Being in business nonstop since 1886, the Public Market Place of Athens known as Varvakeios – named after one of Greece’s national heroes, gentleman pirate Ioannis Varvakis (1974-1825) – extends along both sides of Athinas street and consists of a fish, vegetable and meat market.
Its thousand colors and flavors literally make up the center of Athenian taste and bring you back to a bygone era, reminiscing of an old tradition, where people from all over the capital were visiting to stock up on the best cuts, meat products, herbs, spices as well as grab a bite in one of the area’s historical taverns.
The market is open every day, except Sunday, from early in the morning till late in the afternoon. It features iconic shops that have been around since the 70s or even earlier, with excellent, pure local meat, cut right in front of you.
Having said that, it wouldn’t be surprising to see meat carcasses hanging up for that reason, while the fish section may require more than just a pair of flip flops due to the amount of water on the floor.
Fruits and vegetables are offered on the other side of the street where you can aim for fresh olives and feta cheese, sun-dried fruits and vegetables and even spices. And in addition to being crowded with shoppers, bear in mind that the market is quite noisy by itself as the sellers shout out to every passer-by and there is a constant chorus of prices being called out.
In the market there is also a terrific place to have lunch where the food is all homemade and delicious.
But the central action is not all that is going on here. Wander the side streets west of the agora to find antiques, jewelry, clothing, and trinkets plus a wide array of cafes and restaurants.
If you need a coffee, pop into Mokka, a fantastic coffee house serving everything from single vineyard coffees to Greek traditional coffee. And then, to digest all that you’ve seen, take yourself to the rooftop bar of the A for Athens Hotel and have a drink with a view of Athens from above.
Even for longtime residents of Athens, the Central Market district emerges as a place where they seem to go whenever they need a specific item for the kitchen that would be difficult to find in a supermarket, mall or local hardware store.