Head to these concept stores and design shops for some serious interior inspiration, from locally-made ceramics and jewellery to posters and postcards.
By Katherine Whittaker
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There are lots of great souvenir options in Athens, especially for those looking to bring home some locally made crafts, accessories and collectibles. These Greek design shops are all within walking distance of each other, so pop on your walking shoes and set aside a day for a shopping spree.
If you want it, Flaneur almost certainly has it in stock. Yes, there are souvenirs, as the name implies, although they’re not your run-of-the-mill keychains and t-shirts; instead, pick up a map of Athens that you can colour in yourself and hand-pressed postcards. If you’re looking for something to spruce up your home, you’ll find everything from the practical (reusable sandwich wraps) to the pretty (prints from local artists that will definitely look great hanging on your wall). My favourite right now? The Lila Ruby King Greek cheeses poster—perfect for lactose lovers everywhere.
While you’re wandering through Plaka, don’t forget to pass by Forget Me Not. It’s a refreshing break from most of the cookie-cutter souvenir stores in the area. It’s chock-full of unusual gift items and handmade objects that you won’t find anywhere else, like Aeolis natural cosmetics made with organic olive oil and wooden spice containers that sit on their sides. They also stock Ancient Greek Sandals; if you head downstairs you’ll find a whole room full of Greek fashion designers.
If you’re in the market for some quirky items for your home, head straight to A Future Perfect. It stocks a lovely range of fish-themed dinnerware (my favourite is this porcelain tray featuring octopus drying). Other interesting gems include a blue glass parrot pitcher, collapsible paper vases, and a whole range of patterned pouches and purses that will take you from the beach to dinner. For the organise-obsessed, try some of the desktop pencil holders and card stands.
While you’re in Koukaki, swing by Trabala Studio. It’s a little trove of one-of-a-kind kitchenware and ornaments, all hand-crafted on site by the lovely Jenny. Best-sellers are the mugs with wide handles and large bowls in cheerful two-tone colours or polka-dot prints, and the cute ceramic cats and birds. Then check out the planters, perfect for succulents or hanging plants, and trays affixed with rope handles.
It’s hard not to love everything in the Benaki Museum. If you find a piece you really can’t live without, it may be possible to take a replica home from the museum’s shop. Located right in the main building on Koumpari Street, you’ll find a series of clay female figurines, doves replicated in both silver and gold, and the head of Athena—missing nose and all. For an even more comprehensive shopping experience, spend some time at the Ghika Gallery just down the street. It stocks pieces from both museums, including lots of beautiful art books and wooden trays in abstract patterns. The gallery itself is only open Friday through Sunday, but the gift shop is open all week. And if you still haven’t had enough of the Benaki Museum offerings, you can take a look at the shop at Pireos 138. Here, you’ll find gorgeous crafts and a great selection of art books and kids toys and games.
Take it from someone who recently had to furnish an entire apartment: this place will clear out your wallet, but your apartment will look very stylish as a result. It has everything you didn’t know you need until you see it—from geometric plant hangers and marble trays to 3D paper animal heads and crocodile candle holders. Founders George Karras and Angela Koutroulaki have laid this well-lit space out in a minimal yet homey way, so you’re bound to want to spend as much time as possible checking out every candle and plate.
"It’s a small shop in Kolonaki that you could walk right past if you aren’t really looking in the windows—but if you are, the explosion of patterns and hues will pull you right in."
Craving some colour other than shades of Mediterranean blue? Queen Calliope is just what you need. It’s a small shop in Kolonaki that you could walk right past if you aren’t really looking in the windows—but if you are, the explosion of patterns and hues will pull you right in. Calliope Karvounis, the shop’s namesake, is a fashion photographer who has worked around the world. Her shop is definitely inspired by her travels: one of my favourite items here is the Indian-style strand of stuffed elephants that hangs from the ceiling. You’ll also find flowing caftans, fringed pillows and jewellery, all bright and elaborate, if a bit on the pricey side—but these investment pieces won’t go out of style.
Before I went to Sophia the first time, I had no desire to put up any shelves in my apartment. But when I saw the number of shelf-worthy things in this beautiful little store, my mind was immediately and irrevocably changed. All of a sudden, I needed busts of Venus and Apollo in vibrant colours. I wanted to run out and buy a stack of books so I could place them between the two halves of a horse’s head (they also have bookends in other styles). Besides mini statues in a variety of hues and sizes (making them easier to transport back home), there are plush cushions and Greek-themed dinner plates, mugs and totes. If you have enough suitcase space, you can also haul back halogen lights in the shape of lips or arrows.
This cute Greek design brand has an outlet in Plaka. But if you make it all the way to Athens airport and realise you forgot to buy someone special a gift, don’t fear—before you even go through security, you can stop at Anamnesia. It stocks lots of brightly-coloured clothing and accessories, but you’ll also find great homeware. Creatively-designed tavli (backgammon) sets, mugs, and more are all emblazoned with unique patterns and graphics. Where else can you find an evzone-themed tote, or a notebook covered in spoon sweets? I’ll wait.
If you’re going to spend a day checking out Koukaki, you absolutely shouldn’t miss this corner shop—an essential stop for aesthetes and design aficionados. Many of the ceramics are imported from Paros and Sifnos island, from plates and bowls to elegant pitchers—I’ve stocked up on the chunky mugs decked out in blue patterns, and you can be sure I’ll be back for more. They also carry wonderful candles, like Capri Blue, and locally-made soaps and jewellery.
Design-lovers should not skip this shop. It appears small when you first walk in, but it continues as a long corridor up the stairs in the back. It’s where the beautiful Cycladic figurine replicas are hiding. You’ll also find candles in matte white containers that will perfectly match the marble items you can buy in the shop. There are also beautiful gold and silver plates and a vase that appears to drip off the shelf, my personal favourite. You can access the gift shop through the side entrance of the museum, on Neofitou Douka Street, without paying the entrance fee. It sits right in front of the gorgeous Cycladic Museum Cafe, so you can sit with a coffee in this well-lit space after you make your purchase.
This little store in Koukaki is special. Val, the artist who runs the store, makes everything you’ll find there. The delicate ceramics, the canvas paintings, framed watercolours, photos—really, I mean everything. And she does it all right here in her studio-shop. You may not notice it at first, but towards the back there are two kilns, and while I was in the store I spotted a couple of trays with pieces drying. You can see her working on the entire process right there, and this makes whatever you buy feel even more special. It’s also a pleasure to talk to Val, who worked in various industries before finally pursuing her passion.