Walking in Athens (Part 1): From Syntagma Square to Omonia Square

Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square is Athens central square. The name of the square is derived from an uprising on 3 September 1843, of the people and the guard ofAthens before then the Royal Palace building (what is now the Parliament), demanding that the King Otto grant a Constitution (Syntagma means Constitution). Syntagma Square and Omonias Square are the two central locations of the city. You should not be surprised when you ask directions if people refer to Syntagma Square. Plaka, the Acropolis, the Cathedral, the National Garden, Ermou Street, and Kolonaki, are located in the vicinityof Syntagma Square. You will find fashionable cafes and small restaurants located here. The square is busy around the clock. At the kiosks you will find miscellaneous items, omong others souvenirs, nwespapers, and foreign magazines.

The sights of Syntagma

The Parliament

Dominating Syntagma Square, the building was the residence of the first king of Greece, Otto. The building was constructed from 1836 to 1842. George A, who succeeded Otto on the throne, also resided in the palace. During his reign, two succesive fires destroyed the building, making it unsuitable for use as a royal residence. In 1924 the government decided to situate Parliament in the building . Reconstruction work was completed in in 1934. The interior was redesigned by architect Kriezis. In Parlliament  you will find national treasures, such as the first Greek Constitution, and a multitude of valuable paintings. The library is worth a visit.

 

Monument of the Unknown Soldier

Bulit from 1929-1932, in front of Parliament, it is a sculpted depiction of a slain soldier (the work of sculptor Dimitriades), bearing an inscription with excerpts of Pericle’s Epitaph. Commemorated on the marble wall surrounding the monument are the greatest battles of the Greek army posterior to 1821. Greek and visiting officials lay a wreath at the monument on national holidays. The monument is guarded around the clock by two select troops, calles Evzones.who wear the traditional uniform. The ceremony of the changing of the guard, which takes place every hour, is worth seeing, especially on Sunday morning, when it is accompanied by a military band and a large regiment of Evzones.

Grand Bretagne Hotel

Grande Bretagne is luxury hotel built in 1842. The building, desgned as a private residence, was a work of Hansen. Renovated in 1874, it accommodated a hotel. In 1958 the hotel was reconstructed to meet increasing demand, and several floors were added to the structure. In 2003 the building was completly renovated. A multitudie of notables and celebrities visiting Athens stayed here. Worth a visit is the interior, with a cafe and luxury restaurant, exuding a unique atmosphere.

Ancient aqueduct

A section of the ancient cemetery and Peisitstratos aqueduct, unearthed in the northeastern section of the square, is displayed in an outdoor, covered area.

Philellinon Street

Is a prolongation of Stadiou Street. You will find here attractive neoclassical buildings and, at crossroads of Philellinon Street, Xenofontos Street and Souri Street, the Sotira Lykodimou church and the Anglican Church of Saint Paul (1843), the work of Hansen, with elements of Gothic Style and cruciform ahape.

Amalias Avenue

Is a broad avenue connecting Hadrian’s  Arch with Syntagma Square. An elegant street with stately neoclassical and modernist buildings, it is located in the vicinity of the National Garden. As you ascend towards Syntagma Square, you will have a view of Parliament and, in the distance, Lycabettus Hill.

Panepistimiou Avenue

One of the oldest roads ofAthens, it was originally desgned to be a Boulevard. Today it is one of the busiest roads, linking Syntagma Square with Omonia Square. On this broad avenue, a number of the most important, representative public buildings of Athens were built, unique landmarks of the city.

Sights:

Army Pension Funds Building

A stately building occupying the block encompassed by Panepistimiou Str, Voukourestiou Street, Amerikis Street and Stadiou Street, it was built from 1927-1938. The royal stables were formerly located here. The facade was built in the Art Deco style. In the centre is an arcade with shop«. Recently re­constructed, the building is now a shopping centre and an office building, while it incor­porates three theatres (the “Pallas”, the “Small Pallas” and the “Aliki” Theatre), cafes and restaurants.

Iliou Melathorn

Is one of the most attractive neoclassical buildings of Athens. It was reconstructed in 1879 by Em. Ziller in the neo-chaeologist and philhelene Hein. Schliemann. It has a dou­ble stairway in the northern side, while in the façade and the other two floors, are colon­nades with ionic columns.

The interior is decorated with “Pompeian” frescoes and de­pictions of the landscapes and finds of Troy. In 1927 it became the seat of the Supreme Court (the highest penal court of the country). It houses now the Nu­mismatic Museum.

Archaeological Society Mansion

A five-storey building, it is an exceptional example of late classicism. The entrance is dec­orated with ionic columns. Located at the crossroads of Omirou Str and Panepistimiou Avenue, it houses the Archaeo­logical Society of Athens.

Catholic Church of Ayios Dionyssios (1853- 1865)

(Panepistimiou Avenue and Omirou Str) The three columned, cross-in­square style church was de­signed by the architects L von Klenze and L. Kaftantzoglov. The portico in the western side has five cylindrical arches (it is located at the crossroads of Panepistimiou Avenue and Omirou Street.

Athens Eye Clinic – (Panepistimiou Avenue and Sina Street)

A stately building (1854) with elements of Byzantine and neo­classical architecture, it was de­signed by Ch. Hansen and mod­ified by L Kaftantzoglou. Form­erly a one-storey building, in the mid-1860’s a second floor was added to the structure.

Bank of Greece Mansion

A stately building occupying a whole block. The foundations were laid in 1933 and the building was opened in 1938. The transactions halls recall the unadorned, stately atmosphere of the interwar period.

Cultural Centre of the Athens Municipality

Located in the vicinity of the “trilogy” (at Akadimias Str 50), it is a remarkable neoclassical building which was built in 1835 according to the design of Chr. Hansen. It was a hospital in the course of decades. Cultural events are held in the building. In front of the main entrance of the building is a small garden with the busts of historical fig­ures (among others, artists and politicians); while on the other side, (at Solonos Str), is a tradi­tional café. Exactly adjacent to the café (at Akadimias Str) is the stately Palomas building (with a pink interior, it is known as the “pink building”). Built in 1857- 1859, it houses the Theatrical Museum library. Diagonally across the street, (at the cross­roads of Ippocratous Str and Akadimias Str), is the Student Union of die University of Athens (1926-1931), designed by Al. Nikoloudis in the eclectic style of the Beaux Arts.

Korai Square

Is a small, attractive square, de­veloped when a pedestrian street was created at Korai Str. North-east of the square is the RaOis budding (10, Korai Square) built in the early neo­classical style. Opposite the Rallis building is the modernist building of the General Accounting Office (designed by E. Lazaridis). Northwest of the square is the remarkable for­mer hotel Grand Hotel (2, Korai Square, today used as a shop­ping centre). Opposite the Grand Hotel is the modem building of the Commercial Bank. At the square you will al­so find the recently renovated “KoraiArcade“ with a multitude of cafes, fast food restaurants, shops, and a cinema.

Ionian Bank Mansion

A remarkable eclectic style mansion with art deco decora­tion (1925). The central transac­tions hall has a notable colon­nade and balconies. The light­ing, a skylight with stained glass windows, is spectacular sight.

Arsakeion Mansion

A stately two-storey mansion, it is a distinctive example of Greek classicism with a strain of eclecticism. Formerly the Arsakeion Girls School, it is now the Council of State, (highest Court of State).

Adjacent to the mansion is the Courts Square.  The arcade in the Mansion, built in the neobaroque style, has a remarkable glass roof with a dome in the centre. You will find here shops, cafes and the “Stoa tou Vivliou”, (Book Arcade) with the bookshops of 60 Greek publishing houses. Cultural events are held at the Stoa tou Vivliou.

Rex Cinema

A mansion with three halls (cinema-theatre), built from 1935-1937, the design was in­fluenced by contemporary American skyscrapers. Two halls are now used for perform­ances of the National Theatre. The third is an entertainment centre.

 

The three temples of Lerning (“Athenian Trilogy“)

Three stately buildings con­structed by two Danish archi­tects, the Hansen brothers, who lived in Greece.

Athens Academy

On either side of the Academy, are two wings decorated with friezes and a pair of high columns supporting the statues of Apollo and Athena, whereas at the front side of the building the visitors are welcomed by the statues of Plato and Socrates. The Academy was studied by Th. Hansen, the younger of the Hansen brothers. The statues were sculpted by L. Drosis and the painted decoration was produced by K. Rahl. The Academy is thought to be a prime example of Greek architectural style.

University of Athens

The University of Athens was designed by Hansen , the elder of the Hansen brothers. Worth seeing are the fountain in the court, the circular stairway and the multicoloured frescoes with a lot of in incredible paintings.

National Library

A remarkable building, planned by Hansen. It is the largest library in the country, housing a unique range of thousands of books in all languages. On the facade is a stately six-column portico in the Doric Style, based on the design of the Thiseion. The interior , designed by Ziller, is lighted by a skylight on the roof and encompassed by a Ionian style colonnade.

Omonia Square

Stadiu Street, Patison, Panepistimiou Avenue, 3rd Septemvriou, Piraeus Street, Athinas and Ayiou Konstantinou Street converge at Omonia Square. Square. It is a busy area, with with small roads around Omonia Square and K/miggos Square and interesting places (small shops, traditional cafes ).

The National Theatre of Greece

Built from 1891-1901, accord­ing to the design of Em. Ziller, it was commissioned by the king George I and funded by Greeks residing abroad. A repli­ca of the National Theatre of Vienna, it is built in the renais­sance style. The theatre opened in November 1901. It was for­merly called the Royal Theatre, but in 1930 it was renamed National Theatre. The central auditorium (Italian style) has a capacity of 1000 spectatores (stalb, dress circle, upper circle, and two boxes). Facing the the­atre (at Menandrou Str) is the three-storey neoclassical Eynard Mansion, which accommodates a Museum dedicated to actors K. Paxinou and A. Minotis.

 

 

Ayios Konstantinos

Facing the National Theatre, it h a monumental church (1871- 1896/1905) built by L. Kaftan- tzoglou. The recently renovated three-columned, cross-in-square church has a stately façade in a combination of neoclassical and renaissance styles, a monumen­tal entrance in the form of an ancient propylaea, and an attrac­tive interior decoration.

Pireos Street

 

Constructed along the path of the ancient road linking Athens to Piraeus. The Long Walls were constructed along the side of the street. The first paved road in Athens, Pireos Str links the city with the port of Piraeus. In the 19th century an industrial zone was developed and a mul­titude of factories were con­structed along the road. In the past few years a multitude of factories were renovated and used for another purpose (mu­seums, cultural centres, the Higher School of Fine Arts). The buildings at Pireos Str, a very busy street, are interesting examples of urban industrial ar­chitecture. At number 138 of Pireos Street one will find a mod­ern building that houses the new BenaM Museum where periodic exhibits of the Museum are held . At number 254, Tauros area stands the Civilisa­tion Centre “Hellenic Cosmos” established by the Foundation of the Hellenic world.

 

Koumoundourou Square (Eleftherias)

An attractive, wooded square. Facing Pireos Street is the grand neoclassical mansion of the “Municipal Gallery” built in 1874 (designed by G. Metaxas). Neighbouring the gallery is the small church of Ayioi Anargyroi (1893). Located on the square is a small stone-built theatre, which is used for events.

Ayion Assomaton Street

As you descend Pireos Str take a left turn at Ayion Assomaton Str. You will find at number 45 one of the best-known tradi­tional buildings of Athens (pic­turesque classicist style, 1880), with copies of the famous twin Caryatids on the balcony. The house, is among the most pho­tographed and painted themes of Athens.

 

Gazi

Botanical Garden of the Athens University. Located at the cross­roads of lera Odos, which in Greek means Sacred Road (built along the path of the ancient road of the Eleusinian Mysteries and Sp. Patsi Str. It has a total area of 7,000 m2. Some 120 varieties of trees and plants and mosses and grasses from different parts of the world.

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