Shopping in Athens: Monastiraki Flea Market, Plaka & Malls
Hi girls and guys who like to shop!
I have been doing my shopping spree in Athens, tried out various shopping malls and already assembled my winter collection.
I also came across a very sweet flea market in Monastiraki, some very horrible souvenirs in Plaka and I wondered about the stressful life of minorities who are strongly linked to Athenian recycling at the trash containers.
All of which I am going to share in this post.
So let’s start with the most interesting shopping sight, the flea market in Monastiraki.
THE FLEA MARKET (on Avissinias Square)
The so labelled ‘Athens flea market’ mainly just sells regular some cheap, some original clothing and footwear. Convenience stores sell unusual cannabis drinks – something I have not seen since my student trips to Amsterdam.
Bear in mind that the flea market is only on Sunday and you have to walk further down from Monastiraki Station towards Avissinias Square. If you visit on another day there will be just an agglomeration of regular souvenir shops with a lot of mass-produced merchandise.
We found various kinds of antiques, old trunks, lamps, books, electrical equipment, decoupaged icons and an abundance of decorative vintage items. Much of the kind of precious junk I love.
You will also find the lemon man, who will gladly demonstrate his fantastic lemon squeeze device. By smoothly and easily drilling a plastic tube into the lemon, lemon man generates lemon juice. We are compulsive lemon tea drinkers, so of course I bought more than one. Turned out that this works a lot better when lemon man demonstrates than when doing it yourself at home. I then vowed to avoid hawkers.
The further you proceed from the square, the messier and bigger the piles of well, junk? I actually liked those white retro looking sun glasses.
Even streets away from the square, the flea market is continued by some of the less fortunate of the city.
You will see many sellers, actually refugees from the former Soviet Union, Romania, Albania and many gypsies, selling second hand clothes and all kinds of trinkets tha just have been fished out of the trash and are displayed with little consideration for simple marketing strategies.
The main shopping streets are Adrinou, Pandrosou, Ifaistou, Thiseiou, Ayiou Filippou, Astigos and Ermou.
Monastiraki means little monastery which stands at its centre. High street shop variety leading towards the sweet monastery in the back.
Here is a close up. The 10th century Saint Mary Pantanassa Monastery.
Apart from that picturesque church, the Monastiraki shopping area is lacking attractiveness.
A lot of cheap unoriginal merchandise, clothing shops for teens and hawkers trying to lure you into restaurants or show you stuff you don’t need. Ditto lemon man.
Outlet and balloon shopping at Monastiraki square.
You can take the metro down here – straight to Monastiraki Station, which is the EU renovated neoclassic building from 1895 (right behind me) – and be right in the hub of souvenir shops.
This fruit stand reminds me of my hands-on experience at a real Greek market.
Plenty of refreshments can be found at Monastiraki.
You can find an abundance of jewellery stands around the station reaching as far up as to the Acropolis. I saw some very cool bracelets in classy ancient Greek design, hand-made by local craftsmen who own their own workshops and supply the souvenir stores of Athen’s museums. The cheap alternative are these stands.
In general, you will be surprised at the bargains you can find in Athens. Some give the impression to be symptoms of the crippling Greek economy.
The main shopping streets are Kydatheneon and Adrianou. Plaka connects to Monastiraki and with many touristy restaurants, as well as souvenir shops, the whole area makes for a most popular tourist place in Athens.
My guidebook describes Plaka as “beautiful neoclassical in style and colour, with enchanting beauty an atmosphere, where the air you breathe is lighter, cleaner and fragrant, like a gift from the Gods“.
This might be exaggerated travel writing but, from Adrianou street, you can definitely enjoy a unique view on the ancient Agora and Acropolis, while sipping a drink at one of numerous cafés, closer to the gods.
Here is the view onto the ancient Agora with the long columned Stoa and the sacred rock of Athens, the Acropolis to the right.
In Plaka, you will also find the Lysikrates Monument. It was erected by Lysikrates, a Greek patron of the musical arts, to commemorate the success of his sponsored dramatic-dance-chorus in 334BC. During the course of history the monument was incorporated into a monastery, where monks cultivated the first tomato plants in Greece. British poet Lord Byron stayed at the monastery for a while infatuated by a very young Athenian maid. Today, the monument looks like this.
There are a lot of touristy tavernas which I haven’t tried as enthusiastic hawkers with their waving menus usually scare me off.
Plaka is the place for Greek folk art, handicrafts and traditional products. You will find a lot of reproductions of ancient Greek ceramic art and pottery. Souvenir t-shirts, mugs and bags with depictions of the Parthenon and Greek warriors, as well as pretty horrible reproductions of Greek statues.
Athens is not exactly known for its harsh winters, yet the numerous fur stores are a sad symbol of pointless animal slaughter. We were frequently mistaken for typical Russian customers and approached by Russian speaking Greeks with their brochures. As if Russian tourists didn’t have enough of their own furry nightmares.
A unique souvenir are sandals made in Greece. Once covering the athletic feet of Spartacus and exposing the beautiful toes of Aphrodite. Hand-made by Greek shoe makers.
There are also a lot of stressed African merchants who sell reproductions of designer bags, fake brand sneakers and good luck charms, often spread on white bed sheets, which can be pulled together in seconds. They are always looking out for police in a constant game of hide and seek.
In the meantime Greek middle and upper class are shopping at KOLONAKI (walk Voukourestiou, Skoufa, Tsakalof Street) and the malls of Athens.
For sophisticated Greek fashion, these are two great places I found.
The Golden Hall on Kifissias Avenue is a huge shopping mall that stands out from the rest with all the national and international fashion brands.
Invented in 1820 by Hungarian engineer Peter Bodor, the trend of musical fountains enjoys a revival.
Although a Spanish fashion chain, I came across Stradivarius right here. A fashion store I have not known so far, is a reason to get all excited. Stradivarius has very feminine, trendy but very affordable fashion.
ATHENS METRO MALL
Located on Leofoldos Vouliagmenis Avenue 276 this is a small mall in comparison to the previously mentioned shopping temple.
Maybe aware of the need to compete otherwise, Metro Mall had great sales and deals going on.
The Mall is a bit further out, located near to the Athens Olympic Stadium on Andrea Papandreou Street 35. There is easy access from the platform of Neratziotissa Station to the entrance of The Mall.
The modern building has four levels where you can shop or visit the cinema on the top floor.
You can see the stadium from the huge mall platform.
More centrally located, ATTICA DEPARTMENT STORE stands close to Syntagma Square and although it is a very popular shopping centre in a historical building with pretty 20s architecture, I haven’t paid a visit yet. Partly because it closes way earlier than the malls, especially on Saturdays, when most malls keep their doors open till 8pm.
There is still so much on my to do list in Athens – I better get going…