Short stays in a new city can be daunting for food travellers like ourselves, as you already have less time in your hands to experience a foodie destination the way you want it. At the same time, you try to keep away from tourist traps, constantly asking yourself: “Am I doing it right? Am I making the most of my time? Is this place actually worth it, or was I misled by outdated or sponsored posts?
As food & travel pros living in Athens our whole life, we come to the rescue.
We’ve put together the ultimate Athens foodie guide to cover as many Greek delicacies as possible. Plus, you can wander around more food-loving neighbourhoods in and off the centre, burning off a few calories for more guilt-free pleasures 🙂
Start off with a cup of coffee
Get your caffeine fix rightly, coz your day of awesome “eating and drinking in Athens” has just begun! And just to quote some ancient Greek wisdom “Well begun is half done”.
Coffee in Greece deserves a chapter of its own. Greeks are big coffee drinkers and can be very particular on how they prefer their favourite beverage. Greek coffee is the main choice in traditional “kafenia”, frequented by people of older age. Engage in their coffee ritual in Mokka, a kafenio that prepares Greek coffee on hot sand. Hard to miss, as the delirious aroma of freshly roasted beans from their store next door will show you the way.
In a modern cafe, or “cafeteria” as called in Greek, you may relish our cold coffee fixations. Frappe used to be the king of ice cubes here, but soon Greeks jumped to the new, better quality “freddos”: Freddo espresso and Freddo cappuccino.
Greece is going through the “Good Coffee Revolution” right now. Many micro-roasters source their own specialty coffee from small-batch farms in Latin America, Africa and Asia, gaining numerous awards and worldwide recognition.
Our pick for the day is Minu cafe, a small urban jungle in the middle of the city, full of bright green plants and excellent design items. No mood for coffee? Try one of their marvellous teas or juices.
Dig in Greek breakfast
Greeks don’t actually do breakfast. Usually we just grab a tiropita (cheese pie) from a local bakery or a koulouri (sesame bread ring) from a street vendor – read more on typical Greek breakfast.
For one day, we have two Athens tips to brighten up your morning with local delicacies.
The old-school choice: One of the oldest surviving dairy-stores of Athens, Stani, awarded for its delicious, gut-friendly yogurt – try the one drizzled with honey and walnuts. Their gold medal and patent are still framed on the wall, and go as far as the ‘50s, (you’ll still see our country referred to as “Kingdom of Greece”). Before you go: grab one galaktoboureko for the road – a decadent Greek custard pastry with phyllo drenched in syrup.
The hip and cool alternative: Instagrammable Wild Souls offer vegetarian spanakopita and other pies made with carefully selected, seasonal ingredients. Their big hit, in our opinion, is the warm served halva, covered with honey, cinnamon and lemon. Don’t leave before tasting their in-house nuts butters, like their silk-textured cashews butter, chunky peanut butter or creamy tahini.
Visit a local market
Markets are the first food spot we hit when we visit a new city, and we recommend the same for you when in Athens, for many reasons.
People watching and cultural interaction: Markets are like open-air culinary art museums where you have the chance to interact with the locals, ask questions and learn as much as you can. Fun is guaranteed, as most of the people are extremely friendly and outgoing. They will joke, tease you, and treat you like a friend, even if they just met you. Prepare to take many pics, but be discreet.
Put your five senses into action: Smell, feel, taste local produce and experience the Athenian way of life first-hand.
Whet your appetite: For your one day route, make sure you don’t miss the covered Varvakios Fish & Meat Market, the open-air vegetables & fruit market across the street, plus Evripidou spice street adjacent to it. Most people miss out on the opportunity to pass by all of them, if they don’t have an exact plan. Don’t worry, you are not one of them 🙂
More days in Athens? Definitely visit “laiki” – a local farmers’ market in your area and “pretend” we are neighbours for a while 🙂 Fridays visit the one behind the Panathenaic Stadium in hip Pangrati and Saturdays take in some couleur locale in gritty Exarcheia. (Sadly in Greek only, copy the addresses in Google maps)
Bonus: Want a local market in Athens off the beaten track? Visit the covered market in Kallithea – even Athenians don’t know its existence if they don’t live around.
Taste Greek products
Local delis hide the most amazing culinary treasure troves, and, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, you really need an extra luggage to bring back home some fair-priced Greek delicacies. Thyme honey, extra virgin olive oil from Koroneiki variety, Kalamata and Amfissa olives, Cephalonian “feta”, Cretan graviera, soutzouki sausage from Drama, mastic from Chios, saffron (krokos) from Kozani. An immense variety of Greek traditional flavours, most of them PDO products, and Greek gourmet products that won over the hearts of international chefs, such as bottarga from Messolonghi.
Tip: Before you purchase anything, first check your local laws and see what can travel with you, otherwise you’ll have to cram in as much as possible. It’s a “dirty job”, we know, but somebody has to do it 🙂
Miran: for a multi-coloured platter of Greek cheeses, cold cuts and salads, served with local brews or spirits.
Kolios: for the infinite assortment of Greek honeys, like thyme from blue zone Ikaria island and chestnut honey from Mount Athos.
Malotira: for the premium tasting selection of Greek extra virgin olive oils that come with a health claim.
Take a break
We are sure you didn’t manage to pace yourselves before, so probably by now it’s time for some more shopping or sightseeing, to get your appetite back. We recommend a beautiful stroll in the sunshine around the most picturesque neighbourhood of Athens, perched right beneath the Acropolis. Like an island “meteorite” fallen into the middle of the city, Anafiotika reminds you of the postcard-pretty Cyclades, with their white-washed houses, colourful windows and serpentine alleys. But instead of floating on the Aegean Sea, they are carved right on the Sacred Rock, home to the Parthenon. Walk up and down the narrow stairs and discover the best vistas of the city, followed by the melodies of Greek bouzouki and cats, lots of cats.
Eat meze in the sun
Following your steps around the Acropolis, the streets in the south will take you to Koukaki, a cute little neighbourhood, that has stolen the hearts of locals and travellers alike.
This is where to practice a Greek favourite pastime, “ to bask in the sun like an octopus”, so as we say. Find your way to the beautiful pedestrian street of Georgiou Olympiou and snag your place in the sun at one of the many chilled-out Greek tapas haunts you’ll find. Our choice would be the no-frills meze place of “Lolos”, picked for its convivial atmosphere, fresh fish, and mama’s like food. Pour in some local beer or ouzo, cling your glasses, and… relax, you are in the right place.
Do it like a Greek: Siesta time
Although not actually a food spot, your lodging is the place to be now, succumbing to the pleasure of a dolce siesta. Refuel your energy with this Mediterranean midday power nap, dreaming happily of your delicious self-guided food walk, for the best is yet to come.
Drink Greek wine at a wine bar
Wine drinking has been in our culture for thousands of years, but only recently the quality of Greek wines have really skyrocketed. Still, most of them are offered in value for money prices and you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy them. If you’ve never heard of the grapes Assyrtiko, Malagouzia, or Xinomavro, now it’s the time to start Part II of your food and drink tour, discovering an intriguing world of more than 200 Greek wines.
Our pick for the evening would be Caravin in Thissio. The owners are well-travelled, open and professional. Designed you will find different Greek wine tastings depending on your drinking style. In case you like Caravin so much and hate to go, ask them to propose bespoke food pairings to enjoy with your wine.
Dine by the seaside or in a new hood
As we said before, this day is not only about eating and drinking your way around Athens, it’s also about exploring our city in short time, unleashing its full potential.
If you don’t want to move far from the area of Thissio, in about 15’ walking distance, you will find yourself in the area of Ano Petralona, surrounded by charming stone houses, blooming yards and smiling faces. This scenic neighbourhood, is where time is captured in a nostalgic setting reminiscent of old black and white Greek movies. To continue with your dinner in retro, visit the Greek taverna of Oikonomou, one of the oldest in Athens, operating since the ‘30s. Their ladera (vegetable or bean stews cooked in olive oil) are the basis of our everyday Mediterranean diet. Here they are like homemade, and you’ll feel like invited to a Greek mama’s home for dinner.
Would you rather opt in for a dinner and walk by the seaside? Take a taxi or the metro to Faliro and visit another time-tested place, Dourambeis, or as known, the shrine of seafood lovers. Fresh, bright green salads, wild herbs and juicy tomatoes form the perfect backdrop of an ambrosial Greek seafood dinner where clams, prawns, octopus and freshly-caught fish are the stars for the night. A walk along the quaint bay of Mikrolimano, will make up for the earlier overindulgence.
Sip cocktails with Acropolis view
No, it’s not time to go home yet, the night is still young if you want to live for a day like a Med. If this is not enough for you, just think of how many times you will have the chance in your life to imbibe a cocktail possessed by the electrifying energy of the Acropolis?
Our picks: Hytra on top of Onassis Cultural Centre for a full 360 view of the city’s skyline or Point A on top of Herodion Hotel right beneath the Sacred Rock, if you want to look at her majesty right in the face.
A Greek foodie experience with a local? Check out all our local food experiences.