Vintage Athens

Unique garments, rare objects, quirky gift ideas and retro-loving hangouts can all be found in a city that enjoys travelling back in time.


When it comes to vintage culture, Athens can by no means compete with cities like Paris or Berlin. Still, judging by the successful first attempts of loyal collectors who began a vintage trend by displaying their own personal treasures, one could say that the Greek capital is finally finding its place in the vintage landscape by catering to the aesthetic needs of a mixed crowd of hipsters, nostalgic lovers of the past, indie young girls in love with everything cute and old-timey, eccentric fetishists and others. Here is a selection of some of the most famous vintage hot spots for shopping or hanging out.

GALAXY BAR

Across from Galaxy Bar on Stadiou street in central Athens stands a statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis, a Greek general and preeminent leader of the Greek War of Independence, on horseback, his right arm raised, presumably showing the way to battle. Galaxy regulars, however, like to say that he’s actually pointing to the bar.

Since opening in 1972, Galaxy has become a hangout for journalists, artists, politicians and other personalities, who, over the years, have spent days and nights here, drinking, writing and philosophizing. Snapshots of regulars and famous figures, press clippings about the bar and vintage advertisements complement the American-style décor, offering a legendary dimension.Behind the bar, Jimmy, the spot’s well-known bartender who is always neatly dressed, polite and completely unpretentious, serves his loyal customers who tend to stick to classic drinks – whiskey, dry martini, margarita or Manhattan, like the one Cary Grant drank in the 1950s.

Celebrated Greek composer Manos Hatzidakis regularly enjoyed having his midday coffee here with renowned local poet and lyricist Nikos Gatsos, while foreign ambassadors and numerous airline company managers have also figured among the bar’s clientele. “It was these cosmopolitan people who are responsible for the name,” remarked Jimmy, explaining it is a well-intended nickname for locals named Dimitris. The sound of Salvatore Adamo singing the famous “Inch’Allah” (God Willing) intervened, prompting a question about the bar’s music selections, offered by Kostas, Jimmy’s nephew, in the evenings. “The place is not suitable for dancing and singing. The decibel levels are kept low and the choices are classic – Johnny Cash, Tom Jones, Nat King Cole and so on,” Jimmy noted. This overall approach, it seems, is appreciated by regulars who prefer to experience the music as a backdrop to their endless discussions.

INFO

Galaxy Bar
10 Stadiou (within the arcade)
 Tel. (+30) 210.322.7733 • Closed on Sundays.

INFO

Ginger Ale
 74 Themistokleous, Exarchia • Tel. (+30) 210.330.1246

GINGER ALE

If you’ve been shopping all day in downtown Athens and your feet can’t support you any longer, let them lead you a little bit further to Exarchia and to Ginger Ale, the most vintage café/bar in town, for a refreshing, old-fashioned ginger ale. When Mellie Economou and her husband opened the bar in 2006, she wanted her customers to feel like guests in her home so she created a space that would offer domestic-like comfort and familiarity. She chose 1950s and 60s furniture for its timeless aesthetic and design and, for the décor, opted for objects typical for a grandmother’s home. Originally an artists’ hangout, Ginger Ale is now a second home to people of all ages and backgrounds, who keep returning to socialize with friends or settle at a spot where they can sit quietly with their laptop or a book. Ginger Ale hosts rock ‘n’ roll and swing parties, live performances, exhibitions and, occasionally, bazaars. Visit the spot’s Facebook page for upcoming events.

DISCOTHEQUE BOOM BOOM

– Hi, I would like to make a table reservation. – Are you sure? That is the typical repartee customers can expect from Soulis, owner of the most historic discotheque in Athens and sole master of the decks, who enjoys livening up clubbers with his humor and dedicating songs through the sound system’s connected mic. Boom Boom is somewhat of a shrine for individuals who feel nostalgic for the glitzy disco-era past, its stylistic excess and ostentatious nature. All lights at this club, an ode to kitsch ways with a dense arrangement of darkly lit small tables and leopard-skin covered chairs, point toward the dance floor. Songs by the likes of Abba, Boney M, as well as 1980s Greek hits, spur customers to get up and dance. Boom Boom is equipped with everything needed to make a discotheque unrivalled – a spacious dance floor with light show and colors, as well as a patchwork of people of all styles.

INFO

Discotheque Boom Boom
• Thisseos & Posidonos, Kallithea • Tel. (+30) 693.221.0458 • Open only on Fridays and Saturdays after 23:00
• Admission €10 with drink • Free parking.

INFO

Retrosexual 
3 Agias Irinis • Tel. (+30) 210.5451.553 • Mon-Wed-Sat: 10.00–18.00, Tue-Thu-Fri: 10.00–20.30

RETROSEXUAL

According to the dictionary, a retrosexual is defined as “a man who adopts a traditional masculine style in dress and manners.” This is also the name of the most popular Athenian shop for design vintage objects, owned by Joe, who probably caught the retro bug off his Asia Minor immigrant grandfathers, both of whom were collectors. Items linked to design movements of the 1950s, 60s and 70s may be found here, all in excellent working condition. From his trips to various parts of the world, Joe has brought back everything from vintage hair dryers to motorcycles, displaying a fervent interest to discover the history of each item, knowledge that he invariably passes on to customers. Anybody buying an old Remington typewriter, for example, will be informed it was the model used by Agatha Christie.

“The items we sell have nothing to envy of anything modern. They’re usually superior in quality because, back then, things were made to last forever. Anything that stopped working would be repaired. That was also the case with personal relationships,” explained Joe, before being asked about a round JVC videosphere television, a 1970 item, hanging at the back of the shop. “It’s one of the rarest television models ever made and was inspired by astronaut helmets, reflecting the space age era. A piece is on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art,” he immediately fired back. Old Greek toys, Playmobil pieces locally produced by the Greek company Lyra until 1986 and considered to be of the finest quality, a large collection of Polaroid cameras, mod-type Vespas and plenty more may be found here. Our favorite item was the “telephone table,” also known as a “gossip bench” (“koutsobola” in Greek), a small-sized sofa with an integrated table for placing the telephone, presumably designed to be used by ladies for those endless gossip sessions!

MIMIS: ‘THE ULTIMATE PLACE FOR VINTAGE SUNGLASSES’

Countless pairs of vintage glasses in all shapes and colors hang like some butterfly colony from the walls of this tiny downtown corner shop, virtually unchanged since 1962. Mimis, the original owner, would make the frames himself, according to the trends of the time, and he was a true craftsman, judging by the results. Nowadays, his son-in-law, who first picked up on the vintage trend about five years ago, sells the original frames with new lenses but also makes new frames using the original molds. One of the pairs he revived and which has proven popular at the shop over the past three years is the 1930s-era “Cavafy” model, named after the prominent Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy, who wore a similar-looking pair.

INFO

Mimis
1 Kaningos • Tel. (+30) 210.383.2431
• Mon-Wed-Sat 09:00–16:00, Tue-Thu-Fri 09:00–20:30


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