The Do's and Don'ts of Eating in Greece

Melina Thalassinou
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A trip to Greece equals an exciting journey through Greek gastronomy; after all, it is common knowledge that in order to get a fully local experience when traveling around the country, trying local delicacies and diving into the mouth-watering Greek cuisine is definitely a must-do. 

For that reason, here we present to you some do's and don'ts of eating in Greece and hints for Greek dining etiquette to help you transform your trip into an unforgettable Greek culinary adventure no matter which of our Greece tours or Greece vacation packages you go for!

We will try to reply to questions such as: Are there any foods to avoid in Greece? What to eat in Greece?

Do try the street food

souvlaki wrap gioiak2 depositphotosThe world-famous Greek souvlaki wrap - credits: gioiak2/Depositphotos.com

We can't stress this enough, but if you want to feel like a local and explore the most exquisite cuisine in the world, try the Greek street food! Undoubtedly, the king of Greek street food is the world-famous souvlaki.

 Available in every corner around the country, it is perhaps the cheapest way for you to enjoy a full meal. Fresh vegetables, fries and delicious sauces such as tzatziki, are sided with meat wrapped in warm pita bread.

There is a variety of meat you can choose to add to your souvlakis such as gyros, chicken or lamb. In some places, there might be vegetarian options available such as halloumi cheese or falafel.

Tip: Ordering souvlaki in Greece might turn out to be quite a task depending on where you are. In Athens and generally in the southern part of the country souvlaki means the whole wrap, while in Thessaloniki and the northern part of Greece this is not the case.

There, you have to ask for a pita with souvlaki, otherwise, you will end up holding just a skewer of meat, and no one deserves that kind of disappointment!

koulouri vovidzha shutterstock copyTraditional koulouri - credits: vovidzha/Shutterstock.com

The most popular street snack in Greece, apart from souvlaki, is koulouri. Koulouri can be found all around the eastern part of the Mediterranean and the Balkan countries, but each country claims to have a different recipe for it.

The traditional koulouri in Greece is a thin circular bread with lots of sesame seeds covering it. It is hands down the favorite breakfast option for Greeks, along with a cup of Greek coffee.

Get yours from a traditional vendor on the street; it will set you back only 50cents and it will be a treat to your senses!

spanakotiropita Anna Hoychuk shutterstock copySpinach pie - credits: Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock.com

In case you feel hungry while walking around Athens or another Greek city, the cheapest way to fill your tummy is to choose from an array of traditional pies.

Spot the nearest bakery shop and get the chance to try spanakopita (spinach pie), tyropita (cheese pie), or ask the baker to recommend something new.

When it comes to pies, the sky's the limit! Each region is particularly famous for a type of pie depending on the season and its ingredients. Therefore, keep your eyes open and follow the scent of the freshly baked phyllo pastry to enjoy a piece of a traditional Greek pie!

Apart from the options mentioned above, there is an endless amount of options regarding Greek street food. From seafood to middle-eastern delicacies, Greece has it all! Do not hesitate to ask the locals and find the place that suits you best!

Do taste the traditional Greek cuisine

moussaka Timolina shutterstockTraditional Greek moussaka - credits: Timolina/Shutterstock.com

A quick bite is nice, but not as nice as a full Greek meal consisting of traditional Greek dishes, such as mousaka or pastitsio.

Layers of flavor in the form of mince, pasta, and béchamel await you in almost every local restaurant, along with an array of other local delicacies.

One of the best places to try local dishes in the heart of Athens is -ironically- 'Lesvos', the meze restaurant in the neighborhood of Exarcheia, where you can try delicacies from the island of Lesvos at affordable prices.

Heraklion Traditional Cooking Class with transportation

The local dishes of grilled octopus, fried courgette balls, and local cheeses will make your mouth water, while its friendly staff and old-time aesthetic will seal the deal!

Other areas that Athenians love to go out for food are the picturesque neighborhoods of Psyrri and Monastiraki right at the city center.

There, all you have to do is to have a walk through those neighborhoods and find a place that, along with delightful culinary creations, offers a magnificent view of the Acropolis!

Do ask the local people for information and advice

greek locals Heracles Kritikos shutterstockGreek grandmothers - credits: Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock.com

Don't let your ego get in the way of your wonderful trip to Greece!

You are in a foreign country, so it is normal to be unaware of the best places to go, the best things to see, and the best spots to eat (although a short exploration of our blog would have given you the insight you need, we're not going to be bitter about it!). 

Lucky for you, loving food is in the Greek's DNA; therefore, you can get advice from locals about the best places to eat.

Most probably, they will introduce you to a cheap, off-the-beaten-path restaurant where you are going to taste unique Greek flavors.

The hospitality of the locals isn't just an urban myth, and you'll soon figure it out yourselves. They'll be more than happy to give you advice and help you in any way possible so as to ensure you love Greece just as much as they do! 

Don't say 'no' - keep an open mind!

friends drinking ouzo Nadir Keklik shutterstock copy copyFriends enjoying their meal and drinking ouzo - credits: Nadir Keklik/Shutterstock.com

Once you find the delicious and affordable restaurants Greece is known for, you will enjoy not only the food but also the hospitality of the owners, who are sure to will propose some dished to you. You shouldn't refuse.

They know better, and they want you to have a good time and try the best of what they have to offer. They will probably even treat you to a traditional Greek drink like ouzo, tsipouro, or rakomelo

Naxos Wood-fire Cooking Class with transportation

Again, refusing it won't get you far; drink with them, but be careful to drink with reason, the Greek liquors are quite strong. Alternatively, If you don't want to drink alcohol, you can just take a sip and thank the locals for their hospitality.

Furthermore, keep in mind that the Greeks prefer to use their fingers rather than cutlery on many occasions - especially when chicken legs and steak bones are involved. Don't judge! Instead, follow their lead, and you might notice that food tastes better that way.  

Do praise the cook

Cheers eating and drinking monkeybusiness depositphotosJoyful summer meal - credits: monkeybusiness/Depositphotos.com

If you are enjoying your food, don’t hold back; offer your compliments to the people responsible for your exquisite meal! They will appreciate your kindness, and it will make their day. If you enjoyed both the service and the food, don't forget to leave a tip.

The locals are generous tippers, and when they have a good time, they make sure everyone responsible for it knows it!  Don’t stress over the amount of money; your gesture is more important.  

What is a typical meal in Greece?

A typical Greek meal includes one or two appetizers, a slice of freshly-baked bread, the main meal, a glass of the alcohol or soft drink of your choice, and dessert for the end.

When you hear about the Greeks living the good life and knowing their food, the rumors are true-mors!  

What is a typical Greek breakfast?

Pies, buns, rusks, honey, jams, eggs, olives, feta and cheese, legumes, and pastries. Fresh, tasty fruits, juices, and coffee.

The delicious and quality products of the traditional Greek breakfast take their rightful place, displacing croissants, bacon, pancakes, and fatty sauces from most other countries. 

The local specialties, with the unique flavors of each region, make the stay of the visitors even more enjoyable, as it helps them discover the gastronomic heritage of Greece through the local delicacies.

A typical Greek breakfast depends on what each place produces, according to the climatic conditions, the soil, its historical course, and the influences that have shaped its gastronomic culture. 

What is a typical Greek lunch?

A typical Greek lunch includes a Greek salad and a second appetizer that is usually either boiled greens or homemade french fries, depending on how healthy you want to be that day.

Following the first dishes is the main dish, which can be anything from the world-renowned mousaka to stuffed wine leaves -also known as 'dolmades'- or some kind of roast. As always, food is almost always accompanied by a glass of wine, beer, or ouzo!

After your main dish, more often than not, comes dessert, which can be anything from traditional baklava and spoon sweets to cake and chocolate. 

What time is dinner in Greece?

In a country that never sleeps, no time is "too late" for dinner. You will find most eateries open until past 12 at midnight.

Regardless, traditionally, dinner in Greek homes is served at around 8-9 pm. Of course, you can eat whenever you feel like it; no one's going to stop you!  

How much does a meal cost in Greece?

The prices vary depending on where you get your food from. There are high-class restaurants that charge up to 80 euros a dish, souvlaki places where you can eat the beloved wrap for 2 euros, and everything in between.

Therefore, the amount of money you'll spend on food depends solely on your decisions.

Our advice would be to do your research and find family-run taverns that serve delectable dishes at incredibly affordable prices. Yes, there are plenty of those in Greece!  

Can you drink tap water in Greece?

In most big cities, including its capital, Athens, it is perfectly fine to drink water from the tap. Unfortunately, this doesn't stand true for most of the Greek islands and the countryside.

In order to be on the safe side, we would highly suggest you buy mineral water from the supermarket during your stay or just ask the locals of each region you visit. An upset stomach is never welcome, especially during your holidays.  

Do you leave a tip in Greece?

Unlike many countries, the tip is not included in the bill in Greece. This means that you should tip to your heart's desire separately. You can either leave your tip on the table or at the hands of your waiter/waitress; both will be fine.

The amount of your tip really depends on you and the sum of your bill. However, a good rule of thumb is not to go under 20% of the listed price.  

What can I eat in Greece during my pregnancy?

Greek cuisine uses fresh and nutritious ingredients, while traditional dishes don't typically use any kind of raw or unpasteurized food.

It is common knowledge that sushi -which may not be Greek, but you can find it everywhere in the country- is forbidden, and salmon is not preferred for pregnant women, but other than the obvious, there are no hidden threats in Greece's gastronomy.

Therefore, even if you're pregnant during your trip to Greece, you will still have the opportunity to try all of its cuisine's riches.   

What can you not eat in Greece?

That is a tough question, and the immediate reaction is to answer "nothing." Greek cuisine is very different from any other cuisine in the world, especially Asian cuisine. Therefore, it is unlikely to find insects and other eccentric food of that kind readily available.

However, especially in Athens and the most popular and cosmopolitan regions of Greece, you can find dishes from all over the world to feast upon. To be honest, the only thing you will not have the opportunity to eat in Greece is bad-tasting food. 

Final thoughts

In conclusion, Greek eating etiquette consists of a few simple rules.

Don’t settle for less when it is easy to find more, cheaper, and better food. Don’t say no to treats and offers, but don’t get carried away -a hangover is fun only as a film.

Compliment and show your gratitude to the owners and waiters. Be open to advice from the local people and explore the culinary excellence of Greece.

Don't forget you can also plan your own culinary exploration of Athens or check out one of our Greece tours to optimize your gastronomic experience in our country in an easy and clever way that will ensure you get to live your myth in Greece to the fullest!

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Hop on a quick call with a local expert from our team
Receive a tailor-made itinerary for your journey
Fine-tune the details and you're ready to go

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