We created the ultimate Athens souvlaki guide after a month of eating souvlaki in Athens Greece, the epicenter of traditional Greek souvlaki. Check out our favorite spots for kalamaki skewers, kebabs and gyros in Athens.
Athens may be the world’s best cheap eats city thanks to the plethora of souvlaki shops. Not just in tourist areas, these shops are all over the city.
Athens street food fans line up at all hours of the day and night for souvlaki sandwiches stuffed with grilled meats and fresh vegetables. They find the cheapest souvlaki for under 2€, with few costing us more than 3€.
Read our Athens food guide for those times that you’re not in the mood for souvlaki.
Table of Contents
- Athens Souvlaki Guide
- What Is Souvlaki?
- Gyro vs. Souvlaki
- The Best Athens Souvlaki Shops
- Good Athens Souvlaki Shops
- Neighborhood Souvlaki Shops
- Further Afield
- Planning Checklist
Athens Souvlaki Guide
We arrived in Athens curious about the city’s souvlaki scene. Having grown up with Greek diners in the US, we were familiar with souvlaki but we were curious to try the Greek fast food favorite in its Greece homeland.
As it turns out, we had a bit to learn about souvlaki. Luckily, we’re fast learners when it comes to good food.
What Is Souvlaki?
For the uninitiated, the simple souvlaki definition is grilled meat on a skewer. The meat can vary from pork to beef to chicken to lamb and should be grilled fresh to order. And, since one souvlaki skewer is never enough, it’s important to know that the plural of souvlaki is souvlakia.
Though you can eat a souvlaki platter, Greeks typically eat souvlaki on a pita that’s stuffed with the grilled meat as well as tomatoes, onions, tzatziki sauce, chili pepper flakes and french fries. Yes, most street souvlaki sandwiches in Athens include french fries inside the pita.
Gyro vs. Souvlaki
Closely related to souvlaki, gyros are pitas stuffed with meat shaved off a spinning rotisserie wheel. Gyro pitas have the same ingredients as souvlaki pitas. The key difference between gyro and souvlaki is that the meat is shredded in Greek gyros as opposed to the cubed meat used in souvlaki.
Interestingly, people in Athens include kebabs and gyros when they refer to souvlaki, instead calling the skewers kalamaki. So… we are opting to include kebabs and gyros in this article. With food travel, it’s key to eat like a local. And in Athens, the locals have a broad definition of souvlaki. At the end of the day, this just means more great Greek street food for everybody.
The Best Athens Souvlaki Shops
With a month in Athens to eat Greek souvlaki, we had time to scour the ancient city to find the best souvlaki in Athens. We found our favorites where we returned again and again as well as others that didn’t make the cut to be featured here.
We never ate bad souvlaki in Athens. That’s saying a lot considering how much of the Greek food favorite that we ate in a month. Read on to explore our favorite souvlaki shops for skewers, gyros and kebabs:
1. Lefteris O Politis (Λευτέρης Ο Πολίτης)
This simple stand in the blighted Satovriandou neighborhood serves only one type of sandwich but oh what a sandwich it is. Small crowds gather as the staff grills ground beef on skewers and stuffs the cooked meat into pitas along with tomatoes, onions, parsley and a liberal sprinkling of chili powder.
Since the kebabs at Lefteris O Politis are on the smaller side, plan on ordering two… or maybe three.
If you’re looking for beef souvlaki in Athens, Lefteris O Politis should be your first stop. Unlike many shops and restaurants in Europe, the meat here is juicy with fat. That juiciness melds with the chili powder to create a strong flavor punch in a compact package that cost us just €1.90 (approximately $2.25 USD) – price subject to change.
Mindi enjoyed hers so much she started calling them “Crack Kebabs.” They’re that good.
Following our own advice, Lefteris O Politis was our first souvlaki stop when we returned to Athens. After one bite, we remembered why this souvlaki shop was and still is our pick for the best souvlaki in Athens.
Lefteris O Politis is located at Satovriandou 20, Athina 104 32, Greece.
2. Kostas (ΚΩΣΤΑ)
Open since 1950, Kostas is a local Athens street food favorite and high on the list of many hungry visitors including us. However, despite our good intentions to try the famous souvlaki, Kostas wasn’t open the first few times we visited.
Kostas closes once they sell out of product and is also closed on weekends and holidays. When open, lines of souvlaki lovers spill out the door and onto Agia Irini square, making the tiny stand hard to miss.
Kostas isn’t fancy and there’s barely enough seating to accommodate customers. Plus, the Greek souvlaki menu is limited to two types of meat – cubed pork and beef patties.
You may wonder why this joint is so popular in a city filled with souvlaki stands. Part of the answer is the tradition that seeps from the grill and onto the pitas, but the main reason may be the Kostas souvlaki recipe which adds spicy tomato sauce to each souvlaki sandwich.
We heard that the recipe is a secret. As for the flavor – the secret is out.
Hop over to Hoocut (see below) if Kostas is closed. It’s just around the corner.
Kostas is located at Pl. Agias Irinis 2, Athina 105 60, Greece.
3. Thanasis Kebab Monastiraki (Θανάσης Κεμπάμ Μοναστηράκι)
When you stumble upon Thanasis you know that you’ve stumbled upon an institution. The place is huge with its sprawling patio just off Monastiraki Square and a large indoor dining area that reminded us of Katz’s deli in New York City.
At first glance, we thought that Thanasis looked like a tourist trap. We were wrong! Despite the constant crowds of tourists, Thanasis’ food and service are on point.
Thanasis has a full menu beyond grilled pork and chicken souvlaki sandwiches. We couldn’t resist ordering gyros during our first visit once we saw the staff hand slicing meat from large wheels. We loved our gyros but was our love justified?
To be sure, we returned for a repeat performance. Yep – the Thanasis gyros were just as juicy as we remembered and were seasoned to salty goodness. If not the best gyros in Athens, they certainly are a top contender.
We also enjoyed Thanasis’ horiatiki (Greek salad) and saganaki (fried cheese) starters during our visits.
Don’t feel obligated to order a big plate of food at Thanasis Souvlaki. Though wraps are not prominent on the menu, you can order gyros and souvlaki in pita without all the accouterments.
Thanasis Kebab Monastiraki is located at Mitropoleos 69, Athina 105 55, Greece.
Elvis Presley was a complex personality, but souvlaki shop Elvis is about as basic as it gets. Enter the quirky Athens grill stand, with two locations in Gazi and Pagrati, and you’ll choose from 4 different skewers – chicken, lamb kebab, cubed pork belly and pork sausage.
The Athens version of Elvis takes souvlaki meat seriously with some of the juiciest, bite-snappingly good pork sausage served this side of Memphis. If that’s not enough, the King serves a strong shot of raki to each customer ordering a skewer as a welcoming gesture.
Head to Elvis to satisfy your late night cravings. Unlike the real Elvis, this Elvis rarely leaves the building.
Souvlaki skewers at Elvis are served with fries and a side of bread. You can even order grilled pita on request for a small surcharge.
Enjoy your meal while glancing at the colorful interior featuring Greek Elvis memorabilia. Go ahead and order two if you’re hungry – each skewer at Elvis cost all of €1.70 at the time of our visits.
After we couldn’t help falling in love with Elvis’ souvlaki skewers, we satisfied our burning love two times during our return visit to Athens. What can we say except that they are always on our mind.
Elvis has two locations in Gazi and Pagrati. We’ve eaten at both and recommend whichever one is more convenient. They’re both great.
5. Kalamaki Kolonaki (Καλαμάκι Κολωνάκι)
We walked up a steep hill to upscale Kolonaki expressly to eat ‘meat on a stick’ options like ribeye, chicken, pork, lamb and turkey at Kalamaki Kolonaki.
Since Athens’ most chic neighborhood reminded us of Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side, we were pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere, outdoor seating and olive tree – not to mention a menu with several salad options.
We give thumbs up to both the ribeye skewer cooked medium rare to our specification and the well-seasoned pork kebob that we ate during our lunch. Though we enjoyed our loaded Cretian dako (rusk) salad, we experienced major food envy as we watched our dapper, suited neighbors dig into their colorful, hefty Greek salad.
Adding salt to our jealous fire, our other neighbors, a trio of women of a certain age, plowed into what looked to be a dozen (or more!) skewers as if there were no tomorrow.
Unlike many of the sit-down souvlaki restaurants in Athens, Kalamaki Kolonaki does not have a dedicated internet account. Plan on people watching during your meal instead of surfing the internet
Kalamaki Kolonaki is located at Ploutarchou 32, Athina 106 75, Greece.
Good Athens Souvlaki Shops
Though not the best in the city, the following Athens souvlaki shops are well worth a visit or two. Let’s face it, they’re still pretty darn amazing.
6. O Kostas (Ο Κώστας)
Not to be confused with the more famous Kostas (above) on Agia Irini Square, O Kostas is a fine choice for pork souvlaki during a day of touring. The tiny storefront shop serves straight-up souvlaki the same way they’ve been doing it since 1950.
Each pita comes stuffed with meat, tzatziki, tomatoes, onions, parsley and a dash of chili. The inevitable line typically has a mix of locals and tourists, with many in line buying two souvlaki sandwiches for a cheap but filling lunch.
Arrive early at this souvlaki house to avoid disappointment. Although O Kostas officially closes at 3 pm, they stop serving food when they run out of meat. O Kostas literally ran out of souvlaki while we were in line at 2 pm during our first visit. We returned earlier the next two visits with better success.
O Kostas is located at Pentelis 5, Athina 105 57, Greece.
7. Kalamaki Bar (Μπαρ Καλαμάκι)
Kalamaki Bar is a modern dining option near the Acropolis with a nice selection of souvlaki kalamaki and Greek food favorites, all made with locally sourced products. During our lunch, we ate a variety of skewers with veal, lamb, pork and chicken.
We enjoyed our meal – especially the french fries and grilled halloumi. The heaping helping of fries, served in an ice cream scooper, may be our favorite fried potatoes in all of Athens. The giant chunks of halloumi beautifully charred and served on skewers with green and red peppers were equally impressive.
If you’re staying in the Acropolis area, Kalamaki Bar is a solid choice for a leisurely Greek-style lunch, stand-alone dinner or a late-night snack after a big night of partying.
Whether you order a feast of Greek dishes or just lamb souvlaki with fries, you will be happy with your meal.
Order the giant Dakos (rusk) topped with tomato and feta if you’re feeling extra hungry. It’s a beautiful dish.
Kalamaki Bar is located at Dimitrakopoulou ke Drakou, Athina 117 42, Greece.
8. Meatropoleos 3
Meatropoleos 3 is conveniently located just off of Syntagma Square, a major metro hub and meeting spot in the city. Despite the prime location and outdoor seating, souvlaki here is competitively priced and generously portioned.
When we ate at Meatropoleos 3, we were a bit turned off by the barbecue sauce slathered on top of our souvlaki. Even Mindi, a condiment junkie, thought the sauce was too much.
More than just a souvlaki stand, this casual steakhouse grills up burgers, sausage and steak to order. Vegetarians don’t need to feel left out with items like quinoa salad on the eatery’s extensive menu.
Save room for dessert. Nearby Chatzḗs serves a mean rice pudding as well as buffalo milk ice cream and other dessert specialties.
Meatropoleos 3 is located at 3, Mitropoleos, Athina 105 57, Greece.
9. Savvas (Σάββας)
Right near Monastiraki Square, Savvas is a multi-story souvlaki restaurant where diners can eat on the front sidewalk, inside the restaurant or on the roof. We chose to eat a kebab at a high-top table just outside the restaurant since we were in a bit of a rush, though the prime seats are on the roof where the Acropolis is in full view.
Savvas sources its meat from its own production unit. Though the restaurant serves different types of souvlaki and other Greek food favorites, kebab is the thing to order here – it’s the restaurant’s specialty. You can get it on a platter, in a pita or topped with yogurt.
You can satisfy your late-night and early-morning souvlaki cravings at Savvas. This Athens souvlaki shop is open from 9 am to 4 am every day of the week.
Savvas is located at Ermou 91, Athina 105 55, Greece.
Opened by five chefs in 2018, Hoocut is decades younger than its Athens souvlaki peers. However, don’t discount this souvlaki upstart just off Agia Irini square where the popular street food is elevated with fresh ingredients and thoughtful preparation. At Hoocut, meat options include pork, chicken, beef, lamb and minced beef which can be ordered with pita, in pita or over french fries.
For our meal, we opted to try two of Hoocut’s ‘true pita’ sandwiches. Mindi ate the lamb version with tzatziki, spicy sauce, tomato and onion, whereas Daryl ate the beef version, which reminded him of a Philly Cheesesteak, topped with spicy sauce, tomato, yogurt and onion.
Don’t expect french fries inside your true pita sandwiches at Hoocut. (The chefs purposely leave them off.) You’ll need to order a side if you want shoestring fried potatoes with your sandwich.
Though Hoocut’s pita sandwiches were smaller than many others we ate in the city, we both agreed that they were delicious. However, we agreed to disagree as to which one was better.
There were no disagreements when we returned to Hoocut during our second trip to Athens. Only smiles. Lots of smiles.
Hoocut is located at Pl. Agias Irinis 9, Athina 105 63, Greece.
11. Souvlaki Leivadia (Σουβλάκι Λειβαδιά)
This Souvlaki joint just off Omonia Square is a decent choice if you’re looking for a quick cheap sharable bite and happen to be passing through the neighborhood. €5 will get you a plate of three skewers of pork grilled over charcoal with fries and a bottomless bowl of bread, a good deal even for Athens.
You’ll likely also experience some fun local Athens characters milling around the square during your meal. One thing about Athens – the locals are never afraid to talk. It’s not uncommon for a 30-second conversation to stretch into 30 minutes.
Don’t be insulted by surly service at Souvlaki Leivadia. During our meal, we were berated for calling call skewers kalamaki – which is what they are.
Souvlaki Leivadia is located at Kaniggos 2, Athina 106 77, Greece.
Neighborhood Souvlaki Shops
Shhh. We’re about to tell you a dirty little secret…
Though some Athens gyros and souvlaki shops are better than others, they’re all superior to shops outside of Greece. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Locals take their souvlaki very seriously in Athens, so a bad souvlaki shop wouldn’t stay in business for long.
In addition to eating at Athens’ best and most famous souvlaki shops, we also followed our noses into souvlaki shops adjacent to the Central Market and in the Pagrati neighborhood near our apartment. To our pleasant surprise, we ate excellent gyros and kebabs for very reasonable prices at both.
Don’t be afraid to eat souvlaki off the map in Athens. If you see locals eating at a shop, it’s probably worth a visit. Plus, at under €3, it’s a low-risk proposition.
Neighborhood souvlaki shops are located all over Athens.
If you’re worried about finding good Greek souvlaki outside of Athens, you can stop worrying now. Souvlaki is available all over Greece. And, like the neighborhood Athens souvlaki shops, it’s better than any souvlaki you will find outside of Greece.
As an example, we ate tasty gyros at Kalamaki Mykonos. Though right in the heart of the island’s tourist center, the souvlaki house served us large, made-to-order gyros that didn’t break our bank. As our YouTube followers already know, the server even danced with Daryl when he paid the check at the end of the meal.
Not sure where to find the best souvlaki when you arrive at a new Greek city or island like Santorini? Ask locals for their favorite local souvlaki spots.
Athens Souvlaki Video
Watch our YouTube video to see us eat at the ten best Athens souvlaki shops so you can pick your own favorite.
View the latest Web Story.
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: May 18, 2018