- Food Tours
- Culinary walks
- Our Story
While for the last decade Athens has been struggling with the impact of the ongoing economic crisis, which has also brought up some big questions regarding Greece’s self-identity and the country’s place within Europe, the hard times have also helped spark a process of rediscovery, with Greeks taking a new look at their own identity, their own resources and – most importantly from our perspective – their own culinary traditions and heritage.
By publishing the stories of our local heroes, visiting them on culinary tours, or directly fundraising for them when they are in need, we attempt to honor their work and their essential role in maintaining the fabric of the city. Our purpose is twofold. Yes, we want to get travelers to some good places to eat. But we also want to make sure that some of these spots and the artisans making food there find a new audience and get the recognition and support they deserve. They are holding back the tide of globalized sameness, which is not easy work – even if it’s done unknowingly. But we believe that every meal counts and, with the help of our audience, they will add up. We are committed to their perseverance and hope that our modest efforts encourage them to keep at it. Our work is also guided by a belief in: Honest Tourism: The places where we eat and craftsmen that we feature on our culinary tours are all selected with this purpose in mind. We’d never accept a free lunch or consider a discount for our tour groups, because that would contradict our central goal, to support them. Nor do our guides receive any commissions from shopkeepers. Honest Journalism: The same principal is applied to the publishing of stories. There are no sponsored posts or even advertising on CB. The writers and photographers are paid fairly for their work on stories that we all believe in.
The cities we are drawn to all have a culinary tradition of untold richness as well as a certain tension, be it political instability, the tug between East and West, the clash between modern and ancient identities, migration, rapid gentrification, bankruptcy, or a post-colonial hangover. Our decision to get started in a city is always the result of a trip filled with many meals where we are given in intimate view of that tension, right there on the table. By getting lost in this warren of independent food purveyors struggling to preserve or adapt tradition in fast-paced urban life, we start to discover the deep complexity and true flavor of the city. At present, you’ll find our regular dispatches from Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Marseille, Mexico City, Naples, Porto, Queens (NY), Shanghai, Tbilisi and Tokyo.
As travel to most of the cities where we work has resumed, Culinary Backstreets is working with a new set of safety guidelines designed for the physical well-being of our guests, guides and members of the local community that we encounter. These guidelines have been developed in line with the best practices published by governments and health officials in the countries where CB works with regard to restaurant and tour and trip operation. With these procedures in place, our guests — led by our team of professional guides, who are being trained accordingly — can explore with peace of mind. The new procedures we are instituting include:
Culinary Backstreets’ mission has always been to preserve, protect and celebrate local culinary traditions and the unsung heroes of the kitchen. Now, more than ever, we remain focused on this goal. These days, we are paying close attention to the physical, economic and psychological well-being of the local communities and the people who keep them fed. We view this as an opportunity for cities to develop a tourism model that makes sense for them and that avoids the mistakes of the past, and for companies like Culinary Backstreets to be part of that process by renewing our commitment to a more sustainable way of traveling and working. By joining our tours and trips, you are contributing to this effort, which includes:
Culinary Backstreets is offering maximum flexibility for our guests, as we realize that travel this summer and fall might involve unexpected cancellations or postponements. So that our guests can book with confidence, we are putting in place the following cancelation policies:
Subscribe to our Athens Newsletter to receive the latest stories, tips, and reviews right in your inbox.
Tour the Backstreets of Athens With Us
Beyond Souvlaki: Neighborhood by Neighborhood, Bite by Bite
Our Backstreets Envoys, Always Searching for the Next Hidden Gem
Carolina, Athens Bureau Chief
Carolina was born in Athens where she grew up in a family with a long culinary tradition. Having studied arts management she pursued a career as a curator but quickly set her museum work to follow her true passion: cooking! Since then, along with her work as CB’s Athens bureau chief, Carolina has been working as a chef, restaurant consultant and food stylist. She is also the Culinary Producer of My Greek Table, a TV series on Greek gastronomy, broadcast on PBS across the US. She has appeared on various cooking shows on Greek and Spanish TV and gives cooking classes and workshops in Athens. She is currently writing a cookbook that will hopefully be published soon.
Constantine, Athens Walk Leader
Constantine is a third generation Athenian. He studied nursing, acting and radio script writing. He started working as an actor at the tender age of 16, and later he moved on to become a radio host and a TV presenter on Mad TV (a Greek music channel). A natural entertainer with a smooth baritone, Constantine is also a student of his city with his finger on the pulse of the arts, culture and culinary scene. He loves cooking and reading books about health, food and music.
Diana, Athens Correspondent
CB Athens correspondent Diana, a native of the Big Apple, moved to the Big Olive in 1972. Passionate about the country and its “soul food,” she began writing guidebooks and food columns in the late 80s and has since published scores of articles and three cookbooks: Prospero’s Kitchen, about the Ionian Islands, Feasting and Fasting in Crete and 2016’s A Taste Of Greece. For ten years chief travel correspondent for the weekly Athens News, she now writes a column, “Eating Well Is The Best Revenge,” for the website Weekly Hubris, and for the new monthly Greece Is. She is also working on a memoir of her early years in Greece.
Johanna, Athens Correspondent
Johanna was born in London, but raised in the northern suburbs of Athens. She Archaeology in Athens and Oxford, but food and everything around it finally won her over. Johanna started her blog, Food Junkie, in 2007 as a bilingual food blog to showcase Greek and other recipes and it has since then become one of the most successful Greek food blogs. She considers Athens to be a fascinating culinary capital and hopes others will also see it as such!
Kyriaki (“Kiki”), Athens Walk Leader
Kiki was born in Athens but she originally comes from the islands, Crete and Santorini. Her day job is at a desk, working as a travel editor for a major Greek newspaper, where she dreams of living those travel stories she edits. On the weekends, leading tours in the backstreets, she lives out those travel experiences and loves introducing guests to the charms of her city. She’s an avid homecook with a journalistic instinct to research the dish, its history and also the life story of the people in the kitchen.
Manteau Stam, Athens Photographer
Manteau is an Athens-based photographer who has been part of the CB Athens team since its inception.
Natali Chavez is film and theater actress, voiceover artist and event specialist. She obtained a B.A. in International Business and Politics, a MSc in Services Management, an Acting Diploma accredited by Greek Ministry of Culture and since 2021 she has been a PhD candidate in Film Department of School of Fine Arts of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in the field of Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality and Cinema. She began her career in media as a presenter on the television music channels “Mad TV” and “Blue.” Natali was also a host for several years at top radio stations in Greece. She has written three theatrical plays and a number of children’s books. She is a food and foreign language lover and always excited to share food tips mixed with Athenian history and spiced up with art.
CB’s work was started in 2009 by Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer as a humble food blog called Istanbul Eats. The following year we published a book of our reviews, now in its fifth edition. That year we also launched our first culinary walk in Istanbul, a route we are still using today. In 2012, we realized that what we built in Istanbul was needed in other cities we knew and loved. We started CB that year with Athens, Barcelona, Mexico City and Shanghai as pioneering members of our network. In 2013, we added Rio and also launched our iPhone application in Istanbul. In 2015, Tokyo and Tbilisi came into the fold. That year we published mini-guides to Barcelona and Athens and also launched an iPhone application in those cities. Our Eatinerary service, which provides travelers with tailor-made culinary travel itineraries, was also launched in 2015. In 2016, Lisbon – the latest city to kindle our curiosity – joined the CB network. In 2017 we added Naples and Queens, NY – two places with very compelling stories to tell – to our roster and also published full-size eating guides to Athens and Barcelona. In 2018, Porto joined the list of cities we cover.
Visual Dispatches from the Frontlines of Local Eating
Where is Athens?
Athens is an ancient city, as well as the capital of modern Greece and its largest city. It is located at the south of Greece’s mainland, in the Aegean Sea’s Saronic Gulf. You can reach many of the country’s famous islands from Athens’s Piraeus Port. Many of Classical civilization’s intellectual and artistic ideas originated here, and the city is generally considered to be the birthplace of Western civilization. At the same time, it is a contemporary and vibrant city, combining its history and ancient sites in unique and creative ways.
What are the best things to do in Athens?
The best things to do in Athens are visiting the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum, as well as all the sites surrounding the historic part of town they are located in. Athens is steeped in history and culture, from the ancient ruins dotted around the city, to its fascinating museums, like the National Archaeological Museum. You can stroll the charming streets of Old Plaka, discover Greek food and wines, hit a number of beaches and ascend the Temple of Poseidon. Attending a concert at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a stone Roman theater at the base of the Acropolis, is an unforgettable experience.
When is the best time of year visit Athens?
The best times to visit Athens are between March and May and from September to November. Weather during these spring and fall months is agreeable and sunshine is pretty much guaranteed. Also, crowds are thinner and hotel and airfare deals are easier to come by than in summer.
What is the weather like in Athens?
In Athens, the summers are hot, dry and clear and the winters are short, though they can be cold and are sometimes windy and cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 42 F to 92 F and is rarely below 34 F or above 97 F.
Is Athens expensive?
In comparison to other European capitals, Athens is on the cheaper side, though tourist attractions and hotels can become pricy. While prices can vary, the average meal in Athens should cost around €25 per person. Breakfast prices are generally cheaper than lunch or dinner. The average price of a 3-star hotel in Athens is about €80-120, though nightly apartments are much cheaper. A coffee or cheap beer cost just under €2.
Is Athens safe?
Athens is considered a very safe city, even for solo female travelers. Visitors can be put off by the graffiti that proudly covers some of Athens’s neighborhoods, Exarchia in particular. But this street art is a part of the city’s history and feel. The crime rate is very low and as long as you take normal precautions, you will feel safe here. Most visits are trouble-free, though like most large cities, petty theft is more common on the metro and in crowded tourist sights.
What is the best food in Athens?
Greek cuisine features lots of seasonal vegetable, high-quality olive oil and good seafood. You may know popular Greek foods like souvlaki, moussaka, and feta cheese, but there’s so much more to discover. Stuffed vegetables, fresh calamari and a variety of street food like savory pies, fresh yogurt, Choriatiki salad, fantastic cheeses, wines and more!
Where is the best place to stay in Athens?
The best neighborhoods in Athens for tourists are Plaka, Monastiraki, Koukaki, Syntagma, Kolonaki and Psyri, which are conveniently located to all the major sites. Travelers with early morning ferries might be tempted to stay in Piraeus near the port, but the metro opens early and taxis are plentiful, so staying in Athens is strongly recommended.
What is the COVID-19 situation in Athens?
Full vaccinations currently stand at close to 61.42% of the population, and proof of vaccination is required for entry.
Can Americans travel to Athens?
Travelers from USA may travel to Greece with proof of vaccination, and require no visa up to 90 days.
Can I fly directly to Athens?
You can fly directly to Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos, which is a 30-40 minute taxi ride to downtown Athens. You can also reach the center by metro (45 minutes) or shuttle bus (60 minutes).
What is the best restaurant in Athens?
Athens has a very diverse dining scene from the traditional to the trendy, and it is ever-changing. Some of our favorite restaurants include Diporto, Seychelles, Kriti and Ama Lachi stis Nefelis.
Is Athens suitable for children?
Athens can be a fantastic getaway for families with kids of all ages. Many of the sites and museums offer plenty to entertain both children and adults, and the pleasant parks and seaside are a perfect place for families to relax after a few days of sightseeing.