02 Dec Flavours of Athens with Athens Insiders
We arrived in Athens late at night after a flight from Santorini, and we groggily made our way to our hotel without seeing much of the city. So, the next morning was quite a treat when we joined Athens Insiders on a walking and food tour to explore Athens—it was the perfect introduction and gave us a good base for the rest of our week in the city.
Natalie, one of the co-owners of Athens Insiders, invited us on one of their tours to experience Athens, and we are so happy that we could join them. The Athens Insiders tours are set up to give you a view of the city through a local’s eyes. The tours range from a few hours to all day trips, and you can join a themed tour or book a tailor-made experience that can be completely customized to fit your interests and schedule. Our tour was a 3-hour tour that showcased the best of the city and an introduction to Greek gastronomy and local food culture. I love getting a glimpse into a city’s food scene and it was great to learn about the history of Athens as we were walking around as well.
The entire afternoon was very relaxed, and it felt as though we had an old friend guiding us through the city—we were entertained with lots of facts, and we weren’t led around with an impersonal microphone shouting at us, which has unfortunately happened to us in the past. It was the perfect mix. Our guide, George, is a chef, so he really knows the ins and outs of the Athens culinary scene, and our tour was focused on backstreet eateries that have been around for more than 50 years. One of our favorite treats we sampled was loukoumades, which are a Greek style donut—just look at how we cleaned up two entire plates!
We also enjoyed a traditional hand-made cheese pie called kourou—this buttery pie was filled with a deliciously crumbly cheese. There are many different types of cheese pies in Greece, and something I had too many samples of over the course of our time in Athens…but they were just so delicious they were nearly impossible to resist.
Another delicious snack we were able to try was a pita kebab at Thanasis, a restaurant near Monastiraki Square. We even ended up coming back to this spot with some friends later on during our trip.
One of my favorite stops was the oldest coffee shop in Athens—we all crowded around a couple of tables and took a break from walking to chat for a bit. We had the choice of coffee or tea, so Micah got the Mountain Tea and I tried the Greek Coffee. Both were delicious, and as much as I love coffee, we both really adored the tea. We were going to buy some to take home with us, but we didn’t have any extra room in our bags, so we are thinking we might have to order some online now! While relaxing and chatting at the table, the owner explained the history of the café and showed us the view of the Acropolis out the window. Apparently, the view was an important part of the location selection.
Our last stop of the day was walking through the central market, Varvakios Agora. The meat portion of the market is not for the faint of heart—although it is clean and friendly, there are butchered animals hanging everywhere right in the open. It didn’t bother us, but I can definitely understand where it might be disturbing to some!
From there, we made our way to the fish portion of the market. I love seeing a city’s markets—they always provide a unique look into the city and the local food.
The three hours were over all too soon—I guess time flies when you are having fun! Overall, the tour was a great way to get introduced to the city and we really enjoyed it. I especially like how the guides are all specialists in the topic of your tour, such as food, history, architecture, etc. This means that you will get that extra edge of knowledge and you will have a deeper understanding than if you had a guide who knew a little about the topic of the tour. I’m glad we had the opportunity to join in on an Athens Insiders tour and get to know Natalie better at TBEX. She has a passion for sharing her city and it comes through in all the tours that are offered by the company. Getting a peek into a local’s Athens was the perfect way to start off our exploration of the city!
Many thanks to Natalie, George and Athens Insiders for providing us with a complimentary tour. As always, all opinions are our own.