Here you are in Athens, this sprawling, chaotic, enticing city, with its rough-hewn lively urban character, wondering where to head off shopping. Let us give you a few insiders’ tips…
First of all, and take our word for it, you’ll need to keep shop opening hours in mind. Although opening hours are officially unregulated from Monday to Saturday (on Sundays all shops except pastry shops, wine and spirits shops, flower shops and emergency pharmacies, are closed), you’ll find that most businesses (with the exception of large department stores) adhere to the following opening hours:
Mon, Wed, Sat: 09:00-15:00.
Tue, Thu, Fri: 09:00-14:30 & 17:00-20:30.
All shops close on National Holidays. Souvenir shops and convenience stores operating around tourist sites are generally open longer hours, usually 09:00-23:00 every day.
Now that we’ve sorted when to shop, time to tackle the next question: where to shop.
A visit to the charming Plaka district, apart from some rather kitsch souvenir shops, will also reward you with great traditional arts and crafts shops that are well worth a visit (we give you some ideas in our listings section). On the other hand, if it’s a more all-encompassing shopping experience you’re after, a good bet is to head to Ermou Street (starting from Syntagma Square and culminating in Monastiraki). This is a great shopping spree destination, as it’s conveniently pedestrianised and offers a very wide selection of mainstream consumer goodies: clothes, jewelry, shoes, cosmetics, gift shops (yes, you guessed it, Ermou Street is mainly a ladies’ shopping haven). But the lower end of Ermou Street, towards the seedier Monastiraki area, is a different story. Head here for urban wear, so you can deck yourself out in original street style labels (some of which designed by well-known graffiti artists). Oh, and as regards local colour, don’t miss out on a walk though the bristling Monastiraki Flea Market (great for collectors’ items, vintage records and other quirky items and memorabilia) and the colourful Athens’ Central Market (we recommend you purchase some local herbs here – there’s a very wide selection available at great prices). At the opposite end of the spectrum, Kolonaki caters to those after some sophisticated, upmarket chic (at the appropriate price, of course).
Then again, if you’re the department-store type of shopper, you'll have to choose between a few really impressive department stores. (See our list) It should be noted that the international trend towards the predominance of large department stores over smaller businesses has not been so marked in Greece, as Greeks still tend to hold on to the old ways and shop in boutiques and neighbourhood stores over large and more impersonal stores.
Finally, some useful shopping tips before you set off:
Credit cards: All major international credit cards are accepted in all large stores, as well as in boutiques. They may not be accepted in family-run businesses or local neighbourhood stores, so in those establishments it is best to double-check. Most Greeks pay for their purchases in plastic, which accounts for the proliferation of credit schemes available, as well as for the very large amounts of debt incurred by many Greek households.
Sales: Winter sales run during the period from middle to end- January up to mid-February (maximum five weeks’ duration). Summer sales run during the period from mid-July up to the end of August at the latest.
Local shopping culture: Greeks tend to be big spenders and great fans of branded items, generally sporting designer sunglasses and top of the range mobile phones as essential accessories, with a concurrent tendency to accumulate rather large credit card bills as well. In short, you’re in a true shopping-lovers’ city. Enjoy!