Architecture lovers will feel at home in Athens, a city with a unique blend of ancient and modern buildings. Whether you want to experience jaw-dropping historical monuments or admire contemporary architecture, Culture Trip’s guide to the Greek capital will help you choose where to go and what to see.
Ancient architecture to visit in Athens
Dedicated to the goddess of victory, the Temple of Athena Nike, constructed in 420 BC, is a smaller temple on the Acropolis. Built in the Ionic order, with four monolithic columns at the eastern and western fronts, the elegant columns with fluted grooves pay homage to the feminine attributes of the goddess. A continuous frieze around the temple depicts victorious narratives. It was designed by the architect Callicrates and is a beautiful example of architecture from the High Classical Period.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a theatre built in AD 161, which was then fully restored again in the 1950s. The design was once said by Marcus Aurelius to be the finest of its kind, reflecting the traditional style of open-air theatres of the time. The staggeringly steep and majestic space, which operates a no-heels policy, continues to host captivating performances to this day.
Modern architecture to visit in Athens
Neoclassical architecture abounds in the centre of Athens, but in areas such as Koukaki, the contrast between the 18th century and 20th century is especially exciting. Apartments reflect Bauhaus and Modernist influences, with geometric design, box balconies and brightly coloured facades. Other areas, such as Neapoli and Kolonaki, also offer this unique hybrid between more contemporary styles and traditional Athenian buildings.
Created by the founder of Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, the American Embassy in Athens is an iconic modern building. The glass and concrete structure was designed to reflect that of the Parthenon. Although more heavily barricaded today, the embassy is still well worth a visit.
The Hilton Athens, finished in 1963, was a deeply divisive building in the city when it was first built. The original structure was designed by four Greek architects – Emmanouil Vourekas, Prokopis Vassiliadis, Spyros Staikos and Antonis Georgiades – who worked on it for five years. Such a bastion of modernity was considered an eyesore by many, though today the Hilton is undeniably an Athenian landmark. Alongside the industrial, modern design, visitors should also note the road-facing relief by Greek artist Yiannis Moralis.
Additional reporting by Cajsa Carlson.
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