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Shopping in Athens

Since the onset of the current economic crisis, Athenians have curtailed the credit card shopping sprees they enjoyed during the first decade of the century. Retailers have suffered, and some shops in the city centre have had to close while others lowered their prices. Nonetheless, Athens remains a fine shopping venue for visitors on all budgets.

Key areas

For everyday clothing and accessories, Athens' busiest shopping street is the pedestrianised Ermou, off Syntagma Square; pick up the season's latest clothing and accessories. The most upmarket shopping district - think designer boutiques and jewellers - is nearby Kolonáki. It includes Tsakalof street, one of the most expensive streets in the area. Touristy Pláka is where you’ll find the souvenir shops.

Markets

In Monastiraki, on the edge of Pláka, bazaar-style stores sell everything from combat army boots to second-hand books and fake designer sunglasses. Sunday mornings bring the Monastiraki Flea Market, with antiques and bric-a-brac. Kentrikí Agorá (Central Market), in a huge 19th-century metal structure near Omonia Square, is the place for fish, meat and fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables are sold weekly in the Laiki (People's Markets) all over Athens.

Shopping centres

The Mall, in the northern suburb of Maroussi, is a large shopping mall with a large variety of international brands and specialist activity stores.

Opening hours

Shopping hours in Athens aren’t standard. Small, family-run shops generally open Monday and Wednesday 0900-1500; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 0900-1400 and 1730-2100 and Saturday 0900-1500.

Shopping malls are open Mon-Fri 1000-2100 and Sat 1000-2000. The districts of Plaka and Monasteraki operate rom 1000-2200 in summer and 1000-2100 in winter.

Souvenirs

Typical Greek gifts include hand-woven rugs, known as flokati, copper coffee pots, virgin olive oil soap and honey. Some museums have shops selling reproductions of Ancient Greek statues and archaeological sites.

Tax information

Visitors from outside the European Union who have been in Greece for less than three months are eligible for the tax free shopping scheme run by Global Blue (www.globalblue.com). VAT is currently charged at 24% in mainland Greece (17% - Lesvos, Lemnos, Chios, Kos, Patmos, Astypalea, Kalymnos, Kasos, Leros, Nisyros, Symi, Tilos, Kastellorizo, Samos, Icaria, Samothrace). A 'tax-free cheque' will be issued in the shop to be presented along with the receipt to customs when leaving the country.

Featured Hotels

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Hotel Hermes

Perfectly located between Syntagma and Plaka, Hermes is noted for its extremely friendly and helpful staff. The 45 rooms all have wooden floors and white marble bathrooms, and some but not all have balconies. A plentiful buffet breakfast is served daily and the lounge does all-day free tea and coffee. Wi-Fi throughout. Syntagma Metro station is a 2 minute walk away.

Hera Hotel

Smack at the foot of the Acropolis and around the corner from the New Acropolis Museum, this classic hotel with a neoclassical façade is perfectly located for sightseeing. The rooms and suites are elegantly furnished, and the rooftop garden and restaurant gives unparalleled Acropolis views.

New Hotel

Fun and a little offbeat, this hotel is the artistic creation of Brazilian designers Humberto and Fernando Campana. The 79 rooms and suites have recycled furniture, bamboo wood floors, and slick bathrooms stocked with Kiehl's products. The all-day bar-restaurant does an excellent breakfast and the New Sense spa offers health and beauty treatments.

Hotel Grande Bretagne

The Hotel Grande Bretagne is the city's oldest and most prestigious hotel, having opened in 1874 and hosted royalty, heads of state, film stars and rock gods. As you’d expect, the sophisticated rooms feature antiques and marble bathrooms, and suites include 24-hour butler service; there are 3 restaurants, one on the rooftop with an Acropolis view, plus a rooftop pool.

Hilton Hotel

The refurbished Hilton Hotel is modern, smart and popular with business travellers. It has 517 rooms (guest rooms, accessible rooms, executive rooms and suites) all with wooden floors, minimalist furniture and balconies. A small supplement is payable for rooms with Acropolis views. The impressive facilities include four restaurants, three bars, an outdoor pool, a luxurious spa with an indoor pool, plus a business centre.

Electra Palace

In Plaka, the Electra Palace’s yellow neo-classical facade opens into a spacious marble lobby. The 122 rooms and suites all have wooden floors, Persian rugs, thick curtains and cotton duvets – the best ones offer a glimpse of the Acropolis. Up top, there’s a rooftop pool with wooden deck and sun beds, plus a small spa (pool, sauna, massage and gym) in the basement.