Dining in Athens can be a real pleasure, with excellent cooking taking center stage at a number of eateries. Settings are wonderful, too, and restaurants often occupy old houses and shady courtyards. Probably the only restaurants to avoid are those that station waiters outside who pursue you with an unrelenting sales pitch. The hard sell is almost always a giveaway that the place caters to tourists—the meal may not be terrible, but it’s likely to be mediocre at best, and you won’t get the full Athenian dining experience. A meal in Athens, particularly dinner, is to be relished, never rushed, and preferably enjoyed alfresco. Note: Many, many restaurants do not accept credit cards.
- Best for Romance: Housed in an 1830s Plaka mansion with frescoed rooms and a leafy courtyard, Daphne’s is one of the city’s most romantic dining experiences. Delicious hot-pepper-and-feta-cheese dip, the stifado (stew) of rabbit in mavrodaphne (sweet-wine) sauce, and other traditional fare are expertly cooked and served with care and charm.
- Best Reason to Brave the Crowds: Take refuge from the mob scene around Abyssinia Square in the mahogany-paneled Café Avissinia, a long-standing city institution. Homey seafood dishes (including plump mussels roasted in wine and washed down with ouzo) star on the menu, alongside stews and other traditional fare kept warm on the stove. The house wine is delicious and encourages lingering, as does the live music that often wafts through the old rooms.
- Best Oasis of Authenticity: Platanos Taverna, established in 1932, is a standout amid its tourist-trap neighbors. The succulent roast lamb with artichokes brings regulars back, time after time, to enjoy it in a pretty courtyard beneath a plane tree (platanos). The wine list includes a wide choice of bottled wines from many regions of Greece; the house wine is also tasty.
- Best Hotel Dining: Politicians, royalty, and Hollywood stars have all enjoyed a meal and knockout Acropolis views at GB Roof Garden, atop the Grande Bretagne, the city’s swankiest hotel. The outlook and swank don’t overshadow the excellent menu, however, which combines Greek and Italian flavors with non-fussy pastas alongside fish and steaks done on the grill or in a wood-burning oven. An economical option is to come for a cocktail at sunset, but whatever brings you up here, dress in “casual smart” attire.
- Best Traditional Fare: For a home-cooked meal, do what the Athenians do and head to Vlassis, which occupies a neoclassical mansion in a quiet neighborhood near the American embassy. Greeks call this kind of food paradisiako (traditional); dozens of salads, spreads, and small meat and seafood dishes are brought to the table and you pick what you want. Be forewarned that you will be tempted to take more than you can eat.
- Best Splurge: Winner of two Michelin stars, Spondi is considered by many to be the finest restaurant in all of Greece—with sky-high prices to match. Everything is beautifully served, and although the menu changes frequently, space is always found for old standbys such as lamb with coriander.
- Best Seafood: If there's better seafood in Athens than Varoulko, we haven't found it. Elegant yet unfussy, the Michelin-starred restaurant serves incredibly fresh, impeccably prepared sea bass, monkfish, or whatever else was caught today. As a topper (literally), there's a view of the Acropolis from the rooftop terrace, which is open in summer.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.