Although Omonia square is officially considered the centre of Athens, the city's people flock to the Syntagma area for enticing shopping, people-watching, exquisite cafes and the wonderful art of watching the day glide by. Syntagma square is one of the largest in the city; its name translates into English as constitution and it is located in front of the Greek parliament, formerly the royal palace. The luxurious, prestigious Hotel Grande Bretagne also overlooks the square, which is a convenient central meeting point and, with upscale neighbourhood Kolonaki within walking distance, a gateway to Athens's luxury enclaves.
The Syntagma area is where heritage and tradition live on in 21st-century Athens. Historical buildings dating from the 1890s onwards have found new life as cafés and independent shops and interesting venues have slowly flooded the area. Nostalgia is apparent all around in the warren of streets and period detail of the buildings. Journey deep into the winding alleyways and hidden gems emerge, making for a lively blend of exciting retail and Athenian history.
One historic shop that has attracted the city's elite and bright young things alike of late is Verikokakis (+30 21 0322 1332). This jewellery store has been in the same spot since 1923 and is renowned for its bohemian, 70s-inspired jewellery. A small gem on the corner of Voulis and Karagiorgi Servias streets, this tiny space is an Aladdin's cave of opulent treasures. Delicate gold charms, bracelets and rings evoke a nostalgic, vintage feel and sit alongside handmade jewellery from local designers. Continuing a Greek tradition, the shop also devotes space to home charms, talismans and trinkets, which are said to harness good luck when hung at the front door.
Take our style tip and visit designer Rita Pateroni (+30 21 0322 7101), who has wooed the Greek capital with her handmade clothing. Romantic, ethereal and elegant, her pieces have recently branched into bridalwear and children's clothing. Lace cocktail dress and formal eveningwear as well as tailored jackets all swing from the rails at Pateroni's elegant emporium. The fashion conscious can also venture further; a stone's throw away Karagiorgi Servias is cobbled, pedestrian Lekka street, a destination for exquisite, handcrafted pieces. Design duo Mi-Ro (+30 21 0331 8079) have set up here to provide bespoke gowns with an emphasis on rich, opulent embroidery, 60s mod-style shifts and a collection of patterned shirts and handmade silk ties for men. Mi-Ro pieces come into their own after dark; this is the place to shop before an evening of glamour.
Just opposite the Mi-Ro boutique, DNA Stars (+30 21 0331 0484) offers a blast of youthful exuberance. This upbeat boutique caters to those in search of international fashion, offering See by Chloé, Hoss Intropia and other young brands alongside covetable Minnetonka shoes and a fantastic selection of handmade hair accessories from Greek designer Appolonia. This is also where Vogue photographer Calliope's exclusive line of directional clothing made its debut.
Exhausted after a day of changing rooms and clothes rails? Relax with a manicure of pedicure at tranquil beauty salon Hair (+30 21 0324 1793), owned by hairdresser Michalis Anousakis, which offers indulgence in an environment of blissful calm. Another option for some down time is Bartessera (+30 21 0322 9805), a café that attracts a clintele of artists and writers. Recline at beautiful, handmade iron tables and watch the world go by through full-height windowns. The Praxitelous arcade, where restaurants and cafés line the elegant promenade, also offers an escape from the whirl of Athens.
When the sun sets, head to the newly opened Gin Joint bar (+30 21 0321 8646), which offers cocktails from classics such as the mint julep to innovative concoctions, with strains of swing and jazz music in the background - a little nugget of 1920s New York in the heart of Athens.