The National Library of Greece
More than just architecture separates the former home of the National Library of Greece from its current premises; they are light years apart in terms of the concept that defines them.
The neoclassical structure, designed by Danish architect Theophil Hansen on Panepistimiou Avenue, that housed the National Library from 1903 to 2018, is indeed magnificent, but it’s also poorly lit and unable to showcase the breadth of a collection of two million volumes, rare books and manuscripts, including treasures dating to the 9th century. The new building at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, designed by leading architect Renzo Piano, is transparent, pleasant and welcoming. It’s a place where people of all ages and interests can do research, browse through the stacks or sit and read in an inspiring environment.
The 24,000-sq.m library building is a thrilling architectural success, thanks in no small part to the light-filled reception area and the imposing, 18-meter-high Tower of Books, which contains two reading rooms.
Currently, the borrowing section of the library is on trial operation and books can only be borrowed within the premises. Reading rooms on the ground and second floor are open to the public.
This establishment features a wide range of science and social science publications, recent literary releases and biographies. (69 Solonos, Tel. (+30) 210.646.6118)
With all the warmth of a neighborhood bookshop, Booktique boasts a well-curated international section, a selection of art items that will surprise you and exceptional English-language children’s books. (21 Patriarchou Ioakim, Tel. (+30) 210.723.5425)
Le Livre Ouvert
This store keeps an up-to-date stock of French-language books, and ordering volumes is also possible. (77 Solonos, Tel. (+30) 210.362.9703)
This is a space full of little decorative touches, including vases with bouquets and photographs from the French protest movement of May ’68 hanging on the walls. The staff is well-informed, and they sell rare foreign-language children’s publications and an endless list of dictionaries – thematic, electronic, secondhand and rare languages. (13 Stasinos, Pangrati, Tel. (+30) 210.723.1201)
In business for more than half a century, this publisher is noted for its illustrated books on art, architecture and archaeology, most of which are available in English. (58 Skoufa, Tel. (+30) 210.361.1692)
The main store of this prominent chain selling everything from books and dvds to laptops and cameras boasts a highly regarded international literature section. (1 Karageorgi Servias, Tel. (+30) 210.818.1333)
The bookstore of Kapon Publications, which has been producing high-quality volumes for the past three decades, offers stylish publications on culture, history and the arts. (22 Ploutarchou, Tel. (+30) 210.724.1442)
Βenaki Museum – Pireos 138
Along with art works, ceramics, jewelry, silk prints and toys, this great shop also has a huge selection of English-language books on history, photography, art and design. (138 Pireos and Andronikou, Tel. (+30) 210.345.3111)
Free Thinking Zone
Politicians, artists and writers have all sat on this store’s famed burgundy sofa, taking part in some of the most subversive and interesting discussions of the day. Free Thinking Zone boasts carefully selected titles and a cute café; it’s an area for expression that values personal contact, political and social action, activism and culture. (64 Skoufa, Kolonaki, Tel. (+30) 210.361.7461)
Poems & Crimes
Housed in a beautiful 1850s building, this bookstore café from the Gavriilidis Editions publishing house is worth a visit. The courtyard to the rear is ideal for hanging out in the company of a good friend and/or a good book. It’s a perfect place for coffee in the morning, light lunch in the afternoon and drinks in the evening. (17 Aghias Irinis, Monastiraki, Tel. (+30) 210.322.8839)
Little Tree Books & Coffee
This is a place where book-lovers come to relax. It’s not far from the Acropolis, and has outdoor seating during the summer. The décor includes old typewriters, and the shelves are packed with Greek and foreign literature and a special corner with unusual book choices for children. (2 Kavalotti, Tel. (+30) 210.924.3762)
O Mov Skiouros
Vinyl spins on the turntable, the interior is homey and the attic is a secret retreat overlooking the busy square. It’s also open late for drinks. (4 Karytsi Square, Tel. (+30) 210.325.1872)
Classical music drifts through fragrant lemon trees in the courtyard of this bookstore, which also stages art exhibitions. It’s located in the picturesque neighborhood of Thiseio, which still retains much of the charm of the Athens of yore. (22 Irakleidon, Thiseio, Tel. (+30) 210.345.1390)