Following the success of January’s first installment of The Holiday Chomp, we’re back by popular demand with The Holiday Chomp: Valentine’s Day Edition!
(Update: Looking for romantic restaurants for a date night in Athens? Visit The Holiday Chomp: Valentine’s Day II (Four Romantic Restaurants for a Date Night in Athens))
While not a Greek or Orthodox holiday, Valentine’s Day is still celebrated all over Greece with as much fervor as in Paris or London or Little Rock. And chocolate is arguably one of the most popular choices of gift on this special day. Today we’ll look at some of the best places in Athens to get a delicious and gorgeous box of sweet treats for your beloved (*cough*or yourself*cough*). Classic, bright-red-bow bonbons, funky, unorthodox delights, whatever your sugary vice, you can find it below at one of these five beloved patisseries. Be prepared to swim through oceans of cream, dough, syrup, fruit, and pure chocolate-y goodness. And don’t forget to bring back a little somethin’ for the rest of us!
Four Beloved Athenian Chocolate-Stops
(Ethnarchou Makariou 43, Peristeri)
Many will attest to this bakery’s finesse and extraordinary quality of taste; some even claim this may be the best bakery in Athens. Founded in 1925, this French-style patisserie uses fresh, organic ingredients, such as fresh milk and raw black sugar, resulting in sweets that are beautiful to behold and astounding to taste. Here you can find Greek classics, like the beloved galaktobouriko (a pan pastry covered on the top and bottom with syrup-drenched filo dough and filled with a huge layer of milk cream), or more delicate creations such as colorful macarons, eclairs, truffles, and even pecan pie, a classic American treat nearly impossible to find in Athens. They boast a wide array of gorgeous chocolates, such as gianduja scented with pineapple and caramel cream and filled with hazelnuts, and the “Melissa”, made with three kinds of dark chocolate, sliced nuts, and fresh fruits, or their special chocolate macaron overflowing with Tongan and Caribbean chocolate cream and nougat pieces.
(Boulis 7, Syntagma ; Argiropoulou 8, Kifisias)
This eighty-nine-year-old landmark for handmade, traditionally Greek delights is one of Athens’s most legendary sweet shops. Frequented by the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly back in the day, each sweet in this shop is handmade by some twenty-one artisans with a certain finesse (and handpicked, locally-sourced ingredients) that modern chain-bakeries simply cannot achieve. Aristokratikon is the place to go for a taste of elegance that only parents and grandparents of this generation remember; here you can find small balls, blocks, and shapes (mint chocolate leaves, anyone?) in every beloved flavor, shade, and nut of the chocolate repertoire. Their stocks change seasonally, and depending on the holiday you can find the most adorable treats; on Valentine’s day, have your eye out for chocolate hearts engraved with the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene, or drizzled with the message “Always in love with you” in white chocolate.
(Kifisias 373, Nea Erithrea ; Artemidos 8 & Laodikis, Glyfada ; Solomou 9, Neo Psychiko (Faros) ; Leoforos Pentelis 59, Vrilissia)
For the dieters of the Holiday Chomp crowd, this elegant patisserie is the first in Athens to make its sweet treats exclusively with stevia and light ingredients (the maximum calories in any one item is 280); they even have sweets safe for those with diabetes or hypoglycemia. But don’t let the “healthy” label fool you into thinking their confections are drab—their sweets are made with locally sources Greek products and high-quality Belgian chocolate. They have handmade ice cream, tarts, cakes, and seasonal sweets, all at no more than 280 calories. Check out their adorable chocolate chunks made with milk chocolate and peanut butter or dark chocolate and fruit combinations, or surprise your sweetheart with their new lines of mini chocolate bars in flavors like dark, milk with peanut butter, milk with raw cocoa, and bitter orange. Or surprise your beloved with macarons, tiny chocolate mousses, or some of their in-house stevia jam and cookies—and don’t forget a bottle of sugar-free champagne on the way out!
Honorable Mention: Le Votre Piree Confiserie
(Kountouriotou 166, Piraeus)
Nestled in the port city of Piraeus, south of Athens, this tiny, pink-painted bakery is one of the area’s best-kept secrets for amazing, experimental chocolates. The owner, Stephanos Diamantopoulos, studied sweets-baking in Paris and worked on cruise ships before coming to Piraeus to found this mini-mecca boasting over fifty flavors of handmade chocolates. Sold in small squares, each individually wrapped and labeled, the menagerie includes the more familiar tastes of hazelnut, praline and coffee, but the more daring chocoholic may be far more interested in their more unorthodox flavors, such as rose, spanakopita (Greek spinach pie), flower pollen, peppers, tea, olive oil and many more. They also have an impressive selection of chocolates and truffles flavored with wines and drinks such as raki (also known as tsipouro, a spirit distilled from the by-products of wine-making and flavored with anise). Piraeus is twenty minutes away from Athens via the metro, so if you’re ever in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by this pink wonderland for a sweet-toothed adventure!
Wishing you all love (and lots of beautiful calories) this Valentine’s Day! Stay tuned for the next edition of The Holiday Chomp coming on Clean Monday!