warm hospitality while enjoying authentic Greek food.
Omorfo: Historic Restaurant in Athens
Omorfo is a beautiful historic restaurant in Kolonaki, one of the shopping districts of Athens at the foot of Lycabettus Hill. It offers large portions of homemade dishes like veal with zucchini, pastitsio, and stuffed tomatoes. You will not be disappointed by this exceptional choice for some of the best traditional food in Athens. In addition, several movies have been filmed here, and it remains a popular spot among the intellectual and political sets of Athens.
Klimataria: Sunday Lunch in Athens
Klimataria is one of the oldest tavernas in Athens. And this popular traditional tavern attracts plenty of locals and tourists alike. The courtyard is vine-covered for shade and wine barrels line the interior. The restaurant is well known for its traditional Sunday lunch, featuring some of the tastiest typical food of Greece. It’s also a great spot to enjoy live music every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Kostas: Best Souvlaki in Athens
For souvlaki, a famous food in Greece, there is probably no better place. The souvlaki here is definitely one of the best in Athens, with grease-free pita, pork souvlaki, and all the fixings of Greek yogurt, onion, tomato, and parsley. Going for an early lunch to beat the crowds here is a good idea, because the souvlaki can sell out by mid-afternoon!
Best Places for Dessert in Athens, Greece
Dessert in Athens doesn’t always mean ice cream or chocolate cake. Rather, it can be baklava, mandolato (nougat), fried dough balls, or spiced cake. Greek dessert ties into the rest of the cuisine with its use of honey, spices, nuts, and cheese. These ingredients can be blended to create delightful combinations of sweet and savory.
Nancy’s Sweet Home, aka Serbetospito: Traditional Greek Desserts
Located in Psiri, Serbetospito is known for traditional Greek desserts like kiounefe and kaimaki ice cream.
Krinos: Best Loukoumades in Athens
If you’re looking for loukoumades in Athens, Krinos is where you need to go. Loukoumades are delicious tiny donuts, often served with honey, cinnamon, and crushed nuts. Krinos is one of the oldest confectioneries in Athens, having opened a century ago, back in 1923.
Full Spoon: Best Desserts in the Psiri Distric in Athens
Full Spoon is a modern dessert shop selling homemade pastry, homemade tsoureki, profiteroles, and gelato. It is an absolute must-try in Psiri, the night life capital of Athens.
Choureal: Hand-made Desserts in Athens
Choureal is a patisserie making profiteroles to order. It also offers hand-made ice cream, eclairs, and other small pastries.
Best Wine Bars in Athens, Greece
Greece is one of the countries in the world which has been producing wine for millennia—four millennia to be exact. While Greek wines can be difficult to come by in the United States, you can find wonderful offerings in the Greek capital and bring some back home with you! Some of the Greek wine varietals you might come across include Assyrtiko, a citrusy white, and Athiri, a white with a stone fruit nose.
Red varietals include Xinomavro and Agiorgitiko. Wine is grown in all regions of Greece, though the Cyclades and Peloponnese are the most well-known. You can find a wide array of wines to try at the following wine bars in Athens.
Kiki de Grece: Popular Wine Bar in Athens
Located on Ipitou Street just a short walk from Syntagma, the bustling central square of Athens, Kiki de Grece is a popular wine bar. The list of offerings changes often, and wines by the glass are reasonably priced. They also offer snacks and traditional small plates made with local ingredients.
Heteroclito: 200+ Greek Wines
Heteroclito is a wine bar in central Athens. It is well known for offering more than 200 Greek labels with an emphasis on natural wine-making. The team at Heteroclito will be happy to teach you the basics of wine tasting, and they can also assist with helping you select wines to drink now and suggest which wines to cellar for the future.
Oinoscent: Wine, Beer, and Cocktails in Athens
Oinoscent was founded by two Athenian brothers. It is a large wine bar near Syntagma Square. Oinoscent has an extensive by-the-glass menu as well as some craft beers and cocktails. Their cellar includes more than 1,000 bottles of wine, which you can enjoy on the premises or take away. They also serve a modern food menu focusing on light meals and snacks. Both the wine and food menus change weekly.
Best Athens Food Markets and Shops for Food in Athens
If you want to learn more about what to eat in Athens, you will enjoy exploring the markets and grocery stores of the city. Indeed, some of Athens best food will not be found in its restaurants.
Varvakios Agora (Central Food market): Best Athens Food Market
Varvakios Agora, also known as the Dimotiki Agora (Public Market), is one of the best markets in the city to discover the best Athenian foods. But it is also the spot in Athens, Greek food from all over the country can be found.
This central market is a great place to be dazzled by a near endless variety of fresh seafood and meats. There are olive shops and spice shops. Opportunities also abound to buy Greek cheese, honey, ouzo, and tinned sardines.
Across the street is the fruit and vegetable market, with colorful displays of fresh produce. At and around Varvakios Agora, you can also find Polish delis, Chinese restaurants, Indian/Pakistani shops, Arabic cafes, and non-touristy Greek restaurants.
Evripidou Street: Shop for Greek Spices
This is one of the most diverse streets in Athens. You can find all sorts of seed and herb stores and butcher shops along Evripidou Street. One such store is Elixir, a popular herb and spice shop where you can find Greek spices you’ve never heard of.
Miran: Greek Cheeses and Cold Cuts
Go to Miran for cheeses and cold cuts. It is particularly well known for selling pastourma and soutzouki, both of which are cured meats typically made from veal. Armenian soutzouki is also sold here, which is a lot spicier than the traditional Greek versions.
Pantopoleio Mesogiakis Diatrofis: The Mediterranean Diet Market
Pantopoleio Mesogiakis Diatrofis is a shop that sells only local Greek products. Its main goal is to promote the Mediterranean diet as a healthy and balanced way to eat. You can find all sorts of Greek extra virgin olive oil, pastas, cold meats, and Greek cheeses, as well as Greek wines, liqueurs, and spirits. This is an excellent place to find unique Greek souvenirs to bring home.
Best Athens Food Tours & Cooking Classes
Another way to experience the food in Athens is through a food tour or Greek cooking class. Walking among a maze of street vendors or through the aisles of Athens food markets with a local foodie opens your eyes to things you might not have noticed, appreciated, or recognized on your own.
A Greek cooking class and Athens market tour is one of the best ways to get a deep-dive understanding of the history and culture of the local cuisine. Experience a hands-on class and market tour. You will pick out the ingredients yourself before going to a commercial kitchen and learning from a pro. You’ll also get to eat your creation—even better!
For those without an interest in cooking, you can take an extensive food tour of Athens. Led by an expert, you’ll develop an up-close understanding of the Athens food scene. You’ll explore the markets and local shops, discover the best food trucks, coffee shops, and street food in Athens, try food in tiny boutiques and trendy cafes, and pick up oils, coffees, or wines to take home—along with many memories of the most captivating flavors of Athens.
Final Thoughts on Food in Athens
We hope this Guide to Greek Food in Athens will help you find delicious traditional Greek specialty dishes at the best restaurants in Athens and confidently delve into the best food Athens has to offer!
If you have visited Athens, we’d love to hear what you think of the desserts in Athens, the Greek wines and cheeses, and the wine bars in Athens. Did you go to any Athens food markets, take any Athens food tours, or attend any Greek cooking classes in Athens? What were your favorite foods in Athens? Be sure to let us know in the “Comments” section below.
About the Author
Chrysoula is a travel blogger born and raised in Athens with a professional background in Tourism and Marketing. Through the pages of Athens and Beyond, she seeks to help visitors make the most of their trip to Athens and show them how to navigate the city like an insider. Find Chrysoula online on Facebook and Instagram.
Photos for this article were provided by Chrysoula.
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