Monastiraki Flea Market

Athens

Mike Gerrard of Greece Travel Secrets visits the Monastiraki Flea Market in Athens, followed by Sunday lunch at Sigalas on Monastiraki Square.

The Monastiraki Flea Market in Athens, GreeceThe Monastiraki Flea Market

Monastiraki gets its name from the monastery that used to stand on this square in central Athens. Anything less monastic these days it would be hard to imagine, especially on a Sunday morning when crowds flock to the weekly flea market that starts here and flows through the streets around. Monks would perhaps avert their gaze from the stalls selling second-hand copies of Playboy and Penthouse and browse instead at the one right next door which has beads, Bibles and candles. The sacred and the profane are neighbours in these Athenian streets.

The Monastiraki Flea Market in Athens, GreeceMonastiraki

No doubt they were in ancient times too. Across the railroad tracks is the site of the market-place of ancient Athens, the Agora, a market since the 6th century BC. The foundations of the shops are still there, making it easy to picture the scene, then as now – people sniffing round for a bargain, checking the quality of the fruit and vegetables, or just mooching about.

The Monastiraki Flea Market in Athens, GreeceMonastiraki Flea Market

No-one then would have found what caught my eye on one visit: a large inflatable aubergine, the use for which beggared the imagination. Perhaps it was to decorate a restaurant. Along here you could fully equip any eating place, with chairs and tables, hat stands and mirrors half-blocking the road in a way not many cities would tolerate. But Athens has never lost its human touch.

The Monastiraki Flea Market in Athens, GreeceThe Monastiraki Flea Market

Here are rare first editions, bootleg CDs, a bouzouki maker, fading postcards and typewriters so old they look like they do date back to the 6th century BC and have only just been dug up.

As you head towards the Keramikos Cemetery (this part of Athens was named after Keramos, the patron saint of potters, hence the word ceramics) the roads can get impossibly crowded. Wallets and purses should be well tucked away. Take a diversion into the cemetery, the main burial place of ancient Athens, with tombs dating back to the 12th century BC. It's a peaceful respite from the crowds, with chaffinches dashing and chattering in the olive trees, and terrapins lurking in the grass.

The Sigalas Restaurant on Monastiraki Square in Athens, GreeceSigalas

If the smells from the market food stalls make you hungry, try not to spoil your appetite with a snack but head back to Monastiraki Square and hope you can find a table at Sigalas (full name Bairaktaris Taverna Sigalas). It's not quite as old as the ancient market, and dates back only to the late 19th century (as do some of the waiters, it seems). 

The Sigalas Restaurant on Monastiraki Square in Athens, GreeceSigalas

Life is a cabaret, in Sigalas, with its intriguing mix of local characters and more adventurous tourists. Black and white photos of film stars and politicians gaze down from the wooden walls, and there are all kinds of nooks and crannies, upstairs and down. Don't expect a waiter to greet you at the door and show you to a table. You're on your own. Walk in and hope you can find an empty place somewhere. Menus? Who needs them. Take a look at what's cooking. It won't be gourmet dishes but it will be tasty and generous and easy on the pocket.

Whenever I'm in Athens I eat at Sigalas as often as I can manage it. Turn up twice and you're a regular. More than that and you're one of the family. After one Sunday lunch I was relaxing with a newspaper when one of the waiters began clearing the table next to me. They'd left half a bottle of retsina, which he plonked down in front of me with a wink. A few minutes later he brought a plate of chips to go with it. When I'd finished that lot he gave me a juicy apple for a dessert, and then a cup of coffee. All unordered, and none of them on the bill. 

Suitably sozzled, I tried to imagine that happening in any other European capital city, and couldn't. Only in Athens, where the generous spirit lives on.

Where to Stay in Athens

More Athens pages

  • Athens is a top vacation destination. The Greece Travel Secrets Athens guide has information on hotels, museums, Athens airport and all the best things to do.

    Athens: Travel Information and Advice about Athens, Greece

    Athens is a top vacation destination. The Greece Travel Secrets Athens guide has information on hotels, museums, Athens airport and all the best things to do.

  • Greece Travel Secrets gives its choice of the best hotels in Athens from budget and moderate options through to 5-star luxury choices.

    The Best Hotels in Athens

    Greece Travel Secrets gives its choice of the best hotels in Athens from budget and moderate options through to 5-star luxury choices.

  • This drive around Attica offers visitors high hills, beach resorts, small villages and classical sites like Marathon and the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.

    A Drive around Attica

    This drive around Attica offers visitors high hills, beach resorts, small villages and classical sites like Marathon and the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.

  • If you're wondering where to eat in Athens and Piraeus we have a few suggestions including some favorites around the Acropolis, Omonia Square, and Syntagma.

    Where to Eat in Athens and Piraeus

    If you're wondering where to eat in Athens and Piraeus we have a few suggestions including some favorites around the Acropolis, Omonia Square, and Syntagma.

  • Athens in the rain isn’t something you’re likely to experience but here are suggestions for things to do in the rain in Athens including museums and shopping

    Athens in the Rain

    Athens in the rain isn’t something you’re likely to experience but here are suggestions for things to do in the rain in Athens including museums and shopping

  • This walk around the Kolonaki neighbourhood of Athens starts and ends in Syntagma Square and takes you to several museums, Kolonaki Square and Mount Lykabettos.

    A Walk around Kolonáki

    This walk around the Kolonaki neighbourhood of Athens starts and ends in Syntagma Square and takes you to several museums, Kolonaki Square and Mount Lykabettos.

  • In My Athens on Greece Travel Secrets travel writer Mike Gerrard describes what he loves about Athens including the Acropolis and eating!

    My Athens: a Portrait by Travel Writer Mike Gerrard

    In My Athens on Greece Travel Secrets travel writer Mike Gerrard describes what he loves about Athens including the Acropolis and eating!

  • The best things to do in Athens, Greece, include top archaeological sites like the Acropolis and must-see attractions such as the National Archaeological Museum

    The Best Things to Do in Athens

    The best things to do in Athens, Greece, include top archaeological sites like the Acropolis and must-see attractions such as the National Archaeological Museum

  • Amusing children in Athens is easy as there is lots to do including a children’s museum, planetarium, beaches, and easy excursions to the nearest islands.

    Amusing Children in Athens

    Amusing children in Athens is easy as there is lots to do including a children’s museum, planetarium, beaches, and easy excursions to the nearest islands.

  • Syntagma Square or Constitution Square is the main square in Athens and has a metro station, the Greek Parliament building, hotels, cafes, and a post office.

    Syntagma Square

    Syntagma Square or Constitution Square is the main square in Athens and has a metro station, the Greek Parliament building, hotels, cafes, and a post office.

  • The Changing of the Guard in Athens takes place outside the Parliament building at the top of Syntagma Square and is a must-see for visitors.

    Changing of the Guard in Athens

    The Changing of the Guard in Athens takes place outside the Parliament building at the top of Syntagma Square and is a must-see for visitors.

  • The Athens National Historical Museum is in the former Greek Parliament building and houses an archive of historical artefacts and documents.

    Athens National Historical Museum

    The Athens National Historical Museum is in the former Greek Parliament building and houses an archive of historical artefacts and documents.

  • The Athens War Museum is a fascinating look at Greek history through the lens of warfare from ancient battles to the Greek War of Independence and World War II.

    Athens War Museum

    The Athens War Museum is a fascinating look at Greek history through the lens of warfare from ancient battles to the Greek War of Independence and World War II.

  • The best views in Athens include views from the Acropolis and of the Acropolis from the top of some of the city’s several hills and from hotels and restaurants.

    Best Views in Athens

    The best views in Athens include views from the Acropolis and of the Acropolis from the top of some of the city’s several hills and from hotels and restaurants.

  • If visiting Athens it helps to know when major events and public holidays take place, as some shops and attractions may be closed, but to be there at times like Easter can make for a magical trip.

    Athens Events and Public Holidays

    If visiting Athens it helps to know when major events and public holidays take place, as some shops and attractions may be closed, but to be there at times like Easter can make for a magical trip.

  • Ten Fun Things to Do in Athens include eating in the Central Market, watching the sun set over the Acropolis and seeing one of the world's oldest theatres.

    Ten Fun Things to Do in Athens

    Ten Fun Things to Do in Athens include eating in the Central Market, watching the sun set over the Acropolis and seeing one of the world's oldest theatres.

  • Athens International Airport is east of Athens city centre with its own Metro train station, buses to Athens and Piraeus, taxis and car rental offices.

    Athens International Airport

    Athens International Airport is east of Athens city centre with its own Metro train station, buses to Athens and Piraeus, taxis and car rental offices.

  • The Athens Byzantine and Christian Museum is housed in a beautiful villa with an underground wing and lovely gardens too.

    Athens Byzantine and Christian Museum

    The Athens Byzantine and Christian Museum is housed in a beautiful villa with an underground wing and lovely gardens too.

  • Mount Lykabettos is the highest hill in Athens and provides some of the best views of the city, with a funicular cable car the easiest way to get to the top.

    Mount Lykabettos

    Mount Lykabettos is the highest hill in Athens and provides some of the best views of the city, with a funicular cable car the easiest way to get to the top.

  • The beach resorts of Athens are easily reached from the city and also close are Cape Sounion with the Temple of Poseidon, ancient Marathon and Rafina's port.

    Cape Sounion and the East Coast

    The beach resorts of Athens are easily reached from the city and also close are Cape Sounion with the Temple of Poseidon, ancient Marathon and Rafina's port.

  • The Athens Agora or ancient market is a must-see site and one of the best things to do in Athens with its restored arcade building, the Stoa, and its museum.

    Athens Agora

    The Athens Agora or ancient market is a must-see site and one of the best things to do in Athens with its restored arcade building, the Stoa, and its museum.

  • This beginner's guide to Greek architecture explains how to tell your Ionic from your Doric columns, and what to look for in temples and Byzantine churches.

    Greek Architecture

    This beginner's guide to Greek architecture explains how to tell your Ionic from your Doric columns, and what to look for in temples and Byzantine churches.

  • The Greece Travel Secrets guide to the original Athens Olympic Stadium, built for the 1896 Olympic Games and open to the public for jogging and photography.

    Athens Olympic Stadium

    The Greece Travel Secrets guide to the original Athens Olympic Stadium, built for the 1896 Olympic Games and open to the public for jogging and photography.

  • The Athens Museum of Cycladic Art houses a remarkable collection of Cycladic figurines and other items and is one of the best museums in Athens.

    Athens Museum of Cycladic Art

    The Athens Museum of Cycladic Art houses a remarkable collection of Cycladic figurines and other items and is one of the best museums in Athens.

  • Athens' Benaki Museum is one of the city’s top museums with an outstanding collection, especially of Greek and Egyptian artefacts, in a beautiful mansion.

    Athens’Benaki Museum

    Athens' Benaki Museum is one of the city’s top museums with an outstanding collection, especially of Greek and Egyptian artefacts, in a beautiful mansion.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Latest Posts

  1. Spetses: The Ultimate Autumn Guide

    Timeless hangouts, useful addresses and cool tips for an unforgettable weekend on the Saronic island of Spetses, just two hours by ferry from Athens.

    Read More

  2. Recipe: Soumada, the Drink of Happiness

    Traditionally served at happy occasions, this sweet almond drink scented with orange flower water is easy to make, and a wonderful treat for guests.

    Read More

  3. Samothraki: Another Greece, Forgotten by Time

    With its rugged, untamed beauty and rich history, Samothraki in the northern Aegean doesn't fit into any of the familiar molds.

    Read More

  4. 8 Excellent Athens Restaurants for Sharing Food

    These restaurants in the heart of Athens celebrate the quintessentially Greek tradition of bringing people together to share plate-loads of delicious food.

    Read More

  5. The Best Hotels in Athens

    Greece Travel Secrets gives its choice of the best hotels in Athens from budget and moderate options through to 5-star luxury choices.

    Read More

  6. Athens listed as a Top 10 most beautiful city for the second time

    Greece has not stopped breaking one record after another in recent years - from tourism to important economic indicators that testify to the enormous dynamics that the country has developed in recent…

    Read More

  7. Jet2 Adds New Routes to Greece, Increases Seat Capacity to 1.3 Million

    UK airline and tour operator to Greece Jet2 on Tuesday announced that it was expanding its 2023 program for the country even further with the addition of new routes, increase of seat capacity and seas…

    Read More

  8. Ultra-runners to Set Off for the 40th Spartathlon from the Acropolis on Friday

    Nearly 400 super athletes from across the globe will set off from the foot of the Acropolis in Athens on Friday, September 30, morning to run 246km (153 miles) to the Peloponnesian town of Sparta for…

    Read More

  9. ‘Athens Full of Tourists’ as Greece Extends Tourism Season

    International travelers are still visiting Greece in the shoulder season which validates the Tourism Ministry’s efforts to extend the season and keep visitors coming into the fall and winter, said Tou…

    Read More

  10. A Walk around Kolonáki

    This walk around the Kolonaki neighbourhood of Athens starts and ends in Syntagma Square and takes you to several museums, Kolonaki Square and Mount Lykabettos.

    Read More