What dish is considered the most traditional Greek street food? Is Athens street food safe? Where can you savor the best street food in Athens?
Find all you need to know about street food in Athens right here, in this ultimate guide. Get to know a city where street food is an essential part of its culture.
The West and the East unite in Athens, creating a street food haven for all tastes, sure to delight you.
From pizza, burgers, and sandwiches to falafel (the amazing Arabian street food), lahmacun (often called Turkish pizza), Mexican tacos, and, of course, souvlaki – the most Greek traditional street food.
Souvlaki is synonymous with Greece.
You just can’t leave Athens without trying a souvlaki.
Here, you’ll find the best spots in Athens to enjoy the most delicious souvlaki and a wide variety of Greek street foods.
But, before we start our journey through Athens in search of the finest street food, let’s answer a vital question…
Is Athens Street Food Safe?
Generally speaking, yes. Most establishments serving street food in Athens maintain safe standards.
However, there are some guidelines you should follow to avoid any stomach troubles:
- Avoid purchasing street food from just any open-air canteen you stumble upon. These often serve lower quality food (locally referred to as “dirty”), and you might face some issues.
- Opt for street food vendors with a permanent location and multiple positive reviews on Google or other renowned apps.
- Hot dogs, not being traditional Greek or Mediterranean street food, are best avoided. They carry a higher risk of causing food poisoning.
- Choose souvlaki kalamaki over gyros (kebab). The meat is generally of a higher quality.
- Follow the advice provided in this guide. The street food places we recommend are among the most reputable.
- If you want to try a variety of street foods, consider joining a street food tour for peace of mind. The one I usually recommend is “Athens: Street Food Tasting Tour“.
Now that we’ve covered the essentials, note that you can also implement all the following recommendations in our free Athens itineraries. They are carefully and clearly designed, depending on the number of days at your disposal: Athens in 1 day, Athens in 2 days, Athens in 3 days, Athens in 4 days, or hidden gems of Athens if you plan to stay even more days.
Let’s begin our exploration of Athens’ street food delights.
The most traditional Greek street food is undoubtedly souvlaki, a name you’ve likely heard before.
Souvlaki, tzatziki, moussaka — these words are almost synonymous with Greece.
Athens is filled with souvlaki shops in every neighborhood, yet not all offer the same quality.
A good souvlaki, despite its simplicity, meets high standards.
But what exactly is souvlaki, and what are its two primary versions?
Firstly, there’s souvlaki kalamaki: small pieces of meat (pork or chicken) skewered on a wooden stick and grilled.
Secondly, there’s souvlaki pita, where these grilled meat pieces are wrapped in traditional Greek pita bread (like Arabic bread but fluffier) with tomato, onion, and tzatziki (yogurt with grated cucumber and garlic).
In these souvlaki shops, you’ll also encounter gyros (pork or chicken) — very small, thin slices of meat, freshly cut as they cook.
Greek gyros is similar to Turkish kebab, but differs in texture and taste.
You’ll find souvlaki (kalamaki or pita) and gyros in all such shops, but let me reveal where to find Athens’ most famous street food in its tastiest form.
Most tour guides point you to Bairaktaris and Thanasis in Monastiraki.
They are the most touristy, yet not necessarily the best.
They are rarely a local’s choice. So, I would recommend looking elsewhere.
Two of the best souvlaki shops in Athens — funny, both named “Kostas” (a common Greek name) but unrelated to each other — stand out.
The first “Kostas” has been a fixture in Agia Irini Square in Monastiraki since 1946.
It’s a tiny shop with no seating; you grab your souvlaki and enjoy it standing.
Their specialty? Grilled pork or beef patty in a pita with tomato, onion, parsley, and a secret red sauce — no tzatziki here.
This unbeaten souvlaki draws long lines of Athenians.
The story is similar at the other “Kostas” near Syntagma, which started in the 1950s.
The focus here is on quality and simplicity: pork in a pita with parsley and yogurt.
So simple and so delicious.
You will also find excellent souvlaki in Athens at “Lefteris o Politis”.
Here, you can choose between a beef patty or spicier sujuk politiko, grilled on coals in an oiled pita with a hint of tomato, onion, parsley, and red pepper.
For a nice souvlaki kalamaki (without the pita), head to “Elvis” in Metaxourgio.
They serve expertly cooked pork or chicken with french fries.
A unique version is available at “Giorgos Manos” in Exarchia.
Their souvlaki features larger, tender pieces of pork or chicken, marinated with a secret recipe, and available with kalamaki or pita.
Lastly, for the best gyros in Athens, visit “Achilleas” in Neos Kosmos (near Koukaki).
Their handmade, juicy, and spicy gyros is served in an oil-free pita with onion, tomato, and handmade tzatziki.
Greek Traditional Pies
Another traditional street food of Athens worth trying is the wide variety of Greek pies.
They come with a range of fillings like cheese, mushrooms, vegetables, spinach, zucchini, or meat.
A mouthwatering street food that smells like Greece!
While Athens is full of bakeries, keep in mind that many offer pre-made, frozen pies.
So, we recommend the places where you can try the best hand-made, fresh pies.
At first, “Ariston“, located near Syntagma, boasts a tradition of over 100 years.
It offers an incredible variety of hand-made pies in generous portions, including several vegan options.
However, their signature is the small cheese pie with feta cheese, a local favorite.
“Mam” is also known for its fantastic handmade cheese pies, made daily with spicy feta and their special dough.
Among the newer spots, “Harry’s Kitchen” in Syntagma makes an impression.
Though small, it offers a wide range of fresh, hand-made pies with local cheeses (kasseri, graviera, feta), aubergine, omelette and sausage, pastirma, spinach, chicken, and more, all with fantastic dough.
If you’re interested in the Russian version of the pie, known as pirozhki, head to “Kalinka Maninka”.
There, the dough is distinct, characterized by its fluffiness and bread-like texture. It’s typically rich in oil, as pirozhki is usually fried.
Finally, there is nothing more delightful than a fresh, warm koulouri (a traditional, simple Greek snack), which is sesame bread shaped like a ring.
It’s usually plain, but at “To Koulouri of Psirri”, home of Athens’ best koulouri, you can also find it filled with cheese or raisins.
Don’t overlook it. You’ll be missing out.
Burgers might not be the most traditional Greek street food, but Athens is filled with burger joints that add Greek touches.
Here, finding a good burger takes attention and searching.
Your first stop should be Food Str in Agia Irini Square.
The burgers here are delicious and come in various versions (with beef, chicken, fish, or veggie).
The buns vary from white with sesame to black with carob.
Try the classic version, or the one with beef, mushrooms, and parmesan sauce, or the unique chicken, artichoke, and bacon option.
At Thess Bao, also in the center of Athens, you can enjoy finer street food prepared by two award-winning chefs.
Enjoy freshly baked bao buns with juicy beef, eggs, and bacon, but also with pulled pork or shrimp, or even the veggie version with mushroom gyro.
You can find a similar concept at ORTSAG in Metaxourgeio.
It’s a modern, industrial space offering gourmet street food that stands out.
There are only five burger options, but each has its own identity.
The “double smashed” with beef burger, fried egg mayonnaise, caramelized onion, cheddar, and bacon is a must-try, as well as the special fish burger with smoked mackerel, shiso leaves, sushi rice, and pickled beetroot.
Alongside ORTSAG’s burgers, you will also find very special side dishes like the Josper-baked broccoli with sour cherries, roasted almonds, blue cheese, and broccoli pesto.
We close the burger chapter with Guerilla Chef Burgers in Exarchia.
Don’t expect a wide variety here.
The chef at Guerilla makes only one burger – the classic cheese, available as a single or double.
However, it has become the talk of Athens.
Sometimes, simplicity truly is unbeatable.
Sandwiches & Pizzas
A satisfying sandwich can always be a great choice for lunch, but in Athens’ street food gastronomy, it represents so much more than just a quick meal.
Here, Greek creativity thrives, and the places we recommend don’t just offer sandwiches to fill you up.
In these Athenian versions, traditional Greek ingredients are the stars, elevating the taste.
Two stops are essential to understand what we mean.
First, at “Guarantee”, you’ll find an extensive selection of sandwiches with more than 25 types of cheese (from chèvre and brie to manouri and graviera) and around 20 cold cuts (including pastirma, pastrami, and Parma prosciutto).
Next, at Subbie, you’ll see the cheeses and cold cuts being sliced right before your eyes.
Their creative sandwiches – think hummus and avocado, mortadella with roasted tomato and peanut cream, or porchetta with provolone – are a must-try.
Moreover, don’t miss the “I Love Cyclades”, with Tinos louza (traditional cured meat), Naxos arseniko (traditional cheese), artichoke cream, and finely chopped, lightly pickled green apple.
Pizza in Athens
Next up in Athens’ street food scene is pizza…
The Athens street food scene would be incomplete without pizza.
Here, pizza is taken seriously, given Greece’s proximity to Italy.
Skip the tourist-trap pizzas and head to places like “GIANT” in Koukaki.
They offer fantastic pizzas with excellent dough in ten different versions.
From the simple (but precious) Margherita to the special 4 cheese & fig, broccoli sausage and onion guanciale.
Another street food spot for top pizza is the K2 Pizza Bar in Petralona, offering natural sourdough dough.
Their pizzas are topped, depending on your taste, with ingredients like chicken, pepperoni, goat cheese, cheddar, and fig.
A unique choice is the Cafe pizza with gorgonzola, ricotta, parmesan, K2 cheese mix, honey, grated hazelnut, and espresso.
Now, listen to me carefully!
Athens also embraces Eastern influences in its pizza offerings.
I’m talking about peinirli (a Turkish-style pizza also found in Northern Greece) and lahmacun (the Middle Eastern pizza).
Both are more than worth trying.
As for lahmacun, the go-to place is “Feyrouz” in Monastiraki.
This unique street food shop serves up recipes from Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey with a mom’s twist.
Alongside lahmacun and peinirli, with or without meat, they also offer an exceptional red lentil and cumin soup, served in a paper cup for easy enjoyment on the go.
Falafel for… Vegans (And Not Only)
While all the Athens street food places mentioned previously offer vegan options, falafel (chickpea meatballs) is a particular favorite.
It’s a must-try for any self-respecting vegan, and, honestly, for anyone else too.
And the truth is that Athens has places where you can enjoy amazing falafel.
So, we recommend three of them.
Our top recommendation is “Falafellas” on Aiolou Street, right in the heart of Athens.
Be prepared to queue for their delicious falafel, served in either a large or small Arabic pita and stuffed with eggplant, lettuce, tomato, yogurt, tahini, and red sauce.
Next, “Revithi” in Koukaki, where you’ll find Egyptian-style falafel prepared right before your eyes by the Egyptian owner.
And at “Ap’alloú” in Exarchia, enjoy the very tasty, home-cooked style falafel, even though it’s not an exclusively vegan restaurant.
And finally, a Galiántra and a Lontza
Yes, these might be unfamiliar terms, but allow me to explain.
At the beginning of this article, I advised avoiding outdoor canteens for Athens street food.
But make an exception for “Galiántra”.
This vibrant canteen in Avdi Square, Metaxourgeio, seems lifted straight out of a movie.
Named after a bird, Galiántra offers famous meatballs (Gogo’s secret recipe), and a remarkable sandwich with braised beef, tsalafouti, herb pesto, and roasted red peppers.
It also offers vegan options, and it’s a summer essential.
“Lontza tis Geitonias” in Exarchia is another standout for its street food menu, which is so simple, so traditional, and so Greek.
Here, you’ll find dishes reminiscent of those our grandmothers used to make here in Greece.
After all, ‘Lontza’ refers to the place where the neighborhood women would gather in the afternoon, on steps or chairs, and share the village news.
At this spot, try buttered hilopites (traditional Greek pasta with milk and eggs) with feta cheese, and inquire about the few but delicious daily dishes, all rooted in Greek tradition.
And you must certainly try the renowned balik ekmek, a buttery sandwich with fresh sea bass fillet, lettuce, onion, and a light layer of tarragon mayonnaise.
More Delicious Athenian Eats
Furthermore, we have prepared a detailed article one the best spots to try Baklava and Local Desserts in Athens.
Lastly, “Are Athens Tours Worth the Cost?“, examines the most popular tours in Athens, helping you decide if they’re the right choice for you.
Make Your Trip Easier
I always book my accommodation with a reliable service like Booking.com. Besides their price guarantee, you can rest assured that you will have 24/7 support in the event of any problems with your hotel. Always make sure you read reviews from other guests before booking.
If you want to get to and from Athens Airport with peace of mind, I recommend pre-booking your taxi with Welcome Pickups. Their flat rate is a few euros more expensive than random taxis, but they are totally worth it. They use local English-speaking drivers, wait for you at the arranged meeting point, even if your arrival is delayed, and introduce you to the city along the way.
Don’t forget to use Skyscanner before booking your flights as it compares different airlines to provide the cheapest and fastest solutions. Moreover, you can save a lot of money if you are flexible with your dates.
Nobody wants to think about all the things that could go wrong on a trip. However, these things can happen, so do not miss taking out travel insurance: SafetyWing is the one I use, as its plans are affordable and can save you a lot of trouble.
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