Austerity has hit the Greek retail sector hard with hundreds of small stores having closed down as a result of dwindling revenues. Stores in Athens in particular, have also had to suffer the effects of some violent incidents during numerous anti-austerity demonstrations. Having said this, Athenians are shop addicts and a simple walk around the city will reveal some new trends is retail, like sales on selected items, even of the same season. In Athens, each neighbourhood specialises in different kinds of shops so it all depends on what you’re looking for. The best way to discover the city’s treasures is to begin by exploring each area separately. If you’re looking for souvenirs and gifts to take home, popular Greek craftwork like leather sandals, copies of museum pieces, quirky stuff like lucky charms, or even antiques, Plaka and the flea markets of Monastiraki and Thissio are the places to go. These neighbourhoods form the backbone of the “old city” and are mainly lined with touristy shops selling clothes, copies of famous Greek statues, local products like soap and sandals, jewellery and other Greek craft. Stores in these areas stay open until late.
Ermou Street, radiating south of Syntagma square, is the city’s main shopping street, lined everything from international retail chains like Zara, Marks & Spencer and H&M to smaller shops selling more unique items. Ermou with its sidestreets is also where most shoe-stores are, selling both Greek and international brands.
If high fashion is your passion, Voukourestiou Street is the big-spender’s pedestrianised paradise. It is home to many luxury brands like Tod’s, Prada and Louis Vuitton, as well as expensive jewellery stores. Continue walking on Voukourestiou towards Academias Street, you’ll end up in posh Kolonaki, an area where upmarket stores interchange with chic cafés and restaurants.
Those who want to familiarise themselves with current trends in Greek music, or literature, should head towards Panepistimiou Street (also called Venizelou Street), where most major bookstores and music chains are located. Look for Eleftheroudakis and Papasotiriou bookstores, both of which have a fine selection of translated Greek writers, as well as sections of foreign books. Further down Panepistimiou, there is Metropolis and Music Corner, one of the few CD sellers that have surived the tsunami of internet downloading. Ask to be shown what they recommend in Greek music. Greek music has evolved in fascinating ways in the past decade and apart from the recognisable bouzouki music, you can find anything from electronic, entehna (quality modern music), rap and hip-hop, old and modern laika (popular songs) and old rebetica (the equivalent of the blues).
Some of the legendary composers of rebetica include Vasilis Tsitsanis, Giorgos Zambetas and Stelios Vamvakaris. In entehna music, apart from the famous composer Manos Hatzidakis, look out for artists Dimitra Galani, Lena Platonos, Haris Alexiou, Alkinoos Ioannidis, Savina Yianatou and Elli Paspala,. In electronic music, Konstantinos B is a Greek success story with - among others - his soundtrack for Dimitris Papaioannou’s theatrical dance choreography “2” winning critical acclaim. The deep, charismatic voice of Monica has shot her into the limelight, resulting in sold out concerts. Hip-Hop artists Stavento, Imiskoubria, Active Member and Terror X Crew have put the genre on the map, while Stereo Nova, Goin’ through, Envus and Gelly Groove are the new techno bands. Artists of modern laika – popular in nightclubs and often mixed with beat and Anatolian sounds – include Elli Kokinou, Peggy Zena and Antonis Remos.
Away from the city centre, two more neighbourhoods that attract shoppers are Glyfada and Kifisia, where you can go by tram or train respectively. Kifisia is a leafy, affluent neighbourhood north of the city, with beautiful boutiques and classyshopping centres, catering to an eclectic clientele. Going south, you reach Glyfada, a somewhat Americanised suburb with a multitude of shops with fashionable and trendy apparel and a wide range of eateries and pastry shops.
Stores operate on irregular hours and many close on midday, to reopen in the evening. As a general rule, stores on Monday and Wednesday are open from 0900 to 3pm and on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 0900 to 1430 and from 1730 to 2030. On the weekends the stores are open from 0900 to 1500 while all are closed on Sunday. In touristy areas such as Plaka and Monastiraki, many shops stay open until 2100, while department stores are open all day (0800 to 2100 on weekdays, 0900 to 1800 on Saturday).
Acropolis, Plaka & Monastiraki
In the flea markets and stores of Monastiraki and Thisio you find all sorts of oddities, one of which is “matia” (eyes) used as protection against the evil eye. Added in key chains, necklaces, lucky charms or sold separately, the blue “eye” is a perky gift appreciated by superstitious friends and folklore art lovers alike.
The flea market in Monastiraki is lined with shops that stock on all types of antiques from furniture to glassware. Avyssinia square and the surrounding area is the place to hunt for old wooden chairs, glassware and silverware, as well as other nick-knacks that will add charm and character to your house. The basic rule for successful flea-market shopping is to come early, as the good stuff is bought up quickly.
Another perennial summer trend is the leather sandals, a beloved shopping item for men and women alike. Monastiraki and Psyrri are the ultimate sandal markets, located across and to the left of the train station “Monastiraki”.
- 6 Vironos Street & Vakhou, Plaka, 210 3313509 / Metro: Acropolis
A new and well-informed fine food and wine shop where you can buy traditional Greek products, like egg-pasta, frumenty (traha- nas), herbs for cooking and drinking, as well as a small selection of cheeses and cold cuts. The Greek saffron, known as Krokos Kozanis, which also gives its name to the shop, can also be found, either sold separately, or as an ingredient in herbal beverages.
- 2 Agias Theklas Street, Psiri, 210 3219247
Start your search here, where traditional Greek sandals are sold by poet-sandal maker Stavros Melissinos since 1927. According to Melissinos, his VIP customers include Peter O’Toole - who apparently wore his sandals in a play - as well as Barbra Streisand and Sophia Loren. Each type of sandal has its own name, often taken from the celebrity that chose it – of course
the Jackie O sandal is very classy.
Mousika Organa Samouelian
- 36 Efestos Street, Monasti- raki / Metro: Monastiraki
If spending time in Athens has made you a bouzouki fan, head to these makers of Greek hand-made musical instruments. Practise on the traditional bouzouki and ask to see the small baglamadaki with its unique sound.
- 83 Adrianou Street, 210 3221265
Between the soft-leather multi-stripped flat sandals in tan and the classic Greek-style sandals that that tie up at the middle of your calf, you will probably have to try 10 pairs before you decide which one is your favourite.
Christina Skouloudi Design Studio
- 9 Lembesi street, Acropolis, 210 9249896, mobile for appointments +30 6939 558512
Designer Christina Skoloudi showcases modern furniture, wooden decorative objects, leather jewellery and light fixtures.
Hellenic Art & 06 Design
- 10 Hairefondos street, Agias Ekaterinis square, Plaka, 210 3223064
Kalliroi Spyridonos sells unique products by contemporary Greek designers like STUDIOLAV, DEDE Dextrous Design, Hristos Vlioras, Giannis Mamoutzis, Ritsa Anastasiadou and the shop owner herself.
A. Leontarakis Modern Art Jewels
- 6 Skoufou street, 210 3247728, Syntagma, www. leontarakis.gr
A. Leontarakis has been in the sector of jewelry craftworks since 1920. Marialena and Irene are the third generation of gold- smiths, continue family’s tradition. They make jewels and objects from valuable metals and stones, inspired by traditional and modern themes, combining originality with creativity.
- 12 Euaggelistrias & Ermou street, Syntagma, 2103247338
In the exclusive Pepe Jeans London Store of Athens you will find the complete collection of Pepe Jeans (for men, women and kids) and also the Andy Warhol's collection.
- 37 Perikleous street, Syntagma, 2103230755
In Abbey Road store you will find clothes from some of the best brands such as: Super Dry, Religion, House of the Gods, Puma, Fornarina, Cheap Monday, Ben Sherman, Reign, Antony Morato, Custo Barcelona, Super Trash, Fifty four (54), Miss Sixty & Energie.
- 6, Panepistimiou & Kriezotou, Syntagma / www.mastihashop.com / Metro: Syntagma
The ultimate place for all mastiha lovers, this trendy store sells Chios Island’s top export in a multitude of variations and products. The store is a treasure for those who want to add a new ingredient in their daily food. The island’s mastiha producers initiated the idea, claiming the tree’s resin
has medical properties and could prove beneficial in a multitude of edibles. There’s of course mastiha chewing gum (brands Elma and Korres), mastiha desert or ipovrihio, and mastiha drink, but the mastic tree’s resin
is also added to biscuits, coffee, Turkish delights, thin
sweet pies, spoon-sweets and cakes. Favourites also include the sesame and honey bars (pasteli), marzipan biscuits and...uh...toothpaste. Unique drinks are also sold, like soumatha, liqueur with mastiha and wine.
You can also find cosmetic products with mastiha, from the Greek brand Korres, as well as packaged goods for presents.
Society for the Education of Greek Women
- 3 Kolokotroni, Syntagma, 2103239693 / Metro: Panepistimio
Hidden in Kolokotroni arcade, off Kolokotroni square, is the Society for the Education of Greek Women, a jewel of a store that sells Greek handmade embroidery. The Society was founded in 1872 to educate young girls and provide employment to destitute women. Tablecloths and napkins made by top quality white and beige linen are knitted with detailed floral motifs and vivid colours. The store is one of the last preserving the fast disappearing art of embroidery and is a must for those looking for original items.
Materials for Crafts
- Karayiorgi Servias Street, later renamed Perikleous Street, Syntagma Square
The streets below Syntagma square are packed with old shops selling materials which are ideal for fans of crafting, like knitting, sewing, and jewerly making. The shops named here are only indicative, as walking down the street towards Monastiraki you will encounter many more such stores. Stefos & Co (40 Perikleous Street
& Thiseos, 210 3233945) has an endless variety of colourful semi-precious stones of all sizes, gold and silver fittings and various threads. One of the biggest stores selling plastic, acrylic beads, strings and all sorts of jewellery accessories is Diva (21 Praksitelous Street, Syntagma, 210 3246696). It is housed in two shops, one specialising in semi-precious stones and one for acrylic and plastic materials.
- 24 Stadiou, Syntagma, 210 3217810 / Metro: Panepistimio
This is a modern, all- encompassing bookstore, where you can find maps, guidebooks and literature. The bookstore has small tables where you may sit and leaf through the books. If you fancy a cup of coffee, you can take your book on the first floor where the café is located and ask about any happenings that might be on in the evening.
- 6 Panepistimiou, Syntagma, 210 3611371 / Metro: Syntagma
Luxurious creations are inspired by ancient patterns as found in Neolithic, Mycenaean, Byzantine and pre-Colombian art. The hand-made jewellery is made employing old techniques, resulting in gorgeous brace- lets and necklaces.
Mastiha on the Rocks: The unique mastic tree of Chios Island in the eastern Aegean produces mastiha, the gummy resin dripping from the local mastiha tree. It’s used to make mastiha drink, as well as the sticky white ipovrihio desert, a spoonful of mastiha dipped in water, but it’s also added in a wide range of products, such as coffee and biscuits. Nowadays, mastiha drink is taking over as the digestive of choice in funky restaurants and tavernas. Its sweet flavour is perfect after a long meal and it’s served cold and straight as a shot. Some restaurants offer it as a complementary drink after your meal, but even if they don’t you may ask for a glass of cold mastiha. Another great way to enjoy it in a bar is to order it with crushed ice. You can buy it from any shop selling alcohol, supermarkets, or go straight to the source at Mastiha Shop (6 Panepistimiou, Synagma, 210 3632750 / www.mastihashop.com / Metro: Syntagma).
- Block within Panepistimiou, Voukourestiou, Stadiou and Amerikis streets / Metro: Syntagma
The City Link block, enclosed within Panepistimiou, Voukourestiou, Stadiou and Amerikis streets is the big spender’s playground. The old 19th century building of the Army Share Fund has transformed into a modern complex which houses luxury brands, urban cafés, a bank, a sports centre and even exhibitions. Attica department store is a one-stop-shop for men and women alike, selling clothes, accessories, cosmetics and home equipment. On Stadiou’s side you’re blown away by the flashy Ferregamo, D&G and Bally window displays, while Voukourestiou keeps you on the same level with Hermes, Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Tous. The complex is populated throughout the day, thanks to the right mixture of offices, cafés and theatres created inside. Zonar’s café is there and so is historic Pallas theatre, a grandiose venue hosting theatrical and dance events. Through the arcades you enter the atrium where you’ll find a cigar store, the Montblanc store and a trendy café-restaurant. City Link also houses the Holmes Place gym for those determined to keep fit.
- 44 Akadimias, Panepistimio, 210 3620044 / Metro: Panepistimio
Contemporary brands of eyewear for stylish outings.