Time was when souvenir shopping in Athens meant wall-to-wall Parthenon fridge magnets and novelty ouzo bottles shaped like Zeus. Sure, you’ll still find plenty of those in Plaka. But if you’re seeking a more authentic and heart-felt reminder of your time in the Greek capital, look no further than this check-list of great souvenir and gift ideas that convey the true flavour and essence of Athens.
Herbs & Spices
If you’re looking for an edible souvenir that won’t take up too much room in your luggage, we’d suggest some of the many spices ubiquitous in Greek cooking. Try some oregano, mint, sage, or even Greek mountain tea. You can buy loose spices and herbs in and around the Athens Central Market. If you wanted foraged herbs with a story, head to Daphnis and Chloe for oregano from the island of Amorgos, or sage from Crete. And if you can’t stop at just one, you can buy an entire Mediterranean “basics” set. Your cooking will never be the same. (Visit by appointment.)
Leather sandals that can withstand anything are the perfect way to remember days wandering through Athens. Head to Monastiraki to find budget options that are still made for walking. Many styles are unisex, and prices vary according to size (but expect to spend €30 max). If you’re looking for something more expensive but still 100% Greek, look for Kyma sandals, a made-in-Greece brand with signature blue soles. We’re eyeing the Antiparos sandal, a classic style that comes in lots of colours. While they don’t have a store devoted solely (ha) to their shoes, you can find them in a few shops including Silyra in Plateia Amerikis and True Story, close to Akropoli metro station.
Worry Beads and Backgammon Sets
Need a souvenir for a game lover? Pick up your own tavli, or backgammon set. A mainstay of Greek cafe culture, this game dates back to 2000 BC. You may have seen the popular image of Achilles and Ajax playing dice in Troy. Head to Ekavi, where the boards are still handmade.
Chances are you’ve seen Greek men carrying komboloi, or worry beads. They’re usually twirled around the fingers of one hand, making a distinctive clacking sound as the beads knock against each other. They once had a religious connotation, but these days, using them is more secular. If you’re the kind of person who can’t sit still, they’re the perfect Greek souvenir. You can find worry beads in a variety of colours and materials throughout the city; Kombologadiko, in Kolonaki, has a fantastic range.
Olive oil requires space in your checked luggage if you’re flying, but it’s a souvenir that will bring you a taste of Greece, no matter how you use it. For a good variety of olive oils, head to Pantopolion in Koukaki. You’ll find bottles of olive oil from across Greece, from Lesbos to Crete. Stock up on honey, dried goods, and cheese too, if you have the suitcase space. They’ll wrap everything in bubble wrap if you ask them.
Need to find a bunch of small things for a bunch of people, because all your siblings will complain if you don’t bring them back something that says Athens? Flâneur Souvenirs & Supplies is your one-stop shop for assorted gifts. Buy limited edition vintage postcards, Parthenon-printed tote bags, Athens mugs that will in no way resemble the ones you find at Starbucks, and plenty of cute t-shirts for men and women.
If you’re looking for a wearable souvenir from Athens, and a t-shirt from one of the city’s local football teams won’t cut it, you can scout for something a little more upmarket at Parthenis, a great place for beautiful basics, or Zeus+Dione, a high-end brand with a minimalistic aesthetic. For a more laid-back vibe, there’s 90’s athleisure brand Sneakaces in Halandri, and the surfer-inspired Mohxa—just two of the emerging Athens fashion brands we love.
The Monastiraki flea market is a great place to trawl for antiques. It may take a discerning eye to decide what’s worth keeping and what is junk, but if you have patience and time, you can find chandeliers, vintage prints, and perfectly-intact akrokeramo, the ornamental ceramic pediments that you still might find on Athenian rooftops today. There’s a great antiques market in Piraeus on Sunday mornings, too.
Korres is one of the most recognizable Greek beauty brands. Their products focus on Greek ingredients ranging from pomegranates to yoghurt. While you’ll spot them in various department stores in Athens (and even the airport, if you’re a procrastinator), head to their flagship store on Ermou street to shop their full beauty line. Apivita, whose natural cosmetics are derived mainly from bee products is another great Greek beauty brand. Their stand-alone store on Solonos Street also contains a spa and a juice bar. If you want something a little more unique, head to Dimitra Goula’s shop. She strongly believes that the best cosmetics are made from nature, and she carries organic beauty products that cover everything from eye creams to after shave.
If you’re looking to bring some jewellery back home from your trip, Athens has so many options. You can find just about anything around Plaka, particularly rings or bracelets featuring the Greek triple spiral symbol. But Athens is also home to many amazing jewellery brands. Try Prigipo for inexpensive trinkets, from delicate geometric earrings to understated evil eye necklaces. For pieces made by local artists, head to Neon Raum, a second-floor shop that not only carries work by Cat Black Jewelry but also locally produced magazines, vintage clothing, swimwear, and more. We’d also recommend checking out Noilence: the brand has a bold, distinctive look that is sure to wow everyone back home.