Every year, tourists travel to the Greek capital to hike up the Acropolis, browse countless museums, and seek out tans at nearby beaches. They also come for Greek cuisine, which builds many meals from three key ingredients: olive oil, wheat, and wine. Add in lots of vegetables, fruits, fish, and meat, and a philhellene could want nothing more.
But the Athenian food scene goes well beyond olives and bread. The capital has also long served as a gateway for the wider MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. Athens has welcomed immigrants from Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria, who combine their foodways with Greek ingredients and customs in fine dining to street food. In recent years, the city’s chefs have developed new genres of gourmet Greek cuisine, with influences from across the eastern Mediterranean and with help from an up-and-coming generation of cooks who cut their teeth in restaurants around the world. Even TV shows like MasterChef Greece have had a noticeable impact, driving interest in new dining options and highlighting industry talent.
Before COVID-19, the food scene in Athens (and all over Greece, really) was thriving. The country has generally managed the pandemic well, especially during the first wave, but COVID dampened that growth. The government moved quickly to shut down cities, including restaurants, and close borders. Some venues pivoted to takeaway; many closed permanently. But in May, after months with their doors closed, restaurants all over Greece reopened, first for outdoor dining, then indoor. The country quickly advertised itself as a safe vacation destination, and the tourism industry made a significant comeback. The capital even attracted some attention among visitors who normally head straight for the islands.
Exciting, classic, and Classical, the best Athens restaurants are here to serve you olives, bread, wine, and so much more.
Prices per person, excluding alcohol
$ = Less than 10 euros (less than $12 USD)
$$ = 11 – 29 euros ($13 to $34 USD)
$$$ = 30 – 49 euros ($35 to $58 USD)
$$$$ = More than 50 euros (more than $59 USD)
Note: The inclusion of restaurants offering dine-in service should not be taken as an endorsement for dining inside. Studies indicate a lower exposure risk to COVID-19 outdoors, but the level of risk is contingent on social distancing and other safety guidelines. Check with each restaurant for up-to-date information on dining offerings. For updated information on coronavirus cases in Greece, please visit the National Public Health Organization.
Demetrios Ioannou is an independent reporter and documentary photographer, based between Athens, Greece and Istanbul, Turkey. His work has been featured at The New York Times, NPR, POLITICO Europe, The Daily Beast and BBC Travel among others.