Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400
Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Savory Souvlaki for Under €5
No trip to Greece is complete without indulging in souvlaki, the iconic Greek street food consisting of grilled meat skewers wrapped in warm pita bread. In Athens, you can find souvlaki stands on practically every corner, but with prices ranging from €2 to €8 per skewer, it pays to know where to get the best value. During my recent 5-day food adventure in Athens on a €400 budget, I discovered several spots serving up mouthwatering souvlaki for under €5 that satisfied my craving without breaking the bank.
My favorite souvlaki joint was O Thanasis in Monastiraki Square, where I picked up a juicy pork souvlaki loaded with onions and tomatoes for just €2.50. The meat was perfectly seasoned and grilled over hot coals, giving it a smoky char while keeping it tender and succulent. O Thanasis has been serving souvlaki in the same prime location since the 1950s, so they've perfected the technique. Don't expect frills, just paper plates and plastic utensils, but their souvlaki delivers on taste.
For a classic chicken souvlaki, I headed to Kostas in Plaka, steps from the Acropolis. Their chicken was marinated in lemon, garlic and oregano for 24 hours before hitting the grill, and the result was a super flavorful skewer with a nice char. At €4 including a fist-sized pita, fries and soda, it proved you can get a satisfying meal without overspending. Kostas also has several vegetarian options like halloumi cheese and veggie skewers, so it's great for meat-free Monday.
Near Syntagma Square, I discovered Yiantes, a hole-in-the-wall known for its souvlaki wraps. I tried the beef and pork combo for €4.50 and was amazed by how much meat they packed into the pita. The beef was seasoned with rigani, a Greek oregano, while the pork had a peppery kick, and the tomatoes, onions and tzatziki sauce added a nice cooling contrast. It was a monster of a wrap that could easily feed two.
What else is in this post?
- Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Savory Souvlaki for Under €5
- Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Mouthwatering Moussaka that Won't Break the Bank
- Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Fresh Greek Salad with Local Feta
- Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Stuffed Grape Leaves Worth Stuffing Your Face
- Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Lively Tavernas with Plate-Smashing Entertainment
- Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Sampling Sweet Baklava on a Budget
- Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Sipping Ouzo While Overlooking the Acropolis
- Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Finding the Best Gyros in Athens for Less
Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Mouthwatering Moussaka that Won't Break the Bank
No Greek foodie adventure is complete without diving into moussaka, the hearty eggplant and meat casserole smothered in silky béchamel sauce that has become a symbol of Greek cuisine worldwide. In Athens, moussaka appears on practically every menu, from street food stalls to upscale restaurants. With prices ranging wildly based on quality and portion size, I set out to track down the most mouthwatering moussaka Athens had to offer without busting my budget.
After polling locals, the clear consensus for best moussaka in Athens on a budget was Mama Roux, a cozy hole-in-the-wall joint tucked away in the artsy Psyrri neighborhood. Their moussaka has earned something of a cult following, with devoted regulars and tourists alike cramming into their few indoor tables or outdoor patio for a taste. At just €6 for a hearty slice oozing with melted cheese, it proved the hype was justified. The eggplant had a perfect velvety texture, soaking up the rich tomato meat sauce oozing with savory, cumin-spiked beef. The béchamel topping was next level, clearly homemade and layered generously. For an additional €2 I added a Greek salad with feta, cucumbers, tomatoes and olives that balanced the richness.
Seeking an upscale moussaka experience, I headed to Funky Gourmet in posh Kolonaki, where internationally-trained chefs put a modern spin on Greek classics. Their version came deconstructed in a cast iron skillet, with cubes of delicately fried eggplant nestled into aromatic meat sauce and topped tableside with ethereal clouds of whipped béchamel. At €18 it was a splurge, but the creative presentation and complex layers of flavor made it worthwhile for a special occasion. Paired with a glass of earthy Agiorgitiko wine, it was an indulgent meal that still came in under my daily budget.
For a quick lunch moussaka fix near touristy Plaka, I stopped into Scholarhio, which specializes in homestyle Greek cooking. Opting for takeaway, their classic moussaka slice was served warm in a cardboard box for just €4.50. The portion was smaller than Mama Roux but packed all the traditional flavors in an easy-to-eat package ideal for eating on the go. I found a bench under a shady olive tree nearby to enjoy with pita bread and olives from the market. It proved that even grab-and-go moussaka can satisfy the craving on a tight budget.
Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Fresh Greek Salad with Local Feta
No Greek meal is complete without horiatiki, the quintessential Greek salad piled high with juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, olives and feta cheese. In Athens, horiatiki salads are ubiquitous, served as a meze appetizer or as the vegetable component of a main course. But not all Greek salads are created equal when it comes to quality and taste. During my foodie tour of Athens, I became obsessed with finding the best horiatiki highlighting fresh, local ingredients that transported me to a Greek island tomato farm - without getting fleeced by tourist trap pricing.
My favorite horiatiki in Athens came from Feyrouz, a beloved neighborhood spot in Exarcheia. While their wraps and falafel are tasty, the real star is the salads, made from ingredients sourced directly from farmers. The tomatoes tasted like they were plucked straight from the vine that morning, still warm from the Mediterranean sun. The cucumbers and peppers were crisp and bright, while the onions and olives lent briny pops of flavor. And the feta, made from sheep and goat's milk, was creamy and tangy instead of bland and crumbly. At just €5 for a generous plate, it was one of the best salad values in town.
For a Greek salad in the shadow of the Acropolis, I headed to Avli tou Thodi in Plaka. Their ingredients were fresh and thoughtfully chosen, including barrel-aged feta and Kalamata olives. But the real surprise was the dried figs, which lent a touch of sweetness. At €7 it was pricier than Feyrouz, but the charming ambiance next to the Roman Agora made it worthwhile. Nearby, Scholarhio also served an excellent horiatiki using organic produce for €4, perfect for takeaway.
Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Stuffed Grape Leaves Worth Stuffing Your Face
No Greek meze spread is complete without dolmades, those savory morsels of rice, herbs and sometimes meat wrapped in tender grape leaves. Called dolmades from the Turkish word “dolmak” meaning to stuff, they originated in the Ottoman empire before becoming a staple across Greece and the Middle East. In Athens, dolmades are everywhere - sold as street food, served as appetizers in cafes, and devoured as snacks. But after sampling them across the city, I discovered huge variations in quality and price. Some were clearly mass-produced and stuffed with subpar ingredients, while others were lovingly hand-rolled with fresh, local components that transported me to a Greek yaya's kitchen.
The very best dolmades I tried in Athens came from Kostas, a beloved family-run taverna in Plaka dating back to the 1950s. Their grape leaves are hand-picked in the spring then blanched and frozen, allowing them to be stuffed and served year-round. Opting for the lamb dolmades, the rice filling was perfectly seasoned with fresh dill, mint and lemon zest, subtly fragrant and not overly salty like some. The leaves had a delicate tanginess and just the right amount of chew. At €5 for a generous plate of five juicy dolmades, it was a superb value accompanied by a glass of ouzo and Greek salad under the shade on their patio.
For dolmades-on-the-go near the Central Market, I grabbed a to-go box from Telis for just €2.50. They were stuffed with herbed rice and offered a nice light bite. However, with pre-packaged tzatziki and no leafy tops, their provenance was uncertain. Still, they satisfied the craving in a hurry. Near Syntagma Square, Oroscopo offered vegetable dolmades as part of a larger meze spread for €3.50. Mixing rice with carrots and zucchini, their generous sprinkle of lemon juice perked up the Vegetarian filling. The leaves were meaty and not too chewy. At Funky Gourmet, I splurged on a gourmet dolmade topped with smoked eggplant mousse and aged balsamic at €11 each. The flavors were incredible, but Kostas' simple take remained my favorite.
Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Lively Tavernas with Plate-Smashing Entertainment
No visit to Greece is complete without spending an evening in a lively taverna, partaking in the time-honored tradition of plate smashing accompanied by bouzouki music and dancing. In Athens, visitors can discover countless family-run tavernas where breaking plates isn't just tolerated - it's encouraged! When done safely and respectfully, joining in on the practice of smashing rembetika plates makes for an unforgettable Greek experience.
My first plate-smashing experience took place at Klimataria in Plaka, a taverna operated by the same family for over a century. After indulging in classic dishes like moussaka, souvlaki, Greek salad and honey-soaked baklava, the bouzouki band fired up. Several regular patrons got up and started twirling and shimmying their way around the dining room, then playfully smashed ceramic plates on the ground in rhythm with the music.
Initially hesitant, I was reassured by the waitstaff that breaking rembetika plates is a cherished tradition dating back centuries. The trick is to smash with the convex side down to control the debris. When I gave it a try, it released a feeling of reckless Greek abandon to be part of this time-honored ritual - plus sweeping up the shards allowed the delicious meal to settle before stepping out into the Athenian night. The staff even presented me with a “plate smasher” diploma to proudly display on my wall back home.
For those not ready to shatter dishes themselves, simply cheering on plate smashers with a hearty “Opa!” will win favor with locals. But don’t go smashing valuable plates - stick to the inexpensive rembetika provided. Breaking anything other than the designated plates could sour the mood quickly. Use common sense and restraint to avoid accidents that could dampen the evening.
At Stamatopoulos in Psyrri, I befriended the lead violinist Spiros, who explained the origins of plate smashing. The practice emerged from defiance and protest against oppression, but evolved into an expression of Greek perseverance, passion and celebration. He said it's best not to overthink - just embrace the experience! So when my fellow diners began flinging plates, I happily joined in, embracing my inner Zorba.
Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Sampling Sweet Baklava on a Budget
No visit to Greece is complete without indulging in baklava, the sweet pastry made of flaky filo dough layered with chopped nuts and held together with aromatic honey syrup. In Athens, baklava rules as king of desserts—you’ll find it on the menu at every restaurant, sold in bakery windows, and tempting you from street carts. But with prices ranging from €2 for a small takeaway portion to over €10 for an elaborate presentation at a luxury hotel cafe, I set out to find where to get the best baklava in Athens without getting fleeced.
My favorite baklava discovery was Karavan Baklava Guru, an unassuming spot in Monastiraki offering baklava made from a generations-old family recipe. For just €3, their diamond-cut pistachio baklava was an epiphany—the second it hit my tongue I was transported back to my Greek yaya’s kitchen. Each tender layer of filo gave way to a harmonious balance of crunchy, premium pistachios and subtle floral honey with orange blossom notes. It walked the fine line of being sweet without crossing over into cloying. The texture played my senses—at once velvety, crispy, and melt-in-your-mouth. And the generous slice could easily satisfy two people, making it one of the best baklava values in Athens.
Nearby, Le Greche had tempting baklava displays that caught my eye every time I passed. Opting to take a piece to go for €2.50, I found a quiet bench under an olive tree to indulge. Their traditional walnut baklava hit all the right flavor notes—the walnuts were quality Greek peliti, toasted perfectly to heighten their richness. And unlike some cloyingly syrup-sodden versions, the honey was judiciously drizzled so as not to overwhelm the delicate filo. For the price and quality, they’re a reliable bet.
Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Sipping Ouzo While Overlooking the Acropolis
No trip to Athens is complete without sipping ouzo, Greece's beloved anise-flavored aperitif, while taking in panoramic views of the Acropolis. This iconic experience transports you to the days of Socrates and Pericles, putting life's daily troubles into perspective. As the clear, licorice-scented liquid glides down your throat, the mighty columns of the Parthenon come alive before your eyes. Time slows down. For a moment, you feel the continuity of thousands of years of Hellenic civilization flowing through your veins.
While ouzo flows freely across Athens, only a few select spots let you imbibe it with a breathtaking Acropolis vista. My favorite is at A for Athens in Monastiraki, located on one of the city's highest hills. Their rooftop bar offers a prime angle for admiring the majestic temple columns while sipping ouzo from delicate glass beakers. I started with a classic ouzo served straight - loving the way the translucent, sugarless liquid turned a milky white when I added ice. As the licorice essence spread across my palate, the sweet anise harmonized perfectly with a plate of zesty meze appetizers I ordered from their kitchen below.
As the sun began its descent, bathing the Parthenon's honey-hued columns in a warm glow, I switched to sipping ouzo mixed with pristine water from mountain springs - the way many Athenians prefer it. The dilution brought out ouzo's subtle flavors. Hints of fennel and basil emerged, blending gorgeously with my grilled octopus salad. By the time the horizon behind the Acropolis blazed fiery orange, I was properly relaxed and reflecting on just how special it is sip this unique Greek elixir in its homeland.
For a more lively ouzo-sipping experience, Telepheric Cafe in Anafiotika transports you to a breezy Greek island. From its cliffside tables, you feel like you can reach out and touch the Acropolis. Waiters rush by carrying armfuls of bright blue glasses brimming with ouzo, expertly navigating the narrow cobblestone labyrinth. The atmosphere is electric, with tourists and locals packing shoulder to shoulder, their faces aglow from ouzo's sweet kiss. I befriended Nikos, a proud Athenian born and raised in the shadow of the Acropolis rock. As we toasted our iconic view, he explained how ouzo embodies the Greek spirit - sweet on first sip with a surprise kick on the way down. I left humming rembetika songs, floating on an ouzo cloud.
Taste of Athens: Indulging in 5 Days of Authentic Greek Cuisine for €400 - Finding the Best Gyros in Athens for Less
No visit to Greece’s capital is complete without devouring gyros, those mouthwatering beef and lamb sandwiches loaded with tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce. But with street carts peddling gyros on every corner, finding the tastiest version without overpaying takes insider knowledge. Through extensive on-the-ground research and polling locals, I uncovered the top spots for savoring classic Greek gyros without draining your travel budget.
Any gyro aficionado will tell you Thanasis is king. Located in the heart of the Central Market, Thanasis has been serving legendary gyros since the 1970s. For just €2.50, their masterfully seasoned beef and lamb (or chicken for non-meat eaters) comes packed into a warm, soft pita along with fresh veggies and light, garlicky tzatziki. The meat is juicy, with a slight char from the rotisserie but never dry. Their secret spice blend gives it a subtle kick without overpowering the natural flavors. Thanasis’ setup is simple, with just a few stools along a counter, but do like the locals and grab your gyro to go. Find a bench in Kotzia Square to enjoy your Greek street food bounty.
Near Monastiraki station, O Thanasis kebab shop is another local favorite, dishing up quality gyros for under €3. Their meat sliced from the rotating spit has a deliciously smoky flavor from the classic shwarma method of roasting. The tzatziki is refreshing and not overly salty. While no frills, their generous portions deliver on taste. For quick gyros-to-go, Athens Central Fast Food in Psyrri has fluffy pitas overflowing with gyro meat, fries, and a drink for just €5. It proved that even a basic street shop can create a satisfying budget meal.