If you are in Athens and you don’t know exactly where to go shopping or what to buy as a souvenir of your trip, this little guide will be VERY useful. Do you want to know…
- What are the best local products?
- Which souvenirs represent Greece the most?
- Where can you shop CHEAPEST?
LET’S GET IT!
Looking for something specific?
Top 3 souvenirs to buy in Athens
First of all, dear reader, I warn you that in this article I want to go out of the “usual”… Of course you can, and will, buy the typical souvenirs (postcards, fridge magnets…) that you can find in the tourist markets of every city in the world, but I would like to bring you a more local point of view and (I hope) discover you a series of MUCH more interesting objects.
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If you are an observant person, SURE you have seen them before. If not, take a look from now on as you walk down the street, as it is a very common object used by the Greeks.
At first glance its shape reminds us of a rosary, however nowadays the komboloi has NO religious meaning, it is a mere toy. Formerly it could be used ONLY by men, with the aim of getting rid of stress while spinning it on their fingers.
Nowadays there are even tutorials on the internet where they teach you how to handle it, and I have to admit that there are some very skilled people in this practice. I bought my komboloi during my first weeks here, and I also learned how to “use” it (simply by spinning it).
Why did I do that?
I wanted to really get into the Greek culture, simple as that. I still remember the smile of my former classmates when I showed them my new toy, some of them appreciated it, although there was also no lack of the typical teasing when they saw that I had become all Greek hehe 🙂 Later I’ll tell you about another object I also acquired for the same purpose….
You are going to find many different komboloi designs, however the traditional one is composed of wooden pieces.
I also recommend you to ask the man who sells it to you for a demonstration of how to use it, I’m sure he will be happy to agree. You can buy it both in the downtown stores and in almost any kiosk in the city (and there are many).
Backgammon or Tavli
In other parts of Europe the word “Backgammon” is used to refer to it, although in Greece it is known mainly as “Tavli”.
It is a board game that (almost) all Greeks know how to play and, in fact, everyone worth his salt has mastered. Knowing this, I set myself the goal of beating a Greek on his own turf, never better said….
If you visit any Greek coffee shop, that is, not too touristy; you will surely see at least one Tavli at a table. It is a game for two people consisting of a wooden board, large checkers (like checkers) and two dice.
Saving the differences… it reminds me of Parcheesi, although this one requires a much more complex strategy. In any case, there is NO scene more Greek than watching two elderly gentlemen playing tavli in a coffee shop while having a coffee (Greek too).
Despite losing more times than I won, I can say that I achieved my goal 🙂 And although we will never have the same skill as them, you can always look up the rules on the internet and take a Tavli with you as a souvenir of your trip to Greece.
Ouzo and Mastihka
When you’re shopping in Athens, one thing you’re going to see repeated in a LOT of souvenir stores are a lot of little bottles on the shelves. These will specifically have a capacity of 100 mL, so you can carry them in your hand luggage).
But what kind of alcohol is inside?
Generally it is either Ouzo or Mastika.
The former is a liquor with a rather strong taste and an aniseed-like smell, has a graduation of 40º (variable) and is usually consumed together with fish in Greek taverns. Although, of course, there are also people who drink it much more frequently on any occasion, especially if we are talking about older gentlemen… They have a palate and a stomach that can withstand anything!
A Greek would be angry with me for what I’m about to say, but we are here to tell everything hehe:
Personally I find the taste of this drink VERY similar to the anise we all know, which is not exclusively Greek. I still recommend you try it, as every palate is different.
But let’s go with something much less common:
Mastika is my favorite Greek liqueur, much less known and more exclusive (although fortunately very cheap too). It is produced from the resin of a tree that, it is said, only grows on the island of Chios; in case a bottle has a different origin, it could not have the same name.
It is a much milder and sweeter drink than the previous one, being that it reminds many people of the taste of licorice. Unlike ouzo, this liqueur is not so commonly consumed, which does NOT mean that you cannot try it:
You may get a small sample when you eat at a Greek restaurant, only if it is truly Greek and not a tourist trap of course. This is because mastika aids in digestion, or so the Greeks say, so there are taverns where they will treat you to this shot after your meal.
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Where to go shopping in Athens
The answer is simple:
Whatever you want to buy, both the 3 items I’ve mentioned and anything else you can think of, you’ll find it at the Athens Flea Market (also known as Flea Market).
But! For food or drink shopping, I recommend the central market of Athens, as the prices are much better…. This place is also very close to the location I leave you above, a little further north taking the street named “Athinas”.
Has this article helped you to do some better shopping in Athens? Did you know any of the 3 things I have told you about? Would you add anything else to buy as a souvenir of a trip to Athens?
Let us know in the comments!
Kαλό ταξίδι!!! / Have a nice trip!