Is Shopping in Greece exciting and worth your money? This questions tags along another question -Is Greece cheap for travellers?
Nope! The monasteries tucked inside the rocky mountains and serene sand with turquoise seawater are certainly not easy for a budget traveller. So shopping in Greece makes it even worse. As much as you love shopping, you will hate losing your fortune on a piece souvenir.
On our first-ever international trip, we wanted to bring back home something authentic purely made in Greece. Of course, we have the black sand of Perissa in a tiny bottle free of cost. Other than the usual souvenirs like a fridge magnet, we wanted to have a piece of Greece, made in Greece, without breaking our bank balance.
Here is your complete guide for shopping in Greece for a mid-range budget traveller and a guide to buying genuine “Made in Greece” products.
- Volcanic soil-based bronze and glass statuettes.
- Santorini wine.
- Handpainted wooden crafts.
- Traditional white and blue and ceramicwares
- Turquoise coloured glassware and vases.
- Olive leaf motif accessories.
- Pure Olive oil & Tomato seeds.
- Santorini miniature houses & Painted bags.
- Other souvenirs.
- Things not to buy in Greece.
Bronze plus Glass statuette with Santorini’s Volcanic soil base
While walking from Firostefani to Fira, we came across many art galleries. Curiously we went to a few of them. Every gallery had artefacts made with Santorini’s volcanic soil and glass. Out of all the galleries, the most beautiful artefacts were in – Art of the loom. The gallery is hidden and tucked inside the alley beside the walkway somewhere between Firostefani and Fira. You can see the tower and dome of St. John baptist cathedral behind it
What is the best thing to buy in Greece?
The current building housing the gallery was used for production until the 1960s. Later it was abandoned until the artists owning the gallery restored it in 2010, keeping the Cycladic cave architectural style still alive. The artefacts here are made by various artists. Unfortunately, on the day we went, only a lady was taking care of the shops and guests. I am not sure if she was the artist behind some of the creations there, but she was well informed about the making. She explained many things in detail. So the shopping here went on for two hours.
Greece is full of cats, but this bronze dog with turquoise glass plates on the body and a black volcanic soil base is what we loved most. Thankfully, it was under our budget. She packed it well so that it will be alive and intact until we reached home.
750ML of Atlantis wine from Estate Argyros cost us less than 25 Euros in 2018.
Where to buy – Fira, Santorini or in Estate Ayrgos if you go for their wine tour.
The sundried grapes grown on the volcanic soils of Santorini produces one of the very few sweet wines in the world. Those who dislike red wine due to its astringency flavour are sure to find Santorini wine heavenly. I am no expert in wine, so all I can tell you is this. Out of four or five types of wines from different wineries, I recommend Atlantis from Estate Argyros. Their wine tours are supposedly amazing, but we found them expensive. But if you want to just sip wine, they are cheaper.
Handpainted wooden crafts in Greece
The worst part of any shopping for us is ending up with a “Made in XYZ” product instead of the authentic-made in that particular country. One way to make sure that you are buying “Made in Greece is to look for “PAROUSIES HELLAS” – It means presented by Greeks. OR Look for this sign. It is a group of exhibitors who involve only Greek artists from all over the country.
Hand-painted wooden art pieces/boxes were common in all the three places of Greece where we went. There is something very divine about the wooden crafts that you find in Santorini. These painted wooden crafts come in boxes, wooden plates, and wall hangings ranging from four Euros to a hundred. So we bought a wooden storage box of size 5″x4″, with a depth adequate enough to store our house keys. Every day I leave my house to work, taking the keys from this box reminds me of that lovely walk we took on a sunny afternoon by the cliffside of the blue sea from Imerovigli to Fira.
Traditional white and blue and ceramicwares
The Felis Catus and the Ceramic Patterns – the Elegance combo
I have studied and taught a few topics of ancient Greek architecture.
When you study the Minoan culture, their pottery was orange, red and black similar to their buildings. The Mycenean pottery was beige and brown. It continued similarly during the Hellenic period too. So, where does the white and blue ceramics come from? Eastern Asia? Ottomans? Italian?
I am clueless about how white and blue ceramic ware with patterns similar to Persian entered Greece. I may not be sure of the origin, but trust me, the geometrical and flowing lines are gorgeous. You find many shops selling these ceramic wares at Santorini and Athens flea markets. Since these sell fake products and are essentially a tourist trap, It is buying them in smaller villages like Pyrgos.
Turquoise coloured glassware and vases
Don’t buy these at Oia / Fira. Try art galleries at Fira or Pyrgos
The Solid monochrome or double shaded glasses are a perfect reminder of the Greece sea and Santorini’s dome. The wavy shapes remind you of the winding walkways of Imerovigli. You find these in tourist sunset points like Oia, but don’t buy them there. These are overpriced in places like Oia, and the seller won’t bother to pack them properly with enough padding to save them from airport transit throws. Instead, buy it near the less touristy area like Pyrgos or art galleries near Firostefani.
Olive leaf motif accessories.
I always loved what Greece goddesses/queens wore -the white gowns and leafy tiaras. Well, the Greek artisans know tourists’ weaknesses. At the base of Acropolis, you will find many cart shops selling Olive leaf motif metal Tiara, Neckpieces, earrings and finger rings. While Tiaras are the best thing to buy, they looked funny on me. Plus, I wanted to buy something I can occasionally use at functions and parties. The cheapest of all was the adjustable finger ring with five petals for 4 Euros. Haggling doesn’t work well here. The seller was annoyed when I asked him for a better price.
Pure Olive oil & Tomato seeds
Olive Oil- The best place to buy is Kalambaka.
Northern Greece grows a significant portion of olives in Greece. Many chefs worldwide claim that Greece’s extra virgin olive oil is the best in the world. We explored southern Greece mainly but did find good olive oil at Meteora. We use more coconut oil than anything else. So I can’t talk about what kind of olive oil is better and what are the categories. I used it for the Pasta I made at home; the oil gave an excellent aroma and flavour. You will find a lot of shops in Kalambaka, and it is cheaper there than in Santorini.
The Santorini tomatoes are different from what I have tasted in other parts of the world. These tomatoes taste distinctly sweet, less juicy and drier than the usual ones. I did buy a sachet of tomato seeds from Pyrgos and tried to grow them at my home in India. How can a plant that grows in Volcanic soil grow in the loamy red soil of Chikmagalur? Still, it is worth trying to have a plant in your garden that gives you tomatoes of Santorini if your hometown soil and weather is similar to that of Santorini’s.
Santorini miniature houses & Painted bags
The cutest thing on the islands of Santorini is these miniature houses. A tiny house of 3″ height may cost you around three Euros, the bigger ones of size 8″ height may cost about 15 Euros. At Fira, you find shops selling these on each corner of every street. Most of them are POP, and heavier ones are of stones. If you plan to buy a bigger one, be sure of the luggage limits because a few of these may weigh up to 5kgs! The next cute things are these printed cotton bags with Santorini houses. They aren’t fit for heavy-duty, but this bag I bought is still in the same condition as it was on the first day, even after using it almost daily as my lunch bag!
What is Greece’s top-selling souvenir?
The pictures/paintings of Santorini villages are there on all possible things! From bags to Spatula, Liquor shot cups to tea mugs, you can take home these cheaper souvenirs everywhere. But, of course, not to forget – the fridge magnets of pebbles with Meteora monastery are the cheap and best souvenir.
Things not to buy in Greece
White cotton Stolas or Tunics
All of us love watching the Olympic Lighting Ceremony on TV, right. What I love more is the beige or grey wrinkled dresses that the girls wear. I really wanted to buy one for myself. What I found in Athens malls was super expensive and What I found on the streets of Fira was cheap – both in Price and quality. Most of these dresses had tags of “Made in Bangladesh or India” Unless you are ready to shell more money on a good quality dress, don’t buy these attractive white dresses which are of filthy quality.
Useless sex toys and other sex souvenirs
The penis-shaped bottle opener and some sex toys appear in the market of Fira now and then! I am not saying sex toys aren’t Greek, but these things in the Santorini market are “odd men out” plus expensive. When I checked why they randomly sell these things, I realised that Greece is nowhere in the top 10 sex toy manufacturing country! So this is just another tourist trap. Anyday, Amsterdam is a better place for these kinds of things.
Not so precious, but pricey gemstones
Greece is not in the top 10 countries producing precious gemstones. What you see as precious gemstones are mostly imported, and only a few are mined in Greece. So the prices will be higher when you compare it with the countries like Sri Lanka or Brazil. The gemstone jewellery will attract you, but they are overpriced, and I am not sure of their purity.
What are your thoughts on Shopping in Greece? Let us know in the comment section below.