Athens was established as the capital of the newly formed Greek state in 1834 after the war of liberation from Ottoman rule.
A number of draft city planning proposals had already been prepared in anticipation. The vision of a ‘new Athens’ as a symbol of cultural renaissance, propelled by the ideas of European Romanticism, necessitated a radical rejuvenation project for a place that bore no relationship to its glorious past.
At the end of the 19th century, Athens had completed its architectural and urban development, namely the transformation of a provincial Ottoman town of less than 10,000 residents to an attractive European capital with remarkable public buildings and two and three-story residential buildings, surrounded by gardens and courtyards. The inclusion of the unique ancient monuments and ruins of classical and Hellenistic antiquity in the planning and the introduction of neoclassical architecture turned Athens into an attractive destination, so much so that, in 1896, the city hosted the first modern Olympic Games.
Zappeion Exhibition Hall, 1874-88
Architects Theophilus von Hansen (1813-1891) and François-Louis-Florimond Boulanger (1807-1875)
Remodelling architect: Vassilis Sgoutas (1934-)
The Zappeion Exhibition Hall, an outstanding example of late Athenian classicism, is the epitome of Greek public architecture of the time. It was first built as an exhibition hall to coincide with the first modern Olympic Games, constructed near Ilissos River between the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the National Gardens, opposite the Panathenaic Stadium where the Games were held. The Hall has been remodeled and the venue is still being used for significant public and private events. The complex includes the Aigli Summer Cinema, one of the first outdoor cinemas in Athens, built during World War I.
The Panathenaic Stadium, 1896
Architect Anastasios Metaxas (1863-1937)
The Panathenaic Stadium is one of the most significant historical monuments in Athens, on Ardettos Hill. The first recorded reference of a stadium at this location dates back to 336 BC. In 131 BC, Herod Atticus built a regular stadium on the site with a capacity of some 50,000 spectators. In 1894, when Athens undertook the revival of the Olympic Games, work on the modern Kallimarmaro (“fine marble” in Greek) stadium began, eventually covering it with marble.
The Presidential Mansion, formerly the New Palace
Irodou Attikou & Vas. Georgiou Sts, 1890-97
Architect Ernst Ziller (1837-1923)
One of the best examples of the architectural legacy of architect Ernst Ziller in 19th century Athens, the New Palace is a three-storey neo-classical building with a plain symmetrical façade, which was designed to harmonise with the other mansions being built in the city by wealthy families.
Old Palace, currently the Parliament Building
Syntagma Square, 1836-47, 1929-35
Architect Friedrich von Gärtner (1792-1847) Conversion Architect Andreas Kriezis (1887-1962)
The building that currently houses the Parliament was initially erected as the palace of Otto, the first king of Greece. The initial building was completed in 1847 and was later converted to host the Parliament. It is the work of Friedrich von Gärtner who also designed the royal palace of Munich and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
Athens Central Municipal Market
Athinas Sts, 1878-80 and 1979
Architect Ioannis Koumelis, Restoration architects Giorgos Albanis and Nikos Fintikakis, Restoration supervising architect Merkia Anagnostou
The Athens Central Municipal Market which takes up an entire city block is one of the few public buildings in the city that has not changed use since it was built in 1880. It is a significant monument of design as well as of the economic and social history of the Greek capital.
The National Theatre
Agiou Konstantinou St, 1891-1901
Another building by Ernst Ziller (1837-1923), it has served as the Main Stage of the National Theatre since 1932. Influenced by the Semper opera house in Dresden, Ziller combined elements of historical eclecticism with bold baroque features despite the small plot of land allocated the project.
The University of Athens Museum, formerly the First University of Athens
5 Tholou St mid-17th century and 1831
Architects Stamatios Kleanthis (1802-1862) and Eduard Schaubert (1804-1860)
The building at the foothill of the Acropolis is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the Greek capital, and is depicted on a drawing of 1674. The architects Kleanthis and Schaubert bought it in 1831 and turned it into a residence. It housed the first university of the newly founded state, from 1837 to 1841 and is today the University of Athens Museum.
The Numismatic Museum, formerly the Schliemann Mansion
Panepistimiou St, 1878-79
Architect Ernst Ziller (1837-1923)
The Schliemann Mansion is one of the leading examples of Athenian historicism, and one of Ernst Ziller’s most important works. Ziller was the busiest architect in Athens between 1870 and the late 1920s. This building, called Iliou Melathron was built in 1878-79 for the famous German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who excavated Troy. The building was owned by Schliemann’s wife Sophia until 1923 and was then passed into the public sector and housed the Council of State (1929-34), the Supreme Court (1934-1980) and finally the Appellate Court (1981-82). Today it houses the Numismatic Museum.
Mansion of Othon Stathatos
31 Vas Sofias & Irodotou Sts, 1887
Architect Ernst Ziller (1837-1923)
This eclecticist mansion is part of Ziller’s significant architectural legacy. It was built for Othon Stathatos, who lived in it until 1938. It was then turned into an embassy and later became the new wing of the Museum of Cycladic Art.
The Byzantine Museum formerly the Mansion of the Duchess of Plaisance
Vas. Sofias Ave, 1848
Architects Stamatios Kleanthis (1802-1862), Aristotelis Zachos (1871-1939),
Vassileios Douras (1904-1981), Manos Perrakis (1937-)
Villa Ilissia is a unique historicist building for mid-19th century Athens. It was constructed in 1848 near the banks of River Ilissos, as the winter residence of the philhellene French woman Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, known as the Duchess of Plaisance. When the duchess died in 1854, this building passed on to the Greek state and for years accommodated the Naval Academy and other military authorities. It was first remodeled in the late 1920s and throughout the 20th century to accommodate the needs of the Byzantine Museum.
National Technical University of Athens (NTUA)
42 Patission St, 1861-76
Architect Lysandros Kaftantzoglou (1811-1885)
The National Technical University of Athens, an outstanding creation by architect Lysandros Kaftantzoglou, is one of the most important and elegant buildings of the Athenian Neoclassical period located in the centre. After its completion in 1878, the building was in continuous use for more than 125 years as a university and has been undergoing renovations to restore its original form.
University of Athens (National Kapodistrian University)
30 Panepistimiou St, Athens, 1839-1864
Architect Hans Christian Hansen (1803-1873)
The University of Athens, is the first of the Athenian Trilogy, the three landmarks of the period on central Panepistimiou Street. It is one of the top-ranking works of neoclassicism, but also one of the main models for the academic tradition of public buildings in Athens. It’s flanked by the buildings of the National Library and the Academy.
Athens Academy of Sciences
28 Panepistimiou St, Athens 1859-1885
Architect Theophilus von Hansen (1813-1891)
The Academy of Athens building is among the outstanding monuments of Athenian neoclassicism. Two oversized Ionian columns border the entrance portico, bearing statues of Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Apollo, god of light.
32 Panepistimiou St, Athens, 1885-1892
Architect Theophilus von Hansen (1913-1891), Associate architect Ernst Ziller (1837-1923)
The National Library is the third building of the “Athenian Trilogy” the highly influential neoclassical complex in the centre of the Greek capital.
Agios Dionysios Catholic Church
Panepistimiou and Omirou Sts, 1853-65
Architect Leo von Klenze (1784-1864), supervision architect Lysandros
The Catholic church of St. Dionysios the Areopagite is one of the most important monuments in the centre of Athens, near the 19th-century Athenian Trilogy, the buildings of the Library, University and Academy. Construction began on 1853 and the church first opened in 1865.