The smallest shop in Athens
Whether you are a shopaholic or not, shopping in Athens is definitely a must-do for any tourist. From famous designers and unique boutiques to traditional greek delicacies and imaginative trinkets. But in the case of size, it doesn’t really matter, as one of the best happens to be the smallest shop in Athens, and perhaps in all of Greece.
I’m going to provide you with an insider’s guide to this fantastic place, which happens to be one of my favourite shops in all of Athens. I’ll provide you with a guide on everything you need to know, including where its located, the history of its name going back to Ancient Greece, the range of 180 herbs, spices and teas, and why some of the product labels haven’t been changed in decades, despite rude and funny mis-spellings.
Where is the smallest shop in Athens?
Situated next door to the world-famous Central Municipal Athens Market and about one minute walk from the Holy Church of Saint Kyriaki, “To Valsamo” (Το Βάλσιμο), also known as “Herbs – Spices: The balm”, is the smallest shop in Athens. The exact address is Athinas 42, Athina 105, 51
Just how small is the smallest shop in Athens?
At just around the width of your average double-wardrobe, it still manages to squeeze in a fantastic array of around 180 types of herbs, spices and teas from Greece and other parts of the world.
What are the opening times?
To Valsamo is open six days a week, Monday to Saturday from 6 am to 6 pm. Like many other shops, It is closed on Sundays.
Where does the name “To Valsamo” (Το Βάλσιμο) come from?
The name of the shop “To Valsamo” is rather interesting as “Valsamo” in Greece is used to metaphorically describe anything soothing, healing and comforting; A therapeutic remedy for the body and soul.
In fact, the word itself is where the term “balm” and “balsam” comes from, as it’s a panacea for almost every ailment. It actually goes back to the times of Ancient Greece and was first mentioned around 400 BC by Hippocrates, the father of Greek medicine.
He said that if you take the yellow flowers of the Hypericum Perforatum plant (St. Johns Wort) and soak them in olive oil in the summer sun, you will have something to apply to the skin for aches, pains, and general health. In fact, he even suggested that a teaspoon kept depression at bay.
What does the smallest shop in Athens sell?
It is one of my favourite shops to visit when I’m in Athens. Top of my list of essentials to stock up on is Greek Mountain Tea (Ελληνικό τσάι του βουνού), also known as Sideritis, ironwort, or shepherd’s tea. Drunk in Ancient Greece, it is still a favourite today and has many potential healing properties for aches, allergies, respiratory issues and boosting the immune system.
Dangling outside the shop are garlands of peppers and branches of herbs, including Greek Oregano. You will also find a sprinkling of other exciting things, including dates, nuts, traditional spice grinders, and natural sponges for bathing.
There are so many things to choose from, and the owner, Vassilis is always willing to explain what the around 180 varieties of things are, where there from, and any healing benefits they have.
I would definitely recommend you explore some of the labels as many haven’t been changed in decades and have some strange, funny and sometimes rude translations.
A few examples of the translations are taraxako = shit, apsithia = unclean, kritikos = hungry. I think it’s great that the owner’s father, who wrote the labels so long ago, didn’t have the knowledge or the time to change the labels.