It’s almost a crime to go to Greece and not indulge in their delicious food fare. After all, one of the reasons that make the country popular is its hearty cuisine. Generally based on the use of fresh, natural ingredients, Greek food is considered as one of the healthiest in the world. We’re curious to find out more, so what better way to appease the mind (and the stomach) than to join a local guide who knows best.
Our tour group gathered in Korai pedestrian street one sunny morning, where we met our optimistic, cheerful guide, Despina. She is the co-founder of Athens Walking Tours who designed the course out of her desire to provide foreign travelers an authentic local experience beyond the usual tourist spots. With that, we strolled around the less obtrusive neighborhood of Athens to discover where to eat the finest of what the city has to offer.
Ready to start the hunt? :)
Kolouri Corner | Korai Street Vendor
Just around Korai where we huddled, we stopped by a street vendor to sample Kolouri, the so-called “Greek breakfast” (so-called because the most common are coffee and a cigarette. Ha!). Kolouri is a pretzel-like bread dotted with sesame seeds that give its taste and high nutritional value. It’s crusty, chewy and a perfect match with coffee or tea.
Locals normally don’t take heavy breakfast American-style but they chomp on kolouri on their way to work to boost the day.
Crème Royal | Sweet and Savory Pie Store
Next stop is the pie store in Athinas Street where we tasted different pies (of course)! We were served with the famous Greek Spanakopita that’s filled with spinach and cheese, and Bougatsa of two different kinds, a special pie filled with custard and another one filled with cheese.
All three are tasty and yummy, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Even the spinach one which I expected to have a bitter flavor is surprisingly good, I keep reaching for another piece.
Lesvos Shop | Greek Grocery Store
To sample authentic Greek products, we visited a local grocery store that sells merchandises made in different parts of Greece. Here, we tasted varieties of olives, olive oil, olive paste, honey, cheese, milk, and liquor. Despina shared in which parts of the country the products were made and how each came about to Greek food culture.
If you’re planning to buy something to take home (which you should), this is the place to get a high-quality brand that is truly made locally. The products are packed nicely and excellent for gifts or giveaways.
Aigaion | Loukoumades Corner
Aigaion is a family business that operates since 1926 and serves delicious Loukoumades, a traditional Greek dessert with roots traced for as long as Greeks can remember. Loukoumades are bite-sized doughnut balls (like munchkins in the Philippines) that are deep fried until golden brown and then topped with honey syrup and cinnamon. It’s a perfect dessert as the dough is very light and not too sweet.
Varvakios Agora | Central Meat and Fish Market
To burn some of the calories we took in, Despina took us to a stroll through the central wet market of Athens. No food tasting here, don’t worry!
Markets like this are so much more different than the grocery markets most people know. Here, there’s a lot of happenings going on to satiate the senses – you’ll see meat and seafood of various kinds, smell the freshness of natural food, and hear the sounds of butchers who shout back and forth while patrons bargain for their goods. It’s a fun chaos! The busy, lively and loud atmosphere of the marketplace is an exciting experience in itself.
Fruit and Vegetable Market
Just across the street of meat and fish market is the fruit and vegetable market where you’ll find the most colorful fruits and veggies you’ll ever have seen. There are also herbs, spices, wild greens from the mountains and different kinds of olives which are a staple in Greek meals.
Despina bought us some fresh green grapes (washed in front of us) to taste. I love grapes – I seldom take the green kind though because it’s either bland or sour. But these Greek grapes are delicious and sweet.
Fotsis | Herb Store
Another thing that I really love about Greek food is that they don’t make spicy food (yay for non-spicy eaters like me) because it destroys the natural taste of the cuisine. That said, Greeks focus on the true flavors of the ingredients and enhance the aroma and taste with the use of fresh herbs.
Thus, for our next stop, Despina introduced to us a store filled with wide range of herbs and spices such as fresh and dried basil, mountain tea, lavender, mint, oregano, red saffron, essential oils and much more. The shop is located at Evripidou Street where small family businesses start to rise up again since the economic crisis.
After indulging into different herbal scents, Despina introduced to us a cold-cut meat called Pastourma. It’s a beef meat that is highly seasoned, cured, pressed, and air-dried. The color and the texture of the meat depends on how long it’s hung dry – the redder and softer pastourma is, the fresher it is.
Magires Tis Athina | Day Restaurant
We’re feeling full by now but the tour isn’t over yet. Next thing I know is where in an eat-in restaurant that offers a daily menu of traditional Greek recipes that most housewives prepare at home. We had a vegetarian dish cooked in extra virgin olive oil with fresh vegetables and legumes. It’s classified as an “oily dish” by Greeks but it doesn’t taste or feel oily at all. To add to that, we are served with a glass of white wine. Yum!
Aischylou | Greek Tavern
And now for the last stop…
Of course, a food tour is not complete without tasting the famous Gyros! It’s a Greek dish made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie and wrapped in pita bread and is usually served with tomatoes, onions, fries and tzatziki sauce. They are so cheap and yummy; I think we had one in each day we are in Greece.
After almost 4 hours of eating, we left feeling pleased and more educated than ever about Athens and its food culture. I love that along with tasting, our guide provided us history and cultural perspective of not only Greek food but also the local’s eating habits. It’s an affirmation that much that happened in the past has affected how we view and blend ingredients to suit each practice.
We skipped breakfast the morning we’re scheduled for the tour. We want to ensure that our tummies have enough space to munch all the goodness Despina has in store for us. But it turned out that we didn’t have to take lunch too. We were really full for hours. Everything we had is tasty and delicious, there’s no denying why Greek food is highly acclaimed.
If you find yourself in Athens, you know what to do. Book this food tour and let Athens Walking Tours take you to a fun, genuine, delicious walk that will not only fill your stomach but enrich your insight too! Let me know what’s your favorite in the comments below.
Athens Food Tour is a unique gastronomic journey through selected stores and delicious food corners in non-touristy neighborhoods of Athens. It’s an activity created and operated by Athens Walking Tours. Check out their site to learn more!