Known as a centre of counterculture, Athens’s Exarchia neighbourhood is fast becoming a foodie hotspot. Discover the best restaurants in the area, from traditional tavernas to modern establishments serving food from around the world.
With a long history of activism under its belt, the central Athenian neighbourhood of Exarchia now boasts some of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants. It isn’t just the young ‘rebels’ and artists that fill the restaurants lining its graffiti-covered streets, though – Athenians and visitors are flocking to this gritty yet charming area to enjoy Greco-Spanish fusion tapas, surf ’n’ turf and mezedes.
Though set in the heart of Exarchia, La Cantina invites diners to travel the gastronomic map of the world. Inspired by street-food canteens from across the globe, this tiny multicultural kitchen cooks up traditional fare from Italy and Lebanon to India and Mexico. The menu is full of comfort-food classics, including Indian chicken curry, Mexican chilli con carne, Italian meatballs in red sauce, smooth French soups and divine Lebanese baba ganoush. Make your meal extra special by ordering a minty mojitio, which costs around half the price you’d expect to pay at a bar.
With a 1930s Bauhaus exterior and an interior reminiscent of a Pedro Almodóvar film set, Salero is a Greco-Spanish haven in the centre of Athens. This buzzy spot stays open until quite late (the kitchen sometimes closes after 2am), welcoming Athenian theatre actors to wind down and graze on tapas after their performances. The line-up of tapas is impressive and will delight all diners, whatever their preferences or dietary requirements. Seasoning your choice of fare might pose the biggest dilemma, as the restaurant’s enviable selection of salt is hard to choose from: Hawaiian black pearl, pink flakes from the Himalayas, fleur de sel from France, to mention just a few. If you’re in need of something heartier, there’s also a substantial list of mains. The salads, in particular, are a work of art; don’t miss the mixed lettuce with goat’s cheese, cranberries and lime pesto vinaigrette. Start an evening out with innovative cocktails at the bar, making use of the daily happy hour from 6pm-9pm.
Stroll along the pedestrian street of Valtetsiou and suddenly you’re walking through a Greek village lined with olive, chestnut and mulberry trees. At number 59, the reasonably priced Rozalia has been serving hungry patrons since 1978. Owner Mr Achilleas planted the trees himself back in 1980, aiming to create a small oasis in the middle of concrete-clad Exarchia. While the kitchen serves up classics with a “no preservatives mentality” (the tavernia has been sourcing meat from nearby free-grazing farms and fresh fish from local fishermen since the very start), it often experiments for the sake of its younger crowd. Take a seat, and a tray loaded with meze and salads swiftly appears (don’t miss the fried zucchini sticks or the Rozalia salad – fresh beets, lettuce, slivered cabbage and carrots, apples, raisins and walnuts drizzled with honey and balsamic vinegar). Then comes a choice of main dishes: the grilled peppered pork, lamb chops, leek-infused sausage, kokkinisto (beef stew) and talagani (a cheese similar to halloumi) are standouts. Dessert means old-school Greek pastries – all home-made.
Doubling up as a takeaway and sit-down spot, this Exarchia surf ’n’ turf souvlaki and burger joint is in a class of its own, serving up street food fit for a prince (prigipas in Greek). The owner, Kostis, sources his meat from small farms, which is then artfully prepared and grilled over charcoal. Apart from the classic souvlaki wraps (pork, beef, lamb, chicken), there’s the veggie kebab and, more unusually, smoked trout in a fluffy corn pitta. Kostis hails from a region in Northern Greece known for its lakes, where meat and fish often sit side by side on the table. The renowned tsipouro (local spirit) from Giannitsa in Northern Greece and the Amyntaio wine complete your exhilarating gastronomic tour at Prigipas.
At the foot of Strefi Hill (the greenest spot in Exarchia) sits the iconic Ama Lachei, a taverna housed in a Neoclassical building that used to be the neighbourhood’s primary school. The old schoolyard is now a classy dining space, adorned with jasmine vines, aromatic citrus trees and rows of tables. The inside, however, has stayed true to its roots, with old pictures of students dotting the walls. No reservations are taken, and there are no mains to be found on the menu – just a plethora of scrummy meze. The Meze of the Day usually stars seafood and/or seasonal produce. Staple meze range from savoury baklava with graviera cheese to octopus in green pea puree.
Another quaint courtyard nestled between the graffitied walls of Exarchia is Giántes. Just a few metres shy of the neighbourhood’s main square, the taverna takes its name from a game that the local children used to play. This cosy, colourful eatery deals in organic feel-good Greek classics. Flavours are reassuringly authentic, but the presentation is progressive. The starter menu is filled with the likes of dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) with lemon cream to grilled mastelo cheese with mandarin marmalade. Mains such as leg of lamb (slow-cooked in an olive oil, rosemary and lemon vinaigrette with celery puree, and sauteed wild greens), shrimp with creamy orzo and Greek-style beef patties with a generous portion of fries, all deserve a mention. The bread is baked daily in-house and, if you’re a chocoholic, be sure to secure your chocolate pie (served with vanilla ice cream) before you order anything else – it disappears fast.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.