Athens offers an array of great shopping opportunities, not only for typical Greek-style souvenirs, but for haute couture, good art and jewellery. Whatever your budget, you're bound to find something exciting to take home, whether you want mass- produced items or unique hand-finished pieces.

Where to Shop
For undeniably tourist souvenirs, head forthe streets of Plaka and you'll find mass-produced items of all kinds. They are in terspersed with galleries,
T-shirt shops and numerous street hawkers selling fun toys or handmade budget art. Monastiraki is the old bazaar area of the city (the Sunday flea market is a must for collectors of old china, memorabilia and furniture) and the myriad small shops sell all kinds of collectables in addition to good-value street clothing. Kolonaki is the favourite district of Athenians for the boutiques and home furnishings stores that sell the best of European design. Prices match the quality here, but if you don't want to spend, just sit at a streetside cafe and watch the Athens jet-set do a little shopping.
The maze of streets around the Cathedral offers religious souvenirs of all kinds. Incense bummers and icons and tamata are the most portable. Athens Municipal Market just south of Omonia Square offers wonderful fresh food for you to enjoy as you stroll, as well as numerous Greek foodstuffs to take home. The streets of Ermou, Eolou and Stadiou offer large department stores and numerous pan-European names with everything from shoes and clothing to household wares. In many parts of the city prices are flexible, though not in department stores and boutiques,-and haggling is expected at the flea market. In tourist shops, you may get a discount for cash, and prices are lower early and late in the season. Conversely, you may be charged a little extra if you want to pay by credit card.

What to Buy
Copper and brass have been used for many household utensils for centuries and skilled crafts-men still work in small workshops around the city. The newly produced goods have a bright patina that mellows with use, and some of the older pieces are exceptionally beautiful. Antiques stores in Monastiraki have the best choice and these include urns for carrying water, samovars, bowls and tureens. Ornate Ottoman tables on folding wooden bases are compact enough to carry in hand luggage, as are serving ladles and goat bells.

The skills honed at Kerameikos centuries ago are still much in evidence on the streets of Athens. You can buy exquisite hand-thrown and painted copies of ancient pieces for a price, and numerous examples of less expensive factory produced items. Traditional shapes of urns, jugs and cups are decorated with scenes taken from the lives of the ancients or of the Greek gods in their domain on Mount Olympus. Modern ceramic artists also thrive and there are many small galleries showcasing hand-created pieces.

If you want a little piece of ancient Greece, then you'll certainly be able to find it. It will be a reproduction of course, but still you can own your own copy of Zeus, Poseidon or Athena herself. Plaques depicting ancient friezes, or masks to hang on walls are also extremely popular, as are Mycenaean helmets. If classical statuary is too ornate for your taste, you can also find copies of the Mycenaean statues found at the Goulandris Museum. The National Archaeological Museum also offers a wide range of copies of its artefacts and each comes with a certificate of authentication.

Local craftsmen have always worked goat and cow hides and the industry continues today. Footwear, bags and clothing come in a range of styles, from rustic to bohemian.

Carpets and needlepoint
You can fine beautiful carpets, hand-knotted ornate patterns in wool or silk which come with a hefty price tag. Hand-produced Greek flokaki rugs were traditionally used in farmhouses across the Greek world and are made from sheep wool. They are decorated with traditional symbols such as deer, or Mycenaean geometric designs. Needlepoint, crochet and embroidery, once activities undertaken by every Greek woman, are now dying arts, so any hand-crafted pieces will become collectors' items of the future. Machine-produced pieces are readily available in the form of tablecloths, napkins, cushions and handkerchiefs. You can try a traditional embroidered hat complete with long silk tassel, now only worn during folkloric spectacles.

When Schliemann excavated the tombs of the Mycenaean rulers he found their skulls decorated with masks fashioned from pure gold. Since that time, Greece has been famed for the worksmanship of this precious metal. You can still find many high-class jewellery stores in Athens, producing excellent quality items. Athenians still love to adorn themselves as they did in ancient times with gold and precious stones imported from elsewhere. Prices are very competitive, as gold is sold by weight, with a relatively small mark-up for the craftsman's skill. Most popular items are traditional patterns passed down since ancient times. The major museums also sell copies of items displayed, which are quite appropriate souvenirs of your trip. For those whose taste or budget isn't for precious metals and stones, there is a whole range of jewellery available to them, featuring semi-precious stones and street jewellery such as rings, earrings, toe rings and, though they are not strictly jewellery, worry beads. The best feature beads of comelian or amber with silver decoration and silk thread.

Icons and Art
An icon is a religious portrait, usually of a saint or apostle. Icons lie at the heart of Byzantine or Orthodox worship in both the Greek and Russian churches, and they form a focus for prayer -the characteristic gold leaf used in their production symbolised the glory of God. For centuries they were popular souvenirs of the grand European Tour or religious pilgrimage. However, modem production methods, including thin artificial canvas and gaudy synthetic colours, saw them lose favour. In recent years there has been a rebirth in icon painting using traditional methods, both for church renovations and for commercial sale. Natural pigments and egg tempura (egg yolk and vinegar) binding are painstakingly mixed and applied to a canvas bound over wood. The gold leaf is then applied and the whole image is given a patina. Pre-1821 icons will require an export permit. You'll find mass-produced icons in many tourist shops, but for quality pieces visit a specialist store. Icons are a very particular form of art, and if they are not to your taste there is a whole range of art to choose from. Scenes of Athens and the classical sites are extremely popular as mementos.

Wonderful foods from the Greek countryside include honey, olives, olive oil and nuts, such as almonds and hazelnuts. All can be bought in pretty packaging for you to take home. For something a little stronger try ouzo, the aniseed-flavoured aperitif, or Greek brandy, which is slightly sweeter than French Cognac. Metaxa is the most famous brand name.