Earlier in August I visited Athens for my best friend’s birthday, staying with her parents who now live there, and exploring the city. Admittedly, I was a little nervous about how eating gluten free in Athens would be. I may know a little school French and German, could take a guess at some Spanish, but when it came to Greek – not a sausage.
It’s hard enough explaining what gluten is to a waitress in the UK, let alone a country where the language completely baffles you. Here’s some tips and tricks I picked up on the way:
- Download the GF Cards app
Now whenever I go abroad I will always use the ‘Gluten Free Cards’ app. Translating what gluten and Coeliac Disease are in the language of your choice, you’ll find it far easier to communicate with the waiters and chefs. At times, it often took a while to order, but it was totally worth it have a meal you could enjoy and trust. Just search Gluten Free Cards in the app store.
- Pack essentials
As much as it’s annoying packing food instead of another bikini, it’s totally worth it. I didn’t go crazy, but made sure I had a few packs of gf crackers and some odd snacks to tide me over in-between meals. I rarely go anywhere without Nairs Gluten Free Oatcakes. They’re great for any time of day and with any meal.
- Visit GR-EATINGS on your first day
You forgot to pack your snacks, or you just fancy some more. Whatever the reason, you need to go to gluten free supermarket and health food shop GR-EATINGS at least one. I actually ended up here on my final day, which was a little silly, as there were a huge amount of gluten free products available. Whether it was gf flour, cereal, biscuits bread or pizza bases, GR-EATINGS was your one stop shop for all the gluten free bits and bobs you may need to help your holiday run as smoothly as possible. I was thrilled to find products and brands I hadn’t come across in the UK. Prices were a little steep, but no different to gluten free prices in the UK.
It may have been my last day, but I was determined to buy something, so came away with some lovely light lemon cakes and thick chocolate chip cookies by Dove’s Farm. (See above).
- Followed by lunch/dinner at Avocado
I was incredibly thankful to come across Avocado, found near the centre of Plaka. A huge range of gluten free, dairy free and vegan foods, these guys were all about wonderful fresh food, with a large selection of fresh fruit juices to choose from.
Unfortunately their pizzas were ‘wheat free’ but not ‘gluten free’, so I went for their gf pasta with avocado pesto and a fresh apple juice. For Lauren it was vegan sushi with green juice.
- Greek salad is always a winner
You just can’t make Greek salads like the Greeks. There’s something about the fruit and veg over in Greece. Everything’s twice the size, with twice as much flavour. Heading to the local supermarket, I could see why they tasted so incredible – super size tomatoes! I’m yet to find tomatoes this good in the UK, but i shall make it my mission.
What’s great about Greek salad is that it’s naturally gluten free. Fresh tomatoes, cucumber and feta, a size of tzatziki is a must. Double check with the olives and any dressing with your waiter to make sure – this is where the GF Cards app came in very handy.
- Be prepared to have meat with salad or potatoes
In Greece a typical meal consists of meat and potato, which most of the time are naturally gluten free. But sometimes I didn’t fancy this when I wanted a lighter lunch, so I continued to ask questions and show the GF Cards app until I found something I did want. Don’t be afraid to keep asking questions, but equally be prepared that meat and potatoes may be your safest bet.
- Orizontes was very impressive
For Lauren’s birthday we were treated to a meal at Orizontes, by her parents. The waiter knew exactly what gluten was, and which meals I could and couldn’t have. I was thrilled to find a choice of starters, mains and even puddings, where I went for the chocolate torte which was incredible. It’s not often you get this kind of service in the UK, making the evening incredible laid back and stress free.
If you don’t head here for the wonderful food, head here for the wonderful view. Perched on top of Mount Lycabettus, take in sparkling sites of the city below from one of Athen’s highest points. Book at sunset to capture the city in all its beauty.
The menu is slightly more expensive the other options, but highly worth it as a treat for the incredible food views and understanding of gluten free.
- Check out the local supermarkets
Before I came across GR-EATINGS, I easily found some bits and pieces to snack on. Nuts, yoghurt, fresh fruit and crisps were mostly gluten free, with clearly labelling on which crisp packets were safe. Just look out for the typical gluten free symbol. Sugary sesame seed bars were a great find and perfect for adding to yoghurt.
Likewise the vegetables are INCREDIBLE and huge in comparison to home.
- Go naturally gluten free for breakfast
Staying at Lauren’s parents’ apartment, we made breakfast before we left. Without gluten free bread of cereal, there were still lots of options to go for. Some days I had eggs with Naris gluten free crackers, other times it was gluten yoghurt with peaches, honey and a sprinkle of a sugary sesame seed bar.
- Have a read of Tea & Post
It wouldn’t be right to round off my Athens tips without giving Lauren’s travel blog a mention. Frequently visiting her parents, she’s covered lots of wonderful trips and sights to see. A particular favourite of mine, recommended by Lauren and her Mum, was the incredibly relaxing Lake Vouglameni, where we chilled out by the natural lakes filled with garra rufa fish, who nibble away at your dead skin cells, and grazed on a meat and cheese board. Have a read of all Lauren’s travel posts here.
If you’re planning on heading to Athens and would like some suggestions of where to go, feel free to tweet myself (@lorileysesh) or Lauren (@teaandpost) and ask away!