Dining in Athens is an unforgettable experience. Restaurants, tavernas and ouzeries are located all over the city, so visitors will not have any difficulty in finding something to satisfy their appetite and budget. Often meals are accompanied by music or dancing and it’s not uncommon to strike up a conversation with the people at the next table.
Nowadays, there are an abundance of restaurants in Athens which serve all types of international cuisine; from Japanese to Lebanese and from Greek to Mexican. Even so, while in Greece, one should go native and try the local delicacies at the traditional tavernas or taste the more creative versions of classic Greek dishes prepared by imaginative chefs at the gourmet restaurants. Your best bet is to find a resident of the area or ask the hotel concierge to recommend a few good dining places.
Greek food, like all Mediterranean cuisine, is based on olive oil, fresh vegetables and seafood, and is considered one of the healthiest diets. Some of the popular traditional dishes are: mousaka, (a delicious casserole made of minced meat, eggplant, potatoes, squash and bechamel sauce), pastitsio, (baked macaroni and minced meat with bechamel sauce), the potent tzatziki (garlic and cucumber yoghurt dip), pies of every kind (spinach, cheese, minced meat, chicken, squash, leak, etc.), the renowned souvlaki (either in a pita with tzatziki and vegetables or on a skewer with bread), stuffed vine leaves, stuffed tomatoes and green peppers, roasted lamb, Greek salad (tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, onion olives and feta cheese) and fresh seafood. Most tavernas allow people to go to the kitchen and choose from their daily specials or to pick out a particular fish.
While staying in Athens, visitors should try the local beverages served at the tavernas and the ouzeries. Ouzo is renowned for its anise aroma. It is served either on the rocks or diluted with a little water, and accompanied by mezedes (bit sized snacks). Greek wines are tangy, have a superb bouquet and are served chilled. Most places serve both bottled and barrel wines which are usually made by the owners themselves. Tsipouro or Raki is an alcoholic drink poured in small quantities, due to its potency and alcohol level. Try it at least once, just for the experience of it.
Greece is famous for its dairy products such as the thick, creamy yoghurt and feta cheese. There are many brands and types of feta (salty, soft or hard) from which to choose from. Feta cheese is a staple in Greek meals and is never absent from the dining table.
Athens is the commercial capital of Greece and therefore it has a great variety of shops dealing in all kinds of goods such as, clothes and shoes, jewellery, books, CDs, antiques, souvenirs, etc.
The major shopping areas of Athens are gathered around Omonia and Syntagma Squares, making them easily accessible to tourists. Ermou Street is probably the busiest of them all filled with anything your heart desires, making it a shopping lover’s paradise. Literally hundreds of people shop daily on Ermou and its neighbouring streets. It has recently been paved, which further facilitates shoppers, and street performers have become a permanent feature of the area.
Just below Ermou Street, visitors will discover Monastiraki, the old bazaar, where bargaining is an absolute necessity, but is also its charm. Shoppers can purchase traditional Greek art, jewellery, and souvenirs. After a long day of shopping, you can enjoy your lunch or a cup of coffee in nearby Plaka, Thision or Psyri.
Kolonaki district is situated close to Syntagma Square, towards Lycabettus Hill. It is considered the most posh commercial area in Athens, packed with shops, designer boutiques high class delicatessens and pastry shops. Kolonaki also offers many cafes and restaurants for shoppers to relax at after a tiring shopping spree.
Other streets in Athens city i.e. Patession, Agiou Meletiou, Stadiou, etc, have many commercial stores, and generally most districts in Athens have a few main roads which are bursting with shops of all kinds. The best shopping therapy in Athens is done on foot, combining trade and tourism at the same time.