So as many of you know, I was in Europe for a month from February to March. During that time I spent two weeks in Greece. It was my second time there, and this time around we rented a car and traveled through several different towns, from almost the northernmost tip down to the the centre of the Peloponnese.
Greece is great for budget traveling right now, and so it seemed fitting that I start with Greece as the first city in my Traveling Gluten Free on a Budget series. If you're looking for general tips on traveling gluten free on a budget, be sure to check out the first post in the series
As I said, in the last two years I've traveled to Greece twice. It's not because we're rich (ha! I wish), but it's part of my husband's PhD research. We've stayed in hotels in Athens and Thessaloniki (the two largest cities in Greece, Livadia (in central Greece), and Monemvasia, Mystras, and Sparti (Sparta) in the Peloponnese. We've also driven and taken buses to various different towns.
I have to say that even in the last two years, since I was there last time, I've found an increasing number of gluten free items and awareness in Greece (and Europe in general), which is fantastic news for those of us who can't have gluten!!
So in this post I'll share what types of dishes I had success with, and a couple of restaurant suggestions. If you're looking for other tips on traveling on a budget in Greece, check out my general post on Traveling Gluten Free on a Budget.
Overall there are a lot of good options for gluten free dining in Greece - although, unfortunately, not always so great if you happen to have Oral Allergy Syndrome and are allergic to fresh fruit and vegetables. This is because a lot of the alternatives for GF dining include fresh salads and cheese. But then again, this is a problem dining out anywhere in the world if you're allergic to everything!
That's where my first suggestion comes in:
Greek markets can be great places to buy GF bread, rice cakes, cheese, fruit, canned goods, juice, etc. For example, in downtown Thessaloniki I found a market called Super Market Masoutis on Kristalli Street that has a fabulous, very large gluten free and organic section.
I bought a couple packages of GF buns, sliced cheese, and juice, and was able to make several lunches for all of about 5 EU.
This is the rather sizable GF / organic section at Super Market Masoutis. (My apologies for the picture quality on some of these, they were taken with my cell phone, sometimes at night or in poor lighting)
I picked up some GF buns and chocolate cookies to snack on.
They were made in Germany, for Italy, and somehow arrived in Greece ;)
Sparti, being a very small town that doesn't have a lot of foreign tourists staying there, had a GF section with one item. But I bought it anyway to support the fact that they were thinking of those of us that need it :)
Most hotels in Greece include breakfast. This is not your American-style continental breakfast, which is not at all helpful for gluten intolerants with their pastries and toast! Greek hotel breakfasts are AWESOME! I recommend asking on booking for gluten free breakfast options, as many hotels will accommodate by either obtaining GF bread, or trying to suggest other options. But it's not always necessary, because most hotels offer eggs, thick Greek yogurt, fruit preserves, olives, fruit, grilled tomatoes, etc.
Private hotels and B&B's are great, too. In Livadia we stayed at Mideia Hotel, a place run by a really sweet couple. I sent a request asking for a GF breakfast option and the woman made sure to make me omelettes, yogurt, cheese, canned peaches, and coffee every morning. It was very, very sweet.
So make sure your hotel includes breakfast and eat your heart out. It'll help save money.
Meal & Restaurant Suggestions
When eating out I recommend printing out Gluten Free Travel Cards like these. I've found waiters to be super helpful and accommodating. Like anywhere else in the world, though, I do recommend asking the ingredients just in case. Despite their best efforts, I've had people forget that soy sauce is a problem, etc.
Most restaurants offer variations of Greek Salad that are safe. Other types of stuffed veggies, dolmades, cheese, risotto, seafood, and chicken, can be safe bets as well. Food is very reasonable in Greece right now, but if you're looking to save, sharing a few appies like salads is great.
Keep in mind that almost everything in Greece is cooked in olive oil, which is incredibly filling. Servings are often huge, and can be shared quite easily. I recommend ordering less than you think you'll eat to start with.
Otherwise, I can recommend a few places that I ate at more than once, or that I found very accommodating. Some places I didn't write their names down, but hopefully the dish title or suggestion will be helpful when you're reading over the menu!
Risotto at the Athen's Airport Hotel
Ok, not a dish, but the beautiful waterfall in Livadia in the Beotia region in Central Greece.
Grilled Veggies at a restaurant overlooking above said waterfall in Livadia.
Grilled Chicken in Livadia, at a restaurant where no one spoke English, but the guy read my Greek GF travel card and brought me this ;)
At the Restaurant Elysse in Sparti, a dish called Bouriontaki (chicken and onions and potatoes). The owner is actually a very nice lady from Ontario, and speaks perfect English and totally gets gluten free. (sorry, the lighting was off. It's not all blue there, but very white!)
At Dienthes Garden Restaurant in Sparta. This place looks like a hole in the wall, but the owner got to know us after a couple of days there and was very accommodating. He even has a small olive grove outside the city that they use to supply the olives for the restaurant. The below dish was the inspiration for my recipe Fasolia me Horta (Spartan-Style White Beans and Greens).
Greek Salad with feta at Dienthes Garden.
I can't decipher my notes to determine what exactly this was, but it's some kind of eggplant and zucchini stew / fry thing from Dienthes Garden.
So these are just a few suggestions. As always when traveling I recommend making the effort to learn a few words, even just please and thank you, in the language of where you're traveling. It goes a long way towards ensuring the goodwill of servers and hotel staff!
And don't forget to check out my post:
Have you been to Greece?
What did you eat?
What was your favourite place?
Looking for a Greek-inspired recipe? Check out my friend's recipe for Baked Feta, inspired by Greece, and her romance novella, A Single Girl's Guide to Greece!