The most complete information guide about Athens, Greece

Eating out in Athens... and adventure!An adventure...

Eating out in Athens is an adventure. From street-eating, buying a Koulouri (sesame seed bread ring) from a street vendor, or Galaktoboureko (delectable custard-filled flaky pastry topped with a dusting of icing sugar), to Tyropitta (cheese pies) or souvlaki (kebabs), now known in most of Europe, one may eat a full meal just by traversing the streets.

Fast food restaurants are now added to the traditional tavern where a cheap meal still usually can be had. Chinese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Russian, you name it, Athens has a restaurant serving their cuisine.

Greek wines are measuring up to once producing only a lowly cousin to retsina, the resinated wine, which is an acquired but good taste. Nowadays Greek wines are becoming noticed internationally and some are very good indeed.

Ouzo! Ouzo??? No need to say anything about something as Greek as ouzo is. You drink it and... start singing.

Eating out

Eating in the open air, an Athenian traditionPeople tend to love or hate Greek food. The spicing is unusual and lamb, olive oil and fish are common ingredients. There's more to Greek food however than gyros. If you've only experienced Greek cuisine as a fast food in another country, you're in for a treat. Athens has a wide variety of restaurants ranging from elegant to quaint. Estiatorion are the more expensive conventional restaurants; taverna are informal, family-run establishments; psistaria offer mostly grilled meats and psarotaverna specialize in seafood dishes. Overall, Greek food is healthy. Olive oil is good for you and will give you some years more to enjoy the Greek cuisine.

The "joie de vivre" of the Greeks is infectious. An evening out, whether it be in metropolitan areas or in an island village, will prove to be memorable and economical. Greeks in all walks of life use evening dining as a principal source of entertainment. They dine late and enjoy open-air places during the warm summer months, even if air-conditioning is available. In most establishments that cater to Greek clientele, service is likely to be friendly, warm and informal. What usually happens when you walk into a restaurant is, after finding a table, you will be permitted or encouraged to go to the kitchen to see what they have to offer and make your choice.

The waiter will not be at your table every five minutes to ask you if you need anything so you will have to attract his attention when you do. It also is very normal that you keep ordering when you see something you like being brought to another table after having eaten what you ordered. A 15% service is included in the food prices so you do not need to tip but you can always leave something for the guy who clears the tables.

A meal in Greece is highlighted with a selection of hors d' oeuvres, hot and cold (referred to as mezedes), which are served in small plates placed in the center of the table. Greeks are not connoisseurs of soup but the few available are meals in themselves.

Eating outMezedes are comprised of such items as melitzanosalata (mashed eggplant with oil, lemon and garlic), taramosalata (Greek caviar spread), dolmadakia (meat or rice rolled in grapevine leaves), kalamarakia (deep fried squid), tyropitakia (cheese wrapped in strudel leaves), kolokithakia (deep fried zucchini). They are usually served with tzatziki, keftedes, octopus and more.

The main course is a casserole or grilled fish. There are also many meat stews to choose from as well as plain grilled cuts of meat and of course the well-known souvlaki. Fish and shellfish are excellent when caught, cooked and eaten the same day.

Salad is usually ordered with the main course and can be prepared with fresh vegetables or cooked dandelions (greens are boiled in water, drained and served with oil and lemon). All seasonal vegetables, such as artichokes, beans, peas, carrots, and zucchini are often cooked and served together in the casserole dishes rather than separately.

There is a variety of cheeses produced in Greece. They include some very interesting regional specialties. But the most commonly offered in restaurants are feta (white semi-soft and salted), kasseri (yellow semi-soft), graviera (hard) and manouri (unsalted creamy and fattening). Cheese is usually consumed with bread which can vary tremendously in flavor depending on the particular region.

Desserts are a treat including baklava and kataifi. In the summer, however, sweets give way to fresh fruits such as large peaches, melon, watermelon, grapes and pears.

Greek coffee is similar to Arabian coffee. The important thing to know when ordering are the words pikro (bitter), metrio (semi-sweet) and gliko (sweet). Coffee is usually served with a glass of water. Top

The Greek hamburgerSouvlaki, the Greek hamburger

One of the most famous and most eaten Greek food is souvlaki. It is usually beef, lamb or pork meat that is served on a round pita bread with lettuce, tomato, onions, french fries and tzatziki. That is if you eat it in a souvlaki shop. If you want take-out the pita bread is rolled. You take it with you in packed in wax paper which keeps it all together and eat it while walking. Souvlaki is to Greece what the hamburger is to the US.

There are a lot of good souvlaki shops in Athens especially on Mitropoleos street, very close to Monastiraki square. One of the best in our opinion is Bairaktaris on Monastiraki square on the corner with Mitropoleos. The place always is very busy and waiters are shouting orders but service is very friendly and you do not have to wait long. They also serve the best Tzatziki you have ever tasted. Tzatziki is a yogurt sauce with cucumber and a lot of garlic, so much it will bite your tongue. You can enjoy your souvlaki in the shop or take it with you. Souvlaki is cheap. When you are looking for a quick meal, that is what you or your kids need. See our restaurants page. Top

Greek wine, an unknown delightGreek wine

The ancient Greeks revered wine and worshipped the wine-god Dionysus for his precious gift. Wine was the inspiration for popular festivals and sacred rites and ceremonies. Wine has been produced in Greece for more than  six thousand years. Its long history of wine and wine-making have played an inseparable role in the country's history affairs.

Greece's 6000 year old wine tradition has allowed the local wines to have a distinct identity. During the last 20 years the wine producers have been promoting wines of (AOC) Appellation d'Origine Controlee quality.

Greek wine is cultivated all over the mainland and the islands. Greek vineyards are cultivated on mountain slopes of up to 800m above the sea-level or at sea-level. The soil characteristics for the majority of the vineyards is rocky limestone. There is also a percentage that is cultivated on fertile plains. The vineyards are spread over great areas of land but occupy small amounts of it.

The Greek landscape is ideal for unique microclimatic conditions favoring the cultivation of local grape varieties. The combination of a mild climate, a lot of sunshine and low rainfall make soils of moderate fertility and small crops of excellent quality.

One should not think too much about where, when, how or why when it comes to Greek wines. One should just sit back and enjoy them. Top

RetsinaThe wine of the Gods

Retsina has its origins in ancient Greece. Its history goes back more than 3.000 years ago in Attica region. It was born of the need to preserve and ship wines in pine-pitch sealed vessels. Ancient wines varied substantially in quality and tended to spoil. In efforts to avoid this, wines were often adulterated with exotic ingredients, from herbs to seawater.

During the archaic times Retsina took the final form we know today, that of the use of resin in its preparation. From then, everything remained the same and today, Retsina is one of the two national drinks of Greece together with Ouzo.

Retsina is a 100% Greek product. It is not produced in any other part of the world except Greece. Made for more than 3,000 years, this traditional Greek wine has been resinated (treated with pine-tree resin). The resin gives the wine a distinctively sappy taste.

Today, Retsina is produced in almost all parts of Greece but the best is considered that of Attica.

Retsina's are either white or rose and should be served cold. Retsina is ideal as an accompaniment for all types of Greek cuisine. Like most Greek beverages, it is undeniably at its best when combined with Greek foods, especially the savoury mezedes served as appetizers.

Some people, mostly non-Greeks, say that Retsina is an acquired taste. Some other say that Retsina has a flavor as sappy and turpentine like. We challenge you to try it out for yourself because if you don't, you will never know what you are missing.The best is to try it in its native environment. Maybe then you may well respond to it like a true Greek! Top


Ouzo is a Greek anise-flavored liqueur that is widely consumed in Greece and is considered to be the national Greek drink.

The history of ouzo is somewhat murky but some claim it may date back in one form or another to ancient times. Its follower is raki, a drink distilled throughout the Byzantine and later Ottoman Empires, often in those days of quality approaching moonshine. Similar liqueurs in Turkey and many Arab countries still go by that name.

Modern ouzo distillation largely took off in the 19th century following Greek independence, with much production concentrated on the island of Lesvos, which claims to be the originator of the drink and remains a major producer. In 1932, ouzo producers developed a method of distillation in copper stills, which is now considered the canonically proper method of production. However, If you don't like liquorices you won't like Ouzo.

In modern Greece, ouzeri's can be found in nearly all cities, towns, and villages. These cafe-like establishments serve ouzo with mezedes, appetizers such as octopus, salad, sardines, calamari, fried zucchini and clams, among others. It is traditionally slowly sipped (usually mixed with water or ice) together with mezedes shared with others over a period of several hours in the early evening.

In many areas, individuals or small-time local producers make tsipouro, which is essentially a home-made small-batch variant of ouzo. The taste of tsipouro varies widely by producer, but many Greeks prefer their favorite local tsipouro to the more commonly-available brands of mass-produced ouzo. The traditional hospitality greeting for travelers visiting the monasteries at Mount Athos is a small glass of tsipouro and a loukoumi, a candy-like homemade treat. Top


Metaxa is a special Greek spirit invented in 1888 in the Attica region, the province of Athens by a silk trader named Spyros Metaxas. Since then, the product has earned world recognition for its quality, color and taste.

Metaxa is distinguished as one of the most famous Greek spirit worldwide. It is misled to be a brandy but actually it is something more. Metaxa is produced from Savatiano, Sultanina and Black Corinth, twice distilled, married with aged muscat wine from Samos and Lemnos, blended with a secret botanical mix and then aged in hand-made limousine oak casks.

In the world market, Metaxa is generally available in three versions: three, five and seven star. Each star represents a year that it's been aged in oak barrels, thus the seven star is the most aged and selected type. Generally speaking, it is relative easy to find the three and the five star Metaxa in most liquor stores but sometimes it is hard to find the seven star. Things are better on the Greek market. The line of Metaxa available on the Greek market is:

• Metaxa 3star (at least 3 years old).
• Metaxa 5star (at least 5 years old).
• Metaxa 7star Amphora (at least 7 years old).
• Metaxa Private Reserve (at least 20 years old).

There is no difference in terms of quality and production process between the different Metaxa products. As in every family, age is the only uncommon characteristic. In the Metaxa family, the youngest is the 3* and the oldest vintage is the Private Reserve.

Some types of Metaxa are very difficult to find or are found only at selected shops around the world. A few of them are: Metaxa Centenary, Metaxa Rhodes, Metaxa Golden Reserve, Metaxa Grand Olympian Reserve and Metaxa Golden Age. All these types were bottled on special occasions from selected old oak barrels that are kept in Metaxa storage facilities. Top


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     The Greek hamburger
     Greek wine


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