An insider’s guide to the best places to shop in Athens, including the top spots for high street shops, boho-chic accessories and traditional Greek produce. By Jane Foster, Telegraph Travel’s Athens expert.
Serious shoppers should head for posh Kolonaki, where despite the recession, designer names such as Armani, Bulgari and Gucci still line the streets of Anagnostopoulou, Milioni, Tsalkof and Voukourestiou. If expensive jewellery is your thing, call at Fanourakis (Patriarchou Ioakim 23; fanourakis.gr) for finely-crafted one-off pieces in gold by Greek designer Lina Fanouraki. Or for boho-chic accessories for the beach, try Actipis Sea Pebble Jewellery(Lekka 20, Syntagma, actipis.com) with their own line in long elegant handmade pebble necklaces and close fitting chokers.
In contrast, high-street favourites such as Zara, Mango and even good old Marks & Spencer line pedestrian-only Ermou, running from Syntagma Square down to Monastiraki.
The usual tourist tat can be found in pretty Plaka – look out for fluffy flokati rugs, religious icons and shockingly expensive antiques. A couple of names stand out: Ioanna Kourbela (with two shops, at Adrianou 109 and Hatzimichali 12; ioannakourbela.com) who designs elegant minimalist-chic clothing made from natural materials, and also has stores in New York, Sydney and Prague; and Forget-me-Not (Adrianou 100; forgetmenotathens.gr), a gift shop stocking funky T-shirts, ceramics and jewellery by contemporary Greek designers
More affordable gifts include handmade leather sandals from Pantelis Melissinos, son of Stavros Melissinos (Agias Theklas 2; melissinos-poet.com) in Psirri. Stavros was also known as the Poet Sandalmaker, and since 1954 crafted high quality leather sandals, with former customers including the Beatles. The store is now run by Pantelis.
Close by, Bahar (Evripidou 31; bahar.gr) is a great place to buy dried herbs, traditional Greek mountain tea and ground spices, such as paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg, while To Pantapoleion (Sofokleous 1 & Aristeidou 11) stocks wine, olive oil, honey, and a horde of other Greek delicacies, made by the new wave of small producers who concentrate on quality rather than quantity. For wooden bowls and chopping boards, call at the Olive Tree (Adrianou 67; facebook.com/Olivetreeathens) stocking their own hand-crafted kitchen utensils, made from aged olive trees from Corfu, beautifully sanded and polished, with swirly grains.
For herb-scented toiletries with funky Greek writing on the bottles, visit the Korres pharmacy (Erastosthenous and Ivikou; korres.com) in Pangrati, where this internationally recognised company was born. In a similar vein, the Apivita Experience Store (Solonos 6; apivita.com) in Kolonaki showcases Apivita natural beauty products and also has a day spa. Another good place to buy original Greek gifts is Mastiha Shop (Panepsitimou 6 & Kreizotou; mastihashop.com) near Syntagma, which specialises in therapeutic potions containing mastic from the island of Chios. Mastiha Shop, Apivita and Korres all have stores in Athens Airport for any last minute purchases.
Also try to visit the 19th century, iron-and-glass Central Market (Sofokleous and Evripidou) near Omonia, where stallholders vie for shoppers’ attention between mounds of silver-scaled fish, blood-splattered carcasses, and piles of rosy apples and dried figs. Equally chaotic is Monastriki Flea Market, a Sunday-morning venture with locals hawking old books, pirate videos and if you’re lucky, some genuine antiques.