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Athens is the crumbling capital of Greece, the focal point of the unrest and the anger of the Greek youth about the corruption of its own government. On the walls of this ancient metropolis you observe the political cries of the frustrated and disenfranchised. The beloved German Prime Minister Merkel meets a very different message in Athens as her portrait is spray painted with a Hitler mustache on a public wall. Every piece of art shows the anger, the frustration, and the sadness of their voices being stomped out. The EU is no friend to the locals here.
Even through all this political and economic strife, the Athenians still live their life the way they want to. They are still out enjoying their great cuisine and the culture that they hold in such high esteem. They are a stubborn; they are proud and they are fed up but still some of the most friendly people we have ever met. This is why I love this city.
The anarchist spirit is still alive and the fight for their city and their right as people will never end. This rebellious spirit encourages me to not just see the tourist side of the city but truly find out who lives in Athens and what it means to be a local. Through the locals and the cuisine, Ash and I fell in love with this city making us regret only having 3 days to spend in it. This is the birthplace of democracy and this is Athens, a city with a spirit that seems to never quit. So here is our Eat Local in Athens Guide because there is no better way to get to know the locals than through their food!
Eat Local in Athens
10 Plateon Str., Metaxourgeio
Rakor is an amazing restaurant in the transitional neighborhood of Metaxourgeio, while this neighborhood can be a little rough it is full of new and emerging restaurants, bars and galleries. Rakor is one of those new restaurants which is taking a shitty situation (aka the Greek economy) and making it work for them. Rakor is a collective which means that all the people who work there own a part of the business and share the profits. The restaurant benefits not only the employees but also local farmers. This is a true farm to table restaurant in the heart of Athens with an awesome youthful and hipster vibe. Oh ya, and did we mention that the food is out of this world?? Seriously, every dish we wanted to never end especially the fava beans. I mean, hello?!??! Look at that dish!
But while our eyes may not have limits our stomachs do…
69 Kalidromiou Str., Exarchia
Ama Laxei was recommended to us by our This is My Athens tour guide, Alexandrous, and oh man were we happy to find this place! Located in Exarchia near the Athens Archeological Museum (a MUST visit by the way), this restaurant focuses on small modern meze plates to share. The charming garden seating is the perfect way to spend a hot afternoon indulging in wine and their modern spin on Greek mezes.
Perhaps one of the best dishes we had the entire time in Athens was the oven roasted chickpeas with smoked pork and wild seasonal greens. I am drooling just thinking of this dish! Oh ya, and the little myzithra pies filled with myzithra cheese, flower honey, spearmint and sesame. These guys were the perfect accompaniment to some crisp white wine!
59 Sokratous Str., Omonia
While we did not have a chance to try the loukoumades, delicious Greek doughnuts covered in honey or chocolate or both…, here we did have them at Krinos at 87 Aiolou Str., in Psiri which is the oldest place frying them up, since 1922.
However instead of highlighting them we wanted to highlight this other shop in Omonia which our tour guide, Alexandros, and numerous other people say are the best loukoumades in the city. Unfortunately we didn’t make it there despite staying just down the road but we couldn’t resist sharing this insider information with you! Go get the doughnuts otherwise you might regret it like us!
9 Adrianou Str., Thissio
Till this day Ash is a massive nerd when it comes to ancient history, especially when it comes ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Ash loves Greece and has been to this country many times. When we went to Athens she knew where to enjoy some good souvlaki and gyros. Now the restaurant is located in a very touristy area. I mean I could see the Parthenon. I thought Ash was crazy but she insisted that this place was good and cheap too. It had all the warning signs of a bad place.
I was wrong though and it was quite tasty. When you want to have a quick bite to eat before you climb up that ancient hill to reach the heart of Athens, stop by here for a gyro or souvlaki and some cheap house wine!
No Name Taverna
on the corner of Theatrou and Sokratous, Psiri
Ok, this place is seriously old school Athens! Located just across the street from Varvakios Agorà is a small underground tavern that literally has no name and has been around forever. It is run by a father and son who are perfect examples of how friendly and accommodating the Greeks are. They sat us down at a table, immediately brought us a carafe of retsina (yes, the delicious or atrocious pine resin wine), and then brought me (Ashley) over to see what they were cooking. While we weren’t too hungry we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try some traditional fasolada, a bean soup made of white beans, veggies and a pinch of paprika.
This tavern is a rough and tumble place with simple furnishing and filled with barrels of retsina. If you are lucky some of the regulars will even be playing guitar, dancing and singing!
Varvakios Agorà aka Central Athens Market
42 Athinas Str., Psiri
Ash and I love open air markets and we love to explore them. We spend a lot of time eating the finished product at a table so feel like it is a must to spend time in the markets. People forget how much goes into collecting the proper ingredients that will ultimately be presented to you. This market is a no thrills true restaurant style market. This is one of the places in Athens where restaurants acquire their food.
The Market is gigantic and filled to the brim with more fish, meat, and produce then you can imagine. You enter the Art Deco covered building into a loud and bustling aisles that part the stalls. Vendors try and out shout each other as they call out their products and prices. This is the real deal this and a must visit when in Athens. It is always nice to see where what you’re eating is coming from.
Another Market not to miss. It is an entire street that burns your nostrils with spices. Along the street, you can find every spice your heart desires. Along with every spice imaginable, you also find stores filled with cheeses and salamis. This market does not stick to just Greek cuisine but has much more international ingredients one might need. It is worth a walk down just to smell the spices.
Drink Local in Athens
Frappe at καφενειο (Which just means Cafe in Greek)
on Megalou Alexandrou, Metaxourgeio
One of my favorite things that I like to do when I am in Athens is to sit and enjoy a Frappe. You may ask me, “Alex what is a frappe?” I’ll tell you! Start off with some Nescafe instant coffee, add some sugar to taste, some water, condensed milk and then blend until you get a thick brown foam. Guess what? It is delicious! καφενειο is the place to get them. Ash and I were walking down the street when we saw a few old men sitting outside playing backgammon.
We sat down, ordered a couple of frappe’s that cost a buck fifty each and enjoyed the sunshine. Now, you can get frappe’s everywhere but this place had the great local vibe and stole our hearts especially since Metaxourgeio is such an undiscovered neighborhood.
Nileos Str. (which was originally Akamantos Str.), Thissio
Up the stairs on your left if you are coming from Apostolou Pavlou
One of the great joys that I have when travelling is being able to enjoy fermented grape juice from around the world. When in Greece, people should be enjoying retsina wine and I enjoyed a lot of it when I was in Athens. This little cafe was a perfect pit stop to enjoy some of that wine just steps away from the Parthenon. If you need a moment to recover from soaking in the breadth and heights (literally) of Athenian history this is the perfect stop to recover.
16 Navarchou Apostoli Str., Psirri
This was one of the coolest places that Ash and I had the chance to stumble upon. It was a modern style bar that had unbelievable small plates along with a great wine and spirit selection. Now, the really cool thing about this place a special kind of raki and as far as we know it is the only place that you can enjoy it. There is a local who comes down to this bar and sells his aged raki. Now raki is made out of grape skins like grappa, just higher proof and made throughout this part of the world. It is like moonshine. Usually, raki is not aged and the good stuff is made by locals and served fresh. We were obsessed until we tried the barrel aged raki and it changed our life and this is the only place in the city that has it. Oh, by the way, this place has a great wine list plus and small bites. I am so glad that we stopped in!
Παληα ταβέρνα κρητικού aka Old Cretan Tavern
24 Mnisikleous Str., Plaka
Yes, Greece can become a bit chilly especially in the evening during those late fall and winter months. This is the perfect time to enjoy some hot red wine with a bit honey mixed in. If that sounds as good to you as it does to me then this is the place for you. It sits on a set of stairs that have a few restaurants along the sides of the stairs. It is a cool little hangout for locals in the evening and located in the historic and picturesque neighborhood of Plaka. Greeks are always outside relaxing with wine and coffee and this is one of the hippest places in the city to grab a drink and soak in some history.
2 Fokionos Str., Syntagma
on the corner of Fokionos and Petraki Street
What an amazing little wine bar set in the heart of Athens! Heteroclite is filled to the brim with locals and at times very hard to find a seat. If you are lucky enough to grab a stool this is the perfect place to grab a drink and explore the Greek world of wines. Ash and I came just before closing and were able to have a couple of beautiful glasses of wine to end our perfect day in Athens.
These are the glasses we enjoyed and if you see them on the list I suggest giving them a try: Kamara Rose from Thessaloniki, Xinomavro from Nausso, central Macedonian Refosco from Thessaloniki, and Agiorgitiko from the Peloponnese. Greek wine is some of the most ancient wine in the world and it is one of the most interesting regions to explore!
Baba Au Rum
6 Kleitiou Str., Syntagma
Okay Ash and I are kind of addicted to Tiki Bars and this one might win the best tiki bar that we have been to. We were lucky enough to be introduced to it by our local guide, Alexandrous. The bar is a neat stylish bar that plays slightly on the tiki bar decorum. Definitely not over the top, I had no idea until I opened their menu but it was definitely confirmed once you take a walk into their Blue Hawaiian bathroom.
The menu is filled with classic tiki cocktails and a great selection of their own creative rum drinks. Ash and I each had a couple and all were delicious. Make sure to try the Baba Au Rum and the Ray Barientos you will not regret these wonderful strong drinks.This place would definitely be my regular hang out if I lived in Athens.
105 Voulis Str., Syntagma
The youth has brought a lot of energy to this city with great bars and restaurants. This is one of the places that is populated by the youth. Everybody is sitting outside sipping on wine, popping Greek olives and smoking cigarettes. It is jammed pack here in the evening with locals enjoying time with friends into the late evenings and sipping on Greek wine. If you are looking for a more lively and outdoor wine bar compared to Heteroclite than this is your spot. Or you can check out both 🙂
59 Kolokotroni Str., Sytagma
Now this bar almost did not make this list because we almost passed up on it. Luckily Ash and I stumbled upon it late one night. It was like a beacon of joy as it was completely decked out in Christmas decor and Ashley is a sucker for anything Christmas especially the second December 1st hits. Walking into the bar and being greeted with the sounds of Sinatra, we were transported back in time. We grabbed bar seats and were greeted by old fashioned bartenders in the old school uniform with the apron.
This place gives a slice of Christmas along with great classic cocktails and probably the best martini I have had in Europe. Make sure to try the Dolin vermouth with your martini! This is a must stop for any cocktail lover and if you follow the Bacardi Legacy Competition, one of the bartenders has his cocktail, The Wanderer, as one of the top 3 cocktails in the world!
Shop Local in Athens
Ippolito Leather Goods
38 Voulis Str., Syntagma
Now if you are walking by the wine bar, Oinoscent, on Voulis there is also a great leather goods shop on the same street. We met the owner and she was an extremely friendly and had one of her own bags on her. It was extremely beautiful and you could tell what an amazing artisan she is. Ash and I are big on supporting the local artisans and we really wish we had had an opportunity (and cash) to bring home one of these gorgeous handcrafted leather bags.
Tour Local in Athens
This is My Athens
Okay, now I am going to talk about our inside secret to how we fell in love with Athens as well as got the inside scoop on all the wonderful things that we got to do and see in just three days. We will be dedicating an entire article to this company and guide but we wanted to mention how amazing This is My Athens tours are. This tour is, in my opinion, the only way to see Athens.
It’s a company that believes in giving people free tours of the city to show them the best sides of Athens. You simply email the company and you tell them what you are interested in and then one of their many volunteers will contact you and put together a tour for you. Our Guide not only spent the allotted two hours with us but spent another 7 hours showing us the city that he loved and called home. He showed us the ancient sites, the street art, the bar and dining side plus the markets. They have a strict no tip rule too. This is not about the money but this about having the customers learn and fall in love with this city.
Thank you so much for the tour, This is My Athens, without you guys we wouldn’t appreciate and love Athens as much as we do!
45 Iasonos Str., Metaxourgeio
Okay this was one of the coolest art galleries that we have seen. First it is set smack dab in the middle of the illegal red light district. I have to say it was the most active brothel scene I have seen since Amsterdam. Anyway back to this awesome art gallery. It is behind these very large bronze doors. When we walked in we were greeted by a stark white room. To the right there was a wooden ladder leaning against the wall. I thought to myself are you kidding me? Then I walked up to it and as I got closer I realized that it was not wood at all but actually marble. I had to touch it just be sure. I was allowed to touch it too. It was colored marble shaped into the most realistic wooden ladder I have ever seen. Im telling you that it is mind blowing.
The Breeder gallery has exhibits like this that rotate and the gallery itself is playing a large part in highlighting Greek artists who are reinventing what Greek art means. If you are interested in the modern art scene at all this is a must visit!
Stay Local in Athens
Red Airbnb Flat, Omonia
I used to absolutely counsel against staying in the neighborhood of Omonia, but when we found this gorgeous flat we couldn’t say no. This was one of the best airbNbs we have ever stayed in. It was centrally located, in a great neighborhood, and super comfortable. I wish we had been able to stay a week here or even move in 🙂 Athens wouldn’t be a bad place to live after all…
If you haven’t used airBnB yet get $25 off your first booking!
Athens was on a very tight time table for us but we were able to see more of this beautiful and charismatic city that we thought we could. We fell in love with it and know that we will return and give it it’s proper due. The great cuisine in this city continues to help drive this city forward and the local youth have an energy that makes you forget that there are so many obstacles for this city and country to climb out of. However, what the youth are creating is the beginning of a vibrant and creative revival. This is a city that I went into not expecting to love but came out of it with its spirit and am in full support of this city becoming great once again. Athens is a must visit destination for its food, history, art, and the local spirit.
Heading to Athens soon? Don’t forget to buy travel insurance! Sure you may not use it but its always good to have. We recommend World Nomads which we have been using for years and have always made us feel secure as we travel around the world!
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