Belles on Location

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 is 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!

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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…

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…he has two!

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

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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!

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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 a 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

This article has 21 comments

  1. Zita

    this article came the best time. I’ll go to Athen in the beginning of February. Love all your tips! 🙂

  2. youngandfoodish

    Great post. Only wish you made a distinction between souvlaki and gyro or doner kebab meat.

  3. Food Lover Kathy

    Love learning about the street food of different places. Those pastry rings look especially enticing – mine with chocolate please! Definitely a mouthwatering post!

  4. Jessica

    I want one of those pastry rings and some tea now! Sounds wonderful!

  5. Amanda


    Lucky you — enjoy your trip to Athens and sending wishes for a sunny vacation!

  6. Amanda

    Good question, and I’ll try to answer. Souvlaki has long been a coverall term for a meat dish involving skewered meat served with vegetables and pita bread. Oftentimes it can also refer to the fast food sandwich of meat sliced off a donor kebab, from the Turkish, referring to the vertical spit of roasted meat. That is also called a gyro sandwich, the word gyro deriving from the word gyrate and referring to the rotating spit. The words are often used interchangeably, and this does create confusion.

  7. Amanda


    I was surprised, actually, to see these pastry rings alongside ones with traditional ingredients such as cheese and olives. Then again, what doesn’t taste great with a little chocolate?

  8. Amanda


    They do make for a great combination!

  9. inka

    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.

  10. Kelsey


    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!

  11. Leslie

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

  12. fooditerranean

    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…

  13. pat3454B

    who the fuck is this kyle guy.

  14. kyle

    kyle is greek

  15. kyle

    hello fello greeks my names kyle where the ladys tonight !!

  16. kyle

    who likes to party it up all nigjt

  17. kyle

    hey pat3454b whats crakalacin !

  18. kyle

    i belive you are talking about the cocoa rods

  19. kyle

    hey pat

  20. S Lynch

    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!

  21. Danni McCormack

    amazing pictures and story… thanks for sharing

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