Greece is renowned for its ancient temples, but now there’s a contemporary twist on the theme. Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport has been transformed into the glistening, marbled temple of consumerism that you see here, showcasing the best local and international designers and a host of gourmet delights. Spanning 2,026sq m, the revamped space in the intra-Schengen terminal is home to 13 new stores, including Weekend by Max Mara (making its Greek airport debut); Michael Kors; Emporio Armani; Hugo Boss and Zeus+Dione.
If you haven’t heard of Zeus+Dione, they are well worth checking out. Based in Athens, the brand was founded by a pair of friends, Dimitra Kolotoura and Mareva Grabowski, from the ashes of the Greek financial crisis. They wanted to build a company that championed the products of their country’s artisans, and rescued traditional crafts from the brink of extinction. It worked. To date, Zeus+Dione’s modern, minimalist designs have been featured in the likes of Vogue, Monocle and Wallpaper*. We’d recommend picking up one of their silk blouses woven in northern Greece, which make for a comfortable and lightweight option while travelling.
As for beauty, you can now shop your favourite products from a dizzying array of luxury labels, including Aqua di Parma, Jo Malone, Benefit, Bobbi Brown and Armani Privé. Though if you’d like to keep it local, award-winning skincare brand Korres has also opened up shop. The self-styled “Modern Greek Apothecary” prides itself on using only natural ingredients, and the products’ chic packaging makes any bathroom sink look sophisticated. A great gift idea if you’re after tasteful souvenirs…
What’s heartening – and apparent to any visitor – is the thought that has gone into curating these shops and products. The Greek concept of kerasma, which refers to the gesture of offering guests a tasty treat, is alive and well with cheerful sales assistants giving you the opportunity to enjoy a last taste of Greece before you fly. Of course, if that has you hungering for more, you can always swing by the Terkenlis bakery in the ‘Cava’ area. Featuring a range of freshly baked Greek pastries and treats including tsoureki (a popular Greek Easter sweet bread), cakes, tarts and syrup sweets, the aromas alone will guide you in the right direction.
The emphasis on local hospitality continues into the walk-through duty free shop, where a wine-tasting machine allows travellers to taste any of 16 Greek wines. What’s more, you don’t have to be an oenophile to appreciate what you’re drinking as a wine expert is on-hand to introduce you to the various Greek regions and wineries.
“This is the last stop for visitors to Greece and their last chance to get a taste of Greece,” says Hellenic Duty Free Shops CEO George Velentzas. As such, it will come as little surprise to learn that nearly a third of the products on sale are Greek. Velentzas adds, “We are very happy that during these difficult times we are able to support and assist local societies and local economies.”
So the next time you fly through Athens, be sure to factor in some extra time at Hellenic Duty Free. After all, those 16 wines aren’t going to drink themselves.