A Gourmand’s Guide to Volos

Famous for pairing meze with tsipouro, the capital of Magnisia on the east central coast holds a variety of gastronomic surprises for discerning foodies.


We are fortunate because we are not alone on this trip. We have friends from Volos who are like a live travel guide to the city: they guide us to the most interesting spots, but mostly they take care of practicalities, such as making a reservation at Gianna-Nikos, one of the most popular and established tsipouradika (restaurants pairing meze with tsipouro) in Volos, which is always packed.

The place is heaving (not just in this particular place, but everywhere) as if the country just experienced a great national victory and people were out celebrating. With no victory in sight, this is just a regular Saturday in Volos, where lunch means gathering around a table sipping on tsipouro and indulging in fish meze and heated conversations.

Info

Gianna-Nikos, Papakyriazi 50, Tel. (+30) 24210.227.67

It is on one of these tables that we find ourselves and, given the atmosphere and mood, try to map out this magical world of tsipouro drinking and the rules that govern it. Somewhere between the salted anchovy, the grooved sea squirts and the glasses filled to the rim we lose track of the information shared across the table. Nevertheless an informal and rather subjective account states that there need not be too many words exchanged between customers and waiters at a tsipouradiko; a simple gesture is often enough.

In addition, the meze complement each other, with the cheaper ones accompanying the more expensive, even though the cheaper options are sometimes tastier. Each round of meze is also different – the first is composed of salted bites that go well with alcohol, the second is usually grilled fish and potato, while the third round leads to an improvised medley (mussels, shellfish, beetroot salad) and from then on, the more likable the customer, the better the food.

The end of the discussion touches on the origins of the tsipouradika, credited to the refugees from Asia Minor who settled in Volos. According to our friends, they probably brought the idea of sharing food rather than the tsipouro itself, which already existed in Thessaly. Even so, the refugees from Asia Minor also settled in other parts of Greece yet the tsipouradiko culture did not follow suit. It seems that the wine-producing tradition of Thessaly combined with the traditions of the refugees gave birth to this new tradition in Volos: the tsipouradika.

The discussion lasts three hours, is massive, heavy and wonderful. But we do not repeat it, nor do we go to another tsipouradiko for the duration of our stay. First because this “sport” is exhausting, second because the tsipouradika often steal the limelight from other places in town. And that is a pity, because Volos’ strong suit is its gastronomic scene. After the classic seaside walk along Argonafton, the park of Agios Konstantinos and Anavro, where we saw people of all ages walking, cycling, skating and pushing their strollers along, what visitors can basically enjoy here is the food.

The recommendations for breakfast, lunch, dinner, wine and drinks that follow are mostly geared to the locals first, and then to visitors – although that is rather nice. The city preserves a bizarre regionalism that goes against the times: the needs of the locals come before the needs of the tourists. This means that as you wander these haunts you will not find yourselves surrounded by foreigners, but by locals and the students studying at the University of Thessaly, who imbue the city with a much-needed breath of fresh air.

All about food

If you like meat, the ideal place is Kreatos Tehni (Meat Art), a type of modern hasapotaverna that combines a butcher shop with a restaurant. Created by Evripides Tsintos, a local with heritage from Karditsa, here you will find meat from Thessaly (pork from Almyros, mutton, lamb and beef from Elassona), while its specialty is kontosouvli (spit roasted pork) and all grilled meats. In addition to dining on the stone-built patio featuring three types of floor mosaics, you can also purchase a variety of gastro-souvenirs such as sausage with leek.

For a more classic restaurant experience pass by Plagios, a place with strong Italian influences, for a variety of meat dishes, fish, some traditional Greek products (such as fava from Santorini and apaki from Crete), and an extensive wine list. For a lighter and more youthful atmosphere head to Brighton, which combines the sharing tradition of a meze eatery with the flavors of a restaurant. Brighton’s amazing atmosphere was also appreciated by the British newspaper The Guardian as it was included as one of the top ten restaurants in Europe located next to a railway station, according to its readers.

Info

Kreatos Tehni, Dimitriados 131-133, Tel. (+30) 24210.203.40

Plagios, Skyrou 12-16, Tel. (+30) 24210.219.00

Brighton, Krokiou 34, Tel. (+30) 24210.750.12

The patisserie Kypsele, now considered an institution in Volos, opened in the 1960s. The people who work here are like an open embrace, willing to dedicate as much time as necessary to help their customers choose between: traditional yoghurt, vanilla or chocolate custard cream, goat’s milk ice cream with agave syrup, galaktoboureko (custard pie with phyllo pastry), oven desserts, almond cakes, baklava, samali (semolina cake with syrup). The entire setting, simple and bright, with an open glass refrigerator from the 1950s, is reminiscent of a Greece from another era – hospitable, genuine and honest, when businesses built trust with their customers. Paying Kypsele as visit feels like entering a photo by Kostas Balafas and becoming part of the composition.

Info

Kypsele, 2nd  November 96, Tel. (+30) 24210.246.77

We visited Kypsele on the first day of our city break for some yoghurt for breakfast, which kept us going until lunch. The following days we opted for a hearty brunch, at Sanctus and at Achilleion Foyer.

The former is quite hard to find, if you do not know where to go – it is on the fourth floor of the Nakos Center mall. This all-day place is usually frequented by students, serves a great breakfast selection (including fried eggs, poached eggs, high-energy foods, pancakes, fresh juices), and boasts a large garden filled with cactus plants. The church of Agios Nikolaos is located just opposite, and we could hear the Sunday service loud and clear, from the speakers. Through the open window we can see the upper floors of various apartment buildings – pretty much the same as in other Greek cities, with various signs, aerials and awnings jutting out of balconies.

Info

Sanctus, Spyridi 30, Tel. (+30) 24210.369.76

Achilleion Foyer, Αrgonafton 54, Tel. (+30) 24210.221.25

If you have a hard time locating Sanctus, you cannot say the same for Achilleion Foyer, located in the center of the action on the coastal promenade. The renovated café-bar is housed in a historic listed building dating from 1925 and is perfect for brunch with views of the Pagasetic Gulf. The menu is just as much fun, as dishes are separated into categories: brunch (poached eggs in airy brioche buns), snack (sesame koulouri rings, bao buns), breakfast (sourdough bread with peanut butter), and so on.

Those in search of exceptional, good-quality coffee must head to Rúbia Street Speciality Coffee Shop, or just Rúbia for short. With ten electric coffee grinders, they grind your coffee beans on the spot, serving specialty coffees from Colombia, Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Chiapas in Mexico, etc. The entire experience is truly worth it, as the flavor of this specialty coffee (available in other stores in Volos, not just at Rúbia) is miles apart from your regular coffee.

Info

Rúbia, Glavani 74, Tel. (+30) 24212.160.44

Wine, cocktails and the sea

Let’s wrap up our culinary adventures in Volos with cocktails and some wine. Starting from Theatrini, a multi-space that houses a theater group, this is the new arrival in town as it opened its doors in May. In addition to the theater that can seat up to 110 people and hosting a variety of cultural events (poetry nights, theater and music performances), Theatrini also boasts a great café-bar that is ideal for cocktails: from Margarita and Cuba Libre, to Spicy Cucu and Ouzo Special (ouzo, sprite and grenadine).

For good wine, head to My Deli, a type of Volos tapas bar with 229 bottles from around the world, as Akis Pilatos tells us, co-manager with Fotini Diamanti. Making note of all 229 is rather challenging, so instead we play a game with Akis. We ask for him to tell us the three wines that he believes express the city best. The result? Ovilos White (“glamorous” Volos), a rose Domaine Costa Lazaridi (“folk” Volos) and a Santorini Argyrou (“manly” Volos). Indeed, Volos is both glamorous and traditional, and heavy, manly and macho.

Info

Theatrini, Platonos 20, Tel. (+30) 690.684.2332

My Deli, Koumoundourou 41, Tel. (+30) 24213.168.88

For the finale we have two places that, in contrast to most, have invested in peace and quiet. The first is the Yachting Club Volos, a café-bar-restaurant in the main pier of the port, just away from the hustle and bustle. It offers an unusual perspective as it is not on the sea, but next to it, and boasts views of the gently swaying yachts lining the marina, in front of the chunky apartment buildings.

The second option is the café-bar at Staikos Tennis Club, located just outside of the city near Alykes. Small and simple, it mainly caters to those who visit the club to play tennis, though everyone is welcome. From here you will admire the most amazing views of the city, the suburbs and the villages on Mount Pelion. The villages of Makrinitsa, Stagiates, Portaria, Anakasia, and Alli Meria sparkle in the night above the great illuminated hub, the hyper-bright city of Volos.

Of course there is much more to this city in Thessaly; many more eateries that have been established over the years and are synonymous with Volos that have not been included here. Beyond that, pressure is something that really has no place here, as Volos moves at a slow pace. To enjoy it as a visitor, to understand this land and its people, you need to follow the same rhythm: they disappear from public spaces during siesta time, they indulge in coffee, drinks and tsipouro, and they give what we call “fun” the time it deserves.

Info

Yachting Club Volos, Volos port, central pier, Port of Volos building, Tel. (+30) 24210.227.51

Staikos Tennis Club, Mihali Georgala, Tel. (+30) 24210.877.22

Plentiful Culture

Volos has an ambivalent relationship with art. For starters, the city lacks cultural offerings, notably cinemas and galleries. Yet it is home to some hidden treasures, such as the Lyceum Club of Greek Women Volos, housed in the Riga residence, former residence of Egyptian merchant Konstantinos Rigas. Here, in addition to the building featuring ornate paintings that make it an artwork in its own right, you will admire traditional costumes (such as the female Anteri from Almyros).

On the occasion of the 200-year anniversary since the Greek Revolution, the Lyceum’s embroidery department created a masterpiece: the Charta by Rigas – featuring ancient cities, ancient names and mythological references – was embroidered on 12 panels using traditional stitching, and is on display at the Athanasakio Archaeological Museum. After visiting the Lyceum, swing by the Museum where, in addition to the Charta, you will also admire the grave stele of Dimitriados and the amazing Neolithic female figurines, featuring visible characteristics of female reproductive organs.

Info

Lyceum Club of Greek Women Volos, Κorai 79, Tel. (+30) 24210.339.38, lev.com.gr, visits upon prior arrangement.

Athanasakio Archaeological Museum, Athanasaki 1, Tel. (+30) 24210.252.85, every day except Tuesday 08:30-15:30, entrance 4 euros. The Rigas Charta will be on display until 7/11 (extension possible).

Rooftile and Brickworks N. & S. Tsalapatas Museum, South Gate, Tel. (+30) 24210.298.44, piop.gr, every day except Tuesday, 10:00-17:00, entrance 4 euros.

Two other good museums in Volos include the Rooftile and Brickworks N. & S. Tsalapatas Museum, run by the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation and housed in the former factory that produced tiles and bricks, and the Museum of the City of Volos, where you will satisfy your curiosity about the city’s industrial, cultural, musical, touristic and athletic past, viewed through a historical prism.

For art-related spaces we have the Delta Art Gallery, while cinema aficionados flock to CineDoc, a festival presenting a series of documentaries throughout the year. If you prefer public artworks, there are several graffiti compositions created by the Urbanact group, who created the “portrait” of Petros’ taverna in Nea Ionia in 2021. The wall painting, created by Same84, looks like a photographic album portraying singer Mary Tam dancing as she holds her dress, the artful Michalis Ahilas playing the kanun and other scenes from the life of the taverna. On the left side of the graffiti, you can see real photos of these figures.

Info

Museum of the City of Volos, Feron 17, Tel. (+30) 24210.298.78, vmoc.gr, Wednesday and Friday 10:30-13:30 and 18:00-21:00, Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday 10:30-13:30. Entrance 2 euros.

Delta Art Gallery, Hatziargyri 4, Tel. (+30) 24210.370.91, deltaartgallery.gr. The K. Cassavetti exhibition will be on until 30/10.

CineDoc Documentary screenings take place once a month at the Achilleion cinema, at 19:30, cinedoc.gr. The graffiti in Petros’ taverna is located next to the Niki Volou football grounds (Meandrou and Kesarias), urbanact.gr.

Two people, one Volos

Though completely different in appearance, they are much alike in politeness, and in the fact that they both add value to their city. Ceramic artist Christos Giannakopoulos has profound knowledge of the history of Magnisia and, among other things, creates ceramic boats: from the Neolithic Period and the Proto-Helladic Dokos ship, to the 20th century. He adores all types of boats, such a tehantiria, caiques, gaitas, tsernikia, while the largest boat he has created is a 1.5 meter hull with square sails at a height of 60-70 cm. You can view his work in his workshop and discuss the timeless connection between the land and the sea, as you can still see some of the boats moored in the port of Volos to this day.

Thanasis Kouziokas is bar manager and the co-owner of Grooove, one of the most well-known bars in Volos, known for its amazing cocktails. But Grooove is not just another cocktail bar, nor is Thanasis your average bartender – he is a serious professional with expert views on what a cocktail should be, grounded and with a great sense of measure, especially during this time when mixology is dominated by excess and madness. He is also well-travelled and has earned several distinctions (for instance, he won first place in the international Mediterranean Inspirations competition). Grooove may have opened last April, but could easily stand its ground anywhere, even in Athens, as it features select gastronomic products, delectable desserts such as tiramisu and coffee tart, and pre-prepared cocktails.

Info

Christos Giannakopoulos’ workshop, Vlahava 161, Tel. 24210.472.96, visits upon prior arrangement.

Grooove, Dimarhou Kontaratou 4, Tel. (+30) 24210.330.32 Grooove Boutique, Ogl and Ermou

Notebook

Transportation

Volos is located 325 kilometers from Athens (3.5 hours, 52 euros for fuel and tolls, one way) and 207 kilometers from Thessaloniki (2.5 hours, 34 euros for fuels and tolls, one way).

Accommodation

Domotel Xenia Volos (Plastira 1, Tel. (+30) 24210.927.00, domotel.gr, double room from 143 euros), is in a strategic location on the beach and features careful design, making it a top choice. Check out Volos Palace (Xenofontos and Thrakon, Tel. (+30) 24210.765.01-5, volospalace.gr, double room from 89 euros), behind the Town Hall by Pikionis, and the very centrally located Aegli Hotel Volos (Argonafton 24, Tel. (+30) 24210.244.71, aegli.gr, double room from 75 euros).


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