Athens Shopping

Varvakios Agora.


Varvakios agora is a complex of fish, meat and vegetable markets. (”agora” is market in english) It Is one of the oldest and most colorful markets in Greece and certainly the biggest. For more than a hundred years is the most vibrant commercial point in Athens.

In 1860 a few decades after the greek war for independence, the new city plan demanded the demolition of the old municipal market, ( Kato Pazari as it was named by locals ) for archeological excavations. Kato Pazari (Low Bazar in english) it was remained unchanged since the ottoman’s rule. It was full of sheds and flimsy structures. In 1870 the municipal council abandoned the plan because of lack of fundings and pressure from merchants. The Athens municipality council decided to build a modern covered market in italian style. Varvakios agora has nothing to do with the greek benefactor Ioannis Varvakis (1745-1825).  It is an urban myth that he gave money for the construction of the market. He died in 1825 long before the establishment of Varvakios agora in 1878. Neither his daughter gave any money specifically for the market. He was a great greek benefactor. In his testament he donate one million russian rubles for the creation of Varvakios high school and other general public utilities. It was named Varvakios agora because Varvakis was a national hero during the greek war for independence.

Athens Municipality began its construction at a very slow pace in 1878. It was interrupted by fire in August 1884. It was finally completed in 1886. After the earthquake of 1880 during the market’s constructions, it was found below earth, in a pedestal a roman ancient copy of the Athena Parthenos. Athena Parthenos is the statue that was made by Phidias and housed in the Parthenon in Athens. The area has never been excavated properly and is certain to contain ancient treasures.

Varvakios agora also houses small traditional taverns. They are very old with a great history. The most popular dish is the patsas. Patsas is made from pork’s stomach. It is a soup of chopped pieces of meat. It is seasoned with skordostoupi - a mix of vinegar and garlic. It is a great cheap and popular delicacy. It is also used as remedy after heavy drinking.

Varvakios was recently slowly renovated during the period 1979-1996 by the greek ministry of culture in collaboration with Athens municipality. The covered part of it, has around 70 shops. The area of Varvakios agora the last decades is a little bit downgraded. The newly arrived immigrants have changed the face of the surrounded neighborhoods. The majority of employees in all kind of markets are not descendants of native greeks. The shop owners are still but most of the greeks can’t work under difficult working hours. Another important issue is the cleanness. The shop owners do their best, but the daily care of all the markets is a little neglected by the public services. 

Most young adults in Athens prefer the malls and big super markets for their food shopping. The only regular customers are persons above 40 years and the newly arrived immigrants who search for bargains. The market is supported by excellent public transportation. It is close to all lines of metro and nearby there are many bus lines. On the other hand, for those who prefer car or taxi transportation, the place is hell. During working days and hours the historical center of Athens is incredibly congested. Parking is a big issue. Bellow the vegetable market is a big underground parking area. However is expensive, most times full by office employees, and relatively unsafe.

Varvakios agora is traditionally considered as an economic indicator. It offers decent quality at the best price. The prices are relevant to the freshness, especially at the fish market. During public holidays like Christmas, Clean Monday , Easter e.t.c. greeks follow a special diet. Then the market is overcrowded by costumers who bought goods according to each holiday. The crowds are so huge that Varvakios agora operates under special working hours in order to serve everyone.

The typical working hours of Varvakios agora is Monday - Tuesday 07:00 ΑΜ - 03:00 PM and Friday - Saturday 07:00 AM - 06:00 AM. Sunday is closed. The shop owners are obliged to operate inside these hours. However they are not obliged to open or close from the begginig to the end of the official working hours. So the best working hours I suggest for visiting Varvakios agora is from 10:00 AM to 01:00 PM.  This hours all kind of markets are full of goods and the sellers are shouting constantly to lure customers. Nevertheless this hours be aware of pick pockets. The aisle between the shops is narrow and shoppers squeeze each other. If you like a more safe and easey shopping try weekdays from 7 am to 10am and 1 pm to 3 pm and certainly avoid Saturdays at all hours

During big public holidays the market can be opened all day, even on Sunday and the whole night.


View photos from the luxury shopping area.
View photos from the middle budget area photos.
View photos from the low budget shopping area.
Photos from Varvakios Agora.
View photos from Avissinias square.

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