by Anastasia Valti-Spanopoulou
We know science says it’s unhealthy to shop your woes away, but then again, who did a good wardrobe ever harm? Besides, if you’re spending your summer in Greece, we doubt your woes are that many in the first place. Still, exploring the Greek market is one of the most unique things to do in Athens, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy everything it has to offer you: from summer clothes, shoes, sandals, and bling to make you look (even more) impeccable walking down the streets of Athens, to delicious organic Greek foods to help you power through the endless sightseeing, to souvenirs to make your friends back home madly envy your Athens holidays, and much much more.
We realize that you may only have a handful of days to spend in Athens, and may have done your 'homework' only for sightseeing tours and local attractions. When it comes to shopping, trying to find the most interesting boutiques, delicatessens and nick-knack shops in our beloved busy city may seem daunting, which is why we have picked out for you the most awesome shopping tour in Athens (one of our favourite city tours from our selection). But even if you prefer going solo, fear not (!) - we have lent a helping hand before, revealing to you the best things to do in Athens by pin pointing Athens’ coolest hidden bars, the best of the city’s many beaches, and the answers to every tourist’s unconfessed questions about the Greek culture. So trust our good intentions and generous spirit when we tell you, hand to heart, that these are the absolute best Athens spots to dress, impress, and not stress .
#1 Monastiraki - The Walking Shopper’s Treasureland
The area of Monastiraki is an absolute Athens must see. Paved with cobblestone, and accessible only to pedestrians, Monastiraki is definitely the best flea market in Athens, and one of the many landmarks in Greece worth paying a visit to - which is why it's almost always packed with shoppers from all walks of life in the summertime. Here you’ll find yourself surrounded by an endless number of vendors selling pretty much anything you can fit into your head: clothes and shoes (obviously), jewelery and beads, sports and hiking equipment, antiques, second hand books and vinyls, local and exotic foods and herbs, handmade leather products and music instruments - and the list goes on and on. Spending a day in Monastiraki is truly one of the most fun things to do in Athens, not only because of the immense variety of unique stock you get to see, smell, and occasionally taste, but also because of the rare finds hidden under the piles of objects for sale that can really put a smile on your face. If you go for grecian sandals at Melissinos store, you will also have the privilege of bragging that you got your sandals from the same place John Lennon did back in the day (*jaw drops*). Keep in mind that bargaining for a better price is a possibility here, but normally only when it comes to street vendors, and especially the ones selling antiques. So show them what you’ve got!
Tip: To spice things up even more, let us tell you that in Monastiraki and its adjacent area of Psyrri, you can find some of Athens’ most popular souvlaki places, so it’s a good idea to check our ultimate souvlaki guide before your footsteps lead you there without you knowing what to order.
How to get there: Metro (Monastiraki Station)
#2 Thiseio & Plaka - Tourist Attractions and Lots of Greekness
The pedestrian road you will find as you exit the Acropolis Museum can take you to either one of two equally beautiful neighborhoods: turning to the right, you will lead yourself into Plaka, and turning to the left you will reach Thiseio. Plaka is the place to be if you are looking to buy all things Greek. Here you will find countless little shops selling grecian statuettes, olives and olive oil, necklaces with your name on them, T-shirts and caps with the Greek flag printed on them. Don’t be fooled though! Targeted towards tourists as this area may be, it is one of the most picturesque in town, with many shops being roofed under renovated neoclassical houses, and plenty of Greek restaurants setting their sweet little tables out on the pavement in the sun. Thiseio is probably a bit less touristy, as its main attraction - aside from the ancient Greek Pnyx - are its cafeterias that often overlook the Acropolis. However, keen shoppers of the world should still make a stop here, as there are plenty of street vendors along the pedestrian road of Thisio selling their handcrafted (usually very imaginative) products. Creative and original candles, jewelry, handbags, decorative items and souvenirs are only a few of the things you’ll come across - perfect if you’re looking to buy a special little gift for someone back home.
Tip: Another interesting highlight of Thiseio is that it is home to the country’s oldest surviving open air cinema (Cine Thiseion), so if you’re there on a summer afternoon do consider combining your shopping with an evening show.
How to get there: Metro (Acropolis Station) / Train (Thiseio Station)
#3 Syntagma & Adjacent Neighborhoods - Shop Until You Drop
Welcome to the center of the center! There is no way that you won’t pass by Syntagma Square and walk around its little streets and alleys during your stay in Athens. On the central square of the city, as well as on the street spinning off of it - that’s Ermou street - you will find the biggest branch stores of some of the largest and most popular chain stores in Greece. From international brands (eg. Zara, Bershka, M&S, United Colors of Benneton), to big Greek stores (eg. Fokas, Public, Plaisio), to local craftsmen, the market here comprises of countless providers selling primarily clothes, shoes, accessories, and electronics. However, in the smaller streets and alleyways branching off of Ermou street, you will find plenty of clockmakers, shoe repair shops, tailoring suppliers, home equipment stores, and anything else one may be looking for on the face of this tortured Earth. Broadly speaking, the rule is that the further you walk from Syntagma Square, the fewer grand stores you meet, and the more small local shops, normally offering very low cost products (think store rent!).
Tip: If you’re looking for the international couture titans (Hermes, Ferragamo, D&G a.o.), you’ll be happy to see them strung together along the more upscale street of Syntagma called Voukourestiou. Closeby, on Panepistimiou street, you can also visit the biggest department of an extremely popular Athens department store, called Attica, which hosts a large variety of fashion and cosmetics brands for wallets of all sizes.
How to Get There: Metro (Syntagma Station), Bus, Tram
#4 Kolonaki - Home of the Big Spender
The neighborhood just North of Syntagma, is what laymen call ‘Kolonaki’, but what you, fellow shopping addict, will come to call home. This upscale part of the city is not only an essential part of Athens nightlife, thanks to its numerous posh bars and clubs, but also a paradise of sophisticated stores. From large global franchises (who have invested in large stores in this area) to international and Greek designers, Kolonaki is the place to look for high quality, unique patterns, original designs, and - inevitably - higher prices in whatever you’re looking for. Apparel and interior decor are particularly valued in this market, so do expect to find primarily stores related to these sectors, and certainly do also expect to come across some very well-dressed people and very beautiful homes as you stroll around the area.
Tip: Considering the Greek coffee culture we are so very much proud of, a high-end area like Kolonaki couldn’t do without some of the most sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing artisan coffee shops in Athens. So make sure you take a break from shopping to fuel up!
How to get there: Metro (Evaggelismos Station), Bus, Tram
#5 Glyfada - Suburban Shopping by the Sea
One of the top things to do in Athens is definitely going for a swim at the beach, so if you’re both a shopaholic and a creature of the sea, Glyfada will soon become a synonym for ‘joy’ to your ears. In this Southern suburb of Athens, the vibrant Metaxa street will be your starting point for shopping your heart out in a foolproof market, offering anything from trendy boutiques to organic product delicatessens. If you wish to spoil yourself, you can top it all off with a mani-pedi at one of the area’s many beauty salons. But of course what we like the most about this shopping area is that you can easily combine your shopping therapy with a dive in the nearby Astir Beach - or if you don't mind moving about a little further, in a number of other awesome Athenian beaches we can suggest through last week’s post. If you’ve exhausted yourself to the extent of not being able to drag your feet a step further - even if that means stepping into warm beach sand - you’re presented with the yummilicious plan B of enjoying a coffee on Zisimopoulou street, a quick bite (in Glyfada Square), or a lux meal in any one of the literally hundreds of food options offered in Glyfada - we would personally suggest a fresh fish restaurant.
Tip: If you’re the sporty type (bless your soul), you may be interested in coupling up your visit to Glyfada Golf Club of Athens.
How to Get There: Tram, Metro (Elliniko Station) and from there the bus.
#6 Marousi - Local Market and Mall Hub
If you wind up towards the northern suburbs of the city for an alternative tour of Athens, Marousi is definitely worth a shopping detour. This vivid, yet friendly and not at all chaotic area, features pedestrian roads surrounded with plenty of small and large shops, many of which offer very good prices on shoes, clothes, jewelry, home essentials a.o. Many afternoon schools and music schools are located in the area, which means you’ll also find plenty of bookstores and music stores around the little streets of Marousi. Not to mention the numerous street food options that are meant to appeal to the area’s youngsters but which, let’s be honest, always appeal to us old things too. Pretty close to this cosy local market area, however, you can also visit three of the city’s most popular malls: The Mall Athens, Avenue, and Golden Hall Athens. The Mall and Avenue include stores of all kinds (even a supermarket each) that are generally on the affordable side, which means that you can leave with your hands full of puffed-up bags, but also that you’ll be shopping aside many excitable youths. Golden Hall, on the other hand, aims to retain a high shopping profile, built on the finesse of its building design and the wide range of relatively pricey boutiques it features, which is probably why it won the ICSC award for best mall in Europe a few years back. All three malls offer large parking areas in their basement for the exchange of a small fee, and have dedicated their top floor to restaurants and cafes - again, The Mall and Avenue host mainly cheap food options, while Golden Hall offers fewer, more expensive, but also better quality restaurants and bistros. Finally, if you have children with you, these malls will prove particularly convenient and one of the best things to do with kids, as they all have some sort of entertainment solution for young visitors (indoors, in the case of The Mall, and outdoors, in the case of Avenue and Golden Hall). For example, The Mall offers a mini fun park, a billiards place, and a small gaming center, so you can keep kids happy even after a long morning following you around all the boutiques that you adore but they couldn't care less about (yet).
Tip: Apart from a food hall, the top floor of The Mall functions as one of the most popular cinema complexes of the northern suburbs (part of the Village Cinemas cinema theatres chain), so you can catch a movie in a Gold Class movie theatre before or after your shopping. Golden Hall also hides an ace up its sleeve, as it hosts a large branch of the popular Attica department store - so just when you think you’ve gone around all of Golden Hall’s stores, you reach Attica’s door and find 3 extra floors of shopping. Magic!
How to get there: Train (Neratziotissa Station), Suburban Railway, Bus / Bus/ Bus
#7 Kifissia - High Fashion, High Dining and Easy Strolling in the Outskirts
If you've traveled to Greece before, we're pretty sure that when you think Athens you think the usual tourist attractions, but also a lot of hubbub (okay, and maybe the seaside if you've been down South). But what we actually love about this city is that it has a little bit of everything. So if you're looking for some green to rest your eyes on while doing your shopping, Kifissia is the place to be. With numerous parks and large green spaces in its vicinity, this Northern suburb allows you to explore some of the best shops in Athens with a sense of peacefulness in you heart! Apart from fancy boutiques and designer shops, here you will also discover many bistros and chic restaurants, so if you're the kind of person who sees shopping as a true form of therapy, strolling around Kifissia's pedestrian streets, indulging the latest fashion, and finishing it all up with an artisan coffee or gastro meal will give you the full experience of shopping in Athens!
Tip: Many of the cafes and bistros we mentioned turn into - equally high end - bars at night. So if you're a fan of good wine, original cocktails, and a well dressed crowd, consider going for shopping later in the day, to combine it with a taste of Athenian nightlife. You'll find that being a creature of the night is one of the most fun thing to do in Athens (we promise!).
How to get there: Train (Kifissia Station), Bus
And now, for our final words of wisdom: keep in mind that shops follow different opening times depending on the day of the week. Not all shops open and close at the exact same time (so if you're very keen on a particular one make sure to check on their site), but generally speaking, shops are open between 9:00 and 15:00 on Mondays and Wednesdays, with the exception of several large shops in Ermou, which you may visit until 17:00; Thursdays and Fridays you can do your shopping 9:00 - 14:00 and again between 17:30 - 21:00; and on Saturdays from 9:00 to 15:00. Large shopping malls are open 9:00-21:00 everyday apart from Saturdays, when they close at 20:00. All shops (but not restaurants and cafes) remain closed on all Sundays apart from a few 'special' Sundays of the year, when there's a big holiday or sales are coming up. If you're desperate for shopping on the last day of the week however, don't despair - Monastiraki and Plaka shops remain open 7 days a week (yas!).
P.S. All opinions expressed above are 100% personal, unbiased, and non-promotional.
P.S.2. Here's a little map with all the shopping areas and nearby special spots we've mentioned, to help you find your way. Shop away and make us proud!