Explore Athens and around
While Pláka and Sýndagma are resolutely geared to tourists and the Athenian well-heeled, Platía Omonías (Omónia Square) and its surroundings represent a much more gritty city. Here the grand avenues imagined by the nineteenth-century planners have been subverted by time and the realities of Athens’ status as a commercial capital. Heading up from Monastiráki, the bazaar area around Odhós Athinás is home to a bustling series of markets and small shops spilling into the streets and offering some of urban Athens’ most compelling sights and a cosmopolitan ethnic mix. It’s also a neighbourhood being increasingly recolonised by the drug addicts and prostitutes who were cleared out in time for the Olympics; a process accelerated by the economic crisis.
Platía Omonías itself – brutal and shadeless – has little to offer in terms of aesthetics but it is the heart of Athens for a good portion of the population: a continuous turmoil of people and cars.Read More
The city’s bazaar area is concentrated on Athinás and Eólou streets. Here the unsophisticated stores still reflect their origins in the Oriental souk system with each street specialized in selling certain goods. Hence the Monastiráki end of Athinás is dedicated to tools; food stores are gathered around the central market in the middle, especially along Evripídhou; there’s glass to the west; paint and brasswork to the east; and clothes in Eólou and Ayíou Márkou. Always raucous and teeming with shoppers, kouloúri (bread-ring) sellers, gypsies and other vendors, the whole area is great free entertainment.
The meat and seafood market
The lively heart of the neighbourhood is the central meat and seafood market, occupying almost an entire block bordered by Athinás, Evripídhou, Eólou and Sofokléous. The building itself is a grand nineteenth-century relic, with fretted iron awnings sheltering forests of carcasses and mounds of hearts, livers and ears – no place for the squeamish. In the middle section of the hall is the fish market, with all manner of bounty from the sea squirming and glistening on the marble slabs.
The fruit and vegetable market
Across Athinás is the colourful fruit and vegetable bazaar, surrounded by streets where grocers pile their stalls high with sacks of pulses, salt cod, barrels of olives and wheels of cheese. A clear sign of Athens’ increasing multi-ethnicity is to be seen in the streets around Evripídhou just west of here, where a growing community from South Asia, predominantly Bengalis, gather around spice-rich minimarkets.
Odhós Eólou: the flower market
Pedestrianized Odhós Eólou is far less frantic than parallel Athinás and benefits from café tables in the street and benches to rest on. Its gentler nature is also reflected by the goods sold here: where Athinás has power tools and raw meat, Eólou offers clothes and the flower market. The latter, gathered around the church of Ayía Iríni at the southern end of the street, has stalls through the week but really comes alive on Sunday morning.
Eólou itself follows the line of an ancient road, and the sight of the Acropolis as you approached Athens in ancient times must have been awe-inspiring. The views remain impressive today, with the Erechtheion’s slender columns and pediment peeking over the edge of the crag at the bottom of the street.