Its official name is Eleftheriou Venizelou, but all Athenians know it as Panepistimiou (University) street. It was one of the first avenues to be laid out when Athens was being transformed into a modern capital during the reign of King Otto. The Academy of Athens, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the National Library are considered the three architectural jewels of the city center. A hymn to neoclassicism, the three buildings gave Athens the air of a major European city. But there are many more impressive buildings to catch the attention of architecture lovers.
ACADEMY OF ATHENS
Designed by Theophil Hansen, the younger brother of Hans Christian Hansen, the Athens Academy is considered his most outstanding work and, in the opinion of many experts, the finest neoclassical building in the world. Its construction was funded by donations from Baron Simon Sinas and his wife Iphigenia, which is why it is also called the “Sinaian” Academy.
The Ionic order building is constructed from Pentelic marble. It is adorned with rich sculptures (1870-1880) by Leonidas Drosis, who was also responsible for the statues of Apollo with lyre and Athena Promachos, placed to the right and left of the prostyle portico. Statues of Plato and Aristotle stand on either side of the marble staircase leading to the portico. The Academy of Athens was founded by charter on March 18, 1926.(1859-1885)
• 28 Panepistimiou • Tel.: (+30) 210-36.00.207
NATIONAL AND KAPODISTRIAN UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS
Construction of the building, designed by Hans Christian Hansen, began in 1839; today it houses the institution’s administrative services. The murals in the portico were designed by Austrian painter Carl Rahl and executed by Polish painter Eduard Lebiedzki. Construction was funded by donations from King Otto, Milos Obrenovic, Prince of Serbia, as well as members of the Greek diaspora. The architecture follows the neoclassical approach and an effort was made to adapt the building to the city’s landscape at the time. As the years passed, statues of historical figures Rigas Feraios, Patriarch Gregorios V, Adamantios Korais, William Gladstone and Ioannis Kapodistrias were added at the front of the building. (1839-1864)
• 30 Panepistimiou • Tel.: (+30) 210-36.23.886
The three-story mansion was built for archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who is credited with discovering Troy, and is formally known as Iliou Melathron (“Palace of Troy”). It was the most magnificent private residence in Athens and is considered to be architect Ernst Ziller’s finest piece of work. The building harmoniously combines Italian Renaissance elements with features of Athenian neoclassicism. The garden occupies 800 square meters and is an excellent choice for a coffee or cold beverage. In 1927, the building was sold to the Greek state and in 1935 several statues of Greek gods were removed from the front of the building. In 1984 the mansion was taken over by the Ministry of Culture. Today, it houses the Numismatic Museum of Athens, with a collection of over 500,000 coins and related artifacts which present the story of man’s relationship with currency from the 14th century BC to the present day. (1878-1879)
• 12 Panepistimiou • Tel.: (+30) 210-36.32.057
CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL OF SAINT DIONYSIUS
An excellent example of neo-Renaissance splendor, the three-aisled basilica was designed by German architect Leo von Klenze. Immediately after the foundation stone was laid, construction was halted due to lack of funds. The original plans were later modified (1858) by Greek architect Lysandros Kaftantzoglou, who proposed a scaled-down version with less ornamentation. The first service was held in the half-finished church in 1865. The sanctuary and portico were added between 1875 and 1891, while the magnificent stained-glass windows were painted in the 1890s. (1853)
• Panepistimiou & 9 Omirou
This neoclassical mansion, diagonally opposite the Eye Clinic, was designed by the military engineer Anastasios Theophilas and owned by industrialist Giovanni Battista Serpieri, founder of the Lavrion Mining Company, east of Athens. Clearly on the owner’s instructions, Theophilas created an unorthodox combination of the prevailing neoclassical style with elements of Italian Mannerism, particularly in its interior decoration. The mansion was purchased by the Agricultural Bank in 1929 and renovated in the mid-1980s. (1880)
• 23 Panepistimiou & Edouardou Lo
The building was designed by Theophil Hansen and construction was supervised by the celebrated architect Ernst Ziller, who also designed the furnishings, which remain in place today. The National Library was relocated here in 1903 and owes its existence to donations from the Vallianos brothers, members of the Greek diaspora community.
Its assets include 2,500,000 volumes of books and periodicals, 4,500 manuscripts and the Archive of NationaLiberation Fighters (1821-1832), comprising 200,000 historical documents. In addition, the library houses rare publications, engravings, atlases, chrysobulls, patriarchal sigils, palimpsests and codices covering various topics, including Byzantine music. Visitors enter the library by climbing up a curved, monumental, Renaissance-style double staircase that leads to a prostyle portico with Doric columns. The reading room features Ionic columns and a glass ceiling. The cast-iron book stands were considered incredibly innovative at the time they were installed. (1888-1902)
• 32 Panepistimiou • Tel.: (+30) 210-33.82.567