As you make your way along Dionysiou Areopagitou street to the sounds of street music, ascend the marble staircase and the Odeon’s stone arches greet you, creatively illuminated, waiting to transport you back in time. Whatever performance you may attend – music, dance or theater – here you get a real sense of the city’s history and cultural tradition, from ancient times to the present. Built with incredible acoustics in AD 161 by the orator/sophist Herodes Atticus, one of the wealthiest, most powerful citizens of Athens at the time, in memory of his wife, Regilla, the Odeon used to have a roof made of of cedar that may have covered the entire building without the aid of internal supports. A host of legendary names have graced its stage, from Maria Callas, Herbert von Karajan and Frank Sinatra to Elton John and Liza Minnelli.
Its impressive tiers of marble seats, with a capacity of 5,000, may not be the most comfortable (many guests come with their own folding cushions), but the experience is quite unique. And please note, stiletto heels are prohibited.
Virtually unknown to foreign visitors, the modern face of the Athens Festival is Pireos 260. Once a furniture factory, the venue is a typical example of 1970s industrial architecture. The dress code is far more relaxed, the audience generally younger and all three of its auditoriums are covered, with a capacity of 100, 500 and 650. Here you can watch contemporary dance and theater performances of the international repertoire, from famous directors, such as Romeo Castellucci and Thomas Ostermeier, and from leading exponents of the modern Greek theater. Its two outdoor cafes, where audience members gather before and after performances, are a definite plus for the venue.