From souvlaki to gyros to dolmades, the Athens food scene is just incredible. With so many delicious dishes, this is what to eat in Athens!
For some reason, and I honestly have no idea why, but Greece doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to food. Everyone just thinks its’s Greek salads and kebabs, but it’s so much more than this. I actually think it’s a massively overlooked foodie hotspot!
In the capital, this foodie culture is becoming more and more popular. It’s almost as if people have become more obsessed with food over the last 10 years.
Athens food includes flaky filo pastries that are both savoury and sweet, delicious dolmades piled high, and rows of olives as far as the eye can see.
So, when you’re trying to figure out what to eat in Athens, it’s always a good idea to start with local, traditional produce like olive oil, feta cheese, and gorgeous fresh vegetables and meat.
Whether you need something quick and on-the-go like a gyros or you want to stop and sit down for a hearty moussaka, there are so many amazing dishes to try in Athens. It’s a food scene that delivers on flavour, freshness, and just plain deliciousness! From fine dining scenes to traditional Greek street food favourites, there’s something for every budget and vibe.
So what kind of famous Greek foods might you come across on your trip to Athens? Let’s dive in and find out more – I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
Athens food: What to eat in Athens
If you’re looking for some classic Greek street food, the most popular dish has to be the souvlaki. It only tends to cost two or three euros and it’s a pita bread packed with deliciously spiced meat and a small salad of tomato and onions. It’s a quick and easy staple and you’ll see them all over the Athens food scene.
Really, you probably haven’t even been to Greece if you haven’t had at least one souvlaki while you’re there. It’s as close to a holy dish as you can get in Athens!
What do you get when you combine crispy phyllo (or filo) pastry with spinach and delicious feta cheese? Well, you get the tasty treat known as spanakopita. Available at bakeries and cafes all around Athens, spanakopita is perfect for a lunch or snack on a hot Grecian day.
There are tons of arguments about where to find the best spanakopita in Athens, but your best bet is heading straight for the bakeries that only sell spanakopita. They’ll have different variations as well as the original, but they’ve been honing their craft on this particular pie for decades. When you’re deciding what to eat in Athens, make sure this dish is on the list!
Okay, so this traditional Greek dish will grace the menu of pretty much every restaurant in Athens. Layers of aubergine, mince, tomatoes with potatoes cooked in a sauce, then a bechamel cheese sauce, and grated cheese all come together in the oven to produce a hearty and filling Greek classic.
It might not be the ideal vibe for super hot days in Athens, but if the cooling winds are swirling and the temperature is starting to dip then there’s nothing better than a giant square slab of melt-in-your-mouth moussaka!
So, to the uninitiated, gyros and souvlaki might look the same, but if you say that in Greece you better be ready to run. Gyros are also pitas filled with meat that’s been marinaded in spices accompanied by a small salad of tomato and onion – so far, it’s exactly the same as a souvlaki, right? Well, not exactly.
What sets a gyros apart from the souvlaki is the preparation of the meat. While souvlaki has pieces of grilled meat, a gyros is filled with thinly sliced rotisserie meat – similar to the ones you’d see in a doner kebab shop. The meat is seasoned and stacked on the spit and then carved off into the pita to order! It’s a cheap, portable, and delicious staple of the Athens food scene!
Realistically, every cuisine has some kind of sweet treat that you should have with your mid-morning coffee. Whether it’s a croissant in France, a cinnamon bun in Sweden, or a cannoli in Sicily, there’s always something. In Athens, it’s a loukoumades, which is a type of small doughnut.
Served up in portions of four or five and drizzled with lashings of locally sourced Greek honey, loukoumades are the perfect sticky and sweet treat to have with a traditional Greek coffee. Sometimes you can get them with nuts or cinnamon on top if you’re feeling fancy!
Despite the name, you won’t find a fava bean anywhere near the recipe for this Greek favourite. As we know, the Greeks love a dip, and fava is one of the most popular options. Made out of yellow split peas, this high-protein dip kind of looks like houmous and has a similar texture.
Grab a freshly-made pita or dolmades and dip until your heart’s content. It’s one of those Greek dishes that are often served as a starter as a part of a sharing platter with a dozen different tasty morsels on it!
Right, who doesn’t love grilled cheese? I’m not talking about a toasted sandwich, I’m talking about literally putting a slice of cheese on a grill until it’s crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. it’s the things that dreams are made of, and in Greece, it’s an actual dish that you can find in restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Normally offered as a sharing starter with some other small-plate favourites, saganaki is pieces of salty hard cheese that have been grilled and drizzled in honey to give it that iconic salty, sweet tang. Can you think of a better way to start a delicious meal in Athens, because I can’t!
Can we even talk about the Athens food scene without mentioning olives? Let’s be honest, Greek olives are a huge part of so many dishes across the world that eating them on their own by the handful is always a great experience. It’s made even better by knowing that they’ve traveled from a local farm on the outskirts of the city or from one of the islands!
Whether you prefer green or black olives, want to eat them with a toothpick with a glass of local wine, or are buying a bagful to bring home with you, olives are a staple of the city. That’s without even considering the impact olive oil has – it’s on just about everything and it’s delicious!
Are you a vegetarian trying to work out what to eat in Athens? It can be a meaty city, but gemista are often vegetarian by default. Simply put, they’re stuffed vegetables. Whether that’s a tomato, pepper, or whatever largely depends on the season.
They’re filled with rice and herbs and slow-roasted in the oven, doused in olive oil. There are some gemista that have meat or mince in them but a lot of the time, these tasty lunchtime dishes are meat-free and regularly vegan.
Another super popular dish across Athens is keftedes. At their core, they’re Greek meatballs, normally made from pork and beef, with a ton of spices in them. They’re sort of related to koftas but without the super crunchy exterior.
Even though the meaty keftedes are super popular and available in most restaurants and street food markets, there are vegetarian keftedes coming on the Athens food scene. These are normally made out of some kind of bean with feta cheese and tons of fragrant herbs!
This is a delicious Greek favourite which has made its way all around the world. Dolmades are stuffed vine leaves that are usually part of a sharing platter between friends. Normally, dolmades are a vegetarian affair, stuffed with rice and herbs to produce a filling and tasty bite.
You can get versions that have mince in there so if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, it’s always best to check with your server. They’re best enjoyed by dipping them in a light and refreshing tzatziki to bring out all those fragrant, herby flavours!
Looking for the perfect breakfast food in Athens? Enter into the game bougatsa, a sweet custard-filled phyllo pie. It’s essentially a dessert spanakopita and it’s a common breakfast food across Athens, so you’ll likely see it included in your hotel breakfast.
Much like how there are dedicated souvlaki or spanakopita spots all around the Athens food scene, there are also special bougatsa joints, where this delicious flaky custard pastry has become an art form!
If you’re visiting Athens on a budget and looking for something cheap and tasty to eat on the go, koulour is going to be your new favourite. Essentially, they’re huge bread rings that are coated in sesame seeds and served up fresh and warm.
You’ll often see bakeries with a ton of hooks holding tens of koulouri at a time, just ready for you to tear into as you wander around this beautiful city!
So, if you weren’t hungry before, you probably are now! What’s your favourite Athens food to eat while you’re in the city? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’re planning a trip to Greece, then check out my guide to all the best things to do in Andros. This is one of my favourite islands in Greece!
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