If you want to see where many of the restaurants in Athens get their seafood and meat, head to the Dimotiki Agora, or public market. It’s also known as the Central Athens “Varvakios” Markets.
The fish market forms the center of the covered market, with rows of stalls packed with mounds of ice on top of which the day’s catches are laid out. Vendors yell their prices with their considerable lungs, trying to rise above the din to get the attention of buyers.
Fish and seafood feature prominently in Greek cuisine, of course. That’s hardly surprising given that it sits right on the Mediterranean and Aegean, and there are so many islands. Because it’s mostly the local catch from the Mediterranean, the offerings feature more fish, octopus, squid, and cuttlefish than crabs and shellfish, although you can find them too. And, oddly, you can also find pigs’ trotters alongside the fish.
Around the fish market are the butchers’ stalls, with the butchers lining the passageway in their white aprons. Whereas the fish and seafood are mostly laid out in the open—albeit on ice—the meat mostly protected behind refrigerated glass cases. Lamb, goat, pork, and chicken are all on offer, hanging for display. And if you’re after a whole pig’s head, you’re in the right place.
There’s not much here to buy unless you have access to a kitchen, but it’s a boisterous and fascinating taste of local flavor.
This was one of the filming locations used in Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan series. Specifically, it was in an episode titled “Old Haunts” (season 3, episode 2).
Photos of the Dimotiki Agora
I have more photos from the Dimotiki Agora here.
What to Know Before You Go
- Wear solid shoes or boots—flip-flops or sandals aren’t the best choices. The floor is awash with fishy water and is very slippery.
- The vendors set up very early in the morning, but unlike some fish markets that are done pretty quickly, it gets buzzing later in the morning.
- Unless you’re planning to cook, there’s not much there for you to buy. But there are a few small cafes around the fish market stalls where you can get a cheap meal with fresh ingredients. They’re very basic places—not fancy restaurants like the ones at Santiago’s Mercado Central.
- You can walk there from Plaka and an easy walk from the Monastiraki Flea Market.