I am going to start the shopping section with the most obvious place tourists will go and that's the Plaka near the Acropolis. Afterwards we'll get into more refined goods and where to find them: Kolonaki, Pattision Street, Ermou and so on.
The thing for you to remember is that once you are out of Athens center, each neighborhood will have its own shopping areas. Places like Kypseli, Metz, Glyfada and Kifisia come to mind as separate shopping destinations in themselves. Adrianou is also open at night as you can see from the first picture.
Lately Greeks are big on designer imports and I don't mean Givenchy and haute fashions from France and Italy which you will find in the Kolonaki area but rather many things you will likely find back home in the US, UK, NZ, Ireland and Australia. Nike, Adidas, Gap, Timberland and all the usual mall stuff. They also sell lots of good quality imported clothing that we never heard of back home and that, primarily, in my opinion, is where the bargains and special finds are to be had.
The Plaka is home to Hadrian Street which the Greeks call Adrianou. If you go to Monastiraki square you will be where 7 shopping streets converge. Adrianou is one of them and so is Pandrossou. Ermou and Mitropoleos Streets are where the Greeks themselves shop a lot. Nearby Hephestius street is where the flea market happens on Sundays, particularly in Abyssinia Sq. an off shoot of the street.
Below are some pictures of Pandrossou and Adrianou Street and its stores.
There are many jewelry stores in downtown Athens vying for your tourist dollar and gold is traditionally a good deal in Greece. The more your purchase totals the bigger discount you can wrangle. If you have a sweet tooth try some locally made ice cream. I like Choco-orange but will settle for Gianduia if I have to.
The icon and museum reproduction store is ubiquitous and icons make a nice present or decorative item for your home. They come in many sizes and the more expensive ones have silver on them too. Of course nothing will replace a good dash-board plastic Jesus except perhaps the plastic clocks to be found on Athinas Street with religious themes like the Last Supper and so on. I have a magnetic St. Lukas on my car's dash board... a little extra insurance never hurt, especially while driving in Greece.
These cotton clothing stores switch to hand knitted woolens in winter and are rather different.
Than these Tees and factory made shirts also available. There are many styles of lamps to choose from close by as well.
Here below left, is another ceramic reproduction store and a general tourist knickknacks store below right. Those in the know say that the museum reproductions sold at the museum stores themselves are worth the extra money they charge. Its true they offer different items but no where near as many.
And they don't sell Priapatic statues, post cards or calendars either. These semi-divine beings were the most well endowed male beings of ancient times. The satyr far left is a post card but also available as a statue and a reproduction of an ancient one. You never see regular ancient human statues endowed quite so well, in fact, just the opposite. They obviously didn't have junk e-mail back then. I do like ancient Cycladic Art. There is something about its fresh lines and simplicity of form. This store, bottom, second from left, sells Cycladic reproductions as do many similar stores throughout Greece, in the more touristy destinations and islands like Mykonos and Rhodes. There are also traditionally costumed Greek dolls and marionettes to be had on Adrianou Street which you will not find everywhere in Greece.
There are some good bargains to be found at :"Brettos" on Kydathinaon Street near Plaka's main square too! Its Athens oldest vintner. The Brandy in metal bottles is ideal for transport to your home country. Just imagine the amazement of your friends the next time you go off road trail biking on your MX when you show up in traditional Greek strap on armour instead of your usual gear? Sea sponges are also inexpensive and drug from the bottom of the sea the old fashioned way by divers from Kalymnos Island.
Now what's a trip to Greece without bringing home some over-priced spiced olive oil?. Just buy a normal bottle and throw your own spices in it! Plus the glass bottles are uniquely shaped but may break in your carry on. The spices on the other hand are very light and very cheap and locally grown. They come in sets and may be shipped for next to nothing...they make a good gift to people who cook! Refrigerator magnets are also inexpensive and show folks you were thinking of them too! The leather sold in Greece is of good quality if somewhat thick. Many types of bags are available. Shoes are also made in Greece but don't buy Greek sneakers.
Ok Folks Athens isnt Paris or Milan and on this page I dont get into design and high fashion but stick with basic simple products native to Greece like Honey, Pistachios, teas, herbs, natural cosmetics, soaps, sweets?
SHOPPING TIPS: ALL THESE ARE MY RECOMMENDATIONS AND LOCALLY MADE IN GREECE AND LESS EXPENSEIVE THAN in the USA.
SEE PHONETIC PHRASE PAGES FOR MORE PHRASES AND NUMBERS
Here are some handy shopping phrases, by law prices are supposed to be on the goods. Most vendors speak English.
Above left to right: Liquors, herb oils, Ancient plastic armor,
Below: nice100% cotton, Tie die, Pan pipes, Cycladic repros
Various reproductions Icon reproductions Oils, candies, misc. below
Below:Leather goods and Kitchen magnets
Street artist stuff below left, center is a Good place to buy sandals. I do! far right Flokati rugs and throws.
nice inxp.spices gift sets Sponges mo 'ancient' stuff
82 Adrianou above T's of course more leather Flag souvenirs
Traditional dolls Cool marionettes
O.K., its Total Tack!
Because I have a sophomoric sense of humor, I always crack up with the ancient style pornographic coaster sets, and post cards as if perhaps, you'd send/give them to your grandmother or boss. Ah!, to live back then. Revelry and Bacchanalia... unless you were a slave.
Athenian slaves were treated well in classical times. It was illegal to hit them but if they were to give evidence in a trial it had to be under torture to make sure they were telling the truth! Their masters permission was required for this and oft times refused.
"It was illegal to hit slaves because they dressed just as well as Athenian citizens and one could mistakenly hit a citizen that way. Slaves worked alongside free citizens at highly skilled trades such as fluting the pillars of temples which were so well constructed that a knife could not be slipped between the drums. Many kept shops and paid their owners a royalty. Others, less fortunate and perhaps wards of the state, worked 10 hour shifts in the silver mines of Laurion near Sounion. Many Athenians had no slaves at all and many only one maid servant. The popular view of Athens as a community of liesured citizens whose slaves greatly outnumbered the the free is not supported by the evidence" - From " A Travellers History of Greece " by A. R. Burn, Funk and Wagnalls, 1965.
Back in the 70's during the junta they'd throw you in jail if you displayed anything like this on the street!
Here is some real ancient Greek priceless Vase art they only let you see by apointment and is kept in the basement of the museum! Sssshhhh!!!! and remember no flash allowed!
Ermou street, which leads from Syntagma Sq. directly to Monasitraki is the place where most Athenians shop when they go downtown. The thing I like most about Athens is all the little independent shops with different goods. Unlike the homogeneous chain stores so prevalent in the US, there is variety. A lot of variety. The little guy actually can make a difference and hasn't been squeezed out by the huge corporations... yet. Its coming and I hope it takes it sweet time about it. The Greeks are traditionally very independent, seafarers and world travelers. Because of this you'll see goods from everywhere in the world and and its a great place to go shopping!
Additionally, if one travels down Stadiou or Acadimias St. towards Omonia Sq. there are other shopping treats as well. Check out the "Mini-Monastiraki" at the corners of Stadiou and Themistocleous for the things you forgot to pack that are less expensive than Ermou St. and of budget quality and price....shoes, shorts, socks, hair brushes, tee-shirts, knap sacks, etc.
The cheapest place to shop is on Athinas Street 90% of the time. But selection is limited.
If you like honey and have never tried Greek honey, you are in for a treat! It makes a great gift too and comes in cans as well as jars. The Bees Nest also sells Royal Jelly and Bee Propolis which is good for you! Honeys are sold by flavor: Thyme or Themari good for your circulation & arteries, orange blossom, lemon blossom, Conifer or 'coni-foron', all flowers or 'antheon', fir tree or 'Elato' thick amber colored. Bees wax candles are sometimes available.
This is where my mom has bought her honey for years and is just around the corner from Athens Central Mkt. They have their own bee farm and have a great selection you can put into metal tins to take back with you. Honeys are available by the seasons, i.e. spring and fall.
Did you know that honey was the only food still edible found in an Egyptian tomb? I didn't either. Bees are called Mel-li-sas, so the English/American name Melissa means honey bee.
GREEK NUTS "Skle-rous Kar-pous" (hard vegetable products)
No, I am not talking about the mentally challenged members of the populace. I am referring to the wonderful pistachios (fis-teek-ya), walnuts (Ka-reed-dia), almonds (A-mig-dala) and other nuts you will see for sale. Try these, buy a bag or two from a street vendor or shop and drink a beer. They are grown in Greece and very fresh and wholesome! As you can see there are dried fruits for sale too. Trail mix, anyone?