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An aerial view of Athens in Greece. There are multitudes of houses perched on a mountain side. On top of the mountain are historic buildings. There is a sunset in the sky. Getty Images/EyeEm

The 23 best things to do in Athens if you love design

Here’s what to see and what to skip in the vibrant, teeming Greek capital

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Depending on who you ask, Athens is either a stopover in between island hops or the center of ancient architecture. Beyond its preeminent collection of Greek and Roman ruins, Athens is teeming with vibrant neighborhoods dotted with colorful graffiti, modern structures, and a crop of significant 21st-century designs.

Few travelers venture beyond the touristy Plaka neighborhood below the Acropolis, which means they’ll miss many of the 23 spots below—each of which is worth the walk or metro ride.

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1. Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

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Leof. Andrea Siggrou 364
Kallithea 176 74, Greece
+30 21 6809 1000
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The newly opened, Renzo Piano Workshop-designed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre is now home to the Greek National Opera and the National Library. The cultural campus is a kind of privately-funded agora (public space). Take an afternoon to wander the roof garden and gallery, soaking in the 360-degree views, or explore the property by bike or via canoe on the adjacent waterway. The ambitious complex earned Greece’s first LEED platinum certification and boasts the world’s thinnest concrete roof (2 cm, or less than an inch), plus expanses of wood, marble, glass, and steel.

The exterior of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens. The facade has a thin concrete roof and mixed use of glass, steel, wood, and marble. Shutterstock

2. Exarcheia

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Exarcheia
Athens 106 81, Greece

Athens’s Exarcheia neighborhood, known as a home for dissidents and anarchists, includes work by local architects Dimitris and Suzana Antonakakis. Built in 1973 to house the architects and three other families, the five-story concrete, stucco, and wood structure was created as a collective living space with discrete units. The building entryway is reached via an open stairway off a common courtyard. All of the apartments have street-side balconies, as well as ones overlooking an enclosed courtyard.

3. Acropolis Museum

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Dionysiou Areopagitou 15
Athina 117 42, Greece
+30 21 0900 0900
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A collaboration between Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and Greece’s Michael Fotiadis, the New Acropolis Museum’s clean lines and airy spaces are inspired by ancient Greek mathematical principles, and were designed in response to the crumbling ruins near the building. Peruse the galleries and, from inside, take in impressive Acropolis views. Pro-tip: Go during the day for the air conditioning, and make your way up to the Acropolis an hour before closing to miss the heat, as the grounds are completely exposed (last entry is a half-hour before closing!).

The exterior of the Acropolis Museum in Athens. The facade is partially glass. Shutterstock

4. Thision Open Air Cinema

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Apostolou Pavlou 7
Athina 118 51, Greece
+30 21 0342 0864
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In the 1960s, Athens had over 600 outdoor cinemas. A few remain today, like Cine Thisio, which offers an Acropolis view as well as new-release and classic showings in English or the film’s original language with Greek subtitles. Cine Paris (in a rooftop garden) and Cine Dexameni (named after Hadrian’s aqueduct, with films screened in a honeysuckle-laden garden) are both of the old style as well.

5. Hilton Athens

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Leof. Vasilissis Sofias 46
Athina 115 28, Greece
+30 21 0728 1000
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This is perhaps the only chain hotel worth visiting in town—and not just because of its lovely pool and cafe. The 1963 building, designed by four Greek architects (Emmanuel Vourekas, Prokopis Vasileiadis, Anthony Georgiades and Spyro Staikos), includes original exterior relief work by artist Yiannis Moralis. The original lobby and public spaces are the work of the British architect and furniture designer T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. The property also houses The Runner (1988), a whimsical, nearly-30-foot-tall sculpture by Costas Varotsos.

6. Embassy of the United States

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Leof. Vasilissis Sofias 91
Athina 115 21, Greece
+30 21 0721 2951
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Greek classicism meets Bauhaus in the 1961 U.S. Embassy chancery building, designed by Walter Gropius in collaboration with local modernist architect Perikles Sakellarios. The main facade features Pentelic marble (also used for construction of the Parthenon), Peloponnesian black marble, and gray marble from Marathon. Gropius included a reflecting pool, both to create a sense of openness and to cool the incessant Greek sun. Olive trees, many of which have been there since 1960, surround the property and are harvested and pressed by embassy staff each November for limited-edition olive oil.

7. Athens Conservatoire

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Vasileos Georgiou B 17-19
Athina 106 75, Greece
+30 21 0724 0673
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Ioannis Despotopoulos (also known as Jan Despo), conceived of this large-scale cultural plan commissioned by the government in 1959, but the Conservatoire was the only structure that was actually built. Despotopoulos is considered one of the most significant architects of the Greek modernist and Bauhaus movements, and when viewing the building and imagining it as part of a larger, never-realized complex, you can see why. The Athens Conservatoire was one of the main venues of the art fair documenta 14, which was held for the first time outside of Germany in 2017.

8. Odeon of Herodes Atticus

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Areopagitou Dionisiou
Athina 105 55, Greece
+30 21 0324 1807
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You can view this 2nd-century stone theater, built by Roman Herodes Atticus in 161 AD in memory of his wife Regilla, from the Acropolis or from the venue itself. Each summer, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus hosts theater, symphony, and pop-music events. It’s an impressive view both in daylight and when illuminated at night.

9. National Observatory of Athens

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+30 21 0349 0000
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The National Observatory of Athens is a cool, dark, neo-classical building set up on the Hill of the Nymphs, one of the city’s seven main hills, just beyond the ancient agora. Designed in 1842 by Danish architect Theophilus Hansen, it was the first research institution established in Greece following the country’s liberation from Ottoman rule.

Hansen was also the mind behind two of the three buildings in Athens’s famed “classical trilogy”—The Academy of Athens and the National Library of Greece. The third is the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, designed by Hansen’s brother Christian. The Observatory is open evenings for viewing the night sky: Skip the expensive rooftop bars lining the street below and instead take in perfectly framed views of the Acropolis through the side gallery’s window.

An aerial view of the National Observatory of Athens. The observatory has a domed roof and multiple windows. It is situated on a mountain overlooking the city of Athens. Shutterstock

10. Gate of Athena Archegetis

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The 11 BC Gate of Athena Archegetis, built with funds raised by Julius Caesar and Augustus, comprises four remaining Doric columns on a base of Pentelic marble, situated along the western edge of the Roman Agora. Ponder the remains of the former grand entryway to the marketplace while navigating through enthusiastic street vendors.

11. Shop and Trade building

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Pireos 222
Athina 177 78, Greece

On one of the main roads from the center of Athens to the port (if you’re traveling on to Greek islands, you’ll become acquainted with this route), the mixed-use Trade and Shop building will stand out among the neighboring strip clubs, auto repair shops, and run-down cement apartment buildings. Designed by Maria Kokkinou and Andreas Kourkoulas as a headquarters for a clothing-import company, the building is meant to resemble pleated fabric. The area between structures is planted with grasses and irrigated—a rare green roof in Athens.

12. Temple of Olympian Zeus

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Though construction began in the 6th century BC, this massive temple dedicated to Zeus was not completed until the 2nd century AD, under Hadrian’s rule, and had a short period of glory. The temple was pillaged by a barbarian invasion a century after its completion. Today, only 15 of its original limestone Corinthian columns remain standing. This ancient site has more recent history, too: In January 2007, a group of pagans gathered here to celebrate the marriage of Hera and Zeus, in the first-known public ceremony of its kind since the Roman emperor Theodosius’s ban on paganism in 394 AD.

13. National Museum of Contemporary Art (ΕΜΣΤ)

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Λεωφ. Καλλιρρόης και Αμβρ. Φραντζή (πρώην εργοστάσιο
Athina 117 43, Greece
+30 21 1101 9000
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Expanded and renovated by Takis Zenetos in 1957, the old Fix Brewery building became the National Museum of Contemporary Art in 2000, after years of bureaucratic delays. Zenetos created a glass facade along a horizontal axis, creating a landmark in an otherwise stale post-war cityscape. Fix Brewery moved their production out of Athens in the late ’70s, and part of the structure was demolished in the ’90s to build a nearby metro stop of the same name. The eight-story building includes three levels of the museum’s permanent collection, plus a top-level outdoor space and an eventual restaurant with Acropolis views.

The exterior of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. The entryway has a red frame and steps. The building facade is tan. Shutterstock

14. Circular School/Κυκλικό σχολείο

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Stratarchou Alexandrou Papagou 23
Ag. Dimitrios 173 43, Greece

Greek architect Takis Zenetos created the Circular School after a six-month survey of international education design. His circular scheme was meant to go against the long tradition of linear hallways in an effort to encourage a new style of learning. The building was completed in 1974, three years before his death.

15. Panathenaic Stadium

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Leof. Vasileos Konstantinou
Athina 116 35, Greece
+30 21 0752 2984
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Built in 330 BC for the Panathenaic Games on the site of a racetrack dating back to 566 BC, the Panathenaic Stadium was rebuilt in marble by Roman senator Herodes Atticus to accommodate crowds of up to 50,000. For the first modern Olympics, held in 1896, architect and Olympic shooter Anastasios Metaxas restored the stadium. The handover from Greece to each subsequent host nation of the Olympic flame still happens here.

The world’s only all-marble stadium is still used today for sporting events and concerts, and is open each morning to runners or athletic types who want to live out their Olympic fantasies. Bostonians will recognize the Panathenaic Stadium as the inspiration for the Harvard Stadium, built in 1903.

An aerial view of the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. The stadium is circular in shape with many seats. Shutterstock

16. Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens

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Leof. Andrea Siggrou 107-109
Athina 117 45, Greece

French firm Architecture Studio won the pitch for the 18,000-square-foot Onassis Cultural Centre with their contemporary take on an ancient material, marble. The building, completed in 2010, includes an opera theater, auditorium, and open-air amphitheater. Vertical slabs of traditional Thassos marble encase the building, which is equally impressive in daylight as it is when illuminated at night.

The exterior of the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens. The building facade consists of glass and traditional marble.

17. Olympic Athletic Center of Athens "Spiros Louis"

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Kifisias 37
Athina 151 23, Greece
+30 21 0683 4060
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The Olympic Athletic Center of Athens was originally built in the 1980s, but was redesigned by Santiago Calatrava for the 2004 Olympics. The site has fallen into disrepair—trees and fountains have dried up, buildings are rusted and graffitied—and it isn’t fully maintained as a tourist site. But it’s still a classic example of a Calatrava design—and impressive in scale.

18. Tower of the Winds

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Tower of the Winds
Athens 105 55, Greece

Tower of the Winds, a spectacularly conserved structure from 50 BC in the center of the Roman Agora, once had eight sundials, a weather vane, and water clock. Because of its height and prominent placement in the agora, it’s thought to be an early example of a clock tower. View the frieze that depicts the eight types of winds (which you’ll understand even more if you’ve been to the Greek islands in high summer) and their corresponding weather.

19. Benaki Museum

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Koumpari 1
Athina 106 74, Greece
+30 21 0367 1000
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Architect and Olympian Anastasios Metaxas (who oversaw the renovation of the Panathenaic Stadium ahead of the first modern Olympics in 1896) also revamped the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture. The museum was founded in 1930 by Antonios Benakis in his family’s 1895 neoclassical villa, which Metaxas restored and expanded. In addition to an extensive collection of prehistoric and ancient Greek and Roman art, there are several complete 18th-century rooms displayed in their original states.

The exterior of the Benaki Museum in Athens. The facade is white with columns and a grand staircase. Shutterstock

20. Benaki Museum Annex

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Pireos 138
Athina 118 54, Greece
+30 21 0345 3111
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The new Benaki Museum annex on Pireos Street is significant not just for its pink-marble closed-box structure and atrium, but also for the archives of Neohellenic architecture it houses. The collection includes drawings, photographs, and plans for architectural and urban planning projects created since the establishment of the modern Greek state in 1828. Designed by Maria Kokkinou & Andreas Kourkoulas, it’s just up the street from their later Shop and Trade building project.

21. Zonars

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Voukourestiou 9
Athina 106 71, Greece
+30 21 0325 1430
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This classic restaurant, established in 1939, recently underwent a renovation by Athens-based k-studio to restore its former glory. The marble-and-terrazzo floor, pewter bar, bronze canopy, and modernist furniture all add to the goal of recreating the space’s chic, lounge-like vibe.

22. Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea

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Kapnikareas
Athina 105 56, Greece
+30 21 0322 4462
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This 11th-century church sits just off the main shopping area on Ermou in the city’s Monastiraki neighborhood. The juxtaposition of a millennium-old structure in the shadow of a large H&M is a common one in this city. The Greek Orthodox church is built on the remains of an ancient pagan temple, likely from around 1050 AD, and is one of the oldest remaining churches in Athens. The church was damaged and abandoned during the Greek War of Independence and was nearly demolished in the mid-1800s. Don’t miss the 1936 Byzantine-style mosaic on the exterior, or the circa-1955 interior iconography by Photios Kontoglou.

23. Monastiraki Square

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Agias Eleousis 3
Athina 105 55, Greece

Skip the touristy Monastiraki flea market stalls and instead walk from Monastiraki Square west along Ermou, which has antique shops selling ceramics, Byzantine icons, vintage books and photographs, and Greek vinyl, among myriad other treasures.

An aerial view of Monastiraki Square in Athens. There is a large courtyard surrounded by various buildings. In the distance are mountains. Shutterstock

1. Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

Leof. Andrea Siggrou 364, Kallithea 176 74, Greece
The exterior of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens. The facade has a thin concrete roof and mixed use of glass, steel, wood, and marble. Shutterstock

The newly opened, Renzo Piano Workshop-designed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre is now home to the Greek National Opera and the National Library. The cultural campus is a kind of privately-funded agora (public space). Take an afternoon to wander the roof garden and gallery, soaking in the 360-degree views, or explore the property by bike or via canoe on the adjacent waterway. The ambitious complex earned Greece’s first LEED platinum certification and boasts the world’s thinnest concrete roof (2 cm, or less than an inch), plus expanses of wood, marble, glass, and steel.

Leof. Andrea Siggrou 364
Kallithea 176 74, Greece

2. Exarcheia

Exarcheia, Athens 106 81, Greece

Athens’s Exarcheia neighborhood, known as a home for dissidents and anarchists, includes work by local architects Dimitris and Suzana Antonakakis. Built in 1973 to house the architects and three other families, the five-story concrete, stucco, and wood structure was created as a collective living space with discrete units. The building entryway is reached via an open stairway off a common courtyard. All of the apartments have street-side balconies, as well as ones overlooking an enclosed courtyard.

Exarcheia
Athens 106 81, Greece

3. Acropolis Museum

Dionysiou Areopagitou 15, Athina 117 42, Greece
The exterior of the Acropolis Museum in Athens. The facade is partially glass. Shutterstock

A collaboration between Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and Greece’s Michael Fotiadis, the New Acropolis Museum’s clean lines and airy spaces are inspired by ancient Greek mathematical principles, and were designed in response to the crumbling ruins near the building. Peruse the galleries and, from inside, take in impressive Acropolis views. Pro-tip: Go during the day for the air conditioning, and make your way up to the Acropolis an hour before closing to miss the heat, as the grounds are completely exposed (last entry is a half-hour before closing!).

Dionysiou Areopagitou 15
Athina 117 42, Greece

4. Thision Open Air Cinema

Apostolou Pavlou 7, Athina 118 51, Greece

In the 1960s, Athens had over 600 outdoor cinemas. A few remain today, like Cine Thisio, which offers an Acropolis view as well as new-release and classic showings in English or the film’s original language with Greek subtitles. Cine Paris (in a rooftop garden) and Cine Dexameni (named after Hadrian’s aqueduct, with films screened in a honeysuckle-laden garden) are both of the old style as well.

Apostolou Pavlou 7
Athina 118 51, Greece

5. Hilton Athens

Leof. Vasilissis Sofias 46, Athina 115 28, Greece

This is perhaps the only chain hotel worth visiting in town—and not just because of its lovely pool and cafe. The 1963 building, designed by four Greek architects (Emmanuel Vourekas, Prokopis Vasileiadis, Anthony Georgiades and Spyro Staikos), includes original exterior relief work by artist Yiannis Moralis. The original lobby and public spaces are the work of the British architect and furniture designer T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. The property also houses The Runner (1988), a whimsical, nearly-30-foot-tall sculpture by Costas Varotsos.

Leof. Vasilissis Sofias 46
Athina 115 28, Greece

6. Embassy of the United States

Leof. Vasilissis Sofias 91, Athina 115 21, Greece

Greek classicism meets Bauhaus in the 1961 U.S. Embassy chancery building, designed by Walter Gropius in collaboration with local modernist architect Perikles Sakellarios. The main facade features Pentelic marble (also used for construction of the Parthenon), Peloponnesian black marble, and gray marble from Marathon. Gropius included a reflecting pool, both to create a sense of openness and to cool the incessant Greek sun. Olive trees, many of which have been there since 1960, surround the property and are harvested and pressed by embassy staff each November for limited-edition olive oil.

Leof. Vasilissis Sofias 91
Athina 115 21, Greece

7. Athens Conservatoire

Vasileos Georgiou B 17-19, Athina 106 75, Greece

Ioannis Despotopoulos (also known as Jan Despo), conceived of this large-scale cultural plan commissioned by the government in 1959, but the Conservatoire was the only structure that was actually built. Despotopoulos is considered one of the most significant architects of the Greek modernist and Bauhaus movements, and when viewing the building and imagining it as part of a larger, never-realized complex, you can see why. The Athens Conservatoire was one of the main venues of the art fair documenta 14, which was held for the first time outside of Germany in 2017.

Vasileos Georgiou B 17-19
Athina 106 75, Greece

8. Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Areopagitou Dionisiou, Athina 105 55, Greece

You can view this 2nd-century stone theater, built by Roman Herodes Atticus in 161 AD in memory of his wife Regilla, from the Acropolis or from the venue itself. Each summer, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus hosts theater, symphony, and pop-music events. It’s an impressive view both in daylight and when illuminated at night.

Areopagitou Dionisiou
Athina 105 55, Greece

9. National Observatory of Athens

Athens 118 51, Greece
An aerial view of the National Observatory of Athens. The observatory has a domed roof and multiple windows. It is situated on a mountain overlooking the city of Athens. Shutterstock

The National Observatory of Athens is a cool, dark, neo-classical building set up on the Hill of the Nymphs, one of the city’s seven main hills, just beyond the ancient agora. Designed in 1842 by Danish architect Theophilus Hansen, it was the first research institution established in Greece following the country’s liberation from Ottoman rule.

Hansen was also the mind behind two of the three buildings in Athens’s famed “classical trilogy”—The Academy of Athens and the National Library of Greece. The third is the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, designed by Hansen’s brother Christian. The Observatory is open evenings for viewing the night sky: Skip the expensive rooftop bars lining the street below and instead take in perfectly framed views of the Acropolis through the side gallery’s window.

10. Gate of Athena Archegetis

Athens 105 55, Greece

The 11 BC Gate of Athena Archegetis, built with funds raised by Julius Caesar and Augustus, comprises four remaining Doric columns on a base of Pentelic marble, situated along the western edge of the Roman Agora. Ponder the remains of the former grand entryway to the marketplace while navigating through enthusiastic street vendors.

11. Shop and Trade building

Pireos 222, Athina 177 78, Greece

On one of the main roads from the center of Athens to the port (if you’re traveling on to Greek islands, you’ll become acquainted with this route), the mixed-use Trade and Shop building will stand out among the neighboring strip clubs, auto repair shops, and run-down cement apartment buildings. Designed by Maria Kokkinou and Andreas Kourkoulas as a headquarters for a clothing-import company, the building is meant to resemble pleated fabric. The area between structures is planted with grasses and irrigated—a rare green roof in Athens.

Pireos 222
Athina 177 78, Greece

12. Temple of Olympian Zeus

Athens 105 57, Greece

Though construction began in the 6th century BC, this massive temple dedicated to Zeus was not completed until the 2nd century AD, under Hadrian’s rule, and had a short period of glory. The temple was pillaged by a barbarian invasion a century after its completion. Today, only 15 of its original limestone Corinthian columns remain standing. This ancient site has more recent history, too: In January 2007, a group of pagans gathered here to celebrate the marriage of Hera and Zeus, in the first-known public ceremony of its kind since the Roman emperor Theodosius’s ban on paganism in 394 AD.

13. National Museum of Contemporary Art (ΕΜΣΤ)

Λεωφ. Καλλιρρόης και Αμβρ. Φραντζή (πρώην εργοστάσιο, Athina 117 43, Greece
The exterior of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. The entryway has a red frame and steps. The building facade is tan. Shutterstock

Expanded and renovated by Takis Zenetos in 1957, the old Fix Brewery building became the National Museum of Contemporary Art in 2000, after years of bureaucratic delays. Zenetos created a glass facade along a horizontal axis, creating a landmark in an otherwise stale post-war cityscape. Fix Brewery moved their production out of Athens in the late ’70s, and part of the structure was demolished in the ’90s to build a nearby metro stop of the same name. The eight-story building includes three levels of the museum’s permanent collection, plus a top-level outdoor space and an eventual restaurant with Acropolis views.

Λεωφ. Καλλιρρόης και Αμβρ. Φραντζή (πρώην εργοστάσιο
Athina 117 43, Greece

14. Circular School/Κυκλικό σχολείο

Stratarchou Alexandrou Papagou 23, Ag. Dimitrios 173 43, Greece

Greek architect Takis Zenetos created the Circular School after a six-month survey of international education design. His circular scheme was meant to go against the long tradition of linear hallways in an effort to encourage a new style of learning. The building was completed in 1974, three years before his death.

Stratarchou Alexandrou Papagou 23
Ag. Dimitrios 173 43, Greece

15. Panathenaic Stadium

Leof. Vasileos Konstantinou, Athina 116 35, Greece
An aerial view of the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. The stadium is circular in shape with many seats. Shutterstock

Built in 330 BC for the Panathenaic Games on the site of a racetrack dating back to 566 BC, the Panathenaic Stadium was rebuilt in marble by Roman senator Herodes Atticus to accommodate crowds of up to 50,000. For the first modern Olympics, held in 1896, architect and Olympic shooter Anastasios Metaxas restored the stadium. The handover from Greece to each subsequent host nation of the Olympic flame still happens here.

The world’s only all-marble stadium is still used today for sporting events and concerts, and is open each morning to runners or athletic types who want to live out their Olympic fantasies. Bostonians will recognize the Panathenaic Stadium as the inspiration for the Harvard Stadium, built in 1903.

Leof. Vasileos Konstantinou
Athina 116 35, Greece

16. Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens

Leof. Andrea Siggrou 107-109, Athina 117 45, Greece
The exterior of the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens. The building facade consists of glass and traditional marble.

French firm Architecture Studio won the pitch for the 18,000-square-foot Onassis Cultural Centre with their contemporary take on an ancient material, marble. The building, completed in 2010, includes an opera theater, auditorium, and open-air amphitheater. Vertical slabs of traditional Thassos marble encase the building, which is equally impressive in daylight as it is when illuminated at night.

Leof. Andrea Siggrou 107-109
Athina 117 45, Greece

17. Olympic Athletic Center of Athens "Spiros Louis"

Kifisias 37, Athina 151 23, Greece

The Olympic Athletic Center of Athens was originally built in the 1980s, but was redesigned by Santiago Calatrava for the 2004 Olympics. The site has fallen into disrepair—trees and fountains have dried up, buildings are rusted and graffitied—and it isn’t fully maintained as a tourist site. But it’s still a classic example of a Calatrava design—and impressive in scale.

Kifisias 37
Athina 151 23, Greece

18. Tower of the Winds

Tower of the Winds, Athens 105 55, Greece

Tower of the Winds, a spectacularly conserved structure from 50 BC in the center of the Roman Agora, once had eight sundials, a weather vane, and water clock. Because of its height and prominent placement in the agora, it’s thought to be an early example of a clock tower. View the frieze that depicts the eight types of winds (which you’ll understand even more if you’ve been to the Greek islands in high summer) and their corresponding weather.

Tower of the Winds
Athens 105 55, Greece

19. Benaki Museum

Koumpari 1, Athina 106 74, Greece
The exterior of the Benaki Museum in Athens. The facade is white with columns and a grand staircase. Shutterstock

Architect and Olympian Anastasios Metaxas (who oversaw the renovation of the Panathenaic Stadium ahead of the first modern Olympics in 1896) also revamped the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture. The museum was founded in 1930 by Antonios Benakis in his family’s 1895 neoclassical villa, which Metaxas restored and expanded. In addition to an extensive collection of prehistoric and ancient Greek and Roman art, there are several complete 18th-century rooms displayed in their original states.

Koumpari 1
Athina 106 74, Greece

20. Benaki Museum Annex

Pireos 138, Athina 118 54, Greece

The new Benaki Museum annex on Pireos Street is significant not just for its pink-marble closed-box structure and atrium, but also for the archives of Neohellenic architecture it houses. The collection includes drawings, photographs, and plans for architectural and urban planning projects created since the establishment of the modern Greek state in 1828. Designed by Maria Kokkinou & Andreas Kourkoulas, it’s just up the street from their later Shop and Trade building project.

Pireos 138
Athina 118 54, Greece

21. Zonars

Voukourestiou 9, Athina 106 71, Greece

This classic restaurant, established in 1939, recently underwent a renovation by Athens-based k-studio to restore its former glory. The marble-and-terrazzo floor, pewter bar, bronze canopy, and modernist furniture all add to the goal of recreating the space’s chic, lounge-like vibe.

Voukourestiou 9
Athina 106 71, Greece

22. Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea

Kapnikareas, Athina 105 56, Greece

This 11th-century church sits just off the main shopping area on Ermou in the city’s Monastiraki neighborhood. The juxtaposition of a millennium-old structure in the shadow of a large H&M is a common one in this city. The Greek Orthodox church is built on the remains of an ancient pagan temple, likely from around 1050 AD, and is one of the oldest remaining churches in Athens. The church was damaged and abandoned during the Greek War of Independence and was nearly demolished in the mid-1800s. Don’t miss the 1936 Byzantine-style mosaic on the exterior, or the circa-1955 interior iconography by Photios Kontoglou.

Kapnikareas
Athina 105 56, Greece

23. Monastiraki Square

Agias Eleousis 3, Athina 105 55, Greece
An aerial view of Monastiraki Square in Athens. There is a large courtyard surrounded by various buildings. In the distance are mountains. Shutterstock

Skip the touristy Monastiraki flea market stalls and instead walk from Monastiraki Square west along Ermou, which has antique shops selling ceramics, Byzantine icons, vintage books and photographs, and Greek vinyl, among myriad other treasures.

Agias Eleousis 3
Athina 105 55, Greece