Athens may be home to age-old monuments and a plethora of museums but it is also a lively city with its fair share of modern art galleries and cultural centres. However, one of the few places where you can learn plenty about Greek culture and food without having to pay an entrance fee is, undeniably, the Athens Central Market.
Built in 1886 to accommodate the many vendors that would sell their products in improvised stalls at the foot of the Sacred Rock, the Athens Central Market, known to locals as Varvakios (or Varvakeios) or Dimotiki Agora, is located on Athinas street, right between Monastiraki and Omonoia squares. Selling fruits, vegetables, fish and meat, this market is a weekly destination for thousands of Athenians, rich and poor, looking to stock up on kitchen staples.
Open every day, except on Sundays, from morning to the late hours, the market is home to historic shops that have been operating for decades, offering the best meat and freshly caught fish and seafood. Visitors can walk along the many stalls and buy fresh produce on the spot, but if the sight of dead flesh or seafood make you faint, we recommend sticking to the fruit and veggie stalls, located on the other side of the main building.
The Central Market is the ideal spot for stocking up on spices, nuts, honey and other local delicacies as it is surrounded by small grocers where you can buy tea, spices, dried fruits, nuts and legumes in bulk.
The market is a particularly interesting place during Christmas and Easter when Athenians peruse the stalls to get ready for holiday celebrations. But another fact that few people know is that several small tavernas in the fish and meat areas, where only the locals go, serve delicious food and often become a post-party spot that locals visit after a night out partying and dancing at the nearby clubs and bars. This is where you can sample the famous patsa soup, made with pork intestines.
An integral part of the Athenian lifestyle, the Central Market is definitely one of the most underrated attractions that you should explore when visiting Athens.