Athens, Greece Overview

By | August 25, 2021

Athens, ancient Greek Athenai, modern Greek Athinai [a’θinε], Athina [-θ-], capital of Greece and administrative seat of the Attica region, largest city in the country, (2011) 664,000 residents, agglomeration around 3.8 million residents.

Athens is located in Attica, 5 km from the sea, surrounded by Hymettos (1,028 m above sea level), Pentelikon (1 109 m above sea level), Parnes (1,413 m above sea level) and Aegaleos (468 m above sea level)). It is divided by the “Turkic Mountains” (up to 338 m above sea level), which rise in the Lykabettos (277 m above sea level) and south of it in the Acropolis (156 m above sea level).


In the agglomeration of Greater Athens (area approx. 412 km 2), to which 35 formerly independent municipalities and the port city of Piraeus belong with 5 municipalities, almost a third of the total Greek population lives. In the 19th century the population of the city increased by leaps and bounds, it rose from (1821) 11,000, (1896) 111,500 to (1920) 285,400 residents. A disproportionate increase in the population took place in the 1920s, when an influx of 300,000 refugees from Asia Minor began. Since the turn of the millennium, the population has decreased slightly.

Administrative and cultural institutions

According to homosociety, Athens is the seat of government and parliament; of the head of the Greek Orthodox state church and a Catholic archbishop. The city is the spiritual center of the country with the Academy of Sciences, universities (the oldest from 1837), Technical University (1836) and other colleges, the National Hellenic Research Center and numerous archaeological institutes; the Conservatory, the Academy of Fine Arts, museums (National Archaeological, Acropolis, Cycladic, Byzantine, Benaki Museum and others museums and galleries) and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (with National Opera and National Library). With the 2004 Olympic Games, many new sports facilities were created (including a sailing center, marina, press center, Olympic village).


Athens is a lively business and trading city with insurance companies, banks, shipping companies, the seat of numerous service companies and foreign companies, and the center of tourism in Greece and in the eastern Mediterranean. The most important branches of industry in the Athens-Piraeus area are the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, metal processing and the food industry, as well as oil refineries and shipyards.


The city is an intermediary in sea and air transport (the new Eleftherios Venizelos airport east of Athens opened in 2001) with the Orient. Athens is connected to Piraeus by expressways, railways and high-speed railways. The port in Piraeus is the starting point for all major shipping lines to the Greek islands as well as numerous lines to the western and eastern Mediterranean. Athens has a metro network, a bypass and a high-speed train to the airport.

Buildings from the Middle Ages: The Church of the Apostles on the Agora (beginning of the 11th century; restored), the Nicodemus Church (1045; cross-domed church, four-storey bell tower from 1855), the Theodorkirche (1049), the Kapnikarea (end of the 11th century), are from the Byzantine period. the Church of the Archangels (12th century), the Little Metropolis (12th century; with around 100 ancient and Byzantine reliefs on the exterior) and the “Beautiful Church” (12th century with frescoes from the 14th century) in the Galatsi district. To the west of Athens is the Daphni Monastery (World Heritage).

Modern buildings: King Otto I had Athens rebuilt while protecting the old town (Plaka) at the northeastern foot of the Acropolis. According to the plan of the architects Stamatis Kleanthis and Eduard Schaubert with the help of L. von Klenze, a classicist cityscape was created with radial main streets (models Karlsruhe, Munich) and views of the Acropolis and Kapnikarea. Classicist buildings by the brothers H. C. and T. E. Hansen (university, academy, library) were built on Universitätsstrasse (Panepistimiu). After 1860 the Technical University and the National Archaeological Museum were added on the northern arterial road (to Acharnai). The castle of F. von Gärtner (1836–42) on Syntagma Square is now the seat of parliament.

The rapid development of the city in the 20th century led to an expansion of the city limits to the port city of Piraeus. In addition to classicist and historicist buildings from the 19th century, examples of all architectural styles of the 20th century increasingly shaped the cityscape. In the city center, classicist residential buildings have gradually been replaced by high-rise buildings and wide main streets have been laid out since 1950. The hosting of the 2004 Summer Olympics prompted the Athens city administration to carry out numerous renovations and new buildings in the city center and the outskirts. In the area around the Acropolis, an approximately 5 km long, motor-free promenade was laid out between 1993 and 2003, which includes the most important ancient sites (Temple of Zeus, Panathenaic Stadium, Olympieion and Academy of Plato) connects to an archaeological park of about 10 km 2; Directly on this promenade is the new Acropolis Museum, which was built according to plans by B. Tschumi and opened in June 2009. The largest of the newly built sports facilities is the Olympic sports complex “OAKA” in the Marussi district, designed by the Spanish architect S. Calatrava (completed in 2004), with a capacity of 75,000. The cultural center of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation was built in 2012-16 according to the plans of Renzo Piano and donated to the Greek state in 2017.

Athens, Greece Overview