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The Street Food of Athens, Greece

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I adore street food. I simply love it. And in Athens, some of the best street food is available during the autumn and winter months.

Just steps away from the ancient agora and under the looming gaze of the Parthenon, lies the Monastiraki section of the city.

Take a stroll through this bustling neighborhood where vendors sell fish, meat and vegetables alongside more touristy fare of T-shirts, worry beads and replicas of ancient vases, and you’ll come across one of my all-time favorite treats: roast chestnuts. You have to work a little at peeling back the crispy outer layer, but it’s worth it!

Chestnut vendors sell roast corn as well – it tastes great with a sprinkle of Greek sea salt on top.

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If you get thirsty from the chestnuts and corn, just a few steps away are the Salep vendor. What is Salep, you might ask? I passed by this huge bronze urn for four days before I got up the nerve to try, and found out…it’s orchid tea!

The vendor handed over a tiny cup with a foamy finish, a dash of cinnamon and the most exotic fragrance. I took a taste and it had the strangest mix of sweet, citrus and nuttiness.

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Apparently there’s enough demand for orchid tea in Athens to support more than one vendor. In the middle of Ermou, a busy downtown shopping street, this man has also set up shop. And instead of one gleaming bronze dispenser on his mobile cart…

…he has two!

Keep wandering down this busy pedestrian mall and you’ll bump into an Orthodox church, located in the middle of an intersection.

Just behind the church, I came across a booth of assorted pastry rings. Some resemble traditional doughnuts, and others come in a variety of flavors. These soft, chewy rings are stuffed with a wide selection of fillings, including ham, cheese, tomato, apple, olive, and even chocolate!

Last but not least, what would Athens be without a souvlaki stand?

These guys serve up the best, and you can find them across from the Monastiraki subway station, where fresh souvlaki wrapped in pita costs less than 2 Euros.

Even though I was staying on the other side of the city, I managed to find an excuse to wander away from the ancient marbles of the Agora and grab lunch here daily.

I’ll have one with everything: tomatoes, tzatziki, and while you’re at it, throw an order of french fries on top!

Find a seat nearby – unwrap your souvlaki (take extra napkins for drips!) and enjoy some of the best people-watching in town.

If you keep strolling, perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of some other notable Athenian sites, such as a temple appearing suddenly between the olive trees.

To top off your street food cravings, you can find ice cream anywhere in Athens. My suggestion is to end your moveable feast with something a little different, and one of my favorite Greek treats – pasteli: a unique confection made of sesame seeds and honey.

And if you’re feeling adventurous, pick up a piece of fresh coconut still in the shell.

Or just admire the waterworks!

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About the author

Amanda Summer is a writer and archaeologist who excavates in Greece. She has written for the New York Times, Islands, Archaeology and The Best Travel Writing. When not digging, she lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her family and Airedale terrier. For more stories, visit her website, Travels with Persephone.

17 thoughts on “The Street Food of Athens, Greece”

  1. You live and learn! I just wrote about salep which I only know as a typical Turkish winter treat although here it is more like a soup than tea. Now, thanks to you, I know they make salep in Athens too.

  2. Hello,

    I am starting a tea blog and I would like to ask you permission to post (with credit and a link, of course) your photo of the Monastiraki salep vendor. I bought a cup from him in late March, which I photographed, but neglected to get a shot of the fantastic teapot! Could I please use your picture?

    Thank you!

  3. What are the name of the coconut sticks? I had them on my trip to Athens and have been looking for them ever since.

  4. We currently dealing with street food. So we found this post really interesting. Feel free to share it with us. Living in Athens I can tell you have got a quite complete reference to the street food you can find in Athens. I could also add the loukoumas, marrons, “malli tis grias” “old’s woman hair”, made by sugar.
    I may find some more if i go back in time…

  5. Hello Amanda,

    Great blog! The pictures bring me back to my visit a few years back. I absolutely loved the coconut sticks you can buy from the street vendors and have since scoured the internet for a recipe…a reference.. something… ANYthing on how to make these delicious treats. Would you by chance have any idea where I may find this info? Thanks!

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