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