Tourist information guide on Athens Greece

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If you want to buy a few gifts for friends and family at home or a souvenir for yourself, Plaka and Monastiraki are the places to be. You will find a lot of shops that sell the same things and you can compare prices but you will find they do not differ much. Don’t forget to bargain on the price.

There are a lot of vases, statues, plates, etc you can buy and you will find that the price of exact copies of the original are more expensive. These always come with a certificate and a seal. There also is a price difference in handmade or factory made pottery.

Apart from a few knickknacks you want to put in your living room to show off to your friends, you may want to consider buying a good photo book on Athens. Ok, you intend taking a lot of photos and that is good, you should, but it always is nice to read up afterwards on the history of the things you have seen and photographed. These books are available all over Plaka in different languages. Some (internet) research before you visit the home town of the cradle of democracy, can't hurt either and we hope the Athens Info Guide is of some help to you. The very best souvenirs one can bring home however, are memories of a very enjoyable stay in Athens.

Komboloi shop
Komboloi (worry beads)

Prayer beads, worry beads or fidget toy; at that moment, komboloi fulfills all three purposes. Wherever you first notice them, they are bound to be strangely compelling. Like most Greek folk art, the history of komboloi is confused. Probably komboloi are derived from the knotted prayer strands (komboskini) used by Greek Orthodox monks. As the word komboloi means "group of knots", this may be the true origin.

KomboloiUntil recently, komboloi were the special province of men and were rarely seen in the hands of women. Melina Mercouri was an exception, often handling a silver strand in public as she fought for recognition of Greece's cultural sovereignty. Modern young Greek men would disdain carrying them. But now, as they transcend cultural tradition and become a fashion accessory, both men and women are carrying them. Beautifully crafted strands are appearing in fine jewelry stores and older strands are becoming prized collector items. Most komboloi are strands of about sixteen to twenty beads with one bead tied and set off, usually adorned with a tassel. They can be strung on leather, string, or fine metal chain.

Prices vary widely. Most souvenir stand strands will cost a few Euro and you will still pay much too much even if you bargain down on the price. Lowest prices will usually be for plastic beads but glass or ceramic beads are much more satisfying to handle and are often the same price as plastic.

Travel delay? Break out the beads. Temperature too hot? Swirl those beads, you might start a breeze. If a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can start a storm in the Atlantic, why not coax a breeze to yourself with komboloi?

Athens Info Guide offers you the rare chance to buy hand-made komboloi, begleri and Greek key-rings that are unique. No two are the same. No mass-production, no misrepresentation of materials used. And, as you buy directly form the source, prices are very low! See our komboloi pages and the wide choice we offer. Top


Byzantine crossThe busiest shopping street of Athens is the pedestrian-only Ermou, off Syntagma Square, where shoppers can pick up the season's latest souvenirs, clothing and accessories. The most up market shopping district in Athens is nearby Kolonaki, where designer boutiques (such as the Italian Versace and the newest Greek talent Eleftheriades) rub shoulders with coffee shops and chic restaurants. This area includes Tsakalof, one of the most expensive streets in the world. Thankfully, Athens has not adopted mall culture and no massive retail emporiums taint the city's shopping scene. The city's best bookshop is the vast seven-story Eleftheroudakis on Panepistimiou street, which stocks an excellent selection of English-language fiction, non-fiction and travel guides.

Attica department storeThere is a long tradition of silver and gold craftsmanship in Athens and jewelry made here can be of a particularly high quality. Jewelers are concentrated in chic Kolonaki, with the expensive international outlets, such as Bulgari, lining Voukourestiou, while up-and-coming Greek designers, such as Elean Votsi, have shops in the surrounding side streets. Byzantino (who created the Official Olympic jewels for Athens 2004) is worthwhile visiting at  120 Adrianou in Plaka. A new big department store called Attica, opened in 2004 at the beginning of Panepistimiou Street. It sells 800 brands in gifts, perfume, cosmetics, men's & women's fashion, jewelry, travel accessories etc. You will also find a café-restaurant on the top floor.

Other good-value items include spirits, ceramics and leather goods. Typical Greek gifts include hand-woven rugs, known as flokati, copper coffee pots, virgin olive oil and honey, all of which can be found in the souvenir shops in Plaka. In Athens, there is a big market in reproductions of museum pieces and religious icons. The best places for visitors to buy these are at the shops in the museums themselves.

Monastiraki flea marketIn the Monastiraki area, on the edge of Plaka, shops sell everything from combat army boots and second-hand books to fake designer sunglasses and ancient coins. Shops open out directly onto the street, bazaar style, while Sundays bring the Locaton map Monastiraki Flea Market, 08:00 to 14:00, where goods range from carefully restored antique furniture to rather dubious bric-a-brac. Kentriki Agora (Central Market) is housed in a huge 19th-century metal structure near Omonia Square Locaton map and is open early morning to early evening, often taking a break for siesta during summer, selling fresh fish, meat and fresh produce. Smaller markets radiate out from the central building. Household items, fresh fruit and vegetables are sold weekly in laiki (people's markets) all over Athens.

Shops generally open Monday and Wednesday 09:00 to 14:30, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 09:00 to 13:30 and 17:30 to 20:30 and Saturday 09:00 to 15:00. Small, family-run shops may stay open as late as 22:00, for the sale of food, drinks and newspapers. Bargains can be snapped up at the sales in August and January. Haggling is standard practice in the tourist areas of Athens and is essential in order to avoid paying extortionate prices.

Visitors from outside the European Union who have been in Greece for less than three months can claim back VAT of up to 18% on purchases over 120 Euro. A tax-free cheque will be issued in the shop to be presented along with the receipt to customs when leaving the county. Global Refund ( can provide more information. Top


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