Warning: If you hope to take home an antique—perhaps an icon or a woodcarving—know that not everything sold as "antique" is genuine, and it's illegal to take antiquities more than 100 years old out of Greece without a hard-to-obtain export license.
If you're looking for first editions, prints showing 19th-century Athens, a silver sword, or amber worry beads, try Antiqua, 2 Leoforos Amalias, off Syntagma Square (tel. 210/323-2220; www.antiqua.gr). This is one of Athens's oldest antiques stores, and perhaps the best. It also features handsome ancient coins and old icons—but take heed of the warning above.
Over in Monastiraki on Pandrossou street, Martinos, 50 Pandrossou (tel. 210/321-2414; www.martinosart.gr), first opened in 1890, has Venetian and ancient glass, embroidery and kilims, swords, and side tables. Also in Monastiraki, check out Byzantino, 120 Adrianou (tel. 210/324-6605; www.byzantino.com), for certified replicas of stunning, intricate gold designs of Byzantine and Hellenistic jewelry in addition to original works. In Kolonaki, the eponymous proprietor of Argyriadis, 42 Patriarchou Ioakim (tel. 210/725-1727), specializes in 18th-century furniture, and a variety of more easily transported bibelots. Mihalarias Art, corner Kifisias and Diligianni (tel. 210/623-0928; www.mihalarias.gr), in a heritage-listed Kifissia mansion, offers museum-quality furniture, paintings, and just about any bauble you can imagine. Visit the Benaki Museum Gift Shop, 1 Koumbari (tel. 210/367-1000; www.benaki.gr), for prints, jewelry, ceramics, books, and replicas of Greek artifacts.
For the best guidebooks and maps head to Infognomon, 14 Fillelinon (tel.210/331-6036; www.infognomon.gr). Also check out Kaufman, 28 Stadiou (tel. 210/322-2160) an old-world bookstore that has been in the same location since 1919 and has an excellent selection of English, French, German, and Greek literature.
There are lots of mass-produced "crafts" for sale in Athens, which is why it's good to know which shops offer quality work. The Center of Hellenic Tradition, 59 Mitropoleos and 36 Pandrossou in the Plaka (tel. 210/321-3023), is a wonderful place for quality traditional Greek art, including icons, pottery, woodcarvings, embroideries, and prints. Best of all, you can take a break from shopping and look at the Acropolis while you have coffee and a snack at the cafe. While you are on and around Mitropoleos, named after Athens's Metropolitan cathedral, look for the shops where craftspeople still turn out decent reproductions of icons for the faithful.
On the fringes of the Plaka, the National Welfare Organization (Ethnikos Organismos Pronias), 6 Ypatias and Apollonos, just east of the cathedral (tel. 210/321-8272), has gorgeous embroideries, rugs, pottery, and icons.
The Attica department store in the CityLink building, 9 Panepistimiou (tel. 210/180-2500; www.atticadps.gr; Metro: Syntagma), has the best window displays in the city and over 300 stores in its eight floors, with 800 different brands of clothing, accessories, cosmetics, and housewares. Notos Galleries, 2-8 Eolou (tel. 210/324-5811; www.notosgalleries.gr; Metro: Omonia/Monastiraki), has seven floors of clothing, cosmetics, sportswear, and more. Hondos Center, 4 Platieia Omonias (tel. 210/323-3304; www.hondoscenter.gr), in the middle of Omonia Square—and many other locations throughout the city—is reasonably priced and has just about everything you could want, plus a rooftop cafe with Acropolis views. For smaller shops, wander along Ermou, off Syntagma, where you'll find enough shoe shops to outfit the world. When you tire of shoes, explore the side streets, such as Mitropoleos, Voulis, and Praxitelous, where you can buy everything from chocolates and curtains, to doorknobs and wastebaskets, to buttons and baptism dresses.
Outside the center, coastal Glyfada and leafy Kifissia also offer excellent (but more high-end) shopping. Athens Heart, 180 Pireos (tel. 210/341-4105; www.athensheart.gr; Metro: Petralona), Athens Metro Mall, 276 Leof. Vouliagmenis (tel. 210/976-9444; www.athensmetromall.gr; Metro: Agios Dimitios), and Athenian Capitol, 3 Septembriou and Ilouanou (tel. 210/881-6187; Metro: Victoria), are all shopping malls in this area.
If you want to shop in a megamall with 15 movie theaters, 25 restaurants, and 300 shops, hop on Metro line 1 and get off at Nerantziotissa station, at Athens Mall (called the Mall Athens in Greece; Mon-Sat 9am-9pm, Sun 9am-8pm; www.themallathens.gr). When you're done shopping, go the top-floor balcony and have a drink while you take in the view of northern Athens and the Athens Olympic Sports Complex.
If you do any window-shopping, you'll see how expensive most things are, except during the January and August sales. Not surprisingly, Athens's most posh downtown clothing stores are in Kolonaki. Much of what you'll see is American or European and often carries a hefty import duty; the other selections are mostly Greek designer wear. Good streets to browse are Voukourestiou (where Baccarat, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Dolce & Gabana have boutiques), as well as Kanari, Milioni, Tsakalof, Patriarchou Ioakim, Skoufa, and Anagnostopoulou—where Versace, Ferre, Gucci, Lagerfeld, and Guy Laroche have boutiques, as do well-known Athenian designers such as Aslanis, Nikos, Filemon, and Sofos. If shoes are your thing, head for Tsakalof, with its heavy concentration of the shoe stores that most Athenians find irresistible.
A few individual shops near Kolonaki Square to check out: LAK, 25 Tsakalof (tel. 210/628-3260; www.lak.gr), has hip Greek designer Lakis Gavalas's men's and women's collection. Head to the Bettina Boutique, 40 Pindarou and 29 Anagnostopoulou (tel. 210/339-2094; www.bettina.com.gr), for Greek designer Sophia Kokosalaki, whose sexy and edgy work has made her the toast of Paris. Sofos, 5 Anagnostopoulou (tel. 210/361-8713), sells designer women's clothing. Elina Lebessi, 13 Irakleitou (tel. 210/363-1731), has elegantly casual tops, bottoms, and accessories. Greek designer Yiorgos Eleftheriades, 13 Agion Anargiron (tel. 210/331-2622; www.yiorgoseleftheriades.gr), well known in Greece and abroad for his casual yet elegant designs for both men and women, has moved his studio/store from Kolonaki to Psirri. It is well worth a visit. Back in Kolonaki, check out Christos Veloudakis, 22a Tsakalof (tel. 210/364-1764), where long, red velvet curtains lead you into an impeccably stylish boutique for men and women right on Tsakalof street. Also keep an eye out for Luisa, 17 Skoufa (tel.210/363-5600; www.luisaworld.com), featuring the best international designers.
In pharmacies, look for the Korres line of natural beauty products. The soaps and lotions make lovely gifts. If you want to visit Korres's flagship store, go to the corner of 8 Ivikou, near the Panathenaic Stadium (old Olympic Stadium; tel. 210/756-0600; www.korres.com).
The MacArthurGlen Athens Designer Outlet mall (Block E71, Gialou, 19004, Spata; tel. 210/663-0840; www.mcarthurglenathens.gr) is a delight to stroll through and do some serious shopping amid the 125 designer and high-end brands at discounted prices.
All that glitters most definitely is not gold in Athens's myriad jewelry shops. Unless you know your gold very well, you'll want to exercise caution when shopping here, especially in the Plaka and Monastiraki stores that cater to tourists.
Greece's best-known jewelry stores are Zolotas, with branches at 10 Panepistimiou (tel. 210/361-3782) and at 9 Stadiou (tel. 210/331-3320; www.zolotas.gr), and LALAoUNIS, 6 Panepistimiou (tel. 210/362-1371; www.lalaounis.com). Both firms have gorgeous reproductions of ancient and Byzantine jewelry, as well as their own designs. You can see more of the LALAoUNIS designs at the LALAoUNIS museum. Also, Kanakis at 17 Makrigianni (tel. 210/922-8297) features a stunning range of ancient Greek motifs in original and contemporary gold designs.
For serious window-shopping for gold and silver, crisscross pedestrian Voukourestiou, which is dripping with jewelry shops. Then head to Kolonaki Square along Patriarchou Ioakim, where still more ornate and serious baubles are on display. Don't miss J. Vourakis at 8 Voukourestiou (tel. 210/322-1600) and Fanourakis at 3 Patriiarchou Ioakeim (tel. 210/234-6624; www.fanourakis.gr).
One of the best shops for silver is Nisiotis, 23 Lekka, just off Syntagma Square (tel. 210/324-4183). Off Syntagma, but toward Plaka, Pantelis Mountis, 27 Apollonos (tel. 210/324-4574), sells reproductions of Byzantine icons and religious medals.
We've been pleased with the quality and prices at Emanuel Masmanidis's small Gold Rose Jewelry shop, 85 Pandrossou (tel. 210/321-5662). Others report satisfaction in dealings with Stathis, 2 Venizelou, Mitropoleos Square (tel. 210/322-4691). For more moderate budgets, you might want to check out Archipelagos at 142 Adrianou in Plaka (tel. 210/323-1321) for unique pieces in silver and gold; Apriati near Syntagma Square at 9 Pendelis (tel. 210/322-9020; www.apriati.com) has great designs from local artists and a second store in Kolonaki at 29 Pindarou. Visit Tonia Poulakis' unique studio/store in Kolonaki at 1 Roma and Pindarou (tel. 210/364-8140; www.toniapoulaki.com) for some excellent and unique pieces. Also in Kolonaki, Petai Petai, 30 Skoufa (tel. 210/362-4315), has loads of beautiful designs from local designers. Acclaimed jewelry designer Paul Sarz, 4 Mavrokordatou (tel. 210/381-4144; www.paulsarz.com), has beautiful vintage-inspired pieces. And be sure to check Elena Votsi at 7 Xanthou in Kolonaki (tel. 210/360-0936; www.elenavotsi.com). Elena was the designer of the 2004 Olympic Games medals and is renowned worldwide for her striking designs using semiprecious stones.
Markets & Groceries
The Central Market on Athinas is open Monday through Saturday from about 8am to 6pm. You may not want to take advantage of all the bargain prices (two sheep's heads for the price of one is our all-time favorite), but this is a great place to buy Greek spices, herbs, cheeses, and sweets—and to see how Athens is fed.
Every Friday from about 8am until 2pm, Xenokratous in Kolonaki turns into a street market selling flowers, fruits, and vegetables. This is a very different scene from the rowdy turmoil of the Central Market, although it's lively enough. Kolonaki matrons come here with their Filipino servants, who lug their purchases home while the ladies head off for shopping and light lunches (perhaps at fashionable To Kafenio, tel. 210/324-6916). Every neighborhood has a weekly market; if you want to take in a number of them, ask at your hotel for details. Green Farm (tel. 210/361-4001), also in Kolonaki, sells only organic produce.
In Plaka, Mesogeia, 52 Nikkis (tel. 210/322-9146), with organic produce, is one of a number of small "boutique" groceries springing up in Athens.
If you walk along Tsakalof or Patriarchou Ioakim in Kolonaki, or along almost any street in central Athens, you'll get an idea of how serious Greeks are about their footwear. Sometimes the biggest crowds in town on a Saturday night are the window-shoppers eyeing the shoes on Ermou off Syntagma Square. One good-quality store is Kalogirou, 4 Patriarchou Ioakim, Kolonaki (tel. 210/335-6401), housed in an elegant 19th-century mansion with four floors of shoes for women for all occasions (plus bags and accessories on the first floor) and a separate entrance for the men's store. Other good choices include Mouriadis, 4 Stadiou (tel. 210/322-1229); Moschoutis, 12 Voulis at Ermou (tel. 210/324-6504), Spiliopoulos at 63 Ermou (tel. 210/322-7590), Prasini, 7-9 Tsakalof (tel. 210/364-1590), and Vassilis Zoulias Old Athens, 30 Akadimias (tel. 210/722-5613), a haven for all serious shoe lovers.
Cellier, 1 Kriezotou (tel. 210/361-0040), near Syntagma, has an excellent collection of some of Greece's best wines and liqueurs, with an enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff. The same can be said for Fine Wine in Plaka at 3 Lysikratous (tel. 210/323-0350).
You'll have no problem satisfying your sweet tooth in Athens. If anything, you'll come up gasping for air as you eat the seriously sweet sweets adored by most Greeks.
The long-established Aristokratikon, 9 Karayioryi Servias, just off Syntagma Square (tel. 210/322-0546; www.aristokratikon.com), makes excellent chocolates, glazed pistachio nuts, and loukoumia (Turkish delight). Beware—even chocoholics may find the truffles coated with white chocolate too sweet. That said, Chocolate 56, 56 Ermou tel. 210/322-9919), serves some of the finest chocolate drinks in the city. Karavan, the hole-in-the-wall at 11 Voukourestiou (no phone), has the best Levantine delights in town. Serving excellent coffee and sweets, K. Kotsolis Pastry Shop, 112 Adrianou, is an oasis of old-fashioned charm in the midst of the Plaka. Sermpetia of Psiri, 3 Aishilou (tel. 210/324-5862), has some of the best desserts in the city, period.
Loukoumades are Greek doughnuts with a difference—each is about the size of an American doughnut hole, drenched in honey, covered with cinnamon, and served hot. Delicious! If you're near Syntagma Square, try Doris, 30 Praxitelous (tel. 210/323-2671). If you're nearer Omonia Square, try Aigaion, 46 Panepistimiou (tel. 210/381-4621). Better yet, try both.
Looking for the best gelato in town? Venture into Psirri at Gelatomania, 21 Taki and Aisopou (tel. 210/323-0001), for authentic homemade Italian ice cream and Makrigianni at Gelatopoli (Gelato City), 10 Makrigianni (tel. 210/321-7879). For excellent frozen yogurt, try next door's Fresko Yogurt Bar, 3 Makrigianni (tel. 210/923-3760; www.freskoyogurtbar.gr).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.