Head to these great concept stores for some serious interiors inspiration—from locally-made ceramics and jewellery, to arty prints and postcards too pretty to send.
By Katherine Whittaker
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Athens is on a tear when it comes to concept stores and hip places to score sophisticated souvenirs. Cool haunts are cropping up all over town; from artist-run studio shops to exotic urban oases where you can brunch on handmade furniture. Pick up some locally-made accessories or interior collectibles on your visit and take your Greek holiday back home with you forever. By seeking out these Greek design shops, you‘ll also be exploring some of the city’s most eclectic urban neighbourhoods and streets. So pop on your walking shoes and set aside a day(or two) for a stylish spree.
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.
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.
On your way to Medley, you’ll pass many of Koukaki’s “louder” souvenir shops, where Greek statue replicas and laminated Acropolis postcards rule the storefronts. But as you approach classy Medley, the volume turns right down. Here, on the ground floor of one of the area’s many neoclassical buildings, and right across the Ilias Lalaounis Jewellery Museum, is where three dear friends decided to showcase their love for handmade crafts. Textile artist Marga Michalopoulou, painter Katerina Moraitou-Markianou and ceramist Anthia Destouni sell their own refined creations, as well as those of other Greek or Greek-influenced artisans, with a clear bias for fair trade thinking. “We’re more like a gallery when it comes to our relationships with our artists,” says Marga. Ceramic lovers will find themselves in a pickle choosing from the many well-crafted pieces that range from vases to cups, pots, bowls or pendants (we adored Mirka Drapaniotou’s collection). Be sure to check out Alexandros Maganiotis’ alphabet prints and ask for the story behind Antonis Hadjiioannou’s stamp collection. Thinking bigger? Dimitris Roussetos’ impressive wooden sculptures are calling your name.
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.
This concept store is small, but it has got plenty to check out. Run by a collective of five local artists and designers, it carries beautiful neutral ceramics, jewellery, and cork, leather and canvas bags. But what really stands out here are the prints. Some of them are of specific cities in Greece, which you can buy as a print or a sort of pop-up book. Others are bigger abstract prints in bright colours.
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.
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 classy purveyor of affordable lifestyle wares, that you didn’t know you couldn’t exist without, already had a loyal on-line following. Imagine the excitement when its founder recently opened a physical store in Pangrati; then sweetened the deal by throwing in great coffee, decadent desserts, aperitifs and healthy bites (such as energy bowls and soba noodle salads). Head down to browse the covetable range of gifts and interior design accessories and soak up the cool Pangrati vibe. Plegma’s best sellers are gorgeous stoneware mugs and clay vases shaped like ancient throwbacks, and Hellenic-inspired jewellery pieces that make easy to pack souvenirs (snap up an amphitheatre motif necklace or golden beehive cuff earrings).
Happiness is in the small details at this light-flooded urban jungle in Psirri that proffers indoor house plants, uber-chic design objects—and a damn good cup of organic coffee. Everything you see is up for grabs. From the sculptural cactus plants and artful see-through watering cans; to the Nordic lamps and Scandi sofas. There are also tempting edibles (think frittata with goat’s cheese, caramelized onion and herbs) that you can savour in a tranquil leafy courtyard. Minu Living Store is intentionally hard to nail down: it’s part café; part lounge room; part boutique—and a hundred percent heaven.
"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.