Venture outside the tourist box to see how Athens’ ever-changing present syncs with its age-old past! The book ‘111 Places in Athens You Shouldn’t Miss’ was written to offer you exactly that.
This is just one of 10 unmissable places that even locals often miss, offered exclusively for IN+SIGHTS GREECE readers by the guide’s publishers EMONS.
From halfway down Apollonos Street you’ll start noticing a whole series of very different kinds of shops, their windows decorated with glittering religious bric-à-brac and paraphernalia. Look inside and observe jewel-encrusted crosses, hand-painted icons, and churchy candelabras. Prepare yourself to see around 20 such shops ahead; on both sides of the street, you can feast your eyes on a vast array of ecclesiastical accessories and elaborately hand-crafted cloths for liturgical garments.
Reflecting the massive influence of the Greek Orthodox Church in a country where religion is a core element of national identity, the shops stream all the way to Agia Filothei Street, right behind the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens. Some are modern and polished, while others belong to a long-gone era. The first such shop to open in 1926 belongs to renowned iconographer Konstantinos Zouvelos, whose work can be seen in churches around Greece as well as New York, San Francisco and Vancouver. With his wife and son, they create religious artefacts of all varieties; among their one-of-a-kind pieces are an elaborate, stone-encrusted silver brooch shaped like the Star of Bethlehem with an engraving of the Virgin Mary on mammoth tusk at its centre.
A little further down look out for Tasi, opened in 1986, which is jam-packed with hand-painted icons, incense burners and good luck charms featuring saints. See the many tamata, small metal plaques, each depicting an ailing part of the body and used as a votive offering, usually placed on a miraculous icon in a church. Also rewarding is a visit to Hilton, which centres its trade on handmade mate- rials for every echelon of the clergy, selling everything from basic €100 plain black cotton robes to intricately designed, hand-sewn cloths in bold threads like silver or gold on velvet, satin and silk, worth up to €500 per metre.
Address: Apollonos Street, Syntagma, Athens 10556
Getting there: Metro to Syntagma (M 2 & M 3)
Hours: Regular shop hours Mon, Wed & Sat 9am – 5.30pm, Tue, Thu & Fri 9am – 7.30pm.
Tip: Light a candle in the Athens Cathedral and see the relics of the city’s Patron Saint Agia Filothei, encased in a golden, bejewelled box.
111 Places in Athens That You Shouldn’t Miss can be found at all major bookstores worldwide as well as online at Amazon.