Greece is famed for its incredible history and Athens is the hub of many of its ancient cultural vestiges. The Greek capital’s astonishing ruins attract millions of visitors each year from all over the planet.
The city had a similarly powerful draw even as far back as 2,000 years ago when people would travel from surrounding regions to marvel at its cosmopolitan environment.
Visitors in these bygone eras were attracted by Athens' vibrant markets and trading scene as much as the city's architecture and culture.
The methods of commerce may have changed over the centuries, but Athens remains one of the best places for shopping in Europe. Here are some of the finest areas for shopping in downtown Athens.
Plaka is, first and foremost, the most aesthetically pleasing suburb in downtown Athens. At the foot of the mighty Acropolis, this charming neighbourhood is pierced by narrow, cobblestone streets, lined with graceful, historic buildings and decorated by many bright, Magenta-colour Bougainvillea plants.
It is a district that caters well to visitors without crossing the line into being an unappealing, overly-touristy area marred by pushy touts and rip-off businesses.
Many of Plaka’s old homes and stores have been tastefully redecorated and now house boutique hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and a plethora of shops.
Because Plaka is also popular with Athens locals, it has a rather odd mix of stores. You will find understated shops selling religious amulets nearby flashy boutiques filled with expensive designer clothes, jewellery and shoes.
Among these higher-end outlets are many local designers offering unique men’s and women’s clothes, along with accessories.
Plaka also has a raft of antique dealers, some of whom have some extraordinary pieces. Beware, however, these dealers are known for sometimes quoting wildly inflated prices to foreigners.
Plaka is also a great destination for souvenir shopping. Particularly along Adrianou, one of its main thoroughfares, there are seemingly endless businesses selling Greece-related trinkets.
From keyrings to t-shirts, caps, backpacks, ornaments, mugs, scarfs, rugs and Greek flags of all sizes, the variety is wide and the prices cheap.
Admittedly, some of this fare is very generic and of ordinary quality, but take time to explore these outlets and you’ll also find some cute and affordable keepsakes.
More Athens holiday inspiration
On the northern border of Plaka is arguably Athens’ biggest shopping street, Ermou. This long boulevard, parts of which are pedestrianised, is hugely popular among the younger residents of the city thanks to its trendy clothing and footwear outlets.
Some of the stores are international brands you can find in almost any other city. So if it’s local brands you’re looking for check out Greek department store Fokas, which supports local designers.
Shopping fanatics could easily spend hours trawling along Ermou Street, pausing to refresh themselves at one of its many cafes, or fill up at the plethora of restaurants and bakeries it hosts.
At the western end of Ermou Street, Monastiraki is home to one of Athens' largest flea markets. This undoubtedly is the place to go for cut-price shopping.
Wrapped around an old square, next to Monastiraki metro station, this area has many souvenir shops, which are similar in style and price to those in Plaka, perhaps even a tad cheaper.
Monastiraki also has a large number of jewellery stores, although shopping at them can be pot luck – some have great jewellery at fine prices, while others sell fake products.
Street vendors selling all manner of souvenirs and handicrafts pop up in this area as the sun begins to set and are particularly prevalent on weekends.
For a truly authentic Greek shopping experience, visit Central Market, an undercover bazaar where vendors loudly spruik their wares – from spices to fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meat and dried foods.
This long has been a hub of commerce in downtown Athens, with local residents visiting daily to purchase ingredients to make for lunch or that evening’s dinner.
As a tourist you’re unlikely to want to buy a rack of lamb or a huge, freshly-caught salmon. Central Market is more of a cultural experience – a great people-watching venue filled with lively bartering and friendly banter. This is Greek commerce as its been done for centuries.