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. 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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. Fatsio

    $ | Pangrati | Greek

    Don't be fooled by the Italian name: the food at this old-fashioned (practically unchanged since 1949), family-owned restaurant is all home...Read More

  • 7. Kanella

    $$ | Gazi-Kerameikos | Greek

    Housed in a cool, airy building with modern and traditional touches, this lively example of a neo-taverna serving mama's cooking but infused...Read More

  • 8. Lime Bistro

    $ | Gazi-Kerameikos | Vegetarian

    Athenians have been known historically as meat lovers, but they are beginning to discover the merits of creative, sophisticated, and delicious...Read More

  • 9. Manas Kouzina-Kouzina

    $ | Monastiraki | Greek

    Homey cuisine, served at a counter (there's no table service), with prices lower than a fast-food meal are the secrets that keep Mother's Kitchens...Read More

  • 10. Papaioannou

    $$ | Seafood

    Elegant but unpretentious and located in Piraeus's prettiest spot—the Mikrolimano (little port) marina where sailboats, fishing boats, and yachts...Read More

  • 11. Taverna Filippou

    $$ | Kolonaki | Greek

    This unassuming urban taverna is hardly the sort of place you'd expect to find in chic Kolonaki, yet its devotees (since 1923) have included...Read More

  • 12. Taverna Virinis

    $$ | Pangrati | Greek

    In summer, Athenian couples, families, and groups of all ages find refuge in the pleasant, open-air garden of this taverna, as they chomp on...Read More

  • 13. To Steki tou Ilia

    $$ | Thissio | Steakhouse

    Unpretentious and overall unremarkable, this restaurant is justifiably famous for its freshly grilled paidakia (lamb chops), to be eaten with...Read More

  • 14. Vlassis

    $$ | Ilisia | Greek

    Relying on traditional recipes from northern Greece and the islands, as well as gourmet Mediterranean creations, the chefs here whip up some...Read More

  • 15. Yiantes

    $$ | Exarcheia | Greek

    In a flower-filled courtyard—fashionably green and framed by wisteria and jasmine—you peruse a menu that, despite some modern influences, reads...Read More

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