Restaurants in Athens
The Greek salad has made a firm impression the world over, and other aspects of Greek cuisine have steadily gained in popularity across the Mediterranean and beyond. The exotic and varied nature of Greek cuisine is a tantalizing attraction for travelling taste buds.
A traditional Greek meal is typically accompanied by a selection of hors d'oeuvres, known as mezedes. These include melitzanosalata (mashed eggplant with oil, lemon and garlic), taramosalata (caviar spread), gavros marinatos (marinated anchovies), saganaki (grilled or fried cheese) and many other options. While many tourists ask for famous 'Greek' dishes like dolmades and baklava, restauranteurs are quick to correct that perception, explaining that those foods are actually Turkish in origin.
A sit-down eating experience takes place mostly in Athens' Plaka region at the foot of the Acropolis. There are four tiers of restaurants. In an estiatorio, the familiar (but more expensive) restaurant experience is offered. Tavernas are less formal, cheaper and oriented toward more traditional cooking. The psistaria are the Greek equivalent of a steakhouse, often buffet with spit-fired meat on display, while psarotaverna specialise in seafood dishes.
In Athens there is a culture of street vending, which means one can do all one's eating 'en route', so to speak. Among the culinary curiosities on offer are Koulouri (sesame seed bread ring), Galaktoboureko (custard-filled pastry dusted with icing sugar) and Tyropitta (cheese or spinach pies). Souvlaki is a popular Greek fast food consisting of meat and vegetables grilled on a skewer and often served in a pita sandwich. The Syntagma district has a number of places in which to eat on the run.
The drinking scene is dominated by a strong, anise-flavoured liqueur called Ouzo. Ouzo originated in Greece and is traditionally served with the mezedes, distilled in water. Greece also has a very long history of wine production and boasts over a dozen varieties of red and white wine, though connoisseurs may be disappointed in the lack of subtlety.
Trying hard to stay true to its Cretan tradition, the restaurant uses only ingredients from its patron island and has captured the loyalty of Athenian diners and critics with several awards. Alatsi's hearty meals are a reminder that simple ingredients done right never goes out of fashion.
Address: 13 Vrasida
Telephone: 210 721 0501
In Athens, Daphne's is one of the most well known Greek restaurants, the type that visiting celebrities and dignitaries are taken to for traditional and classic meals. The menu is consistently quality and even offers a few new tricks on old Greek favourites. The tables are idyllically set around a converted mansion home and a pleasant courtyard.
Address: Lysikratous 4
Telephone: +30 210 322 7971
It can be hard to believe, but too much feta and olive oil can grow tiresome for anyone. Thankfully, this French bistro, tucked neatly into a cosy and intimate corner of Athens, can re-energise palates with a small list of French staples. In busy hours customers are expected to share benches with other diners, which can be a fun way to meet locals.
Address: 32 Troon Street, Ano Petralona
Telephone: 210 346 4236
Voted the best restaurant in Greece by the 'Athinorama' Golden Chef's Hat Award for six consecutive years, Spondi may drain your wallet but it will fill your stomach and still leave you wanting more. Operating from a charming 19th-century townhouse with an open courtyard, the venue has a sense of grandeur tempered by friendly service.
Address: 5 Pyrronos Street
Telephone: 210 756 4021
Taverna Tou Psirri
A popular eating secret is Taverna Tou Psiri on Aiskilou Street, just up the street from Platia Iroon; hard to find but well worth the search. Delicious paidakia (lamb chops), keftedes (meat balls), and broccoli and cauliflower salad are accompanied by the warming sounds of rembetika, 1920s music of the brothels of Piraeus. This place is delightfully un-touristy and is a favorite with locals.
Address: 12 Aiskilou Street
Telephone: 210 321 4923
Those looking to enjoy something delectably Mediterranean (but less pricey) will find Giouvetsakia, situated in the Plaka area, a welcome place for respite. A small family-run business, the restaurant specializes in its own Giouvetsi pasta and offers a complimentary fruit dish after any meal.
Address: 144 Adrianou and Thespidos Streets
Telephone: 210 322 7033
This ouzerie (the Athenian equivalent of a winery) will make for a good social outing at night for the young and 'young at heart'. By day, O Glikis is quiet and quaint, the perfect spot to enjoy some coffee and read the paper.
Address: Corner of Geronda and Eperidou Streets
Telephone: 021 322 3925
An extremely popular choice with the local crowd, with reasonable pricing and delicious foods. Order a platter of starters for a diverse sampling of Mediterranean cuisine, or treat yourself to mouth-watering souvlaki.
Address: Meandrou-15, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 210 646 3060
This pricey psarotaverna charges decidedly modern prices for its innovative take on traditional dishes. Offering seafood with a uniquely Greek twist, Chef Lefteris Lazaro creatively combines various Greek wines and olive oil in his exquisite creations. Situated in the city centre, with a striking view of the Acropolis, this is affluent dining at its best.
Address: 80 Piraios Street
Telephone: 210 522 8400
While you'll find the basic Greek staples like dolmedakia and lamb kleftiko at Oroscopo, this Athens restaurant is popular with tourists because it has a range of good food that will satisfy picky eaters, including more than 20 delicious pizzas and pastas.
Address: 42-44 Antinoros street
Telephone: +30 2107238567
Become our Athens Travel Expert
We are looking for contributors for our Athens travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Athens or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.