In the cradle of Western civilization eating nonstop is simply part of daily life.
It´s impossible to spend time in Athens and not be completely stuffed at least once. Greeks love to eat, and visitors can feel the local hospitality as soon as they enter a Taverna. No matter where you come from or how huge the language barrier is, you will always be welcomed with a smile, some local wine and enough food to feed an entire family.
The epicenter of Greek cuisine
Greece is a country with a delicious and large variety of dishes. Its unique location on the edge of Europe has served as a gateway for ingredients and spices brought in from both the east and the west. Over centuries, elements like pasta and tomatoes representative of other southern European countries and delicacies from the East like baklava, gyro or tzatziki have slowly been blended creating a unique cuisine with a distinctive flavor and singularity.
Greek ingredients have also been extremely influential all over the world. Olive oil and Greek wines widespread to the most remote parts of Europe and the Middle East.
Of course, as a place with so many cultural influences, Athens has become the hub for finding good food. This is the place where locals, foreigners and expats from all different cultures have been meeting for centuries bringing together the best of their cuisines.
My visit in Athens started in a Mezedhopoleio. Here our meal consisted of many small plates spread all over the table. This was the perfect place to get a first idea of the diversity of tastes in the Greek cuisine. Cold, hot, mild, spicy and salty dishes created a unique tasting experience and I was not the only one getting full, as any normal person would probably stop eating after a dozen of appetizers on the table.
However, this was not an eating competition, but rather a delicious ritual to socialize with friends, relax after work and share a couple of drinks celebrating food. Here the atmosphere is festive, people talk loudly, pass plates all across the table and toast every minute with a glass of ouzo.
“Tonight we go for a main course”, said my tour guide Tiama, after we finished this exquisite culinary feast, barely able to walk.
Greeks tend to eat late, so don´t get worried if you find most restaurants completely empty in the early hours of the evening. We went to a Taverna around 10 pm. Here, different kinds of local appetizers, salads and main courses are offered with the freshest ingredients of the day. The fish I ate had probably been caught in the morning and the vegetables in the salad picked up earlier at the farmers market.
At the taverna, portions tend to be bigger and still, our host kept ordering more food whenever a plate was finished. Greeks love to have guests and show the different flavours Greek cuisine has to offer. For them, this is a sign of hospitality and friendship.
Food plays an important role in the Greek culture and eating in fast food chains a rarity or something just visitors do. Athens is not the place for getting a fast burger or kebab down the alley. Local restaurants offer delightful homemade dishes for very small prices.
At the end of my stay my only regret was not to be used to eating so much food. I always got full relatively quickly and although I wanted to eat more, I simply couldn´t. Athens is a whole culinary journey in itself and those, who search for different and new restaurants in the alleys off the beaten path, will be rewarded with little treasures worth more than just one visit.
Insider Tip: Want to get a full taste of Greek cuisine, but don´t know where to go? There are many different food tours. They are way more affordable than in other parts of Europe and the quality of the food is unbelievable. You can even get a 5-course dinner food tour with wine tasting for just 70 EUR at Greeking.me. I gave it a try on my last evening and it was definitely worth every cent.
Want to learn more about Athens or Greece in general? The official website of Greece, Visit Greece, offers lots of information regarding itineraries, destinations, activities and way more tips about delicious Greek cuisine.