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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

One Day in Athens for Food and Culture

Looking to plan the perfect itinerary for one day in Athens for foodies? We’ve got you covered.

During my childhood, Greece existed as a fantasy realm, with its crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches. The famous destination always brought up a smile, with the (supposedly) never-ending summers. The country of sun, relaxation, and joy. I am quite happy this was always the imagination and the stories I have heard about the country because years later, as an avid traveler, Greece entered easily into my bucket list.

Before jumping in to share my tips for spending one day in Athens enjoying the best food and culture, I want to give a little background on me as a traveler. To be fair, my travels started as a young kid—not by myself, of course, but my parents’ curiosity and exploration of the world definitely continued with my passions. Later on, I developed my own traveling approach and style, pursuing and combining my passions for nature, rock climbing, cultures, and people.

It was always the mix of sustainable travels, being surrounded by locals and travelers, and ‘hunting’ for these local gems that not every traveler gets to see.

Here is an overview:

How Did I Become an Athens Expert?

After traveling in Asia, living in Japan, and traveling more in Europe, my passion for rock climbing led me to live in Greece—but not in Athens. In fact, I live four hours away from the city, and that’s why I feel like it’s the perfect place for me to give tips and tricks to every traveler, especially when it comes to food—when you visit regularly but occasionally, you become an expert!

So, let’s go from start to finish for spending one day in Athens. Of course, you don’t need to do it all at once if you have more time in the city.

Related read: A Guide to Athens, Greece

Meeting locals around food when spending one day in Athens, Greece
The friendliest locals!

Foodie Itinerary for One Day in Athens

Get ready for a delicious and busy day in Athens.

Related read: Things to Do in Athens

Morning: Start With a Freddo Espresso and SpanaKopita (Spinach pie)

If French cities are known for their baguettes and croissants, Athens, or any Greek town, to be fair, is known for its pies. Those pies are different from the pies we imagine, and I guess the proper relative is the Turkish burek, but let’s go with pies.

Those fresh, home-made, spinach and cheese pies can be found in any café and bakery in the city. When they’re made in the morning, hot from the oven, they are at their best. They’re a mix of flavors you won’t find elsewhere. You can try making them yourself, but you definitely need more than a recipe—you will need the local touch guidance.

For me, the best neighborhood for this morning stroll to find the perfect pie is Exarchia—the ‘rebellion’ neighborhood of central Athens, where young locals enjoy their time between cool cafés and bars in narrow alleys. I liked that the mornings are pretty quiet, and at the same time, they allow a nice view of the locals’ morning hangouts while learning a bit about the vibrant culture of the city and the neighborhood. 

Talking about the mornings, they always come with a coffee, don’t they?

In Greece, Freddo Espresso is almost a must. We’re talking about an ice-mixed espresso that provides an exceptional coffee experience, while the best one I had was at an Athens local’s home. Stroll out from Exarchia and go up the main road to find some of the famous cafés of Athens. On the way to the Psiri neighborhood and the Athens food market, towards lunchtime, with the first views of the day towards the Acropolis. 

Related read: How to Order Coffee in Greece

Olives at a food market in Athens, Greece
One Day in Athens for Food and Culture

Lunch: Go local!

After visiting Psiri and getting your appetite running thanks to all the nice tourist offers, it’s time to visit the Athens Central Food Market. This market has everything you can think of – spices, fish, meat, nuts, coffee, and fruits. Exploring the market is a journey in itself. You can walk around the market, smell and see the ingredients, and understand the local cuisine and how it became so famous for its variety of flavors, fresh ingredients and unique use of legumes, salads, and all those delicious delights. 

Greece has a lot to offer, so it is great to choose local. Try not to fall into the classic tourist traps (even though they are delicious, as well), and choose local. Find food experiences with local experts or, since we are talking about lunchtime – taking a food tour is a perfect way to fill your appetite and learn something new, while another option is just to enter those market restaurants that look properly local. A lot of them are actually using the market’s goods and they are just open for lunch.

The offers are endless, but as always, I support ordering a lot of small dishes so you can try everything (and don’t miss the Greek ‘Gignates’—giant beans in tomato sauce).

Related read: A Guide to the Best Street Food in Athens

Join This Lunchtime Food Tour

Embark on a culinary journey through the heart of Athens, where you’ll explore the city’s vibrant food scene. This walking tour will lead you to iconic local spots, including the bustling central food market and storied delis, some over a century old.

Indulge in an array of Greek culinary delights—savor snacks, cheeses, cold cuts, olives, and sip on local wine, culminating in a traditional lunch at a scenic Greek taverna.

This experience is lauded for its inclusive feast of food and wine, opportunities to mingle with the locals, and the guidance of Pascal, a passionate host eager to share his top foodie spots. Come with an appetite and leave with a rich taste of Athenian culture.

Price: €61/ guest

Start time: 1:30 pm

Meeting address to be provided once the booking is confirmed

Book this tour directly with the operator!

Dinner: Dine in the Best Setting

The famous Acropolis of Athens has a true magic to it—standing on top of the hill is this ancient structure with a strong presence, especially at night or in the evening. The hill is lightened, and that gives it the ‘wow’ effect. Start your afternoon walking around the older neighborhoods surrounding the hill, absorbing the special atmosphere. As you get further, visit the Monastiraki neighborhood and the open-air flea market. 

Now that you have walked quite a lot – it’s time to eat! The endless offerings around these areas can be overwhelming, but what better way to be sure of a great evening coming than choosing a place with a view to the Acropolis?

Athens offers quite a few rooftop dining spots to enjoy the best view of the city. Many locals are aware of that, so it might even be a true local experience! The Greeks are famous for their hospitality and kindness, so keep your eyes open and get ready to enjoy the one and only Greek mix (it’s feta cheese with fresh vegetables)—great food, great alcohol, great atmosphere and the best views of Athens!

How to spend a delicious day in Athens, Greece
The Greek kindness – it’s impossible to choose the dishes!

There’s so much more!

While writing this tip, I wondered if I should share specific dishes or just let the readers explore. Well, I decided to let you explore!

The reason for that is that Athens is truly special and unique just to walk around in. The city center is small enough to walk everywhere and find all the best spots. And when it comes to food, let the locals guide you. They are truly experts in flavors.

So, my main tip would be to connect with the locals through food and culture. The rest will happen.

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