Whether you’re a tourist or a local, most days in Athens are spent on-the-go. For visitors to the Greek capital, there is no shortage of ways to spend your day and for the days where there simply aren’t enough hours to enjoy a long, leisurely meal, there is a world of street food options to keep your hunger at bay while you focus on exploring the bustling metropolis that is Athens.
What is it about landing in Athens that immediately makes one crave a souvlaki? Perfectly grilled meat, lovingly wrapped in soft, pillowy pita. Sauce trickling down your hand at a lazy pace. A few patates thrown in for good measure (or not, depending on how you like it). Whatever your preference, it goes without saying that a good souvlaki is a quintessential part of any trip to Athens.
While you can get a perfectly good souvlaki from most local neighbourhood haunts, a souvlaki from Kostas (Plateia Agias Irinis 2, Athens) is in a league of its own, almost a rite of passage. This family takeaway has been around since 1946 and is famed for its traditional juicy souvlaki and homemade tomato sauce (unlike any other souvlaki you’ve had). Located in the now super-hip Agias Irinis square, the line at this no-fuss establishment moves quickly and you’ll be sitting outside with your mouth-watering pita and beer in no time. Get in early though, Kosta is usually sold out by 3pm.
The Koulouri stands of Athens are one of the few constants in a city of change. If you’re koulouri-passionate, check out To Koulouri tou Psyrri (Karaiskaki 23) which has been around since the 60’s. This traditional bakery stocks the majority of stands in Athens and is a favourite with locals.
For an elevated, innovative spin on the koulouri, Oven Sesame (Aiolou 17A, Monastiraki) packs their sesame rings with delicious fillings ranging from from Feta cheese with thyme and olive oil to a fresh and delicious Greek salad. Of course, there are sweet options too and more good news, it’s open daily until late.
Vegetarians and vegans visiting Athens may feel a little lost amidst all the meat and cheese on offer. The fresh and tasty food available at Falafellas (Aiolou 51, Monastiraki) has seen a long line permanently in front of the shop since it opened. Falafels (made from chickpeas) come in 2 sizes and are accompanied by lots of fresh goodies like lettuce, tomato, eggplant, cucumber and a host of sauces. Falafellas offers a much needed dose of freshness in an often sweltering city.
Fish in a cone?
Psaraki sto Xonaki (literally meaning Fish in a Cone) is the catch-cry of Zisis (Athinaidos 3), a pit-stop for fresh fish and seafood on-the-go. Cute little paper cones allow you to snack on lightly battered fish, garidaki (small fried prawns) or gavros (Anchovy) while you carry on with exploring the city centre! If the array of seafood on display is too tempting to eat and run, you can always grab a table and order from their comprehensive seafood menu.
Grexico (Fokionos 4) brings the flavours of Mexico to Athens and is a hot favourite in the Athens street food scene. With a menu of quick and easy classics like tacos, burritos and salads (lots of vegan-friendly options), grab your food, plus a zingy lime margaritas and dance your way down nearby Mitropoleos St. Open Mon-Sat.
For your fix of loukoumades (Greek honey balls) that you can take with you, head straight to Lukumades (Aiolou 21) for traditional recipes served up in a modern and fun setting. The menu gives you every imaginable option and the balls of doughy goodness are lightly fried to perfection. Pro-tip: Coffee-lovers will appreciate the quality coffee on offer, by Athenian coffee roaster, Taf. For a more traditional setting, head across to Krinos (Aiolou 87) where loukoumades have been on the menu for over 90 years and are served in a traditional old-style cafeteria.