Attention foodies and travel lovers, you’re gonna love this one!
Gastronomy is a wonderful way to explore a culture when traveling! It’s one of my personal favourite methods to discover traditional (and delicious) foods in a new city or country. Usually, if you’re a foodie with a limited amount of time in a city, fitting in all the trending and “hidden gem” food spots is a lot harder! So in order to explore more options (as in much more) as well as figure out what foods you like and dislike, then save yourself a lot of time and money and sign up with a food tour. They have all the work done for you 😉
The Complete Athens Food Tour Experience with Athens Walking Tours
T and I went on a food tour on our second day in Athens, Greece. The Athens food tour offered by Athens Walking Tours proved to be a great choice! Not only did our foodie checklist include 6 (!!) spots we had actually planned on visiting on our own (discovered through extensive research), but we also got to discover even more delicious finds in Athens!
Our group’s population gradually increased while we all gathered at our designated Athens food tour meeting point just outside Panepistimio metro station. We were a group of around 15 people.
With the help of our local Greek guide and food expert, Georgia, we were all set to explore the “non-touristy” parts of Athens and discover traditional Greek cuisine. On our Athens food tour, we got to sample local specialties from the sticky sweet loukoumades and crispy bougatsa pies to different varieties of Greek cheese and olives, salty “pastourma”, and much more!
Have you got your appetite? Good. Let’s start the tour!
Stop #1 – Koulouri
Our first stop is a local street vendor to sample the infamous, Koulouri – this is supposedly the Greeks’ snack between their breakfast (consisting of coffee and cigarette) and lunch. It’s delicious and very similar to the Lebanese street food called “Kaak” which is usually served with spreadable cheese (i.e. Picon) and/or zaatar. In Athens, be sure to get your Koulouri earlier in the day, because, based on our multiple Koulouri cravings during our trip, Koulouri is usually stale in the evening and not so great. There are many different types of Koulouri served from sweet versions like chocolate or cinnamon to savoury options such as cheese and olive.
During our Athens Food Tour, we enjoyed the original plain Koulouri. The next day, T and I tried the chocolate and cinnamon versions, which were actually not bad, but plain wins this one.
Stop #2 – St. Theodore Church (Agioi Theodoroi)
The St. Theodore Church in Athens was damaged during the 1821 Greek Revolution; however, it was restored in 1840. It’s beautiful inside and out. Even the interior signs indicating where the men and women had to sit separately on either side of the church for mass were kept. Although I’m not so sure this tradition is still followed nowadays.
The citrus tree in front of the 11th century church fills the air with a refreshing scent. According to Georgia, in the spring time, these trees found all over the city actually help reduce pollution. The citrus fruit that the tree bears cannot be eaten in raw form, however, it can be made into “spoon sweet” which is dried fruit coated in sugar and a common sweet for the Greeks.
Stop #3 – A Cretan Greek Grocery Store
We stopped by a Greek grocery store which was in fact already on my Athens to-do list! Zouridakis, a Cretan specialty goods store, is a 3rd generation family business that operates a workshop in Crete that produces Greek local traditional foods.
We sampled Cretan foods including “rusks”, olive oil, olives, spoon sweets, Greek Gruyere and Myzithra cheese, Tsipouro, and more! It was so strange sampling sweet olives; who knew olives could taste like candy!
This particular stop during our Athens food tour gave us insight on the Greek culinary heritage and the staple ingredients of the renowned Mediterranean diet.
We also had the opportunity to shop! This step is completely optional, of course. But is it really?
Stop #4 – The Oldest Loukoumades Shop in Athens
This quaint café in Psyri has one thing and one thing only on their menu: Loukoumades. T and I tried these traditional Greek donuts on our first day in Athens at Lukumades; however, these babies were even better. The Loukoumades we ordered at this shop are handcut, larger, and more “donut” shaped vs. the smaller pingpong-sized balls we had the day before. These fried discs were coated in cinnamon and a sticky syrup-y goodness which I’m pretty sure is made from the tears of the beautiful Greek goddess Athena. They are melt-in-your-mouth good. If I had to compare it to a Lebanese favourite, it tastes shockingly similar to Zlebe, which is usually found in autumn. Google search “Lebanese donuts” in images for a reference if you’re interested!
Stop #5 – Athens Central Meat and Fish Market (i.e. Varvakios Agora)
No food tour would be complete without a trip to the bustling central food market of Athens! We visited Athens’ famous central market, the Varvakios Agora. The meat market wasn’t particularly the greatest sight. However, it kinda should be experienced at least once in one’s lifetime. You’re in Athens after all…
Stop #6 – Fruits and Vegetables Market
Before we ventured into the rainbow of colours that is the fruit and vegetable market, we sampled some Greek halva and sweet fried peanuts coated with sesame and sugar from a street vendor. The halva was tasty and very sweet; however, I prefer the Lebanese version, which has a chalkier, more crumbly consistency. On the other hand, I fell in love with the peanuts. I bought some from a vendor in Aegina Island the following day; however, these had pistachios as their core since those are what the island is famous for!
We tried some seasonal fruit too; grapes and figs in our case.
Stop #7 – A Traditional Greek Taverna for Mezze
Next, our food tour group was led by lovely Georgia to a typical Greek restaurant to share some local traditional mezze dishes.
Mezze isn’t actually an “appetizer”, but rather defined as a dish served with other mezze dishes as an entirely different (usually shared) eating experience. Mezze is a great meal for a social gathering.
The little plates we sampled were fried zucchini balls, tzatziki, chickpeas stew – and dreadful tap water. Tap water aside, it was an enjoyable experience. Tzatziki was naturally my favourite of the 3 mezze dishes. If I had more time, I would have loved to revisit this restaurant to try other authentic Greek dishes and admire the venue’s charming interior!
Stop #8 – Pastourma aka Pastrami aka Basterma at Karamanlidika by Fanis
“Pastourma” is Greek cured meat. We sampled these thin slices of meat on classic tomato rusks at one of the stores in the area. T and I actually visited this particular store’s restaurant next door on our last day in Athens! It’s the most delicious meal we had in Athens. Stay tuned for the exclusive review of Karamanlidika by Fanis 😉
Stop #9 – A Greek Herbs Store
Fotsi was next on our Athens food tour checklist (and my personal one). It was a unique experience to smell, touch, and explore the wide range of different herbs and spices. I purchased several olive oil soaps with donkey milk, which is recognized for its youth elixir.
Stop #10 – Picturesque Little Kook
Well, this wasn’t exactly a food stop, but the entire group naturally stopped to take photos! Can you resist?
Stop #11 – Let’s have pie!
Our next stop on our Athens food tour was a famous pie shop where we sampled and tasted traditional Greek Bougatsa. These pies are filled with many different ingredient combinations. The most famous are (1) custard and (2) spinach & feta – obviously, not mixed together. T and I thoroughly enjoyed the Greek Spanakopita generously filled with spinach and feta cheese.
It was entertaining to watch the chef make the filo pastry of the pie before our very eyes.
Stop #12 – Souvlaki, of course.
Our final stop was to have some famous Greek souvlaki in Psiri. Of all the souvlakis I had in Athens and later on the island of Skiathos, this was one of my favourites. Yes, I did try the famous Kostas (and the other Kostas).
Scheduling food tours is a fun experience filled with information about local customs and eats. Plus, you get to try things you wouldn’t normally be exposed to or even curious to try in general.
I also appreciated that the stops vary from one tour to another and our tour guide, Georgia, provided us with a checklist of the places we visited PLUS extra ones to potentially try out on our own later. We enjoyed exploring the real Athens with Georgia; she was super friendly with a bursting personality and a great passion for food!
We didn’t try the typical Greek food stereotypes like the Greek Salad or Moussaka on this Athens food tour. However, Greek Salad shouldn’t be missed. Seriously, Greek Salad, Tzatziki, Yogurt with Honey, and Koulouri were our staple foods for our 10 days in Greece! And Gelato… because, vacation isn’t really a vacation without ice cream. #amiright #iamveryright #and1kiloheavier #whichisntsobad #imgonnastopnow
Our “off the beaten track” Athens food tour with Athens Walking Tours was one of the highlights of our trip to Athens, and I cannot recommend it enough!
Remember to skip breakfast, bring a big appetite, and wear your favourite pair of walking shoes!
Athens Walking Tours offers this Athens Food Tour on a weekly basis!
Price per person: 49€ per adult / 44€ per person aged 12-17 / 34€ per child aged 6-11 / FREE for children under 6 (Note: there are no additional hidden fees during the tour)
Total time: 9:30am-1:00pm (around 3.5 hours) starting from Korai street and ending near Monastiraki
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Thank you Athens Walking Tours for the wonderful experience! As always,all opinions are my own. Bougatsa photo was sourced from Athens Food Tour page on the Athens Walking Tours website.
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