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All the capital cities in the world have their star markets. With huge variations in product availability and price tags, which range from exorbitant to affordable, they all share a charm, authenticity and popular spirit that emanate from the tarpaulins, the residents who always gather in the same spot and, of course, the wily pickpockets who do not miss a trick and are always on the lookout for an absent-minded shopper to make their next victim.
In Athens, this place is located in the traditional old quarter of Monastiraki, the heart of the city during the Ottoman occupation and still surrounded by a few mosques from the time of Turkish rule. In Monastiraki, the solemn archaeological remains of the Hadrian's Library and the Roman Agora intermingle with the informal, chaotic and, above all, lively atmosphere of the market.
If you visit during the week, you can take a quiet walk through the numerous different shops, which sometimes set up stalls on the pavement outside. Some antique dealers also come here in the mornings and sell collectibles with various price tags.
However, if you want a genuine Athenian experience, the only time to visit the market is on Sunday morning. Although it extends from Monastiraki Square and passes the Kerameikos cemetery, the nerve centre is on Avissinias Square, which becomes a veritable maze of stalls and is visited by hundreds of visitors every Sunday.
If you are patient and are willing to move through the crowd at a snail's pace and rummage through the piles of objects strewn over the stalls, then this is the place for you. You will be on cloud nine. In amongst the military uniforms and odd items such as a Mickey Mouse dressed in traditional Aegean dress, you will come across reproductions of antique lamps, stuffed birds, obsolete cameras, precious chalices and pornographic movies in Betamax format.
Haggling is not only permitted, but required, as is the case in almost all markets around the world. The tactics used by vendors, the murmurs of the buyers while consulting each other about how much they should pay for an item, the clicks of the cameras and the rattle of the trolleys pushed by shoppers who want to return home loaded are the sounds that fill these streets and squares. Add the sound of accordions and harmonicas from the musicians entertaining the people in the surrounding pavement cafés, and the picture is complete.
If you want to find out more about what makes Athenians tick, visit this market to rummage around and buy some items. Indeed, most of the visitors here are from Athens. Young collectors and demanding old folk, hipsters and conservative married couples, there is something for everyone here.
Ancient Olympic Stadium (Kallimármaro) (43)
Hadrian's Library (28)
Temple of Hephaestus (33)
The Temple of Olympian Zeus (41)
Mikri Mitrópoli - Panagía Gorgoepíkoös (20)
Pnyx (Pnika) (31)
The Acropolis (6)
Theatre Dionysos (14)
Agia Dinami (18)
Central Cemetery (Proto Nekrotafio) (44)
Kolonaki Square (47)
National Gardens (Ethnikos Kipos) (40)
Psiri - The Psiri neighbourhood by night (26)
The Hill of The Muses (Lofos Filopapou) (29)
Agios Dimítrios Loubardiaris (30)
Central Market (Kendriki Agora) (27)
Lykavittos (Lofos Likavitou) (48)
Omonia Square (17)
Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds (22)
Agios Nikólaos Rangavás (3)
Monastiráki Flea Market (25)
Syndagma Square and the Changing of the Guard (39)
Acropolis Museum (11)
Museum of Cycladic Art (37)
Tzistarakis Mosque and Kyriazopoulos Museum of Ceramics (24)