Discovering Greek Cuisine on a Food Tour of Athens

Cheese shop in Athens
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A note to my readers: None of us can travel during the current coronavirus crisis. However I am continuing to post content for you to enjoy at home and to inspire your future travels. Happy reading and stay safe!

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Food gives you an insight into a place. However cosmopolitan a city may be, with the English language all pervasive and international brands on the high street, food is one thing that remains stubbornly local. You don’t have to wander far off the beaten track to experience the type of food that people have been enjoying for centuries. Yet people often find it difficult to engage with the local cuisine; they may be fearful about trying new things, or worry that they won’t know what to order in a restaurant. But you can’t experience a place fully unless you eat as the locals do. Which is why I found myself exploring Greek cuisine on the Savoring Athens tour, a culinary walk around the heart of Athens.

Cretan foods in Athens
Sampling Greek cuisine – cheese, olives and jam

Understanding Greek Cuisine

Our guide was George, a lawyer turned tour leader, and he took us on a tour around shops and cafés, tasting as we went. We tried cheese and meats, olives and honey. It was the best of Greek cuisine, including a shop that specialised in Cretan foods, and one or two more unusual flavours, such as water buffalo salami (surprisingly tasty and not at all fatty). George was keen to give us tips about restaurants to try, and places to visit, as well as explaining the significance of what we were eating.

Cheese shop in Athens
Owner Plias Mpitskias in his cheese shop, which makes its own feta cheese

It wasn’t just about trying the cuisine, but also about exploring the city’s relationship with food. We walked through the market, brimming with fresh colourful fruit and vegetables, and into the fish market where the air rang with the sound of stallholders shouting their wares. Then down Evripidou Street, the “street of herbs and spices”; I could smell the scent of herbs as soon as we turned the corner. The street was full of small speciality shops, such as the one selling nothing but different kinds of flour. We stopped at Elixir Herbs and Spices, a cornucopia of spices and herbal remedies.  

Herbal remedies
Herbal remedies on sale at Elixir. Everyone was intrigued by the “Horny Goat powder”!
Eat with locals on BonAppetour

Family Owned Businesses

Most of the places we visited were long established, family-owned businesses, firmly rooted in traditional Greek cuisine. Like Ktistakis on Sokratous Street, a café that was established in 1912 and has only ever sold one product – loukouma, a crispy Cretan dessert of fried dough, cinnamon and syrup. Or the Polykalas liquor store, established by the current owner’s great grandfather, who owned a distillery and sold his own liquors in the shop. Even today some of the liquors are home produced.

Loukouma
Delicious crispy loukouma

By the end of the tour I was starting to wish I hadn’t eaten breakfast before I came out. We’d sampled cheese (lots of it), bread, jams… and much more. We’d drunk raki and fruit liquors. And now we were at the last stop – the Stani Milk Shop where we were presented with plates of yoghurt, creamy pastry and rice pudding. It was all delicious but I was struggling to eat much more.  

Greek yoghurt and honey
Greek yoghurt with nuts and honey at the Stani Milk Shop

I’d learnt a lot about Greek cuisine. But I’d also learnt that it’s a good idea to skip the hotel breakfast before going on an Athens food tour!

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8 thoughts on “Discovering Greek Cuisine on a Food Tour of Athens”

  1. I love how you appreciate the "city's relationship with food". It is so true! In the last couple of years, I have tried to always include a walking or riding (bicycle) food tour in every city we visit! Athens is on our list of destinations and I will include this tour.

  2. I've taken very few food tours and plan to change that when I travel. Good idea about skipping breakfast – though I do find you walk a lot on these tours and that helps keep the pounds off. Looks like a lot of fun.

  3. You're right about food giving you an insight into a country and its people. I can't think of a better way to explore Athens at the beginning of a trip than through a food tour where you can try new foods as well as learn about the culture.

  4. If there's one thing I remember about Greek food is the honey. That bowl of Greek yougurt looks delicious. I'm quite jealous of all of you who did this fabulous tour. Your pictures are great as well.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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