When I went on holiday to Greece with family in September, I wasn’t sure if it would be a vegetarian-friendly place. Would they have enough options? Would they be accommodating and friendly? Would I be able to find soya milk? Would the islands be as good for food? Greeks love their lamb koftas, moussaka and meat dishes in general, so I was unsure how I would get on!
Like any other capital city, there were plenty of food choices for vegetarians. On our first night, we stumbled across a lovely traditional Greek place, Athinaikon restaurant. This was my first experience of a Greek salad in Greece; feta cheese triangles balanced on top of fresh beef tomatoes, cucumber, onions, peppers and olives. It was delicious! (although I had to leave most of the feta as I usually don’t eat much dairy).
We were never too far from a good restaurant or café – however, cafés were far more commonplace than restaurants in Omonoia square (near Syntagma square). It was very easy to grab a quick breakfast or brunch; pastries filled with potatoes, numerous types of cheese and spinach are readily available as well as sweet pastries. We were located ideally next to an amazingly grand and old bakery Beneth which had the hugest range of pastries I have ever seen!
This is where I discovered Lukomades, delicious crispy and light doughnuts drizzled with honey and made to order; can’t get fresher than that!
Closer to Syntagma square, there was a vegan bistro, which I didn’t get the chance to try; but it was good to know that vegan options are available, so I would recommend trying it out if you’re in Athens!
Healthy bites: vegan bistro near Syntagma square
If you’re looking for a not-so-healthy place with good food and massive portion sizes, I can definitely recommend The Old Omonia Grill and Cook House. Despite the meaty name, there were plenty of good veggie options at reasonable prices; veggie burgers, chips, salads, omelettes and more. The falafels and the pitta bread there were really good! Other more traditional Greek options such as Dolmades (rice wrapped in smoked vine leaves) and stuffed peppers or aubergines were also widely available in various restaurants across the city.
The Old Omonoia grill and cook house
I had heard a lot of people rave about Santorini; about the views, the food etc. So I was excited to see if the vegetarian food would live up to this rosy view. This volcanic island with stunning views had a lot of eateries aimed at tourists. As a result, some of them offered the usual international ‘Western’ food like burgers, chips etc. Being an island, a lot of seafood was available and plentiful on restaurant menus. Although finding vegetarian options was slightly more challenging than in Athens, it was still pretty easy to find. One particularly good place was Mama’s House in Fira, where I had one of the best meals. The Italian food there was delicious, as well as the wine which was super cheap to order by the carafe.
There were other places serving up traditional Greek cuisine as well as fast food, and generally the food was great.
However as with most places, animal cruelty is something that hasn’t escaped this picturesque island. If you are looking for a cruelty-free trip, please avoid the donkey rides that are offered to and from the port.
Donkeys in Santorini
The donkeys are tied up and wait in the hot sun until people hire them for rides; they are then forced to make the tiring and hot journey up the hill, despite a cable car being available as well as other forms of transport. This is sadly something that a lot of tourists would buy into, thinking it’s the ‘traditional’ thing to do when in fact it is just animal cruelty and exploitation.
Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades islands was one of my favourite places. Finding good food was not an issue, and generally finding vegetarian-friendly places was a lot easier than in Santorini or Athens, with an abundance of restaurants advertising Vegetarian meals and set menus. Lotto restaurant was one such place that served up a vegetarian set menu; the food came in large portions and was delicious.
Overall, in my experience Greece was a very vegetarian-friendly place. It wasn’t difficult to find veggie options, and the staff were really accommodating and would amend menu items if asked. Greek hospitality is excellent and they are proud of using local, fresh produce. The tomatoes in particular were really tasty. The portion sizes were enormous and prices were reasonable (around 30 Euros for 3 x meals including drinks). A particularly nice tradition is one where they would bring a mini-dessert out with the bill – so most of the time there was no need to order a separate dessert!
However, if you’re vegan then you may struggle a bit with the food since almost everything comes with cheese! As Feta and other soft cheeses are traditional, local and popular, it’s hard to find salads without these added; however as they are so hospitable, it wouldn’t be difficult to get them to alter the menu.
If self-catering, vegan food is much easier. Supermarkets are easy to find – and although vegan alternatives aren’t as easy to find as here in the UK, they are available! Anything imported is really expensive, so that’s something to keep in mind (Soya milk was at least 2.40 Euros)!
Soya milk in one of the supermarkets
So, are you thinking of going to Greece? Although there are a few things to be conscious of as a vegetarian or vegan, I think overall it’s a great place to travel to and you won’t have a huge issue with the food.
I’ll raise a glass to that. ‘Opa!’