Athens Restaurants

Doesn't anybody eat at home anymore? When you're on vacation, travelers don't have much choice in the matter, but these days—even in the throes of the current economic crisis—Athenians are going out to restaurants (many of which have lowered their prices accordingly) in record numbers. And it's easy for visitors to the capital t
Doesn't anybody eat at home anymore? When you're on vacation, travelers don't have much choice in the matter, but these days—even in the throes of the current economic crisis—Athenians are going out to restaurants (many of which have lowered their prices accordingly) in
Doesn't anybody eat at home anymore? When you're on vacation, travelers don't have much choice in the matter, but these

Doesn't anybody eat at home anymore? When you're on vacation, travelers don't have much choice in the matter, but these days—even in the throes of the current economic crisis—Athenians are going out to restaurants (many of which have lowered their prices accordingly) in record numbers. And it's easy for visitors to the capital to become a part of the clatter, chatter, and song, especially at the city's neighborhood tavernas.

These Athenian landmarks were famous for their wicker chairs that inevitably pinched your bottom, wobbly tables that needed coins under one leg, and hima wine drawn from the barrel. There are still plenty of them around, but today some of their clientele has moved up to a popular new restaurant hybrid: the "gastro-taverna," which serves traditional fare in surroundings that are more modern and creative. Most are located in the up-and-coming industrial-cum-arty districts of Central Athens, such as Gazi-Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio and attract youths who stay nibbling, sipping tsipouro (a distilled grape spirit), and laughing for hours. At the same time, enduring in popularity are the traditional magereia ("cookeries"): humble, no-frills eateries where the food, usually displayed behind glass windows, is cooked in grandma's style—it's simple, honest, time-tested, filling comfort food. Some noteworthy magereia are located around the bustling Ayias Irinis Square in the heart of Monastiraki. Of course cheap, filling, and delicious souvlaki is more popular than ever, and local favorites still have queues. Meanwhile, Athenians' evolving taste for exotic foods, combined with a tighter budget, has led to the opening of numerous ethnic street food restaurants—some just holes in the wall—serving expertly made, authentic options.

Trends? Athens has them. Health-centric restaurants specializing in vegan, vegetarian, and raw food seem to be blossoming more, as well as sophisticated juice bars. These would have stood out just a few years ago; now they have competitors. Organic food stores can be found in every neighborhood, many selling Greek-grown concoctions made in the traditional style by small producers, many of whom returned to the rural homeland after facing unemployment; look for local truffle oils, unpasteurized craft beer, and gold leaf honey. Most Greeks value pure, high-quality, and easily accessible staples like the seasonal vegetables and fruit, medicinal handpicked herb teas, and nuts that they hunt for at the weekly neighborhood laiki market, as well as the multitude of Greek product stores. With less money to spend, Athenians now order more discerningly and in smaller quantities, but they resolutely linger outside, which never seems to be a problem for restaurant owners.

But some things remain eternal. Athenian dining is seasonal. In August, when residents scatter to the hills and seaside, many restaurants and tavernas close, with the hippest bar-restaurants reopening at choice seaside positions. And visitors remain shocked by how late Greeks dine. It's normal (even on a weekday) to show up for a meal at 9 or 10 and to leave long after midnight, only to head off for drinks. Hotel restaurants, seafood places, and Plaka tavernas keep very late hours. Most places serve lunch from about noon to 4 (and sometimes as late as 6) and dinner from about 8 or 9 until at least midnight. When in Athens, don't hesitate to adopt this Zorbaesque lifestyle. Eat, drink, party, and enjoy life—knowing full well that, as a traveler, there can always be a siesta the next day.

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  • 1. Aeglí Zappiou

    $$$ | Syntagma | Mediterranean

    Visit the elegant Aeglí Zappiou, an excellent spot for a classic Greek coffee experience. Nestled among fountains and flowering trees next to...Read More

  • 2. Aegli Zappiou

    $$$ | Syntagma | Greek

    The lush Zappeion Gardens have always been a tranquil green oasis for stressed-out Athenians, who head here to gaze at the distant views of...Read More

  • 3. Athiri

    $$ | Gazi-Kerameikos | Greek

    Once you step into the lush and peaceful urban garden of this popular restaurant (with a Michelin star), you'll relax immediately. The casual...Read More

  • 4. Café Avissinia

    $$ | Psirri | Greek

    Facing hoary and merchant-packed Abyssinia Square, this timeworn but exceptional eatery is popular with locals who want home-cooked traditional...Read More

  • 5. Dionysos Zonars

    $$$ | Makriyianni | Mediterranean

    This famous, historic restaurant just happens to be the spot where movies are often filmed because of its astounding location, looking out to...Read More

  • 6. H Trata

    $$ | Kaisariani | Seafood

    The owner of this popular fish taverna on the historical Kaisariani Square works directly with fishermen, guaranteeing that the freshest, most...Read More

  • 7. Kuzina

    $$$ | Thissio | Greek

    Kuzina may be sleek, dazzlingly decorated, and moodily lighted, but is not just a pretty face. The food—especially the inventive seafood and...Read More

  • 8. Manhmanh

    $$ | Makriyianni | Greek

    Featuring inspired recipes—and many ingredients—from the southern Peloponnese's Mani region, Manhmanh strikes the perfect balance between...Read More

  • 9. Margaro

    $ | Seafood

    With one of the most refreshingly simple menus in Athens (which is limited to fresh, fried sea bream, red mullet, and shrimps with a side of...Read More

  • 10. Papadakis

    $$$$ | Kolonaki | Seafood

    Picture this: it's twilight and you're sitting under bitter-orange trees at one of Athens's best fish restaurants, in the heart of Kolonaki...Read More

  • 11. Spondi

    $$$$ | Pangrati | French

    What is perhaps the capital's top restaurant is justly celebrated as a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds, and eating here is a serious...Read More

  • 12. Strofi

    $$ | Makriyianni | Greek

    It's the place where the likes of Rudolph Nureyev, Maria Callas, and Elizabeth Taylor dined after performances at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus...Read More

  • 13. The Salty Pig

    $ | Exarcheia | American

    If you're looking for meat and don't mind the street-side setting, this self-service restaurant offers chef-driven food in a very casual setting...Read More

  • 14. Aleria

    $$$ | Metaxourgeio | Mediterranean

    Restaurants, including this award-winning gem of neoclassical design and inventive Mediterranean cuisine, are one reason Metaxourgeio's star...Read More

  • 15. Ama Lachei at Nefeli's

    $ | Exarcheia | Greek

    Step out of Kallidromiou Street in edgy Exarcheia and find yourself in a large, lovely courtyard full of little tables and abundant greenery...Read More

  • 16. Athinaikon

    $$ | Omonia Sq. | Greek

    Choose among classic specialties at this old-fashioned mezedopoleio founded in 1932: grilled octopus, shrimp croquettes with white sauce, broad...Read More

  • 17. Athinaion Politeia

    $ | Thissio | Café

    For a fancy coffee (think espresso mixed with Sambuca), sweet crêpes, or an impromptu meal, stop at this restored neoclassical-style mansion...Read More

  • 18. Avli Psirri

    $ | Psirri | Greek

    A very well-kept secret until a couple of years ago, Avli remains well under the radar even today. But if you walk past its inconspicuous entrance...Read More

  • 19. Avocado

    $$ | Syntagma | Vegetarian

    For such a tiny spot in a narrow street just off Syntagma Square, this small but stylish vegetarian favorite has many devoted fans. The veg...Read More

  • 20. Bairaktaris

    $ | Monastiraki | Greek

    Run by the same family since 1879, this is an almost legendary souvlaki eatery in Monastiraki Square. After admiring the painted wine barrels...Read More

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