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 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. 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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. Aleria

    $$$ | Metaxourgeio | Mediterranean

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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. Cookoovaya

    $$$ | Ilisia | Greek

    This buzz-worthy restaurant has become known for its delicate, eclectic, and creative cuisine and expertly cooked food. A brainchild of five...Read More

  • 7. GB Roof Garden

    $$$$ | Syntagma | Greek

    With a skillfully-curated modern Greek-Mediterranean menu of haute cuisine dishes and an excellent wine list, this classic restaurant on the...Read More

  • 8. H Trataianio

    $$ | 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

  • 9. Kapnikarea

    $ | Monastiraki | Greek

    A perfect stop while exploring Ermou Street's shops and the Monastiraki area, Kapnikarea serves up tasty meze with a live soundtrack of the...Read More

  • 10. Kokkion

    $ | Psirri | Fast Food

    An ice cream workshop (dare we say laboratory) and store, Kokkion is the brainchild of a Cordon Bleu patissiere and serves ice cream like no...Read More

  • 11. Kuzina

    $$$ | Thissio | Greek

    Kuzina may be sleek, dazzlingly decorated, and moodily lit, but it's not just a pretty face. The food—especially the inventive seafood and pasta...Read More

  • 12. Lukumades

    $ | Acropolis | Fast Food

    Try (and probably get addicted to) one of Greece's most popular and traditional desserts— loukoumades . These doughtnut-like balls are deep...Read More

  • 13. Manhmanh

    $$ | Makriyianni | Greek

    Pronounced Manimani this creative restaurant features inspired recipes—and many ingredients—from the southern Peloponnese's Mani region, and...Read More

  • 14. Margaro

    $ | Piraeus | Seafood

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

  • 15. Nice N Easy

    $$ | Kolonaki | Mediterranean

    Inspired in its decor and the names of the dishes on the menu by old Hollywood glamour, this was Athens's first farm-to-table restaurant. Having...Read More

  • 16. 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

  • 17. 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

  • 18. 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

  • 19. Vassilenas

    $$ | Ilisia | Greek

    With a 100-year history, Vassilenas was once a humble fish tavern in Piraeus that gained cult status among Greece's leading intelligensia and...Read More

  • 20. 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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