When Chris and I decided to go to Athens, we knew we wanted to experience it from a local point of view. That’s why, after checking out all the big and touristy attractions, we met with locals who took us around the city and showed us their secrets.
But our experience of Athens and Greece wouldn’t have been complete without the one: food. On top of learning about the Athenians, Chris and I also wanted to learn about their food. Greece has so much to offer, and that’s why we let the guide from the Athens Walking Tour take us around the city. Their Athens Food Tour is offered on most days, guided by their food specialist.
We absolutely loved it, as we learned so much about not only the food but also the Greek culture in general. But before I tell you more about why we had a lot of fun, let me tell you how it went!
We arrived at 9:30 AM in front of the Zara Store, where we’d meet our guide. Her Greek name was a bit too hard to pronounce for us, so she told us to call her Vicky, which we didn’t have any problems with. So Vicky started the day by taking us to a street vendor who sold koulouri, a sweet bread with sesame seeds on top. Apparently, that’s what Athenians eat for breakfast as they go to work, with a coffee in the other hand.
Like the Athenians, we ate it on the go as we walked to a nearby church. There, as it was a lot quieter, Vicky explained to us more about the Greek culture and why a lot of things are the way they are. For example, did you know that the population of Athens almost doubled after the Second World War because a lot of people had to abandon their houses in the countryside? But even with the massive exodus, the Greek still tried to keep as much of their culture as possible. That’s why even today, Greek eat five times a day: a light breakfast before going to work, a quick snack around 11 AM, a lunch with their family around 3 PM, a snack at 5 PM and dinner around 9 PM. The schedule that dictated their life in the countryside still dictates it in the city.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to every Athenian, as I met some people who still ate their lunch at noon and dinner before 7 PM, but it’s definitely interesting to learn.
Vicky also gave us a lot of information about the Mediterranean Diet. Before going on this tour, I knew nothing about the diet, other than it must involve a lot of olive oil. I was surprised to learn that people that follow this diet don’t eat that much meat, and only eat vegetables/fruits/dairy that are in season. As a Canadian, it would be impossible to have a Canadian Diet where we eat seasonal things only, as we’d starve for the six months our winter lasts. But in a milder climate like Greece, it makes sense to go with the season and respect the order of nature. To be able to follow the diet, though, I’d either need a few cooking classes about it, or a Greek grandmother knew everything about it already and would enjoy feeding me 🙂
Our next stop was a Traditional Greek products store, which had plenty of olives, pasta, cheese, jams, etc. It was filled with good tasting things that we had a chance to try.
There, we also had the chance to taste some raki, which is a kind of alcohol, which had been boiled with honey and cinnamon. After trying some ouzo on our own, raki was definitely better! And if you like chocolate but would like a healthier option, we also tried a carob jam. It tasted very similar to chocolate!
Our next stop on the list was the market. Even though I loved the fruits and vegetable parts of the market, I have to admit I was a bit traumatized by the meat part. I’m not a vegetarian and don’t plan to be, but if I ever wanted to be, I would only have to picture that market. There were too many animals that still look like their original form. The meat you get there is probably very good and fresh, but my poor heart couldn’t take it for very long. Fortunately, we left the meat market for the fish market quite quickly. I don’t eat any fish or seafood, and that part was easier for me! (Even though I breathed from my mouth as the smell was too strong for me). Finally, at last, we found ourselves outside again, where we had some cherries for the road.
Our next stop was a sausage shop, where we sat for a few minutes, got some fresh water and tasted some meat with bread. What I loved the most about that place were all the things that were hanging from the roof. It adds a lot of character to any shops to have something like that.
After the sausage shop, we stopped in a spice shop. There were so many things to smell that I stopped listening to our guides for a few minutes there. I was too busy around the lavender, the cinnamon, and the anise. But I do remember her saying that you could buy saffron for 3 euros (which you would get in the US/Canada for $20). So if that’s something you enjoy, I’d recommend stacking up on it while in Greece!
Finally, we stopped in a café/bakery in Psiri for a bougatsa! It was the best part of the day for me, as I fell in love with the sweet version (as you can get it either with custard and cinnamon or with meat inside). Before going on the tour, I thought most of the good restaurants were in the Plaka neighborhood, but Vicky made us discover Psiri, which is less touristy and more authentic. Whenever we want to eat out, Chris and I will definitely check that neighborhood again!
While we were eating our delicious bougatsa, we also had the chance to watch one of the employee make them, which was very impressive! I don’t know what kind of magic dough he has, but check out the video below to see how it’s done!
Our last stop of the day was a cute restaurant in the same neighborhood, where we sat down and relaxed for a while, before eating a gyros. Chris and I tried the kebab one, as we’d already tried the pork and chicken one on other occasions. And this was the perfect end to the day, as we didn’t have to look for lunch after that!
There are a lot more things that Chris and I tried that I didn’t mention, as we were always snacking on something. Don’t think it’s just that! Now you can understand why we loved the tour so much and Vicky, our guide, was also very sweet! If we had questions, she always had an answer, and she even helped me write down some names as I was sure that I would forget them.
If you happen to be in Athens for a while and would like to do an off the beaten path tour, this is a great one! You won’t get to try a Greek Salad or a Moussaka, but that’s because you can find that anywhere in Plaka. On the Athens Food tour, you’ll try things that you either didn’t know existed or that you probably wouldn’t have tried by yourself!
What would you have tried? Would you like to learn more about Greek food?
A big thanks to Athens Walking Tour who offered us a complimentary tour. Our opinions are our own. Also, note that the tour is supposed to change in the near future, so you might not get the same experience we did, even though I’m sure it will still be more than worth it!