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Last updated : Nov 2009
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Food & Drink

Restaurant and tavern food tends to be uncomplicated, rarely involving sauces but with full use of local olive oil and charcoal grills. Dishes like dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), kebabs and avgolemono (chicken broth with rice, eggs, salt and lemon juice), moussaka (aubergine casserole with minced lamb, cinnamon, red wine and olive oil) can be found everywhere. Taramasalata (a dip made from fish roe, bread, onion, olive oil and lemon juice) and various seafood dishes, especially squid (kalamari) or octopus, are excellent.

Greek menus typically include a selection of meze (appetisers), such as keftedes (hot spicy meatballs) or tzatziki (a dip made from yoghurt, garlic, olive oil, shredded cucumber and dill). Salads are excellent and often made with the local feta cheese, tomato, cucumber and fresh olive oil. Additional vegetarian specialities include gigantes (large white beans) and kolokithakia (small boiled courgette with oil and lemon). Olives are inexpensive and plentiful. Deserts, such as baklavas (filo pastry filled with almonds and topped with honey, sugar and vanilla) or loukoumades (honey-drenched pastry puffs) are sweet and filling.

All restaurants have a standard menu which includes the availability and the price of each dish. Many restaurants will serve international dishes. Hours are normally 1200-1500 for lunch and 2000-2400 for dinner. Waiter service is usual.

One of the best-known Greek drinks is retsina wine, made with pine-needle resin. Local spirits include ouzo, an aniseed-based clear spirit to which water is added and which is very similar to the French pastis. Local brandy is sharp and flaming. Greek coffee is served thick and strong, and sugared according to taste. Greek beer is a light Pilsner type.

Opening hours vary according to the region and local laws.


This is centred in main towns and resorts with discos and concerts. Athens offers many local taverns, mostly in the Plaka area, and ouzeris (typical Greek bars). Regular concerts and evening shows are held at the Odeion of Herodes in Attica.

Nightclubs featuring Greek bouzouki music are very popular. There are some casinos in Greece, such as the Corfu Casino in Corfu, the Mount Parnes Casino in Athens and the Casino at the Grand Hotel Astir in Rhodes.


Special purchases consist of garments and knitwear, lace, jewellery, metalwork, pottery, furs, leather goods, rugs, local wines and spirits. Athens is the centre for local handicrafts and luxury goods. The flea markets in Plaka and Monastiraki, below the Acropolis, are all jam-packed in high season.

Regional specialities include silver from Ioannina, embroidery and lace from Crete, the Ionian Islands, Rhodes and Skiros, ceramics from Sifnos and Skopelos, fur from Kastoria, alabaster from Crete and flokati rugs from the Epirus region.


(a) Visitors should be know that many ‘antiques’ sold to tourists are fake; it is against the law to export any item of real antiquity without a special permit from the Export Department of the Ministry of Culture.

(b) Non-EU citizens can get a refund on Greek VAT (4 per cent on books and 18 per cent on nearly everything else); the process is somewhat complicated, but well worth it. Non-EU visitors may buy goods from certain shops bearing the sign ‘Member of the Tax-Free Club’ and have the VAT refunded, in cash, at special refund points at the airport. Ask store owners and tourist information offices for more details.

Shopping hours: These vary according to the season, location and type of shop, but a rough guide follows: Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday 0800-1430; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 0800-1400 and 1730-2030. Note: Most holiday resort shops stay open late in the evening.

Social Conventions

Visitors to Greece will find that the Greeks are well aware of strong historical and cultural heritage. Traditions and customs vary throughout Greece, but overall a strong sense of unity prevails. The Greek Orthodox Church has a strong traditional influence on the Greek way of life, particularly in more rural areas. The throwing back of the head is a negative gesture. Dress is by and large casual. Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in public buildings.


12 to 15 per cent is usual.