A Local’s Guide to Greek Food in Athens
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. In general, the food in Athens is outstanding and you can find specialties from all around the country in its 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 their food. In places like Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Spain, or Italy, the culinary offerings are a crash course in invasions, colonial eras, trade agreements, or passing merchants. They infuse the simple Mediterranean diet with spices and flavors from far-off places. In Greece, the oldest of lands, the food and wine are also central to the understanding of Greek culture.
Traditional Greek Foods
Greek cuisine has been recorded in images and texts from ancient times. Like so many other Mediterranean cuisines, the most common dishes were prepared from wheat and olive oil, and were frugal meals.
The most common vegetables are tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, capsicums, and onions. Beans add protein and bulk to vegetable dishes, stews, and soups. Fish dishes are common on the coast, though you can also find lamb or goat dishes, especially inland. Greek cheeses, like feta kasseri, manouri, and katiki domokou are plentiful.
Traditional Greek Dishes
Greek food tends to be very flavorful, with additions of nuts and seeds, honey, oregano, mint, garlic, thyme, and fennel, among others. Many traditional Greek dishes also incorporate filo pastry, like spanakopita (Greek spinach pie), kotopita (Greek chicken pie), and kreatopita (Greek meat pie).
Of the cultures that have influenced Greek cuisine, none are more dominant than the Italians. They introduced pasta-based dishes like pastitsio (Greek lasagna) and pastitsada (Corfu chicken pasta), salami, and mandolato (Greek nougat). The Ottoman cuisine, with combined influences from the Levant, Persia, and Turkey, include dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and tzatziki (Greek cucumber dip), as well as borek (savory filo pastry) and baklava.
Regional Greek Cuisines and Greek Specialty Dishes
Cuisine of the Ionian Islands
Beyond the mainstream Greek cuisine, you can find a number of regional dishes across the mainland and 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 found in the Ionian islands.
On Crete, you can find dakos, a traditional Greek dish similar to the pan con tomate of Spain or the bruschetta of Italy with the addition of crumbled feta, stuffed zucchini blossoms called kolokythoanthoi, and plenty of Greek cheeses. Cretan cuisine also includes poultry, fish, and red wine.
In Macedonia, in the north, the cuisine shares a lot with the Balkan cuisine, as well as 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 boat 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 and lemon. In some places, the pita is fried not grilled. Each region of Greece puts a distinct spin on even the classics.
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, Taverna o Platanos is a quiet and picturesque restaurant serving delicious and classic Greek dishes. It has a connection to the arts as well, and is one of the oldest restaurants in Plaka.
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. Several movies have been filmed here and it remains popular with the intellectual and political set of Athens.
Klimataria: Sunday Lunch in Athens
Klimataria is one of the oldest tavernas in Athens. It attracts plenty of locals and tourists alike. The courtyard is vine-covered for shade and wine barrels line the interior. They are well known for their traditional Sunday lunch.
Kostas: Best Souvlaki in Athens
For souvlaki, there is no better place. The souvlaki is definitely one of the best in Athens, with grease-free pita, pork souvlaki, and all the fixings of yoghurt, onion, tomato, and parsley. Go for an early lunch to beat the crowds, because they do 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 can be a delightful combination of sweet and savory.
Nancy’s Sweet Home a.k.a. 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 in 1923.
Full Spoon: Best Psiri in Athens
Full Spoon is a modern dessert shop selling homemade pastry, homemade tsoureki, profiteroles, and gelato. An absolute must, in Psiri.
Choureal: Hand-made Desserts in Athens
Choureal is a patisserie making to-order profiteroles. They also offer 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 US, you can always bring some back 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 below wine bars in Athens.
Kiki de Grece: Popular Wine Bar in Athens
Located on Ipitou street near Syntagma, Kiki de Grece is a popular wine bar. The list 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 the centre of Athens. It is well known for offering more than 200 Greek labels with an emphasis on natural wine-making. The team at Heteroclito can assist with selecting wines to drink now, suggesting wines to cellar, and teach you the basics of wine tasting.
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 drink on premises or take away. They also serve a modern food menu with light meals and snacks. Both menus change weekly.
Best Athens Food Markets and Shops for Food in Athens
If you want to learn about food in Athens, you will enjoy exploring the markets and grocery stores of the city.
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 local foods in Athens. You will see all kinds of fish (and will know what to order at a restaurant!) and meat. There are olive shops and spice shops. Places to buy Greek cheese, honey, ouzo, and tinned sardines. Across the street is the fruit and vegetable market. 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, popular herb and spice shops 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. They are particularly known for selling pastourma and soutzouki, both cured meats typically from veal. They also sell Armenian soutzouki, which is a lot spicer.
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 olive oils and pastas, cold meats, and Greek cheeses, as well as Greek wines, liqueurs, and spirits. This is an excellent place to go to find unique Greek souvenirs to bring home.
Best Athens Food Tours & Cooking Classes in Athens
Another way to experience the food in Athens is through a food tour and/or Greek cooking class. Walking through the streets or the Athens food markets with a local foodie opens your eyes to things you might not have noticed yourself.
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 cuisine. Get to experience a hands-on class and market tour. You will pick out the ingredients yourself before going to a professional kitchen and learning from a pro. You’ll also get to eat your creation - even better!
For those without interest in cooking, you can take an extensive food tour of Athens. Explore the markets and local shops, try food in tiny shops and cafes, and pick up oils, coffees, or wine to take home.
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 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 cheese, 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?
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 wants 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 on Instagram.
Photos for this article are also provided by Chrysoula.