Special purchases include lace, jewellery, metalwork, pottery, knitwear, rugs, leather goods, local wines and spirits, olive oil and objects made from olive tree wood. Athens is the centre for luxury goods, and local handicrafts and international brand names and high street stores. The Sunday morning flea market in Monastiraki, below the Acropolis, is crowded in high season. Athens’ Central Market, a series of halls lined with colourful stalls plying fresh seafood, meat, fruit and vegetables, is also well worth a look in. Regional specialities include silver from Ioannina; ceramics from Sifnos and Skopelos; embroidery and lace from Crete, the Ionian Islands, Rhodes and Skiros; alabaster from Crete; furs from Kastoria; and flokati rugs from the Epirus region. Other popular buys include olive oil based eco-friendly toiletries (soaps, shampoos, face creams etc), and mastiha products (cosmetics made from mastic resin, produced on the island of Chios).
These vary according to the season, location and type of shop, but a rough guide follows: Mon, Wed, and Sat 0900-1430; Tues, Thurs and Fri 0900-1430 and 1730-2030. Most holiday resort shops stay open until late in the evening. In Athens, several big new shopping malls in the suburbs are open Mon-Fri 1000-2100, Sat 0900-2000.
(a) Visitors should be aware that many ‘antiques’ sold to tourists are fake; information on exporting antiques can be found at www.law-archaeology.gr (b) Non-EU citizens can get a refund on Greek VAT (which stands at 23%) on purchases worth more than €120; the process is fairly complex, but well worth it. Ask store owners and tourist information offices for details.
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