People ask me all
the time, besides the ruins, cafes, restaurants,
nightlife, and day-trips, what is there to do in
in Athens do the thing that everybody in our
western society does best. Go shopping! Downtown
Athens is a shopper's paradise. Besides the
areas of the Plaka and Monastiraki
which are well known to travelers for their large variety of
tourist shops, all of central Athens is full of shops for every kind of person and every kind of budget. Streets
that were once choked with traffic
have now been closed to all motor
vehicles and paved with cobblestones and this diverse shopping area
has become a walking shopper's
mecca with every kind of store you can
imagine, and some you never imagined
existed. Why go to places like New York, Paris or London when you can find the same things here and they cost less?
Think about your home town or city or even your local mall. You have the main street with the high rents and this is where you find the well known shops you find in every town, city and mall. If it is your mall you have the giant anchor department stores and your Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Apple Store, Banana Republic and
Barnes &Noble and so on. In your town you have the stores that were popular enough to not be driven out of business by the giant box stores like Walmart and Home Depot. This is what Ermou Street is to Athens, a large shopping avenue with the best known stores. Then you have the streets that branch off Ermou with lesser known smaller shops that either have their own clientele that keep them going or they are so specialized that people come from all over the city to shop there. You can compare these
to the shops in the entranceways that lead into your mall. The rents are cheaper and most shops either can't afford or don't need to be in the main shopping section or street. Then you have the tiny back streets and stoas (covered streets-photo)) where you find the most interesting and innovative shops because the rents are so cheap that people with original ideas can open shops for almost nothing and hang on through even the worst economic times. These are where you find the things you may not
find anywhere else, because they may not exist anywhere else. Original clothes designers, candle makers, rare books and prints, stamps, hand make crafts and jewelry, art supplies and so on. You can have a lot of fun exploring the back streets and alleys of central Athens and the further you get from Syntagma, the cheaper the rent and the more chance of stumbling upon a unique shop that has something you love.
You may not have thought of this but here is something worth considering. Because of the economy in Greece many shops are selling clothing for very low prices. In some cases much lower than cost because if you have to pay the rent, the gas and electric bills or your taxes, having a lot of inventory
and no cash is impractical. So instead of shopping at home for clothes
for your trip to Greece just bring the bare minimum and do your clothes shopping in Greece and help out the struggling shops in Athens. You will be surprised at the variety and the styles, and probably find stuff that is nicer than what you can find at home and for a lot less. There are hundreds of clothing shops on Ermou Street, Athinas Street, Aeolou and all around central Athens and what better way is there to get to know a city than
by shopping for necessities? Better yet take nothing with you and buy all your clothes in Athens. You will come back from Greece with a wardrobe that will make you the envy of your friends.
Ermou Street Clothes Shopping
someone is looking for quality shoes
or clothes they will go down to Ermou
street, the primary clothing shopping street for Athens. It contains many of the big international names like Benneton, Marks & Spencer, H&M, Zara, Berksha, Sephora, and a bunch of other stores that you have probably heard of but mean nothing to me. The Greek department store, Fokas, is near the top of Ermou in a beautiful old neo-classical building that looks like it would be more suitable housing a museum and is worth a visit, even if you are not buying
anything, so you can see what a Greek department store is like. The Hondos Center is also of interest, especially for women, since you may not have experienced anything like it before. It is a giant cosmetic store with other items of interest to women, sort of a department store crossed with a Walgreens. It even has a cafe. For women looking for fabric and other dressmaking supplies on the north side of Ermou near Syntagma, there is Καλυβιωτης (Kaliviotis). They
also sell fabric, silk flowers, all kinds of tailoring supplies,
buttons, costumes, and God only knows what. Very cool for
seamstresses... the shop is full of French women! They had Butterick,
Burda, McCall and Vogue pattern books to choose from... current ones! Taking up an entire city block between Stadiou and Panepistimiou is the giant Attika Department store where you could easy spend half the day.
shops have quality men's and women's
apparel from all over the world and
the shoe stores make you wonder why
your choices at home are so
limited. Check out Spiliopoulos towards
the bottom of Ermou where I buy my shoes. It is like a shoe-free-for-all that can be like the NY Stock Exchange during a selling frenzy. They sell leather jackets in the back. In
August-September and January-February
everything is on sale. You can
literally go to Greece and replace
your wardrobe and the money you save
will pay for your ticket. To find
Ermou street just go to Syntagma
Square where it begins at the
McDonald's. Eolou Street begins at Adrianou at
Platia Agoras (the square that has
been taken over by restaurants and
cafes) and crosses Ermou just below
the church of Kapni Karea in the
middle of the street. It goes almost
all the way to Omonia and passes the
Central Market and the giant square in
front of town hall. There is always
something going on at Aeolou and Ermou streets. There
are musicians and dancers and thousands of
shoppers. Sometimes it is more fun to look
at people than the shops.
you go to the end of Ermou and turn right on Athinas Street there
are a number of clothing shops where you can find more casual stuff,
jeans, T-shirts and these wild Polynesian shirts that I am not allowed
to get because they make me look like I weigh 300 pounds (according
to my wife). Speaking of weight there is a clothes shop on Athinas
street between Ermou and Agia Erinis with clothes for big people. Really big people. Its called Davos and it specializes in clothes for big guys like me. After hours of frustration on Ermou street where it seems like the men's clothes are meant for elves and hobbits it is a great feeling to walk in and find shirts, sweaters, pants and jackets that are too big for me. Davos at # 12 Athinas Street has been open since 1946. Across Athinas street you can buy cool souvenir
shirts, not like the ones they sell in the flea market or the Plaka.
The kind that even Greeks buy. Soccer jerseys of local teams and
heroes, Greek police and military shirts and even American sports
team shirts that were obviously made by someone who did not
know anything about the sport and barely spoke English. I am certain that these t-shirts are going to one day be the rage of the fashion world.
America when someone wants to open a
shop of any kind, the first thing he
looks to see is if there is any
competition in the neighborhood that
may hurt his chances at success. In
downtown Athens it is the opposite.
You can find an entire block of
stores, one after the other that sell
doorknobs. Every doorknob known to
mankind from ancient to modern times
on display. So when someone is
building a house and it's time to put
in the doorknobs, they know that if
they go down to Vissis street (off Athinas Street), one of
the many doorknob shops will have what
they are looking for. And since they are in the neighborhood that is also known for hat shops so they may pick one up as well on Voreou Street. If they are
looking for lights they go to the
district where all the lights are on
Vouliagmenis Street. If they want
furniture they go to that
district. If you walk down Athinas Street there are Greek hardware stores where you can probably find that Black & Decker battery that they stopped carrying at your local hardware store and now costs twice as much on Amazon as the weed-eater you need it for.
Music and Computers
In Syntagma Square there is a giant computer-video-CD-DVD-electronics shop called Public. It's like a Best Buy only with lots more stuff and it is housed in a restored 19th century mansion. If you are a computer guy like
me or you want to let your wife check out the clothing shops on Ermou while you do something important like check out the new laptops I think you will be impressed with this place. I know I was. I still go there every time I am in Athens even if I don't need anything because I know I will see something I have never seen before and probably want it. Plus they have a really good selection of CDs and DVDs. And when you get bored just go to the next street which is Voulis and go to Plesaio which is another
computer and electronics store. Speaking of cool CD and vinyl there are shops in Monastiraki for you collectors that have some great bargains and many LPs and CDs that you have probably only heard rumors of or seen on Amazon for hundreds of dollars. Look for the famous Jimmy's Inferno whose collection of heavy metal CDs, videos, records and
DVDs have made him something of a local hero. Don't let his looks scare you. He is friendly and speaks impeccable English and knows more about heavy metal than the musicians who actually play it. I guarantee that even if you are a collector you will find things you don't have and did not even know existed. As for those of us who are not heavy metal fans but still collect vinyl and CD re-issues from our generation there are several excellent shops at #24 and further down Ifaistos Street.
If you visit the radical neighborhood of Exarchia there are all sorts of CD and Vinyl shops in a neighborhood that will remind you of a grungy Haight-Asheberry. Or take the bus or a taxi to Platia Kanaris in Kypseli
and go to Fokionos Records with its huge collection of vinyl and CDs located down the stairs in a basement room where Fokionos Negri intersects. Fokionos Records is well known to collectors all over the world and has been in business since the eighties. They have over 180,000 records from historic rembetika and laika to classic rock, heavy metal and just about every genre you can think of. If you are looking for just Greek
rembetika, laika and Cretan music, in the Stoa Pezmazoglou at 39 Panepistimiou, right across from the University, there is a very interesting little music shop called Nikos Xilouris. Xilouris is to Cretan music as Hank Williams is to country music and this tiny store is full of his CDs, DVDs, books and memorabilia plus music by other Cretan, Rembetika and Laika musicians. The shop is owned by his son Giorgos Xilouris and is a great place to buy Greek music or just to stop
in and say hello if you are a Xilouris fan.
There are also a number of guitar shops in the triangle between Omonia, the University and Exarchia where you can find new and vintage guitars, amps, keyboards, effects and all sorts of stuff you can lug home with you. Nakas is the most well known and many of the famous Greek musicians and even visiting rock
bands shop here. Also be sure to check the bouzoukis and guitars at Mousika Organa on Hfaistos 36 in Monastiraki just behind the train station. If you are traveling and you don't want to bring your 40 year old Martin guitar with you then come here and buy a cheap guitar you can carry with you to the islands to serenade the girls with and leave it with the last one you sleep with. He has all sorts of musical instruments, strings, Greek music songbooks, and even amplifiers
if you want to come to Greece and start a band.
Aeolou and Agios Markos Streets
other main shopping streets of Eolou
and Agiou Markou are the streets where
you can find incredible bargains in
clothes, fabrics, yarn, shoes, and
plenty of cafes where you can catch your breath
after a period of furious shopping.
There are old women from Russia and
young men from Persia, selling silk
shirts, socks, and underwear on the
street. Agio Markou is a colorful paradise for the homemaker and this is where you will see a large number of Athenian ladies buying the things that keep them sane while the men are out doing whatever it is they do. Ribbon stores, button stores, shops that sell barrettes, scrungies and other hair accessories, purses, cheap blouses, skirts and aprons, house slippers, cheap shoes for women, this is a street that most men would have no interest in. So leave your partner at the hotel and walk down
Aeolou Street to Evripidou Street where it connects with Agiou Markou. Aeolou Street has street merchants
selling everything from scarves to
devices that make stuffed grape leaves
or hollow out a zucchini or squeeze every drop of juice out of a lemon. And when it is time for lunch or a snack or coffee you can go to Agia Irini Square.
Olive Oil and Ouzo
Let's start with olive oil. No I don't mean the stuff that the supermarkets and specialty shops at home carry because it has suddenly become common knowledge that olive oil is really good for you and all the other stuff we have been using has been slowly killing us. I mean the olive oil made by small family run companies in smaller quantities
of a quality so high that they don't export it, they keep it here and sell it locally or package it for individuals to buy and bring home. Olive oil, olives and products made from olive oil like soaps, shampoos, body lotions and more have become the most popular item for tourists since worry-beads and there are a number of shops selling them in the Plaka and Monastiraki. Evonon at 124 Adrianou call themselves a traditional Greek Products shop. They sell all sorts of food, herbs and soaps but
their main emphasis is on Greek olives and olive oil which they sell in all shapes and sizes. A few doors down is Angelo the Ouzo King whose specialty is, you guessed it, ouzo! From every part of Greece and he will even give you a taste. He also carries tsipuro, raki, sikoudia, masticha and Greek wine. How much ouzo can you bring back from Greece? I don't think anyone really cares. I have had my luggage gone through
by inspectors when the only thing in it was bottles of ouzo wrapped in clothing.
Are you a lover of old things who is looking for an object that will make you the hit of the Antiques Road Show? Go down to Abysinia Square in Monastiraki where you will find everything from beautiful expensive 19th Century furniture to totally worthless 20th century junk all displayed in a wonderfully disorganized fashion,
especially on Sunday when gypsies and villagers pour into town with piles of stuff they have found from all over Greece. During the Second World War many wealthy and middle class Athenians were trading family heirlooms, expensive furniture, jewelry, paintings, vases and statuary for food and olive oil to people in the villages. It might have been one of the biggest mass transfers of wealth from the city to the country in history and for decades it has been slowly trickling back in. Stamp collectors, coin collectors,
even card collectors can find shops specializing in these things in Monastiraki and the small streets and stoas (covered streets) between Omonia and Syntagma Squares.
How about jewelry? Athens is full of jewelry stores. Some are big name shops like Lalaounis and Fanourakis and international names like Bulgari but there are dozens, no hundreds of small individually owned jewelry stores. Some sell cheap factory made imitation Greek pieces made in China or India, but there are some that
specialize in Greek and Byzantine jewelry like Byzantino and Olympico (photo) who specialize in pieces made by local artisans and designers. And shopping for jewelry is fun in Athens. You walk in, look around, they offer you a seat and a Greek coffee or espresso and you have a nice warm conversation about anything in particular
and then get down to business. Whether you like 22k or 18k or even white gold, silver, platinum or chains with crosses or ancient Greek and Roman coins, or even some of the more modern Greek stuff that does not even look Greek, you will find it in Athens. You don't know anything about Greek jewelry? Don't worry. Once you sit down they will tell you everything there is to know about it. And if you love jewelry but you don't have any money? There are lots of hippy craftspeople selling hand made jewelry and
trinkets who have set up their stands in Monastiraki and Thission and just about anywhere they can and buying from them helps the Greek economy too.
Shopping in Psiri
If you wander around Psiri on Agios Theklas Street, not only will you find The Poet-Sandalmaker whose artwork adorns the feet of countless celebrities, but a block up at the Naxos grocery store you can buy an entire
wheel of delicious Naxos cheese that you can hide in your luggage and eat for the next year. Or go up to Athinas Street and beneath the Hotel Attalos is the Pantopoulio Peri Lesvou who sell all sorts of cheeses from Lesvos as well as ouzo, sardines, wine and a whole variety of dry goods from the island. Walk back to Platia Iroon Square and you ladies can leave your husbands at the El Habenero Cuban Cigar Shop you can follow Agia Anargiron Street and stop in the Komboloi Museum maybe
the best komboloi (worry-beads) shop and keep going until you see an amazing soap shop at 31 Ag Anargiron, with a name you will never remember: Sabatar Hermanos/Jabones Natureales, with some of the best smelling natural soaps and beauty products in a very colorful setting. I bought the cannabis soap and have been taking several showers a day ever since. Or check around the corner on tiny Nika Street where there is a shop where bouzoukia, baglamas, aouds and other stringed instruments are handmade.
Food as Gifts? Is it Legal? Who knows?
If you go to Evripidou Street right by the open air fruit and vegetable market on Athinas Street and shop at the little butcher shop at Evripidou 41 called Arapian which has been there since 1922, just about the time when the Turks kicked the Greeks and the Armenians out of Smyrna. In fact Arapian is an Armenian
name. The shop is full of interesting sausages, pastourma and other smoked and dried meats and they will vacuum pack them so that they can handle the trip back home. They make a fantastic souzouk, a spicy beef sausage that is usually found in places further east like Istanbul where they like spicy foods. Ask for the spiciest souzouk they have and bring it home and impress your friends and increase your appreciation of Preparation-H. Or buy a couple pounds of their pastourma which is a hunk of beef that is spicy but not hot and used to be made with
camel meat. Right next door is Elixor which sells herbs and spices and traditional concoctions. Towards Athinas are the stores where you can buy seeds if you want to grow horta and vleeta at home. In the other direction are the oriental shops that sell who knows what, all of it cheap.
Walk through the central market where you can find all sorts of stuff you will never find at home including the delicious pistachios from Aegina that are sold in the dried fruit and nut shops on Athinas Street in front of the meat and fix market. You can buy a year's worth of those peanuts with the salty red skin
that they serve in the bars or the delicious cashews from who knows where, probably Iran and if you keep them in the fridge they last forever. You can buy the dried Smyrna style figs that are sold all over the world though by the time they get to you they are probably too dry. Squeeze the ones they sell in the market in Athens and feel the difference, then buy 20 pounds to bring back to your fig loving friends and family. What are you allowed to bring back from Greece? I have no idea.
I am sure there are written rules somewhere but you bringing a bag of dried apricots or nuts through customs probably won't result in a prison term. Confiscation? Possibly. Most likely they don't even care. I brought home a whole pickled skoumbri (mackerel) one trip and shared it and a plastic water bottle of raki that night with the friend who picked me up from the airport. And enjoyed it as much as I would have in Greece. Food makes the best gift from Greece, especially if it is a
gift for yourself so check out the Market on Athinas Street.
But what about you, the common tourist, who is not interested in ouzo and pickled fish or other practical things? What about the tourist who wants to buy touristic things but you want them to be authentic? You don't want worry beads made in Chinese factories, or t-shirts with the same designs you saw in the Bahamas or Jamaica. You want
to buy tourist stuff that you can't eat, but you want it to be authentic. You don't want to go back to the cruise ship and find out that you have bought the exact same thing as everyone else on the boat. At the intersection of Pondrossou and Aeolou Street in Monastiraki is a small shop called Tzamala which is one of the last of the original Greek tourist shops where you can find all the things that tourists used to buy fifty years ago before the commercialism that made every Greek tourist shop
the same set in. Or if you want to just go back to the seventies go to Remember, the first punk-fashion store in Greece and an institution. Run by designer Dimitris Tsounatos this boutique has been visited by your favorite rock stars, actors, fashion designers and models and there is a photo album full of them to prove it. If you are looking for unique designs in clothes, jewelry and art, or if you just want to see something different from the typical tourist shops then stop in at #79 Adrianou
in the Plaka. Or try the tiny gift shop with the unpronounceable name, something like Konsianioglou, at 17 Athinas Street. You can also visit the original tourist stalls on Lysicratous Street which sell pretty much the same tourist items they always have.
Ariadne Creations sells fashion accessories such as bags, necklaces, bracelets and shawls for people who have grown tired of the typical Greek merchandise. Her products are all hand made in Greece by Ariadne herself. Located at 16 Kavalloti Street in the neighborhood of Makrianni-Koukaki her shop/workshop is a far cry from the typical tourist shops that have taken over the city and is a reminder of the days when Athens was filled with small shops
owned by artists and craftspeople making original products instead of
mass produced 'Greek products' often made in China, Indonesia and Turkey. Another of the more unique shops in Athens is Elaias Gi, which means Olive Earth. This small shop at 122 Adrianou Street in The Plaka sells beautiful hand made products made from olive wood including backgammon boards, goblets, spoons and other kitchen utensils as well as other interesting items.
Shop Hours and Days
that the shops open in the
morning and stay open until 9pm except
on Mondays and Wednesdays and Saturdays
when they close at around 2:30.
Generally shops are closed on Sundays,
but that's the day to go to the Flea
Market in Monastiraki or the Plaka where the shops are always open and you can wander around with the crowds and hopefully end up in some ouzeri or taverna. That is one thing about shopping in Athens: You are never far away from a dozen or so good restaurants. Keep your
eyes open when shopping in Athens. Not
every shop has a big glass window with
their goods displayed on the sidewalks of a main street.
Some shops are hidden away in alcoves,
atriums, basements and even the backs of
apartment buildings. In fact many of the
true craftsmen have shops that seem like
they are hidden, either because they have
a circle of customers that keep them busy
enough or because they are artists happy
with the way things are and don't seek
more business. An example would be Harris
the Beltman, who makes beautiful handmade
belts in the back of an apartment building
at 21 Nikis Street in the Plaka.
|Because the shops and the archaeological sites are all in the same area you can easily do both at the same time. Go see the Acropolis, cut down through the Ancient Agora into Monastiraki and shop your way through the Plaka and up to the Acropolis Museum. The non-shoppers in your group can wait for you in any of the cafes and restaurants
if they are tired of sightseeing. If you have had a busy day and return to the hotel and your energy returns before everyone else's does, just leave them a note: Gone Shopping. See U Later!
Other Athens Shopping
Pages: Jewelry, Buying Greek Music, Gifts,
Poet, Photo Tour of
Ermou and Eolou Streets, Monastiraki Photo Tour, Monistiraki Flea Market, Athens
Central Market , Athens Central
Market Photo Tour , Geniko Emborio
Eklekton Proionton Naxos , Olive
Shop Tour , Athinas Street
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