Exploring The Hidden Foodie Highlights Of Athens With Athens Walking Tours
Arriving in any new destination can often times feel overwhelming. There is a whole new country to explore, a new language barrier to over come and a different transportation system to navigate. Though, one of my favorite parts of discovering a new country is the delicious culinary experiences to be had. Arriving in Greece I was excited to learn all about the delicious dishes and street food available. That’s why I teamed up with Athens Walking Tours, partaking on their Food Tour, to discover all the taste bud tantalizing bites. We would get off the main tourist track, hitting up the local hot spots, trying the staple dishes which have become an icon within the city and testing out everything from meats, sweets, cheeses, fruits, herbs and so much more!
Athens Walking Tours- Food Tour
The meeting point for the Athens Food Tour is less than a minute away from the Panepistimio Metro Station at the Zara department store, right next to Starbucks. We were staying at Athens City Hotel which was one stop over on the metro, making it journey incredibly simple. The transportation system in Athens is excellent and well connected making it the perfect mode of transport for both locals and tourists alike.
Of course, if you are staying in the main tourist area you can still take the metro to the meeting point. I recommend checking out Rome2Rio to find out the closest station to your hotel and which stops you’ll need to hop off on. Alternatively take a taxi (remember to request that the driver uses the meter) or chuck on your walking shoes as its approximately 1.5km or 15 minutes from the main tourist area of Monastiraki in Athens.
Arriving a bit earlier than advised we were pleased to find an easy to spot ‘Athens Walking Tours’ sign waving in the air. We joined the group and gave quick introduction to the other people that were joining in on the food tour. Our guide for today would be Georgia, a bubbly delightful local who would be showing us all around the stops.
Also, the group numbers are kept small and in total we only had seven people, including myself! This is perfect as it makes the whole experience a lot more intimate. Allowing all your questions to be answered and being able to know everyone in the group on a more personal level.
Check out 2 Food Trippers post on the where to eat in Athens!
The Food Stops
Koulouri (circle bread)
Location: corner Stadiou & Korai, Athens
Unbeknowst to us the first stop of the day was just a few steps away at a bright yellow colored cart, where a smiley gentleman handed over a bag of fresh koulouri. These circle delights of sesame seed goodness are a common Greek breakfast item and are the perfect thing to eat on the go. Popular with locals of all ages they can be found all around the country and are a must try when in Greece!
You can get koulouri in many variations and have them filled with chocolate spread cheese or tahini! They are the perfect cheap eat on the go and you will find these vendors scattered all around the city.
Cretan Grocery Store- Zouridakis Cretan Store
Location: 28 Evripidou, Athens
After starting our day off like any local with koulouri, it was time to venture deeper into the backstreets of Athens and walk to our next stop. After a few minutes, we came across a beautiful Jewish Orthodox church. We stopped to appreciate the beauty of this aged building against the surrounding city landscape. Shortly after we made our way a little more down the street to Zouridakis Cretan Store.
This third generation family business is a popular grocery retailer, producing the products in Crete then selling them in Athens. Crete is actually the largest island in Greece and, as a result, has many endemic plants and fruits which play a large roll in the cuisine produced there.
Laid out in front of us was a delicious looking tasting table filled with a variety of breads, spreads, olives and cheeses. Passing them around one by one we taste each while Georgia chats about the history and how it was made. I am not a fan of olives, but the products here were incredible, from the cold pressed olive oil, the olive jam and my favorite, the spicy olive spread. No doubt, this is the perfect place to purchase some Greek souvenirs to take home.
For those with a sweet tooth, there is also a delicious natural carob spread, as well as a beautifully smooth thyme honey.
Loukoumades at Kpivos
Location: Aiolou 87, Athens
Heading to our third stop of the day, a easy walk away was the popular cafe of Kpivos. Famous for the delicious loukoumades it produces. We watched as the chef throw the batter into the hot oil, with his fingers placed in a certain position to produce the hole in the middle and the perfect donut like shape. He did it with such skill and precision that can only come with years of experience.
Soon after a plates of hot and fresh loukoumades are brought to our table. Covered in a syrupy goodness these sweet deep fried bites were absolutely delicious and one of my favorites.
Varvakeios Agora – Athens Centeral Markets
Location: Athinas 42, Athens
The next stop was to the Athens Centeral Markets, otherwise known as Varvakeios Agora. This is where many people do their shopping, ensuring they get the freshest produce. As a result, the atmosphere here is bustling and full of energy. The people running the stalls show off their best products with competitive prices.
To start we enter through the meat portion of the market with pieces for sale hanging and meretriciously displayed. Every inch of the stalls is cleaned to perfection, something not often associated with meat markets which surprises me.
Moving on forward we navigate the maze of sellers until we come across the seafood portion of this wet market. Freshly caught fish, rays, crabs and shellfish galore are available from the assortment of fishmongers.
Across the road is the last part of Athens Centeral Market which we explore, the fruit and vegetable section. The prices here are extremely competitive, especially in comparison to how much we pay in New Zealand.
Georgia purchases us a delicious bag of perfectly ripened strawberries. We share them around and while learning about the history of fruits and vegetables in Greece.
Stou Meidani- Greek Restaurant
Location: Sokratous 3, Athens
Walking down the street we headed to our fifth stop, Stou Meidani. This beautiful Greek restaurant showcases some of the best local cuisine and as soon as you walk through the door it feels like you have been transported from the streets of Athens to a beautifully decorated countryside eatery.
Sitting down at a table out the back we are soon greeted with more dishes. This time we have vegetable balls, a chunky cucumber dip (tzatziki), fresh bread and my favorite a delicious baked dish of goat cheese, cow cheese, chilli, peppers and tomato.
Pastourma at Ta Kapamanaiaika – charcuterie store
Location: Evripidou 43, Athens
Just around the corner we headed to Ta Kapamanaiaika, a specaility charcuterie store which is every meat lovers dream. We are served up slices of pastourma and rusk bread these flavorsome tastes were incredibly popular.
Georgia told us the process of creating the well known pastourma, as well as its history within Greece. Back in the day the locals would keep the meat between the saddle and the horse, which would stay there while they rode until it was finally ready.
Ta Kapamanaiaika also have a restaurant just down the street called Ta Karamanlidika tou Fani. So you can try the pastourma in some of their delicious dishes as well!
Fotsis- herbal store
Location: Evripidou 39, Athens
A short distance down the street is Fotsis, our next stop of the food tour. This is the ultimate sensory experience with spices, teas, essential oils, teas, natural soaps and pumice available for display. The smell of the delicious teas fill the air tickling our noses.
It is obvious that this is a store that is popular with both locals and tourists with people constantly coming and going buying a variety of goods. Trust me, if I did not live in New Zealand, I would buy so many goodies, though I am restricted thanks to strict custom laws!
Spanakopita & Bougatsa at Bougatsadiko Thessaloniki
Location: Pl. Iroon 1, Athens
Before heading to our next destination Goergia shows us one of her favorite streets in Athens, which quickly becomes one of mine as well. Here, just a short walk from Iroon Square is a street which changes themes every month. This month it was pirates and it was amazing checking out all the cartoon like decorations.
Heading back down the road it is time for the second to last stop of the day. I feel like anything wrapped in pastry has to be amazing and trying the spanakopita and bougatsa at Bougatsadiko Thessaloniki just confirmed this further. These delicious Greek pies are famous and are a must try when in the country!
There are so many variations of Spanakopita, though we tried the spinach with feta cheese. This is the same with bougatsa which we had in custard. Both are absolutely delicious and perfect for any meal of the day.
Gyros at Grill House Aischylou
Saving one of the most famous until last is the Gyro! A quick walk around the block we come across a gorgeously decorated restaurant called Grill House Aischylou.
The Gyro is a popular dish which is a pita filled with a variety of goodies. The most popular type is pork, though you can also get chicken or vegetarian. That is stuffed inside the pita alongside fried, tomatoes, salad, tzatziki and onions. This is basically the backpacker staple meal when traveling in Greece as they can be extremely affordable and super filling.
I absolutely loved exploring the culinary scene of Athens with Athens Walking Tours. It was our first full day in Greece so discovering the city through food helped us settle in and really influenced the meals we ate during the rest of our stay. Rather than sticking to the typical tourist joints we ventured further off the track and discovered even more delicious Greek food. Also, having a local, such as Georgia, showing us around was extremely helpful as she was so knowledgeable on not just the food scene, but absolutely everything Athens.
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Backpackers Wanderlust was a guest with Athens Walking Tours, however, as always, all opinions are my own.