Exarchia Market - History and Facts | History Hit

Exarchia Market

Athens, Greece

Lucinda Smyth

22 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Alamy

About Exarchia Market

The district of Exarcheia was created between 1870 and 1880 at the confines of the city, and has played a significant role in the social and political life of Greece. A weekly market is held here that is one of the largest in Athens.

History of Exarchia Market

Exarchia is the anarchist district of Athens. It has had a strong anti-fascist association dating back to at least the 1890s, and has been the site of protests and notable uprisings, including at the nearby Polytechnic.

The end of 2008 saw the largest riots in Greece since the 1970s, after a policeman shot and killed 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos. This led to huge protests all over Greece, and – compounded by anger in response to the global economic crisis – over 70 cities around the world joined in solidarity, with protests in Dublin, Berlin, Amsterdam and London to name a few. A memorial plaque for Grigoropoulous can now be found at the end of Tzavella.

Elsewhere in the area, the streets are ablaze with murals which speak of the political and economic concerns prevalent in Greece today. Police violence, youth unemployment, migration issues, homelessness and a general sense of frustration at the inefficiency and corruption in institutions continue to be rife here, and have been heightened during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was caught twice without a mask, and appeared to host a lunch party while Greece was in strict lockdown.)

At the top of Exarchia, just before Lofos Strefi, are the Kallidromiou steps. Sometimes decorated with graffiti, you’ll often see them trickled with students and counter cultural figures. It is also the place where the market starts on a Saturday.

Exarchia Market today

A spirit of anarchy lives on in Exarchia. It remains a counter-cultural hotbed where political debate persists in the cafes, bars and restaurants. Occasionally there are police clashes, but it is by and large an incredibly safe area, with an atmosphere more akin to a student centre than the area of criminal activity some press coverage would have you believe.

In the small shops on the streets around the square, you’ll find troves of records and vintage clothing, as well as a few bookshops. Oxo Nou, a Cretan restaurant just off Andrea Metaxa, serves some of the best food in Athens, and the well-loved Ama Lachei at 69 Kallidromiou is a local favourite.

On Saturdays, the strip of Kallidromiou by Em. Benaki spills out into a market, with sellers of olives, honey, spices, fruit and vegetables flogging their wares. Traditional Greek musicians play through the afternoon. The market is seen as “the event of the neighbourhood”, even by local youth.

Getting to Exarchia Market

The nearest stations to Exarchia Market are Omonia and Panepistimiou. Walking, it’s roughly 20 minutes from the Acropolis, and 15 minutes from Syntagma Square.