Santorini is fast gaining a reputation as one of Greece’s top gastronomic centres. Thanks to the proliferation of high-end tourism, this elegant island is where you can go big on gourmet dinners with stunning sea views, cocktails, and Instagrammable breakfasts.
The tourist boom on the island has also brought with it an interest in Santorini’s self-sufficient food traditions, a result of its unique volcanic geography and relative isolation in the Aegean sea. There’s plenty for foodies to get stuck into on Santorini.
Eating on Santorini needn’t always be a splurge. Mezze at traditional tavernas are reasonably priced. Make sure to try:
- Tomatokeftedes (tomato balls) are a Cycladic speciality but peak here on Santorini where the tomatoes are some of the best you’ll ever taste (they have a low water content, making them ideal for grating into keftedes). You’ll find them in most cafes, tavernas and restaurants.
- Pitta gyros from Lucky’s Souvlaki in Fira are some of the best I’ve had (totally enhanced by the sea breeze). There is also Pitogyros in Oia and Why Not! Souvlaki in Firostefani. Sometimes you can’t go wrong with a pitta wrap, particularly if you need fuel for walking the caldera.
THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN SANTORINI
The best places to eat on Santorini. For upmarket Cycladian cuisine, be sure to reserve a spot at one of these lovelies:
- Assyrtiko Wine Restaurant in Fira for classy fresh Greek dishes and an excellent wine list | Location |+30 2286 022463
- Koukoumavlos in Fira for sunset aperitifs and innovative Mediterranean fine dining | Location | +30 2286 023807
- Red Bicycle in Oia for caldera views in a 19th-century mansion and elevated Greek dishes such as ouzo foam, mastic mousse, and tomato ice-cream (yes please). Location | +30 2286 071918
- Selene has long held the title of best restaurant on Santorini; one of the original gourmet destinations for its innovative local fare. Now located in Pyrgos | Location | +30 2286 022249
- 1800 has a great location in Oia for marrying gastro-Greek with pristine white tablecloths and spectacular caldera views| Location | +30 2286 071800
THE BEST TAVERNAS FOR TRADITIONAL FOOD
Prices in Santorini tavernas are a little higher than less touristy islands but compare favourably to western Europe prices.
- Any of the fish/seafood tavernas in Ammoudi are worth the schlep down to the seafront from Oia: Dimitris, Sunset, Katina’s, Ammoudi Bay
- Anogi in Imerovigli for modern Greek | Location | +30 2286 021285
- Aktaion in Firostefani for 3 generations of love from the Roussos family | Location | +30 2286 022336
- Metaxy Mas in Pyrgos is everyone’s favourite restaurant for its fab Cretan flavours. It’s worth making the trek to Pyrgos if you can get a table (the word is out – reservations are a must). | Location | +30 2286 031323
- Mousiko Kouti in Megalochori for beautiful courtyard setting and traditional dishes made with care | Location | +30 2286 085282
- Roka in Oia for authentic local vibes tucked away in a narrow alley | Location | +30 2286 071896
- Taverna Skala in Oia for superb renditions of the classics; owned by Sigilas winemaking family Location +30 2286 071362
- The Good Heart, a local favourite near Akrotiri | Location |+30 698 131 4338
- To Krinaki for sampling authentic Santorinian dishes made with local ingredients in the village of Finikia, nor far from Oia | Location | +30 2286 071993
- To Psaraki for seafood with a local flavour in the fishing village of Vlychlda | Location | +30 2286 082783
THE BEST CAFES AND BARS
Greek cafe culture is alive and well on Santorini, and you won’t be short of scenic places to park yourself for a frappe or cocktail.
- Cafe Galini in Firostefani has Insta-worthy views and laid back breakfasts (perfect if your hotel is lacking them)
- Take a trip to Kantouni in Pyrgos – one of the last traditional coffeehouses on the island – for backgammon and Mrs Voulas’ famous sfouggato (potato omelette) | Location | +30 2286 033474
- Don’t miss Lolita’s Gelato for the best ice-cream on Santorini. Try the Vin Santo flavour
- For beach bar vibes head to Theros Wave Bar in Vlychada
- Symposion Homeric Wine Cafe in Megalochori for local wines and beers in a botanic garden, sometimes accompanied by a lyre recital
- The Wine Bar at the Heliotopos Hotel for wines by the glass in a cool cave bar
- Franco’s Cafe in Pyrgos is the classic bar for panoramic sunset cocktails
WHAT TO EAT – LOCAL SPECIALITIES
Santorini’s volcanic soil is rich in pumice and porcelain and the rainfall is low, creating a distinctive ecosystem and local produce. In tune with the craggy, barren landscape, the food here is as salty as the dark sea. Salty feta, salty olives, salty capers. Here are a few local specialities that you should seek out:
- Fava. Santorini is one of the most notable producers of this little yellow split pea, which has been cultivated continuously on the island for over 3500 years. It’s traditionally eaten as a dip topped with capers or chopped onions, as a soup, or served with grilled octopus. Santorini fava is the best in Greece and has PDO status.
- White aubergine. Did you know Santorini has its own aubergine? Solanum avigerum is only grown on the island. It doesn’t absorb a lot of oil and is usually made into stews or a dip.
- Capers grow wild in Santorini, and you’ll find the berries and leaves brined and adorning most savoury dishes.
- Santorini Tomatoes are only grown on the island and have PDO status. They’re small and sweet and ideal for making tomato paste. If you love tomatoes (as I do) you can visit the museum at the old Tomato Industrial Museum – now the Santorini Arts Factory in Vychlada.
- Hloro Tyri. A creamy goat’s cheese.
And if you’re wondering why you see octopus hanging out in the sun everywhere (no, it’s not just for tourists to take photos), it’s to reduce the water content in the octopus which stops it going rubbery when you cook it. I feel bad about eating octopus, clever and curious creatures they are, but unfortunately for them, a tender smoky well-grilled tentacle with a glass of Assyrtiko is one of the finest pleasures in life.
WHAT TO DRINK
Santorini is a flourishing wine tourism destination. It is home to some the oldest continually cultivated vines in the world thanks to its resistance to the parasite phylloxera. The ancient vines are woven into low-lying basket shapes to protect the grapes from the wind and sun, a process known as koloura. The main grape varieties grown on the island are:
- Assyrtiko (white)
- Athiri (white)
- Aidani (white)
- Mandilaria (black)
- Mavrotragano (black)
Assyrtiko (PDO) is the most well-known Greek wine and accounts for 75% of the vines on the island. It was traditionally made into sweet Vin Santo (holy wine) but recent trends have veered towards dry whites. Assyrtiko is grown in other parts of the country but Santorini is where it truly shines.
“These wines [from Santorini] in particular show pure briny, mineral flavors, as if they were the concentrated essence of millions of tiny seashells.” – Eric Asimov, New York Times
Craft beer is also flourishing on Santorini. You can visit the Santorini Brewing Company — home of the Yellow Donkey beer. A trip to the microbrewery is also included in many food-based organised tours.
Most of Santorini’s wineries are open for tours and/or tastings (although phone ahead if travelling in the shoulder or low season).
Vineyards you can visit include:
- Art Space—the winemaking label at Argyros Canava, one of the oldest wineries on the island—houses an art centre and museum in its underground caves | Location | +30 693 289 9509
- Boutari was the first winery in Greece and is housed in a photogenic white domed building in Megalochori and has educational tours and tastings from €15 | Location | +30 2286 081011
- Canava Roussos showcases traditional methods and varieties in Santorini’s oldest kanava (cave cellar), Santorini’s oldest winery | Location | +30 2286 031349
- Domaine Sigalas is one of the most prominent wineries on the islan; offers tastings and private tours with food pairings | Location | +30 2286 071644
- Gaia Winery in Kamari has a lovely beachside setting for tastings in a refurbished tomato canning factory and a limited number of Thalassitis Submerged (a wine cellared underwater) for you to try. Popular with tours so booking advised | Location | +30 2286 034186
- Gavalas in Megalochori showcases rare local varieties and meticulous methods | Location | +30 2286 082552
- Hatzidakis Winery—legendary winemaker Haridimos Hatzidakis sadly passed away in 2017, but you can visit the new winery between Pyrgos and Megalochori to taste some of the best wines on the island | Location | +30 6970013556 (temporary number)
- Karamolegos Winery in Exo Gonia is the one to visit if you fancy dinner too, it has an excellent courtyard restaurant (Aroma Avlis) on site | Location | +30 2286 033395
- Koutsogiannopoulous near Kamari has labyrinthine underground wine museum and wines that you won’t find outside the winery | Location | +30 2286 031322
- Santo Wines is a co-op representing producers on the island. Combine your tastings with deli shopping and sunset-watching from its wine centre in Pyrgos | Location | +30 2286 028058
- Vassaltis is the newest winery on the island and offers both short and long tours (and a light lunch if you arrive at the right time) | Location | +30 2286 022211
- Venetsanos has another extraordinary location with caldera views and a fancy cafe for tasting plates | Location | +30 2286 021100
FOOD AND WINE TOURS
A food and wine tour is a great immersive way to learn about (and taste) the history and geography of the island. Private and group tours can be organised by the outfits listed below. There are numerous ways to get around (minibus, ATV, electric bike!) and themes (history, sunset, nature).
Restaurants and tour organisers are starting to offer cooking lessons for fans of local gastronomy who like to take recipes home with them.
Or you can combine a cooking lesson with a wine tour for the ultimate foodie day on Santorini.
Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power by John Szabo
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