One of the most exciting part of visiting a new city is experiencing its local cuisine and Athens is no different. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, there are certain foods that you simply must try when you’re in town.
Here are five of the best foods to try in Athens:
Souvlaki / Gyros: This is perhaps the most famous and beloved food not only in Athens but all over Greece. Souvlaki is a type of Greek fast food that consists of small pieces of meat (pork or chicken) that are skewered and grilled to perfection. The meat is often accompanied by triangular slices of pita bread, fresh lemon wedges and tzatziki sauce.
The Gyros is another popular Greek fast food that is similar to souvlaki. The main difference is that the meat is cooked on a vertical rotisserie slowing spinning around till deliciously crisp, rather than being skewered and grilled. This method of cooking is also where its name comes from as in Greek “Gheereezo” means to turn. The meat is then shaved off the rotisserie and wrapped in toasted pita bread and traditionally loaded with tomato, onion, French fries and tzatziki sauce. Gyros is a bit more filling than souvlaki, so it’s a great option if you’re looking for a heartier meal.
Dolmadakia: Dolmadakia are grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, herbs, and at times ground meat. These tasty little packages are typically served as an appetizer or side dish, but in the right environment can definitely become the star of a meal. Grape leaves act as natural anti-oxidants and are packed with nutrients and flavor especially when fresh off the vine. They can be eaten hot or cold and are usually enjoyed in the summer as a great way to cool off from the summer heat, in the winter the grape vines are often replaced by cabbage due to them being out of season leading them to be called Lahanodolmades (Cabbage Dolamathes). Dolmadakia are a fantastic way to enjoy a return to simpler times, where food used to come directly right off the vine!
Spanakopita: Spanakopita is a savory pastry made with spinach and feta cheese. The spinach and feta are wrapped in layers of phyllo dough and then baked to a golden brown. This dish is typically served as an appetizer or side dish, but is often bought from bakeries as an on the go breakfast since it eaten without the need of utensils. One of the staples of any Greek child growing up, since it’s an easy way parents are able to sneak in extra greens into their children’s diet. Spanakopita is a deliciously simple and healthy way to enjoy Greek food at any time of day!
Baklava: Baklava is a sweet pastry made with layers of phyllo dough, honey, and chopped nuts (usually pistachios or walnuts). It’s a rich and decadent treat that is typically served as a dessert. Ice cream or kaymaki (traditional mastixa ice cream) often accompanies baklava as a great way to have a break from the syrupy honey. Baklava is a great way to finish off a meal, simply enjoyed as a sweet snack or even given as a gift when attending a dinner party. Be warned though, its sticky nature makes napkins a necessity.
Spoon Sweets: As the name implies these are sweet served on teaspoon often as a symbol of hospitality or to signal one is welcome into the home. The sweets are made up of fruits that are preserved in thick syrup or molasses which eventually takes on the flavor of the chosen fruit with a jam like consistency. These spoon sweets were create into to make a year’s harvest last longer before refrigeration was invented. Various fruits ranging from apricots to figs are turned into these spoon sweets but the most popular and classical option is sour cherries. The best way to enjoy these sweets are either plain on a spoon, as a topping on Greek Yogurt or dripped onto ice-cream. Their long lasting self-life and compact packaging often make them the idea gift for any traveler who wants to bring back a little taste of Greece to enjoy through the year.
These are just a few of the many delicious foods that you can try in Athens. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite on the go or a sit-down meal, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.
If this article made your mouth water, don’t waste any time and join our classical Athens Food Tour where you will get the chance to taste all the above.