The beginner’s guide to the Athens diet

February 16, 2018
Julia D'Orazio

One thing that should never be uttered when holidaying in Athens is the word ‘diet.’ Attempting to go on one when in Athens will simply not work — not unless you have strong willpower to contain yourself against all the delicious treats to be found. From sweets to hearty baked-oven dishes, there is too much temptation when it comes to what is on the menu in Athens.

Here are the must-haves for treating your taste buds to the best of Athens. Better yet, they are the perfect energy boosters for making your way through all the Greek ruins!

Traditional Meze

If you are the kind of eater who is way too indecisive when it comes to ordering off a menu, then a traditional meze platter is suited to you, serving up the best of all Greek antipasto options. From rice-stuffed grape leaves (dolmades), roasted eggplant dip (melanzanosalata), zucchini fritters, cucumber-yogurt dip (tzatzki), fried hard cheese (saganaki) to the homely tastes of a traditional Greek spinach and feta pie, you will find yourself salivating for each flavour.


Start your morning in Athens with a classic koulouri | Photo by Athens Urban Adventures

The French have met their match when it comes to the perfect carb-loaded snack. The koulouri is a sesame-seed bread ring (shaped liked a pretzel) and is popular with locals for being the quintessential breakfast meal on-the-go. Available at bakeries and street food vendors throughout Greece, it comes in many variations, including multigrain or filled with cheese, chocolate spread or tahini.

READ MORE: A vegetarian’s guide to Athens


If you are in the mood for a dish to really fill you up, moussaka is it! Disguised as a healthy meal, moussaka is a layered eggplant or potato-based dish that often includes ground meat. The top layer features cheese and a béchamel sauce and the whole thing is baked to perfection.


Think of pastitsio as the Greek version of an Italian lasanga. Instead of layering up with pasta sheets, pastitsio consists of Greek macaroni mixed in with a tomato sauce and either beef or lamb mince. It is then topped off with cheese, egg and béchamel sauce and oven-baked. This is best served up at a local Greek taverna where, most likely, the dish would be a secret family recipe passed down over generations.

Greek coffee (Ellinikos kafes)

traditional Greek coffee being brewed over sand
Be sure to try Greek coffee the traditional way, brewed on sand | Photo by Athens Urban Adventures

Just like in Greece’s Mediterranean counterparts, coffee is a way of life here — both hot and cold. Greek coffee is typically a strong brew, served with foam on top and the grounds sitting at the bottom of the cup.

Following in the footsteps of neighbouring Turkey, local favourite coffee house Mokka Coffee prepares coffee using a briki (a small pot with a brass or copper handle) and a hot bed of sand to heat the coffee. Once the small pot is filled with water, coffee grounds and sugar to your liking, the pots are then nestled a few inches deep into a hot bed of sand, which produces consistent heat to warm the coffee grounds. Stir with a metal spoon and enjoy!

READ MORE: Best places to sip coffee in Athens

Taste of Athens Tour


As summer can be a scorcher, cold coffee is served up on ice, or as the Greeks call it, frappé. Frappé coffee is a foam-covered iced coffee drink made from instant coffee, water and sugar and best served on ice. Accidentally invented by Nescafe representative Dimitris Vakondios in the 1950s, this perfectly chilled drink has remained ever so popular and is available on almost every street corner for only a few euros.


Baklava comes in all forms, shapes and sizes as it is made in every region of Greece. It is a rich, sweet filo pastry dessert and is filled with chopped nuts and its layers are held together with syrup or honey and is filled with syrup or honey. Often served in bite-sized chunks, you will possibly struggle to stop with one bite as it really brings out the sweet life!

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