What to eat and drink in Athens

Foodie fanatics will be pleased – and hopefully not too surprised – to hear that Athens has some of the finest restaurants and bars in Greece. The variety of food and drink on offer is astonishing, but what it does best is, of course, Greek cuisine. And even better news if you’re a vegetarian: Athens is one of the few European capitals where you will find some really exciting options on the menu.

Firstly, it’s obvious but certainly worth a mention: Athens tends to get incredibly hot, so don’t be surprised if you find you can only tolerate the thought of a salad. Fortunately, Greek salads are great, and almost all come topped with tangy feta or salty halloumi and studded with black olives. A Cretan salad is a real treat, with all the components of a normal salad served in a bread ‘bowl’.

You have to make sure you try a mezze platter before you fly home. ‘Mezze’ refers to a collection of small dishes, in a concept much like Spanish tapas. Dishes include rice in vine leaves, lamb skewers and filo pastry, along with simpler servings of Greek cheese and yogurt-based dipping sauces. Pitta bread is typically served with mezze platters.

Pudding people will find that many desserts are based on nuts, honey and fruits such as figs, though ice cream and fresh fruit salad will be found almost everywhere. Baklava is particularly popular, comprising layered filo pastry filled with nuts and topped with honey, and flans, rice puddings and nougat are also a hit with locals and tourists alike.

Drinkers will be in their element in Athens. Local beers tend to be far cheaper than their international counterparts, with street bars visited by the locals costing significantly less than bars in hotels or alongside tourist attractions. If you fancy a drive to find out how Greek beer is made, there are several breweries nearby offering tours. Another must-drink is ouzo, an anise-flavoured Greek aperitif, with dedicated ouzeries serving up the drink with appetisers such as clams and calamari. Metaxa is a blend of brandy and Greek wines which is another famous spirit found all over Athens. Athenians like a drink, so be prepared for bars to become crowded and noisy.

For those preferring a non-alcoholic drink, Athens has a massive amount of coffeehouses serving up coffee, cold drinks and mezze platters. Coffee culture is becoming more and more prevalent in the capital, with many Greeks taking to the cafes in the heat of the day to enjoy an iced coffee or drinks made ‘freddo’ (cold) style.

Emma Lawson is a travel enthusiast who blogs about her trips to Europe in her spare time to inform and inspire other travellers

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