The delicious Greek cuisine is a Mediterranean-style combination of Italian, Balkan, Turkish, and Levantine culinary delights. Rich in the strong local olive oil, herbs like oregano, vegetables, seafood, wine, and various meats, it’s one of the world’s greatest peasant cuisines. From traditional tavernas to upscale Athenian restaurants, there’s a huge choice of venues and international food is widely available. Although prices have risen over the last decade or so, dining out is still a value-for-money exercise, and the laid-back service gives you plenty of time to leisurely enjoy your meal.
Bars and Pubbing in Greece
Outside Athens and the tourist enclaves, bars and pubs are called tavernas are set alongside harbors and beaches, serving as evening hang-outs for locals and tourists alike. Athens is known for its lively nightlife, with Syntagma
Square, close to the Greek Parliament building, a hub for watering holes of all kinds. Cocktail bars are popular here, with Baba au Rhum (6, Kleitou Street, Athens) well-known for its original concoctions.
Molly Malone’s Irish Pub (Yiannitsopoulou 8, Athens) is found in Glyfada, the city’s beach resort, serves Guinness, and is open from midday to very late. Another Syntagma special is Memphis, (5 Ventiri Street, Athens), a late-night bar and dance club popular with Greek locals for its live music and DJ nights that rock until 2.30 p.m..
Mykonos is famous for its riotous nightlife, as well as for romantic getaways and is stuffed with bars, pubs, and clubs to suit all tastes. Caprice (Mykonos port) overlooks the harbor and picturesque Little Venice, with indoor and outdoor seating areas and hosts sunset-viewing parties from 6:00 p.m. to very late.
Paradise Beach is a hot spot for all-night revels, with the Paradise Club (Paradise Beach, Mykonos) the all-time favorite for wild parties and its stunning nightly fireworks display. For people watching and after-dinner drinks, Aroma Bar (Matoyanni Street, Mykonos) is the joint to head to, and for traditional Greek music and dance, Thalami (basement, Town Hall, Mykonos) is the perfect place.
Santorini’s nightlife is as varied as its glorious scenery, with the Chili Bar (Perivolos Beach, Santorini) a hub for party people for its Caribbean cuisine and 24-hour music. Another popular night haunt is the jazz-themed Kira-Thira (Fira, Santorini), long-running and set in a traditional cave house. For the best view on the island to dance the night away, Vertigo (Fira, Santorini) is a great choice.
Heraklion is the nightlife hub of Crete, which is more laid-back than Mykonos and Santorini, but just as fun. Marina Cafe (Old Harbor, Heraklion) is a relaxed venue with great views, and the Veneto Bar (Epimenidou Street, Heraklion) is a club and bar with an edge. For Greek music, wine, and ouzo, the Four Lions Roof Garden Café (Fountain Square, Heraklion) is a popular evening destination.
Dining and Cuisine in Greece
Food is a favorite Greek pastime, ensuring an unending supply of restaurants, tavernas, and cafés in every city, town, and village. Mezes, small plates of dips, olives, grilled vegetables, and seafood bites, are a favorite, and balance out the rich Greek desserts of filo dough, nuts, and lashings of local honey.
Athens is the hub for fine dining in Greece, with outdoor patios a must whenever possible. The old district of Plaka is best for charming eateries, although touristy joints should be avoided. Giovetsakia (Plaka, Athens) serves traditional Greek cuisine and delicious desserts until 2:00 a.m. and, for vegetarians, the Eden Vegetarian Restaurant (12, Lissiou, Plaka, Athens) gives a great take on organic moussaka and more.
Stylish fine dining has arrived on Mykonos along with jet-setting fashionistas who love good food. Claiming the title of the best restaurant on the island is Matsuhisa Mykonos (Hotel Belvedere, Mykonos Town), run by chef Nobu and offering his international-style signature dishes. Reservations at least a week in advance are essential. Antonini’s* (Plateia Manto, Hora, Mykonos) is loved by Greek locals for it’s mezes and rich stews, and Fokos (Fokos Beach, Mykonos) serves unpretentious, delicious local specialties. Downtown stops around Mykonos harbor are mainly aimed at tourists and day-trippers, and may not be the best for those keen on authentic Greek cuisine.
Charming Santorini has a good variety of traditional Greek eateries, many of which are set in ancient buildings with stunning views of the island’s dramatic scenery. The famous caldera is a feature at Koukoumavlos (Fira, Santorini) for its inventive menu using idiosyncratic combinations of ingredients. For typical Greek food at its absolute best, Selene (Fira, Santorini) is famous internationally, as well as across the country. It’s expensive by Greek standards, but well worth it.
Good Cretan eateries can be found in Heraklion, Chania, and Ayios Nikolaos, with the Brilliant Gourmet Restaurant (Heraklion, Crete) living up to its name and reputation as the best dining on the island. Nykterida (Korakies, Chania, Crete) sits high above the town and has stunning views of Soudha Bay. It serves traditional Cretan-Greek cuisine accompanied by Cretan music on Monday, Thursday, and Friday in the high season. Pelagos (Ayios Nikolaos, Crete) is set in a handsome heritage house and offers seafood dishes, such as lobster and squid with flair. It’s an intimate, romantic setting, especially if you opt to eat in the garden.
Monemvasia may be remote, but it’s well equipped with traditional eateries serving Peloponnesian specialties in a gorgeous setting. Matoula’s (main street, Monemvasia) is one of the most popular dining spots for its home-style cooking and adjacent, To Kanoni offers a varied menu including Italian dishes.