Updated February 2020
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Vegan Athens: Greek culture might have a reputation as being meat-centric but in fact Greek menus are naturally vegan-friendly. Plus, more and more vegan restaurants are opening in Athens every year, making it easy to be vegan in Athens.
These days, you won’t have a hard time finding vegan restaurants. Athens has a dozen fully vegan restaurants, plus numerous vegetarian eateries and vegan-friendly establishments. Plus, look on the menu of any Greek taverna and you’ll find countless naturally vegan dishes (more on that below).
While you might get a look of surprise for ordering a completely meatless meal in a city full of souvlaki joints, the truth is it’s easy to be vegan in Greece if you order from the mezze menu (small plates, often fully vegetable-based). If you’re travelling to Greece with non-vegan family or friends and want to know how to order vegan anywhere, I’ve got some tips for you below.
However, Athens is home to some really great all-vegan establishments I recommend visiting if possible — not only because I love supporting local vegan businesses but also because the food is so good. From vegan souvlaki (gyros) made with mushrooms to all-vegan moussaka with coconut bechamel, here’s where to get the best vegan food in Athens.
where to stay
Where to stay
If you’re looking for a vegan hotel in Athens, unfortunately there aren’t any 100% vegan hotels yet, but there are a few vegan-friendly hotels, which I’ve outlined below.
If you’re looking for a boutique hotel, look no further than the Ava Hotel & Suites, which offers some of Athens’ biggest suites and has vegan options at the buffet breakfast.
Just a 5-minute walk from the Acropolis, Ava is located in Plaka, one of Athens’ most popular areas for tourists. It’s very centrally located, within 3 minutes of the metro station, within 10 minutes’ walk of most major sights, and only 500m from Syntagma Square, considered the centrepoint of Athens.
You’ll also have a kitchenette in your suite in case you want to prepare any meals yourself. Plus, the Ava hotel has vegan and gluten-free options at the breakfast buffet!
Because of its central location, Ava is also within easy reach of many vegan restaurants.
Veggie Garden is a B&B located in the suburbs of Athens. It may be a bit outside the city centre, but if you don't mind travelling in, it's only a 4 minute walk from the metro station, which will take you to the city centre in under 15 minutes. What you trade in central location you make up for in the peace and quiet of being outside the city.
You can enjoy a breakfast (vegan breakfast on request, just ask the owners in advance!) in the garden, under the lemon trees.
Each room at Veggie Garden has a balcony or patio, mini fridge and BBQ and all facilities are air conditioned. The shared lounge has a fireplace, sofa and TV (TVs can be provided in the rooms on request).
Athenstyle is an environmentally-friendly hostel with a rooftop bar with views of the Acropolis.
As well as dorms and single, twin and double rooms, Athenstyle also has studios which include kitchenettes, air conditioning and terraces, most with an Acropolis view.
As well as views of the Acropolis, it's easy to reach the Acropolis, and many other sights, from this centrally located hostel.
best vegan restaurants
Vegan Athens, Greece: the best vegan restaurants in Athens
So, you're planning your trip to Greece and wondering what kind of vegan cuisine you'll find. Rest assured you'll find a vegan restaurant. Athens is home to two dozen vegetarian and vegan restaurants and many more with vegan options. The Athens vegan restaurant scene is growing stronger and stronger.
In this guide, I'll show you the very best vegan restaurants in Athens, Greece dand where to find vegan versions of typical Greek dishes, so you don't miss out on anything in Athens.
Themistokleous 43-45, Athina 106 83
Mushroom gyro: €2.50
What to get: the 'yellow' wrap is the classic
Athens is home to thousands of souvlaki shops in every neighbourhood but so far only one 100% vegan souvlaki shop.
Souvlaki is named after the skewer on which meat is cooked, making it one of the least vegan-friendly names. (The wraps are also called gyro.) Usually chicken, beef or lamb is placed in a pita bread with tomatoes, onion mustard, tomato sauce, potatoes and/or tzatziki and rolled up.
The fact that souvlaki, and the word, are so associated with meat didn't stop the owners of Cookoomela, named after regional slang for a type of mushroom, from opening up Athens' first vegan souvlaki. And thank goodness it didn't, because my meal at Cookoomela was one of my favourites in Athens!
Here, as the name suggests, the chef works primarily with mushrooms. Despite being an avowed mushroom hater, I loved the mushroom-filled gyro I had at Cookoomela.
Cookoomela's menu is short and all gyro-focused, with a handful of different gyro options (all with mushrooms but with different toppings) and one mushroom-free option, the lentil kebab.
If you're looking for organic food Athens, rest assured that Cookoomela's menu is organic (except for the pita) and packaging is biodegradable, too.
The chef recommended I get the 'yellow' wrap -- their classic flavour -- since it was my first visit. The mushrooms are freshly prepared on the grill (the smell as you enter the shop is heavenly) and wrapped in soft pita along with mashed avocado (not traditional but it's such a good addition), potato wedges, chopped tomato, mustard and vegan mayo.
The place is really small, with no indoor seating, but they do have a few outdoor tables you can sit at (which are situated under an overhang, in case it rains like it did the day I went). The gyros come wrapped in paper in reusable wooden trays. Committed to sustainability, Cookoomela is plastic free; unlike most takeaways you won't find plastic forks here. In the fridge, you'll find drinks in cans and glass bottled water but no plastic.
Don't miss Cookoomela in Athens! Every vegan in Athens needs to try this place. Click here to see their Facebook page with opening hours and more information.
What to get: vegan moussaka with coconut bechamel sauce
Mama Tierra Athens is a vegetarian restaurant that fills a bit of a void in Athens that I noticed -- it's one of the few vegan/vegetarian restaurants suitable for a sit-down dinner (many are more casual takeaway or cafe affairs).
If you want a dinner (perhaps with a glass of wine) in a modern restaurant, head to Mama Tierra for the vegan moussaka made with a coconut bechamel. Much of the Mama Tierra menu is vegan, but the highlight is definitely the moussaka.
Moussaka is an eggplant (aubergine)- or potato-based dish, usually made with ground meat and topped with a dairy bechamel sauce, making it neither vegan nor vegetarian. However, Mama Tierra have replaced the meat with beans and used layers of both eggplant (aubergine) and potatoes, along with carrots, plus added a creamy and rich coconut bechamel.
If you're looking for vegan delivery Athens, rather than a sit-down dinner, you're in luck because Mama Tierra delivery is here to delivery a vegan meal to your hotel or Airbnb! The Mama Tierra Athens menu is available in English here, including the takeaway/delivery menu.
Whether you eat in or order delivery, my moussaka recommendation still stands. It's rare to find a vegan moussaka, so definitely try it!
Athanasiou Diakou 38, Athina 117 43
Mains: €5.50 - 6.50
What to get: the vegan zucchini (courgette) pie or the moussaka (Fridays only)
Veganaki, which means 'little vegan' in Greek (-aki being a suffix meaning cute/little added to words and names to create nicknames) is a small vegan restaurant near the Acropolis museum. With a handful of tables, it's a small space but you can sit indoors unlike some vegan spots in Athens which are takeaway only.
Veganaki specialises in all vegan and healthy food. Athens may have a plethora of souvlaki spots (see above) but it has fewer healthy restaurants. Athens does, of course, have a lot of naturally vegan and healthy options at traditional tavernas, but if you're looking for an all-vegan and healthy spot, Veganaki is the place for you!
With whole wheat pita wraps and gluten-free pies on offer, Veganaki specialises in vegan versions of street food, but made healthy and plant-based. Athens vegans shouldn't miss it.
Don't miss the courgette (zucchini) pie made with buckwheat flour and served with tomatoes and wine- and rosemary-soaked tofu. The spinach pie is also well-known, but I preferred the courgette pie (I found the crust on the spinach pie so hard it was difficult to bite into).
On Fridays, they also make a vegan moussaka with a plant-based creamy bechamel, which I also recommend trying.
Veganaki is the perfect spot for lunch or dinner after a visit to the Acropolis museum, and they open early so you can also grab some takeaway food here to bring on the plane with you (that's what I did!).
Pandrossou 7, Athina 105 56
Mushroom gyro: €3.50
What to get: the vegan mushroom gyro
As far as vegan restaurants in Athens, Greece, Vegan Beat Athens is one of the most well-known for vegan food. Athens' centre is home to a handful of vegan spots and Vegan Beat is one of the most centrally located.
Vegan Beat is located inside an old shopping centre (worth a look around, because it's a beautiful old structure) on the upper floor. Follow the signs to find it.
The menu focuses on street food, from burgers and wraps to falafel and vegan gyros.
I went for the vegan gyro since it's a typical food in Athens. Here, there's only one gyro option (for a longer list of vegan gyro options, go to Cookoomela, above). I preferred the gyros at Cookoomela (with the additions of mashed avocado and potato wedges) but I think the Vegan Beat gyro is more traditional. Grilled mushrooms are piled into pita with tomatoes, onions and vegan tzatziki sauce.
If you're looking for vegan food in the area (near the Plaka area, popular with tourists), then head to Vegan Beat although if you want a more extensive vegan gyro menu and the full souvlaki experience, I'd head to Cookoomela, which specialises in vegan gyros.
Aiolou 21, Athina 105 51
What to get: vegan lukumades (Greek doughnuts) with peanut butter and chocolate sauce
Lukumades are Greek doughnuts, served hot and crispy, crunchy outside and soft inside. Lukumades near Ermou street (Athens' main shopping street), named after its main product, has a completely vegan menu available (just ask for it).
My understanding is that the dough used for lukumades is usually vegan, but they're usually drizzled with honey. If you want a completely vegan and modernised take on lukumades, head to Lukumades in Athens, which serves them up with a variety of different toppings, including vegan toppings.
I took the server's recommendation and ordered my lukumades with peanut butter and vegan bitter chocolate sauce. Her recommendation was spot-on. So good!!
Makrigianni 9, Athina 117 42
What to get: vegan waffle with vegan Nutella sauce
The vegan waffle I had at Ice Queen wasn't the most amazing waffle I've ever had. By the time it reached me, it was cold and the Nutella sauce had rendered it a little soggy instead of crispy on the outside. Still, it was a lovely treat to have sitting outside with a view of the Acropolis. I ate mine just before I went to see the Acropolis -- perfect pick-me-up before exploring the Acropolis.
other vegan restaurants
Other vegan-friendly spots: Avocado Athens, Healthy Bites, Mystic Pizza, Bel Ray for brunch
The vegan restaurants covered above aren't an exhaustive list of vegetarian Athens, Greece restaurants. For every vegetarian restaurant Athens listed above, there are another three. However, I have presented what I believe are the very best vegan and vegan-friendly spots.
Athens is host to many more vegetarian and vegan spots, including a few popular ones I list below, and many more.
Is Avocado a vegan cafe? Contrary to some reports you may see online, no. It's vegetarian rather than vegan, although it does have vegan options (with a limited vegan dessert menu). Avocado Athens, Greece is one of Athens' most well-known vegetarian restaurants and one of its oldest. Having read mixed reviews online, I opted to skip it. However, it's very centrally located near Syntagma Square (considered the centrepoint of Athens) so you may find yourself at Avocado. Vegan restaurant it is not, so bear in mind they don't have a lot of vegan dessert options. You may be best off eating your main here and going to Lukumades for lukumades (Greek doughnuts) or Ice Queen for vegan ice cream or waffles.
This vegetarian cafe sells some vegan versions of pies, for example spanakopita (spinach pie) without the cheese (if you want to make a vegan version with vegan cheese, check out my recipe here). Ask which are vegan. I wasn't very impressed with the pie I had, but it could be a good takeaway option for the plane and it opens early.
Mystic Pizza has a few locations around Athens, each offering vegan options, plus one all-vegan restaurant. I didn't go here since I figured I can get pizza at home, although if I'd stayed in Athens longer a pizza craving would have no doubt kicked in. Reviews are mixed about some menu items but there are a lot of rave reviews for the avocado and vegan cheese pizza. (Avocado pizza sounds weird, but who knows...sounds like it works!)
Looking for vegan breakfast in Athens? My friend who's from Athens recommended a spot called Bel Ray for brunch. Not being vegan, she wasn't sure if they'd have vegan options and they didn't have a menu online. I decided to check it out my first morning in Athens, and was pleasantly surprised to find that this spot in the trendy hipster neighbourhood of Koukaki does, in fact, have vegan tacos (called vegan) on the menu. The tacos consist of tortillas topped with vegan mince, avocado, tofu and chilli. In spite of being simple, they were surprisingly tasty and a freddo espresso (an iced, whipped Greek coffee) washed them down perfectly.
traditional foods made vegan
Where to find vegan versions of traditional Greek foods
For vegan souvlaki in Athens: vegan gyros at Cookoomela or Vegan Beat
Looking for vegan souvlaki? Athens is full of gyro joints, but not many have vegan options. While gyros (also called souvlaki), essentially meat grilled on a skewer, might seem the least obvious vegan dish, you'll find vegan gyros in at least two Athens restaurants.
For the full souvlaki experience, go to Cookoomela, a fully vegan souvlaki restaurant. You can choose between a few different vegan gyros, with mushrooms the star ingredient, or a lentil kebab. The 'yellow' wrap is a classic and was one of my favourite meals in Athens!
If you don't have time to go to Cookoomela (which is a little out of the way in Exarchia, Athens' anarchist graffiti-filled neighbourhood, worth exploring for its street art), head to Vegan Beat. Centrally located, this vegan restaurant only offers one vegan gyro option on the menu, but it's easy to get to and likely near where you'll be staying and exploring. I preferred the gyro at Cookoomela but Vegan Beat also offers a gyro experience, made vegan.
Vegan moussaka at Mama Tierra or Veganaki
Moussaka is normally made with dairy (in the bechamel sauce) and often meat in the filling. For a vegan moussaka with a rich coconut bechamel, head to Mama Tierra. Veganaki also make a vegan moussaka, but on Fridays only.
Falafel, contrary to what some believe, is not a Greek dish. It's Middle Eastern. However, there are falafel places in Athens and in Greece, just as you find falafel in the US and UK. Beware that the tahini sauce often contains yoghurt -- ask them to leave it off (thanks to Ryan from T.O.F.U. for that critical tip!).
Vegan pies at Veganaki & Healthy Bites
There's a wide variety of Greek pies, the most famous being spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie). Usually they are topped with crispy phyllo dough. You can find cheese-free versions at Healthy Bites, although I wasn't a fan. Or you can find a more modern take (according to my Greek friend) at Veganaki, where the zucchini (courgette) pie has no dough on top but is delicious. Their spinach pie, on the other hand, has a cornflour crust.
Vegan lukumades at Lukumades
Lukumades are delicious Greek doughnuts, served hot, crunchy outside and soft inside. At Lukumades, they serve up a modern take on them with all kinds of toppings and a completely vegan menu upon request. The peanut butter and vegan chocolate sauce is the best combination!
Greek coffee, frappes and freddo
Greek coffee is traditionally made in a briki, a small coffee pot. Greek coffee grounds and water are heated and then the coffee is drunk (do not drink the grounds at the bottom). Unlike Turkish coffee, it doesn't include cardamom or any other spices. Traditionally drunk without milk, so no need to worry about alternative milks.
Iced coffees are incredibly popular in Greece (and not just in the summer) -- but Greek iced coffees are unlike an iced latte or cold brew so be sure to try! Frappes and freddos are the most popular Greek iced coffees, shaken until a thick foam forms on the top.
A frappe has nothing to do with a Starbucks frappuccino. It's instant coffee and sugar (milk is optional), shaken with ice until forthy. Ask for your without milk, or ask if they have non-dairy milks -- but know that a lot of Greek places may refuse to make it with non-dairy milk even if they have some on hand, because it doesn't foam up the same way.
Freddo espresso and freddo cappuccino are espresso and cappuccino, respectively, shaken until frothy. Unless you can find a freddo cappuccino with non-dairy milk, I recommend sticking to freddo espresso, which you can customise with the amount of sugar you want (or none at all) and comes without milk.
Where to eat with non-vegans
If you're travelling with non-vegan friends or family, you might find yourself in predominantly non-vegan restaurants (unless you can convince them to try some vegan spots with you!). This can always be a challenge, but luckily in Greece it's easy to find vegan options on any taverna menu, thanks to the mezze section. Mezze, or small plates (similar in a sense to tapas, although usually much bigger in size) are a part of Greek menus and always feature vegetable-heavy dishes.
Many mezze options are naturally vegan, and I'll out line some vegan mezze dishes below.
Athens is also home to more and more restaurants offering vegan options. I've included two below, one a brunch spot with a vegan option and one a street food/healthy fast food spot perfect for a quick stop while out sightseeing.
Feyrouz is a Middle Eastern fusion street food restaurant. The restaurant is small but has a few seats along the windows. It's the perfect place for a quick bite between sightseeing and they offer meat and vegan options. The vegan wrap is their homemade whole wheat tortilla, with eight roast vegetables finely minced on the tortilla, along with salad, tabbouleh and hummus.
Bel Ray is a popular brunch cafe with one vegan option on the menu, along with dishes for the non-vegans. There aren't many vegan brunch options in Athens, so I recommend Bel Ray for brunch. They may have only one vegan option, but it's a good one: vegan tacos with soya mince, avocado, tofu and chilli. Wash it down with a freddo espresso (iced espresso coffee, shaken until frothy on top).
Ordering vegan in any Greek taverna
As I mentioned before, it's easy to get vegan food in Greece!
Pretty much any Greek taverna will have naturally vegan dishes. Typically foods are cooked in olive oil (not butter) and so there are usually a few vegetable dishes to choose from that happen to be vegan. Asking if food is vegan may lead to confusion as some are not familiar with the term and think vegan encompasses fish and/or cheese, so it's best to be more specific, e.g. saying vegetarian, no fish, no cheese, no dairy, or better yet, asking about the specific dish. Restaurants are usually happy to modify a dish if possible, e.g. serve a Greek salad without the cheese, and don't mind you ordering a few mezze dishes rather than a main. Here are a few typically vegan mezze to keep an eye out for on the menu:
- Greek salad (tomatoes, cucumber and onions) without the cheese
- Fava dip (pureed Santorini split pea puree, similar to hummus)
- Grilled eggplant (aubergine) or zucchini (courgette)
- Melitzanosalata (eggplant/aubergine dip)--make sure you ask for the dip made with vinegar, not mayo, as there are two varieties
- Gigantes: beans cooked in an onion and tomato sauce
- Horta: boiled greens served with lemon juice
Athens is home to a vegan store, plus health food shops, to help you stock your hotel or Airbnb kitchen. You can find non-dairy milks in most supermarkets, even smaller ones.
Vegan shop Athens: Bamboo Vegan Athens
Bamboo Vegan is Athens' first and so far only vegan store. Since 2012, they've sold a small selection of vegan products, from chocolates to vegan cheeses and meats. As well as refrigerator, freezer and pantry items, they have a small selection of pies, sausage rolls and desserts to have in or take away.
health food store
Health food store Athens, Greece
When you're travelling and have access to a kitchen (in a hotel with a kitchenette, a hostel or an Airbnb) sometimes it can be a welcome break (for your wallet and/or tastebuds) from eating out.
Knowing where to find a health food store is essential if you need harder-to-find vegan foods like nutritional yeast or mock meats. Apart from Bamboo Vegan (see above), you'll find a few other vegan-friendly but not wholly vegan health food stores in Athens: 4 Seasons Bio (near Syntagma Square) or Kampos Biomarkt.
what to do
What to do in Athens: the best activities
I highly recommend walking tours in general and try to go on a free walking tour in every major city I visit. (Side note: they may be called free walking tours but generally a tip is expected and appreciated; they're only free in that you don't have to pay to sign up.)
I was going to go on this free walking tour but the times didn't work with my schedule. So, I ended up downloading a free audioguide walking tour from Rick Steves. If you search the app store for Rick Steves Audio Europe (Apple/Google Play), you'll find the app and within it, various free audioguides for Athens including walking tours of the city, the Acropolis and the ancient Agora.
I used the free walk of the city of Athens, and found it an excellent way to orient myself and get to know the city and some of the most important historical landmarks my first day. Using the walking tour audio guide, I saw: the Acropolis (from outside), ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian's Arch and the Olympian Temple of Zeus, the charming neighbourhood of Anafiotika near the Acropolis and several Byzantine churches -- all in one afternoon! I also used the Acropolis free audio guide the day I went to the Acropolis.
The only problem/error I noticed was that the guide recommended going to the Acropolis around two hours before sunset because they said this is the best time for lighting. The day I visited sunset was due just before 8pm, so I got to the Acropolis just after 5:30pm...only to discover it closed at 5:30pm!
I didn't go on it, but I also came across this really cool-looking nighttime walking tour of Athens on Airbnb Experiences, which will take you across Athens to see some of the major historical landmarks like the Acropolis lit up at night (click here to get £9 off your first Airbnb experience for new users).
Acropolis & Parthenon
The Acropolis is a classic sight to visit in Athens, particularly if you're interested in ancient Greek history. Tickets are 20 Euros (half price with a valid student ID card) for entry to the Acropolis only, or 30 Euros for the Acropolis and various other landmarks in Athens, including the ancient Agora. I wanted to visit the Agora as well (in particular the Temple of Haphaestus, which is one of the best-preserved ancient Greek temples) but didn't have time.
In the end, I visited the Acropolis during a rainstorm -- not recommended but it was my last day and I'd already bought my ticket when it started pouring! The marble is really slippery in the rain so rather than trying to climb the steps in the rain I waited it out under a tree and I' recommend the same to you if you get caught up in a storm. On the bright side, the rain stopped before I made the climb up and a rainbow appeared halfway up the slopes -- the rainbow over Athens was a beautiful sight!
I used the free audioguide on the Rick Steves Europe Audio app (see walking tours, above) which I highly recommend because it helped me make sense of the ruins I was looking at and get to know more about the history behind them.
If you visit the island of Aegina (see below) you can see a temple that is very similar in construction to the Parthenon, but better-preserved: the Temple of Aphaia. Some call it a mini Parthenon and rumour has it the Parthenon was modelled on it. If you opt not to see the Parthenon because of price or because of crowds (it was fairly busy when I went on a weekday in April so I can imagine in the summer it's nightmarish), I highly recommend the Temple of Aphaia on the island of Aegina as an alternative. Tickets are only 6 Euros and the day I went (a warm weekday in April) there were only half a dozen other people exploring it with me.
I didn't get a chance to do it, but Athens even has its own vegan tour now! On the tour, you'll eat a vegan gyro, Greek salad with a vegan feta cheese, jackfruit tacos and vegan waffles or ice cream. Find out more information here on Airbnb experiences (click here and get £9 off your first Airbnb experience for new users).
Day trip from Athens: Aegina island
Aegina makes the perfect day trip (or longer) from Athens, if you want the Greek island experience.
No trip to Greece is complete without a visit to at least one island if possible, and Aegina is the easiest to reach from Athens. The fast ferry takes only 40 minutes and when I went tickets were 8 to 14 Euros (the slower ferry had cheaper tickets and took just over an hour).
Aegina is famous for its pistachios, and you'll see stalls and stores selling salted and roasted (or roasted but salt-free) pistachios all over. At least one also carries 100% pistachio paste (marked vegan!) which they say makes great pesto, or spread on toast (can't wait to try!).
Aegina Town is where the main port is and where the ferry will drop you off. The views of the water are incredible, and on clear days you can see right through the crystal clear waters to the bottom. Just past the ruins of a Roman temple, you'll find a 'secret' beach (ok it's not that secret as it's marked on Google maps, but it was empty the first day I went). The Roman Temple, by the way, is in ruins with only one column remaining because of damage sustained in WWII.
On a sunny, clear day the waters can be incredible. It's stunningly beautiful when you can see straight to the bottom and the sunsets, if you're lucky enough to witness a good one, are breathtaking, reflected off the water.
You can easily get the bus from Aegina Town to Perdika (a sleepy fishing village popular with visitors) or to the Temple of Aphaia. I highly recommend the Temple of Aphaia if you have an interest in Greek history. It's a perfect addition or substitution for seeing the Parthenon.
Rumour has it the Parthenon was modelled on the Temple of Aphaia which appears to be a smaller, better-preserved version of the Parthenon. Here, the goddess Aphaia was worshippe exclusively.
Admission is only 6 Euros and it's far, far less crowded than the Parthenon. The day I went there were only about half a dozen other people exploring the temple grounds! Weekdays and off-season are the best times for fewer crowds.
You can easily reach the temple by bus from Aegina Town (approx 40 minute journey). Be aware that the return bus comes only 30 minutes after the bus drops you off (you can see the temple in that time, if you hurry), or you can wait around four hours for the next bus, or take a taxi back to Aegina Town (approx 17 Euros).
Vegan eating in Aegina
Let's talk about the food in Aegina. Unless you bring a picnic and eat it on the beach (perfect for a day trip) you're going to have to eat on Aegina.
I didn't come to Aegina for the food (I came for the island experience, the views, the beauty of nature and to see ancient ruins like Aphaia) but I was pretty surprised by how bad of a food experience I had, particularly since Ryan of T.O.F.U. magazine and Kristin of WTF Vegan Food both seemed to eat pretty well on Aegina.
I can only conclude that visiting in the off-season, before a lot of summer staple vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants/aubergine were in season, coming during the week and bad luck conspired to give me a bad food experience. So you don't experience the same I'd recommend the following:
If you're coming in the off-season or shoulder season, consider renting somewhere with a kitchen. Consider whether you're travelling over the weekend--apparently a lot of Athenians come here over weekends, meaning that during the week (when I was there!) a lot of restaurants are closed, except during the summer. Plus, a lot of the best vegan Greek dishes (such as stuffed tomatoes without meat or grilled or fried eggplant) rely on really high quality vegetables.
I also experienced some bad luck the first night, getting food poisoning (I can't remember the exact name of the place but it was on the waterfront and I think it was called Paraiso -- the first bad sign was when the bread they brought me was mouldy; the second was when the fava dip (similar to hummus) was hard and crusty, like it had been left out of the fridge for hours).
Where can you find good food, to avoid my experience?
- Kriton Grefsis, on a pedestrian street in Aegina Town, is a Cretan restaurant that has vegan dishes marked on the menu!! Options include leek pie, spinach pie, aubergine dip and potato roasted on coals. Make sure to specify you don't want any of the free extras, as taramasalata as a starter and pistachio ice cream are given away free to customers (seemingly regardless as to whether you ask about vegan food and specifically order a vegan meal, as I found out).
- To Dromaki: I read many accounts of people having delicious vegan meals here, including specially-made stuffed tomatoes without meat. Unfortunately, the day I visited, the chef/owner wasn't there and the server I met was pretty pushy, trying to get me to buy the lunch buffet even though I explained it didn't have many vegan options. However it's worth a visit because if the owner is there you can get some special dishes!
- Tortuga Art Cafe: an Italian cafe. The day I went the menu was limited because they didn't have many ingredients (they were even missing garlic!) but it looked like the only vegan option anyway was bruschetta, although it's possible they'd make you something off-menu if they had more ingredients in stock (they were really friendly and lovely). The bruschetta (even missing the aforementioned garlic) was delicious, if small. Best suited to a snack or really light meal.
- Remetzo (in Perdika, a village on the island, accessible by bus or bike from Aegina Town): this place also apparently has vegan options, though I didn't go to Perdika
- Da Vince gelato: this gelateria had ice creams clearly marked, showing which contained milk and which didn't. The dark chocolate orange sorbet was so good!
What to pack for Athens
Of course, you'll definitely want your sunscreen in Athens, particularly if you're planning on visiting during the summer! I've got a guide to vegan and ocean-friendly sunscreen here.
I always advise bringing snacks with you on any trip, in case the airline forgets your meal or the flight gets delayed. I also find it handy to keep some vegan snacks in my handbag, in case I get hungry while I'm out exploring. My post on the best vegan road trip snacks is perfect for picking out snacks not just for a road trip, but for any trip!
Guidebooks for Athens and Greece
I recommend bringing a guidebook or ebook to Athens and/or Greece, particularly if you're planning on visiting the Acropolis or other historical landmarks. While there's signage in English, it's not very extensive and you'll learn a lot more with a good guidebook at hand! Here are my recommendations:
Lonely Planet Guide Greece
European plug adapters
Don't leave home without plug adapters. Nothing is more annoying than realising your iphone is running out of charge but you don't have an adapter so you can't plug it into the wall in Athens to recharge your phone!
European travel plug adapters
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Planning a trip to Greece? If you're headed to the islands, don't miss my vegan Santorini guide here.
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