Once nicknamed Little Paris, Koukaki is the neighbourhood I was lucky to call home for my recent visit to Athens. Little did I know that its ode to Paris for me would uncover 70s Saint Laurent and 80s Celine. Once an industrial district named after the founder of an iron bed factory established in the area at the turn of the 20th century, today, Koukaki’s new wave makes it the place to be. The architecture gives clues about the neighbourhood’s history, from old neoclassical houses to interwar buildings with art deco iron gates and midcentury apartment blocks.
Family ties brought me to this part of the city as we stayed with my husband’s cousin, but even without experiencing it with a local, Koukaki balances bustling real life with the most charming places to eat, discover and shop vintage.
The wonderful thing about shopping vintage and antiques in Athens is that you don’t have to venture far from the must-sees, so no dragging whomever you travel with off the beaten path to find that secondhand souvenir. You also feel safe if you are shopping alone like I did. These were my favourite vintage ventures.
Koukaki neighbourhood – Veikou 9, Athina 117 42, Greece
Mo Vintage had an intimacy that made me feel like I was exploring the wardrobe of a woman I would like to be. Mo used to work for a fashion house before putting years of collecting and true passion into opening his shop. I could have easily been in Paris here with authentic Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler and museum pieces dating from the 70s to the 90s. The fact that I was not in Paris but in Athens made it delightfully unexpected with Mo’s individuality and taste for designers from across Europe’s fashion capitals. I left with red Yves Saint Laurent trousers and an Ozbek jacket below.
Koukaki neighbourhood – Dimitrakopoulou 86, Athina 117 41, Greece
I forgot how much I loved Nelly Furtado as I was greeted with her song “All Good Things (Come to an End)” upon arrival at ArchiveStudio/22. They used to say you can’t wear trends if you wore them the first time around, and then broader awareness about sustainability, shopping in one’s own wardrobe, and shopping vintage became popular. So all good things (depending on your feelings about 00s fashion) need not come to an end. At ArchiveStudio/22, you will see a small but perfectly selected handbag and accessory collection to compliment vintage designer and pre-loved clothing.
Koukaki neighbourhood – Dimitrakopoulou 68, Athina 117 41, Greece
Pull up an eclectic vintage chair at Zacharoúcho if you like coffee and secondhand clothes with friendly price tags that mean you don’t have to question the joy you get from buying your coffee out. This concept store coffee shop has a colourful edit that ranges from midcentury to pre-loved pieces and excels at bright 80s and 90s fashion with both womenswear and menswear to peruse.
Monastiraki Flea Market & the surrounding area
Ignore where Google says you’ll find the Monastiraki Flea Market – Ifestou 2, Athina 105 55, Greece – this is just a touristy stroll better suited for new trainers than old curiosities. You can find the latter not far away. Still, I got lost trying to navigate the maze of streets to particular antique shops, so give your eyes a holiday from your screen and head to Cafe Avissinia – Kinetou 7, Athina 105 55, Greece. The square next to it seems to have a little market most days and surrounding shops stocking antiques and vintage home accessories. If you are into characterful decor, Cafe Avissinia is a worthy stop anyway.
I also found some cute shops with things like vintage textiles and rugs, as well as Greece’s Kilo shop close by on Ermou street en route to the Psirri neighbourhood.
Psirri neighbourhood – Papanikoli 6, Athina 105 54, Greece
I came across Seven Sisters, following my inner guide through the bohemian streets of Psirri, an artistic neighbourhood at the city’s heart. This vintage shop, with beautifully upcycled hats and bags and a clean edit of vintage and pre-loved unisex fashion, had only been open a month, so I was thrilled to discover it. You can see more of the owner Sofia’s designs on her label Mit & Miut’s Instagram.
I bought one of her bags, this Italian cream 60s clutch, and a black and red knitted dress that gave me Gabriela Hearst runway vibes.
Psirri neighbourhood – Karaiskaki 24, Athina 105 54, Greece
Antique paintings, fine lighting, home accessories and a wall of brass door decoration captured my attention in this antique shop on the corner. The owner, Nicholas, kindly navigated my lack of Greek to chat about life in London and Athens. I told Nicholas about my work with reclaimed interiors and how Salvo facilitates the reuse of architectural elements, and he commented that surprisingly few buildings in Athens date to before 1830. Despite the romantic vision of this ancient city, a practice called antiparochi, where old houses were demolished and replaced with blocks of flats to remedy the housing crisis of the 1950s, explains the urban landscape you see today.
Over the years, I have learnt that your wishlist needs to have a little more wriggle room when shopping secondhand or vintage, but it is hard to arrive without some visions of what a city’s vintage might be like. The shops I was excited to visit that specialised in handbags, like Brand Stories and Luxury Toys, were more expensive with more “grown-up” styles. I was expecting to have my mini Y2k designer bag dreams realised in pastel shades ready for adventures on the Greek islands, but instead, I was so in love with the cream clutch I got from Seven Sisters Ath that I wore it most nights. I wasn’t expecting to get great glimpses of 80s Kenzo, learn about Rifat Ozbek’s designs (favoured by Princess Diana) or buy a French brass rose for my wall, but just like Athens, the vintage scene is charming, energetic and full of the best surprises.
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman