Athens International: a youthful airport with great shops ….
Athens may be the oldest European capital city, but the international airport that serves this ancient metropolis is still very much a youngster. Named after a former Greek prime minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, Athens International turns 10 this year, but despite its tender age is a credit to this much-troubled, Mediterranean country. It is regularly praised for being spacious, clean, well designed with helpful, friendly staff, as well as good transport links into town.Unsurprisingly, Athens International is growing fast, handling over 15m passengers last year. New routes added at the airport include Beijing, Lisbon, Dubrovnik and Edinburgh. Once at the airport, travellers can expect to find a very good range of shops. They strike a nice balance between big international brands and local products. In fact, the retail offer is of a quality that it puts many of Europe’s larger airports to shame.
But before we get on to the shopping, it is time for a quick word on the airport’s layout. There are two terminals. The Main Terminal handles the bulk of international flights and is divided up two areas: Section A, which handles non-Schengen flights, and Section B, which is designated for domestic and Schengen flights.
The second smaller Satellite Building handles a range of flights, which chop and change depending the airport’s needs so it is a case of keeping your eyes peeled on the departures board for your gate number in case of last-minute changes. As for travelling between the two terminals, a new above ground walkway conveniently connects the two buildings.
Hellenic Duty Free Shops, one of the world’s top ten duty-free operators in terms of turnover with over 90 shops across Greece, runs the main duty-free stores at the airport, as well as many of the standalone boutiques and gift shops. The company does a great job: the stores are bright, with modern merchandising and a broad product range.
Better still, the company offers travellers a ‘Best Price Guarantee’, which states that if you find a fragrance, cosmetic or designer fashion or accessory item cheaper in downtown Athens, they will refund the difference twice over. The guarantee doesn’t cover other categories, but hey it’s better than nothing and at least shows Hellenic Duty Free is mindful of the need to be price competitive despite having a captive audience.
Within the main Travel Value & Duty Free stores, which are located in both terminals, the tobacco offer is extensive, featuring all the big international brands, a decent selection of Cuban cigars, as well as local cigarette brands such as George Karelias. Whisky has always been popular in Greece and the range in Hellenic Duty Free is particularly good with single malts as much evidence as cheaper blends. Brandy is another popular local choice (Metaxa is one of the leading brands) and if you are a fan of ouzo, you won’t be disappointed by the offer.Greek wine has a poor international reputation mainly because it is often associated with retsina, the cheap pine-flavoured white wine served up to tourists in tavernas in great quantities all over Greece, and which often tastes no better than paint stripper. Proper Greek wine, however, is often of good quality, but suffers from being made from little known indigenous grape varieties, and having confusing bottle labels.
Hellenic Duty Free offers a good range of Greek wines so why not buy a bottle and make up your own mind as to the quality of what’s inside? As a rough guide, white wines tend to be more consistent than Greek reds, but why not ask the shop staff for their recommendation?
Forget dodgy moussaka and blancmange-pink taramasalata, true Greek cuisine is one of the most underrated and healthiest in Europe. It boasts many delicious dishes and based on top-quality meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. So seek out the airport’s excellent Hellenic Gourmet stores for foodie treats such as Greek honey, surely some of the best in the world, as well as cheeses, olive oils, dried herbs, dried fruit, charcuterie and nuts.
We like the way the airport has created the fashion offer, which has something for everybody and is not solely dominated by upscale designer brands. There are plenty of affordable branded stores such as Swatch, Accessorize, Bijoux Terner, Victoria’s Secrets and Tie Rack, which rub shoulders with high-end fashion names such as Bvlgari, Longchamp, Lacoste, Burberry and Ermengildo Zegna.
If you want to try somewhere with a more local flavour, the Ilias Lalaounis store sells fine Greek jewellery and is connected to the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum in downtown Athens, which houses over 3,000 items of jewellery made in the post-war period. Alternatively, Folli Follie, which is actually owned by Hellenic Duty Free, sells a wide range of youthful, fashion-driven jewellery watches and accessories (www.follifollie.com).
If you are a sucker for quirky natural beauty products, the Mastiha Shop at the airport, is a must-visit. Mastiha is a resin from a tree grown on the Greek island of Chios, which is believed to have therapeutic qualities. Consequently, the store sells a broad selection of Mastiha-based products such as candies, pies, face creams, Mastiha oil, body care products, and even toothpaste. See www.mastihashop.com for more details.
We should also make a mention of the Korres outlet, the Athens-based natural beauty brand, which sells its products all over Europe. The company sells organic-certified skin and hair care products, a make-up line, suncare products and body butters. Check out the full range at www.korres.com.
Last but not least is the recently opened Artpoint Papasotiriou shop, which specialises in top-quality replicas of Greek museum exhibits, as well as books about the country’s amazing classical heritage.
Click below for a handy printable map to find out where all the stores above are located…
Related links:Official Athens International airport shopping website
Hellenic Duty Free Shops