Most days in Athens are spent on the go, whether a tourist or a local. 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 about landing in Athens immediately makes one crave souvlaki? Perfectly grilled meat, lovingly wrapped in a 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 good souvlaki is a quintessential part of any trip to Athens.
While you can get perfectly good souvlaki from most local neighbourhood haunts, 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 3 pm.
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 ’60s. This traditional bakery stocks most stands in Athens and is a local favourite.
For an elevated, innovative spin on the koulouri, Oven Sesame (Aiolou 17A, Monastiraki) packs its sesame rings with delicious fillings ranging 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 lost amidst all the meat and cheese offered. 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 explore 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.
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 offered by the Athenian coffee roaster. For a more traditional setting, head to Krinos (Aiolou 87), where loukoumades have been on the menu for over 90 years and are served in a conventional old-style cafeteria.