Although I have a love for history, historical cities, learning about new cultures and traditions and impressive architecture, I do have also have a more simplistic interest, shopping! I can’t help it, but walking from one shop to the other, looking for that one special thing or being surprised by something I wasn’t even looking for just makes me happy. It doesn’t even matter if I am entering a fashion store, a bakery or a bookstore, I can spend hours on shopping.
And this actually is what makes shopping in Athens so special. I wouldn’t say it’s the best place to go for some fashion shopping, but the variety of shops and shopping areas is great. Athens offers a lot of stores with special foods and spices, music stores and some of the best Flea Markets. I guess I can say that Athens is one of the best places for souvenir shopping. I have not visit a city with such a large variety of souvenir shops before. Very unique about Athens is that you can still find a lot of small shops you normally would not find any more in big cities because the big shops have taken over. There are these small lamp stores, cd shops and bakeries everywhere. Although I did say Athens is not really the place for fashion shopping (of course there are some great fashion stores), there is one thing you will find tons of, shoe stores!
Since I love shopping so much I just had to share some of my favourite places to shops in Athens with you. Also, Christmas is coming up and I cannot think of a better time for shopping than in December. Especially since Athens does have the best stores if you are looking for great and unique Christmas presents.
When you are looking for the big stores like H&M, Nike and Tigers you should go to Ermou, Athens main shopping street. I always start at Monastiraki Square and walk up to Syntagma. A big part of this street is car-free. In-between the big well known store there are a few, mostly fashion stores that you will only find in Greece. One of my favourites is Thesis, to get an impression I have put a link of the store at the end of my blog. At Thesis you can find lovely dresses and girly fashion, with a Mediterranean or Greek touch. Very lovely, but a bit more expensive are the dresses from Zic Zac. Furthermore there is the Hondos Center, a huge department store with mostly cosmetics and surely an unique experience. Ermou street is always full of shoppers and especially during the weekend you would not say that the people here suffer a crisis.
Ermou itself offers some coffee and souvlaki shops, but the best place for food or a drink are in the side streets of Ermou. You do not have to worry about getting hungry or thirsty, around this area there is even some variety in food restaurant, so you can finally try something else then the typical souvlaki.
Another one of my favourite shops is Public, which can found at the end of Ermou on Syntagma square. The Public is a department stores that offers electronics, toys, books (also in English) and a lot of music (cd’s and records).
I do not shop very often at Athinas street, but it for sure worth to mention it. This is the street that goes from Monastiraki Square to Omonia. On both side of Athinas street you will find clothing- and hardware stores. When you are looking for some cooking or fishing material, this is the place to be. The stores are pretty small but all kind off practical and useful things can be found here for a pretty cheap price.
Furthermore the central market (Athens Dimotiki Agora) can be found at Athinas street. Here you can find spices, nuts and other kinds of food. Fish and meet are on the inside of the market. I guess you can buy all kind of meet over here, but I personally prefer not to go inside as the smell of dead is all around. However, I guess for a real meatlover this is the place to be.
Unique and creative stores can be found within the triangle area of Omonia, Syntagma and Monastiraki square. This is where the rental prices are much lower and shopkeepers with an unique idea and creative mind get there change. You can find some alternative fashion stores, artist shops and restaurants with a creative theme.
Monastiraki Flea Market, located at the Ifestou is currently not really like a traditional Flea Market but a street that offers a variety of fashion stores, souvenirs shops and still some artistic shops. I really like walking through this street. It is always full of people, and here you can definitely find something unique. It doesn’t matter who you are shopping for, this street offers something for everyone.
The Ifestou ends in Thiseo which is full of tasty tavernas. However, in-between Ifestou and Ermou you can find the real flea market. The streets that connect those two streets with each other are full of second hand shops. For a real flea market lover this is the place to be. You can find al kind of stuff, books, music and hardware.
When you are at Monastiraki, which I like to choose as a central point, you can also walk into the Pandrossou. All kind of Greek Souvenir shops will start popping up here and it is the perfect way to walk into traditional Plaka. The rich Greek history is probably the reason that it has to offer so much variety in souvenir shopping. There are shops with leather sandals, leather bags, olive shops and other shops with traditional Greek food like pistachio nuts and spices and of course there are the shops with the keychains of the Panthenon and the Temple of Zeus.
After a while you will enter Plaka. Beside plenty of traditional taverna’s this is also where you can go for some souvenir shopping. To be honest, I prefer Greek souvenir shopping in Plaka as most shops here offer handmade products and crafted food. However, shopping here is also a bit more expensive. My favourite Greek food is probably the Pistachio butter which is similar to peanut butter (what a surprise) made of Pistachio nuts which gives it a sweet and unique taste.
Beside Greek souvenir shopping, Plaka also offers some fashion stores. This is the kind of fashion you will not find everywhere and al stores have a bit of a Mediterranean style. Clothes that are perfect for the hot summers but also very fashionable.
Jewellery stores can be found everywhere in Athens, of course there are the famous names, but also small individual jewellery stores can be found everywhere in the City. However, my favourite place to admire some shiny necklaces or diamond rings is in Plaka. This is also where you can find jewellery with traditional Greek symbol or in Classical Greek style .
Kolonaki is the place where you should go if you prefer luxury shopping. This is where the designer shops like Gucci and Chanel are located. Especially Oukourestiou Street is like paradise if you have got some money to spend. In this area you may also find Notos Galleries, a department store with 8 floors offering cosmetics and clothing’s, mostly luxury brands.
Opening times: Most shops open in the morning and close at 9 PM, except for Saturday when they close at 5 PM. However, since there are so much individual shops that keep their own timetables it is difficult to give the exact opening hours. It is important to keep in mind that most shops are closed on Sunday except for the flea markets around Monastiraki, where shops are always open.
Prices for food: Restaurants will cost about €20,- (without alcoholic drinks), A cheap meal will cost about €8,- and a Gyros lunch will cost about €2,50-. Keep in mind that Plaka is a more touristic area and might be a bit more expensive.
How to get there: I would suggest to start at Monastiraki where you can go by tram or metro (red and green line). If you do not mind walking a lot, you can walk around all areas from here.
Looking for a less crowded area to shop? Try Piraeus at the port of Athens, or one of my favourite shopping areas, Glyfada. Glyfada is a very lovely area close to the sea. Here you can find the same shops as in the centre of Athens, but the area is not really discovered by tourist yet.
Keep an eye on your personal stuff. As in all big cities, crowded with tourists, pick pockets are very active in the city centre of Athens and they steal your wallet without even noticing it. Or you do notice (my personal experience), but there is nothing you can do about it. It can be helpful to keep not all your money and cards on the same place. This really saved me.
Taste it! Especially when you are looking for some traditional Greek products made of nuts or olives, or when you are in one of their lovely bakeries, they will be happy to let you taste some of their products, so you are sure you have made an excellent choice. Greek people are very proud of their traditions and because of this they will be happy to let you taste something of everything and tell about their traditions.
Walk slowly, Greek people seem to have all the time in the world. As the shopping streets will be crowded, you have to slow down your pace like the Greeks do. Don’t be surprised when they suddenly stop in front of you, because I can assure you, it will happen.