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Panagia Kapnikarea, Syntagma

It’s impossible to miss this roughly hewn Orthodox church among the polished glass-and-metal shopfronts of Ermou street, one of Athens’s busiest retail strips. It was erected on the remains of an ancient temple in the early 11th century and is dedicated to Panagia (the Virgin Mary). The stone-and-brick structure is laid out with a cross-in-square plan, typical of early Christian churches. The petite columned porch was added to the exterior in the 12th century and the Greek painter Fotis Kontoglou and his students painted the interior murals in the 20th century. Its surrounding low-rise walls make for a popular perch with ice cream or coffee in hand.

Kapnikareas, 105 56
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National Garden, Kallimarmaro

When you’re craving a break from the busy Athenian streets, dip into this ornamental oasis in the heart of the city. Commissioned as the private garden for King Otto and Queen Amalia in the late 1830s, it was initially laid out by the royal architect Friedrich von Gärtner. German agronomist Friedrich Schmidt was then tasked with planting the green space with 15,000 seedlings, both exotic and indigenous. In 1923 the garden became public and gained its current name. Wind your way through the towering palm trees and shaded pergolas, all the while looking out for neoclassical statues and ancient ruins. 

Don’t forget to take a peek inside the Zappeion, a saffron-yellow neoclassical exhibition hall that was erected in the 19th century. The circular atrium at its core features an intricately decorated ceiling.

1 Amalias, 105 57
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Acropolis Museum, Makrigianni

When Swiss-American architect Bernard Tschumi won the competition to design the new Acropolis Museum in 2001, little did he know that he’d have to deal with 104 court cases objecting to the project before it finally opened in 2009. A short stroll from the Acropolis, the chosen site was chock-full of archaeological remains and apartment buildings. The result, however, is a world-class museum that complements its surroundings. The glass-floored lobby draws attention to the excavation site and, as it rises, the naturally lit building rotates, with the top floor mirroring the orientation of the Parthenon.

15 Dionysiou Areopagitou, 117 42
+30 210 9000 900
theacropolismuseum.gr

Images: Alamy, Marco Arguello 

 

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