The wall of herbs above the produce section and olive bar of the Agora (marketplace) at Ergon House

Greece is an ideal culinary tourism destination. Since many visitors begin their exploration of Greece in Athens, Greek Liquid Gold checked out some popular food tourism spots in the capital where they can discover the secrets of the Greek culinary tradition: the traditional Grocery Store of the Mediterranean Diet and the new, centrally located Ergon House.

The Grocery Store of the Mediterranean Diet actually goes by its long Greek name, To Pantopoleion tis Mesogeiakis Diatrofis.* Just a five minute walk from the Panepistimio metro station, at Sofokleous 1 and Aristeidou 11, To Pantopoleion was one of the first stores to bring to Athens a wide variety of traditional Greek agri-food products from various regions—more than 3,000 products from 225 cottage industries, women's associations, and rural cooperatives.

The olive oil section of the Grocery Store of the Mediterranean Diet

Although its staff doesn’t speak much English, the store deserves a visit, given its excellent selection of Greek extra virgin olive oils, olives, vinegars, condiments, honey, cheese, wines, liquors, baked goods, sweets, and more. The store features authentic products made with pure ingredients and no preservatives, many of them organic, many based on traditional recipes. Customers may sample the olive oils and vinegars to decide which suit them best.

George Giousmadopoulos told Greek Liquid Gold that many people “who want to find something good” have visited the Pantopoleion, including tour groups and individual tourists from all over the world, in its 14 years of promoting the Mediterranean diet as a healthy way of eating.

New on the Athens culinary scene this year, Ergon House attracts bustling crowds to 23 Mitropoleos Street, less than a ten minute walk from Syntagma Square (heading toward Monastiraki). Take one step inside, and you will be impressed by the vertical herb garden that rises above the produce section of the Agora (marketplace) on the right, and by the 4-story mural of the hunting goddess Artemis by the famous street artist INO that fills the left wall. In the center of the spacious glass-roofed atrium restaurant, a 200-year old olive tree grows, emphasizing the centrality of olives and olive oil in the healthy Greek diet that forms the basis for Ergon Foods.

Ergon House’s ground floor and mezzanine contain the restaurant and Agora, the latter created with the Greek farmer’s market (laiki agora) in mind. Devoted to Greek products, the Agora includes an olive bar, fresh produce, a fishmonger, a butcher, a deli, a pastry shop, groceries, wine, liquor, and Greek specialties, naturally including extra virgin olive oil. (As George Douzis told Greek Liquid Gold, “if you have Greek products, you must have olive oil.”) Reservations are useful at the restaurant, a lively place buzzing with conversation, very friendly, helpful English-speaking staff, and wonderful mushroom and cheese risotto and desserts (among many other things).

Head upstairs to the 38-room, four-story hotel, and you enter a completely different atmosphere—quiet and tranquil. As the “first-ever foodie hotel,” according to its Facebook page, Ergon House includes not only the expected business center and fitness room, but also two kitchen areas used for cooking classes for four hours every Friday afternoon. At other times, hotel guests may reserve the kitchens for their own cooking—or eat in the restaurant below them. (A generous breakfast at the restaurant is included in the room rate.)

For snacks, each room has a mini deli shop including personalized cocktails from the famous mixologists at Clumsies, plus ouzo, soft drinks, pasteli, breadsticks, rusks, spreads, and other Greek treats. Rooms also feature espresso machines and Greek mountain tea to enjoy amidst minimalist contemporary décor. To top it all off, a rooftop cocktail bar with olive trees and an Acropolis view will be opening soon.

Restaurants can provide excellent samples of Greek gastronomy; thanks to Ergon House, Yoleni’s, and the Pantopoleion, food tourists can also explore Greek culinary traditions through more active engagement with the key elements of this rich cultural heritage.

NOTE: As of March 2023, Yoleni's Greek Gastronomy Center no longer has a brick-and-mortar shop at 9 Solonos Street in Athens, so the paragraphs about it have been removed from this article. However, the new business that has taken over the ground-floor space there includes a cafe and grocery store and may eventually offer an olive oil bar and cooking classes. Yoleni's still has an online shop.

*Pronunciation of To Pantopoleion tis Mesogeiakis Diatrofis – actually Το Παντοπωλείον της Μεσογειακής Διατροφής: toe pan-doe-poe-LEE-own teess mess-oh-yee-ah-KEESS thee-ah-troe-FEESS. 

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as anyone else interested in supporting Greeks working in these sectors, are now invited to consider the advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website. The only wide-ranging English-language website focused on news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has reached readers in 190 countries around the globe.

An incomplete, introductory sample of noteworthy sites to visit