From theatre performances in the midst of ancient architecture to contemporary art in chic surroundings, Athens is a dynamic metropolis bursting with creativity.
In addition to its famed archaeological sites – some of which still function as performance venues today – Athens has no shortage of vibrant alternative cultural spaces: art galleries, theatres, music venues and captivating museum exhibitions.
If you want to learn about the history and culture of Athens, look no further. As Stefanos Kavallierakis, the director of the museum, explains, “The museum’s collections focus on the history of the city and its people, culture and evolution.” Here, you can discover the many faces of the city throughout time, and experience creative responses to the city. Particularly interesting, for example, are the paintings of Athens by travellers who visited in the 17th and 18th centuries. Located in the city centre on Klafthmonos Square, the Athens City Museum offers a lesson in history even in its setting: the museum is housed in two of the oldest buildings in Athens, one of which is known as the ‘Old Palace’ owing to its former status as the residence of the first king of Greece, Otto, and his wife Amalia during the 19th century.
In 2009, an abandoned house was transformed to become TAF, a contemporary art gallery and multipurpose cultural space. It’s hidden in Normanou Street in the Monastiraki Flea Market, and you must pass through an old wooden doorway to reach the TAF, upon which you will find exhibition spaces, a bar and a treasure trove of a shop. These areas are accessible to the public all year round free of charge and host various cultural projects, events and exhibitions. The bar nestled in the open courtyard (covered in winter) is extremely popular, and many people like to combine taking in the art with a relaxing al-fresco drink.
Opening its doors in October 2019, this museum bears the name of its founders, who had a vision to create a museum that would bring people to engage with modern and contemporary art. The museum hosts the collections of Basil and Elise Goulandris, with a focus on Greek and foreign artists, including works by Van Gogh, Monet, Rodin and Picasso as well as by modern Greek painters such as Moralis and Parthenis. The museum is located in a trendy part of Athens, in the Pagrati neighbourhood.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is located on the southwestern slope of Acropolis Hill. It was constructed in the Roman period, between AD 160 and 174, and was funded by a wealthy benefactor of Athens, Herodes Atticus, in memory of his wife Aspasia Regilla. With a capacity of 5,000 spectators, today the venue hosts concerts, theatre performances and other cultural events from June to October each year. Many world-famous musicians, such as Frank Sinatra and Maria Callas, have performed here. Most of the events offer subtitles in English, making catching a performance in this Roman Odeon a more accessible experience for many visitors.
The Greek National Opera is Greece’s premier venue for high-quality productions including operas, ballets and operettas. In 2017, the Opera was relocated to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre. Here, the productions take place on two separate stages – Stavros Niarchos Hall and the Alternative Stage, which hosts an innovative programme of daring productions. The large Stavros Niarchos Hall boasts state-of the-art technology and optimal acoustics for opera. If you attend a performance here, take a look at the ceiling of the hall, where there is a moving aluminium sculpture by Japanese artist Susumu Shingu. In the summer, some Greek National Opera performances are also hosted at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
The Athens Concert Hall, or Megaro Mousikis in Greek, is located on Vasilissis Sofias Avenue – arguably the city’s most glamorous boulevard. It hosts numerous concerts as well as dance and opera performances, not only by Greek creators but by artists from around the world. According to the head of press of the Athens Concert Hall, Antonis Stefanou, “Since 1991, internationally acclaimed artists from all over the world have performed and been applauded in the Athens Concert Hall, with its stunning environment, exceptional aesthetics and superb acoustics.” In summer, concerts are organised among the flowers and greenery of the gardens behind the building.
The Onassis Stegi is the cultural centre of the Onassis Foundation. Since it opened in 2014, the Onassis Stegi has striven to be “the place where contemporary culture meets aesthetics and science”. The venue hosts theatrical and musical performances, film screenings, art and digital shows, supporting emerging Greek artists in showing their work. Book tickets early to benefit from reduced prices.