The best souvlaki in Athens is certainly something you want to discover during your trip to the Greek capital. While there is arguably no such thing as a bad souvlaki restaurant, there are always those places that stand out above the crowd.
Best Souvlaki in Athens
The truth is, that Athenians don’t always venture into Athens city centre to shop, go for drinks, or have dinner. Monastiraki, Syntagma Square, Psiri and Plaka may mark the beating heart of Athens.
However, the city consists of an array of charming districts, each with its own centre and personality. Essentially, these Athenian neighbourhoods are like little villages in themselves.
So, to uncover the best souvlaki in Athens according to locals, it is worth venturing out of the city centre and experiencing a true Greek residential neighbourhood. Here you will find good, unpretentious food served in establishments that have been passed down Athenian families for generations.
What is Souvlaki?
Souvlaki is the most quintessential Athenian street food dish if there was one. You will see a lot of stores selling souvlaki and gyros in tourist areas.
However, souvlaki is not just a dish that caters to tourists. Locals regularly indulge in a skewer or two.
For many Athenians, this is a “go-to” late-night savoury snack. If you are headed home from a nightclub or a bouzouki bar in the early hours of the morning, you may stop by your favourite souvlaki place or order some souvlaki with potatoes via E-food.
But what exactly is souvlaki? Souvlakia (plural) are skewers of sumptuous seasoned meat grilled to perfection on a skewer.
Pork, beef and chicken breast are the most common meats that you will find in souvlaki. Sometimes. Vegetables are also grilled alongside the meat but this is not typical.
Eating Souvlaki in Athens
The most common way to enjoy souvlaki is to enjoy it “as is” and eat the meat from a wooden skewer. Depending on your appetite and how much you usually eat, you may want to order 2-3 souvlaki sticks.
The meat has already been seasoned but you will be given a slice of lemon or lime to squeeze over the meat for additional flavour.
You will also be given a slice of baguette-style bread. For the best Athens souvlaki experience, order a couple of skewers alongside a side order of potatoes (fries) seasoned with salt and fresh oregano.
Souvlaki prices vary across Greece and can be inflated in tourist areas and islands. Typically, you should expect to pay no more than €1.40 per skewer.
You can also have your souvlaki served in a pita wrap if you like. Typically, your server will ask you if you want your souvlaki with “everything”.
This means, tomato and lettuce, fries, and a topping of either tzatziki or tomato sauce and mustard. This is not to be confused with pita gyros.
The Difference Between Souvlaki and Gyros
Souvlaki and gyros are both very popular Greek street foods, but they have distinct differences. You could say that souvlaki is generally better quality meat.
When preparing souvlaki, pieces of meat are grilled horizontally on a skewer. Gyro meat on the other hand, is a large chunk of meat slow-cooked on a vertical rotisserie.
When you order a gyro, the vendor will “shave” the meat off the rotisserie. The meat is then tucked inside a pita with salad, potatoes, and condiments.
A Brief History of Souvlaki
Souvlaki is far more than just modern convenience food. It is believed that the treat has been enjoyed in Greece for thousands of years!
It has even been referenced in the works of Ancient Greek Philosophers and Writers. Homer, Aristophanes (446-386 BC), and Aristotle (384-322 BC) all mentioned souvlaki in their writing!
The word “souvlaki” comes from the word ‘souvla’. This is Greek for “spit”, representing the way that the meat is prepared. This word, in turn, is said to come from the Latin “subula”.
Best Souvlaki in Athens
Some of the eateries that serve the best souvlaki in Athens are detailed below. These are well worth adding to your radar during your Athens itinerary.
It is understandable that when you are busy sightseeing, there might be times when you consider just wandering into the nearest Athens souvlaki restaurant that you see. Just be mindful of the eateries that line Apostlou Pavlou in Thissio, and await outside tourist attractions like the Acropolis, or the steps of old Plaka.
Unfortunately, in Athens, as anywhere, there are a few tourist traps that overcharge. The food will likely still be very good, but certainly not the best souvlaki in Athens, and you will pay over the odds for it.
You may also want to consider incorporating your hunt for the best souvlaki in Athens into a wider Athens food tour like this one. A number of independent local companies offer such tours and include 10-11 tastings of different Greek foods at some of the best eateries in the capital.
Not only is this a good introduction to Mediterranean cuisine, it is also a good way to get your bearings in a new city. Better yet, being in the presence of a friendly Athenian
O Kostas (ουβλάκι Κώστας 1950 συνταγμα)
Where: Pentelis 5, Athina
Kostas’ souvlaki restaurant is an Athens institution. The eatery has existed since the 1950s and is located conveniently close to Syntagma square and Ermou street.
It awaits down a little side street (Pentelis) that veers off from the streets of Mitropoleos and Apollonos. The first generation O Kostas eatery was located in old Plaka.
However, the establishment has since moved closer to the Cathedral Church of Athens. The business as it is today is managed by the grandson of the original Kostas, and he continues to deliver mouthwatering food that locals are willing to queue around the block for.
Souvlaki is the principal and only dish served here. If you want to try it with a little extra kick and flavour, opt to have your meat doused with hot paprika as per the owner’s suggestion.
One thing that you need to bring here if you visit is patience, especially if you are travelling to Greece during the summer season. You will find a snaked line of people waiting to sink their teeth into a Kostas souvlaki almost every day of the week. Rest assured though, the food will be worth the wait.
Where: Eftichidou 23, Athina 116 34
To Pinkantiko serves some of the best souvlaki in Athens, particularly if you ask the opinion of those that live in the Mets, Pagrati, Vyronas, and some of the more southern neighbourhoods. This little eatery is tucked away behind the Panathenaic Stadium “kallimarmaro”.
It is a great place to stop for a bite to eat if you’ve been exploring the nearby Temple of Olympian Zeus, National Gardens, and Olympic stadium. Grab a souvlaki stick or two here and then experience the best of authentic Greek local nightlife by heading to one of the excellent bars that encircle Plateia Varnava.
The menu here is fairly extensive as far as traditional Greek street food is concerned. You will find gyros and souvlaki sold here, along with a number of vegetarian options.
This is a real local place. Pagrati residents will stop by here after work if they don’t feel like cooking.
You won’t find tourists hanging out here. Perhaps the best thing about eating here is that To Pinkantiko’s owners have set up tables on the pedestrian street.
So, you can sit down and enjoy your souvlaki and fried potatoes while you people-watch and see scenes of Athenian life unfold around you. The best way to reach the eatery is to walk past the Olympic stadium and then take a right turn on Eratosthenous.
You will see a supermarket named Sklaventis (ΣΚΛΑΒΕΝΙΤΗΣ) and the road will veer off in two different directions. Follow Eftichidou and you will see To Pinkantiko on your right-hand side.
Where: Archimidous 1-5, Athina 116 35
Elvis is a tiny souvlaki bar in the heart of Pagrati that pays homage to Elvis, the King of rock and roll himself. In recent years, Elvis has gained a lot of recognition and has been recommended time and again in various Athens travel blogs, magazines, and websites.
This has encouraged a new era of meat lovers to venture out to little Pagrati in search of the best souvlaki in Athens and this accolade is well deserved. That being said, this is a real local place.
For a lot of Athenians, Elvis is where you go late on a Friday or Saturday night. If you pass by in the evening, there is always a crowd of people outside of Elvis.
Many of these are revellers of the nearby “Chelsea Hotel.” This is an extremely popular hangout that many consider as being one of the best bars in Athens.
Getting a seat here is out of the question and bargoers usually spill out onto the street and stand around Archimidous and Proklou, drink in hand. If you stop by Elvis souvlaki, it is worth combining your visit with having a tipple or two at Chelsea Hotel.
The restaurant’s homage to the King of rock and roll here is subtle – only evident in the packaging and a photo or two of the King hanging over the cash register. The eatery is not as eccentric as the name perhaps suggests.
Regardless, the dishes served here are second to none. Souvlaki purchased at Elvis is always served with fresh homemade french fries.
Kalyvas Family Grill
Where: Dimitrakopoulou 91-93, G Olymbiou 10, Athina 117 41
For many foodies, Kalyvas Family Grill not only serves some of the best souvlaki in Athens but some of the best souvlaki in all of Greece. The establishment’s location is also excellent.
Here, you are in the heart of Athens’ quirky Koukaki district. This is an artsy Athenian neighbourhood that is sometimes overlooked but well deserved of a day’s exploration in itself.
In the 1980s, Athenians would nickname Koukaki as “Little Paris”. This was on account of all of the artists and creatives that were drawn to the area.
Today, Koukaki has been somewhat gentrified and is popular among the Airbnb crowd. However, it is without hesitation, one of the most charming parts of the city.
Koukaki’s streets are lined with vintage clothing stores, eclectic coffee shops, independent art galleries and boutique hotels. The pork and chicken souvlaki served here is juicy, tender, flavourful and falls apart in your mouth.
Kalyvas Family Grill is, as the name suggests, a family-owned venture. George Kalyvas and his wife Ioannina first opened the grill in 1993.
Today, they have passed the main operation down to their three sons. The menu offering at Kalyvas is extra special and you will find delicacies here that you do not see elsewhere.
One example is the indulgent stuffed souvlaki dishes that they serve on Sundays. At this time, souvlaki is stuffed with boar or lamb. A meat lover’s dream!
Where: Zisimopoulou 96, Paleo Faliro 175 64
Kyr Aristos is a beloved kebab and grill house situated in the coastal district of Palaio Faliro. When you enter, you will notice various award plaques and newspaper mentions affixed all over the restaurant’s doors and windows.
Since it first opened its doors in 2013, Kyr Aristos has captured the hearts of travellers and locals alike. Indeed many Athenians will travel across the city specifically to eat here.
The eatery and Palio Faliro generally, are a little way out of the centre of Athens. But if you genuinely consider yourself to be a foodie, it is well worth the effort to venture here.
Various buses from Syntagma, Monastiraki and Piraeus stop here. However, the easiest way to reach Kyr Aristos is to do so by Taxi Beat (Greece’s answer to Uber). A journey here from the centre should not cost you more than 6-7 euros maximum.
Kyr Aristos are perhaps best known for their kebabs. However, their souvlaki is also unparalleled.
The portions here are huge and even if you request a half portion, chances are that you will be taking some food home. The pork and chicken souvlaki are cooked to perfection.
If you have an adventurous palate and you want to try something a little out of the ordinary, consider ordering a soutzouki souvlaki. A soutzouki is a specific type of seasoned Greek sausage.
The kebabs offered here are also well worth trying. A particular favourite is the yogurtlu kebab – a lamb and beef kofte kebab served in a fresh tomato sauce with pita and Greek yoghurt.
Equally delicious are the cheese-stuffed keftedes (Κεφτέδες-Γεμιστές). These are homemade burger patties stuffed with cheese (commonly feta, vlahotyri, Roquefort, or gouda).
ΤΟ ΚΑΛΑΜΑΚΙ ΣΟΥΒΛΑ (The Kalamaki Souvla)
Where: Kiprou 5, Vironas 162 32
Venturing deeper into the residential neighbourhoods of Athens, we find ΤΟ ΚΑΛΑΜΑΚΙ ΣΟΥΒΛΑ (The Kalamaki Souvla). The eatery sits on the border of Neo Pagrati and Vyronas.
The prices are great and the portions are generous. Their pork and chicken souvlaki skewers are served with delightfully chunky fries that are prepared in-house the same day.
This is a true, authentic local place located far away from where the tourist hordes would ever venture. Athenians that live in the southern parts of the city centre (Pagrati, Vyronas, Kaisariani, etc) will often order takeout from here when they don’t feel like cooking.
Tourists rarely venture to this area but if you have a little longer to spend in Athens, you may find it interesting. Pagrati and Vyronas boast a lot of excellent coffee shops. ΤΟ ΚΑΛΑΜΑΚΙ ΣΟΥΒΛΑ may also be a good choice of place to stop for some of the best souvlaki in Athens if you visit the nearby Kaisariani Monastery.
Where: Pl. Agias Irinis 2, Athina 105 60
Plateia Agias Irinis is one of the most happening squares in central Athens. It is situated in the heart of the city’s colourful Psiri neighbourhood and the best eatery at its epicentre? Kostas souvlaki.
Ask any Athenian where the best souvlaki in Athens is sold and you will find that one of the most common answers is Kostas at Plateia Agias Irinis. A lot of Athens food tours stop here and yes, Kostas is well worth the hype.
This place has been delighting patrons for over 65 years and has existed in Plateia Agias Irinis long before the area was popular. Since Athens local Kostas founded the place, he has passed it down to his grandson (also named Kostas!)
Kostas’ offering is simple: souvlaki served with a slice of lemon and a piece of pita bread. There is not an extensive menu here.
The eatery prides itself on the quality of its ingredients and recipe. Only the best, locally sourced Greek meats are used to create souvlaki and the accompanying vegetables are always completely fresh.
Opt for the regular toppings or experiment with Kostas’ own hot sauce that he refers to cryptically as “the medicine”. Stop at Kostas en route to Athens Central Market, Evripidou street, and the thought-provoking street art of Psiri.
O Πρόεδρος Κεμπαπτζίδικο (Kebab the President)
Where: Savva Lazaridi 3, Glifada 166 75
Any trip to Athens is not complete without spending time in the stunning upscale beach towns of the Athens Riviera. Namely, these towns are Glyfada, Voula, Vari, and Vouliagmeni.
This is an area often referred to as “The Hellenic Hamptons”. Countless notable Greek and international celebrities have been known to adore exploring this region.
Perhaps most interestingly, Frank Sinatra, Brigitte Bardot, and Sophia Loren would often come here on vacation! Glyfada attracts a well-heeled crowd and its tree-lined coastal streets provide a stark contrast to the sometimes higgledy-piggledy layout of central Athens.
That being said, there is no air of pretension about Glyfada and the area exudes the same laidback vibe you would get from a Greek beach town. If you want to grab a bite to eat while in the area, add Kebab the President to your radar,
The eatery specialises in both souvlaki and kebabs – arguably the perfect combo! You can also find a lot of other Greek favourites on their menu.
For instance, horiatiki (Greek salad), kolokithokeftedes, etc. The restaurant itself is charming and is part of the appeal.
Kebab the President is set inside an old traditional house. Stepping through its front doors are like stepping back in time to a Greece of yesteryear.
Everything is white and blue, old Greek folk music plays over the loudspeakers, and photographs of times gone by adorn the walls. If you can’t make up your mind as to whether you want kebabs, souvlaki, or both, you can order a mixed grill to share with your dinner companions.
This restaurant can actually be found in four locations across Athens. The others are located in Melissia, Moschato and Alimos.