The majestic 19th century buildings of Athens

Athens Buildings 19th century

A guide on the most beautiful buildings in Athens, by the team at Greeklist.

1. The rebirth of Athens during the 19th century

Athens’ story in the early 19th century is one of phoenix-like rise from the ashes. Following centuries of Ottoman rule and a devastating yet succesful War for Independence, the city lay in ruins. Yet, from this rubble emerged a fervent nationalistic spirit and a grand vision for the future. King Otto, the first king of Greece, was an admirer of Ancient Greece, so se chose Athens as the nations capital. Many famous European architects where invited to renovate Athens. One of the defining characteristics of 19th-century Athenian architecture is Neoclassicism, inspired by the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome and was seen as a way to connect the new Greek state with its glorious past.

Athens right after the war (1830)
Athens right after the war (1830)

2. What is Neoclassical architecture?

A grand revival took hold in 18th-19th century architecture with Neoclassicism. This movement looked back to the grandeur of ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration. Buildings like Athens’ House of Parliament showcase the style’s hallmarks: clean lines, perfect symmetry, and the incorporation of elements like Doric columns. Neoclassical architects aimed for a sense of order and reason, reflecting the Enlightenment ideals of the time. This focus on balance stood in stark contrast to the more playful and ornate Rococo style that preceded it. Historical themes and mythology were often referenced, adding a layer of intellectual depth to these architectural statements

3. The most beautiful 19th century buildings of Athens

Throughout Athens, you can find many buldings of Neoclassicist arthicecture and most of them are still in use.

Here is our pick:

Hellenic Parliament Building (Old Royal Palace)

Hellenic Parliament

A majestic neoclassical building. Construction began in 1836 with designs by German architect Friedrich von Gärtner. However, due to political upheaval, the project was completed by Leo von Klenze in 1842. The building’s grand facade and symmetrical layout embody the principles of neoclassicism, reflecting a desire to connect the newly formed Greek democracy with the ideals of ancient Greece. It was first used as the Royal Palace until 1910, when it was abandoned. Since 1935 and after a major renovation , it is been used as the Seat of the Hellenic Parliament

Zappeion Mansion

  • Address: Vasilissis Olgas Avenue, Athens
  • Architect: Theophil Hansen and Christian Hansen
  • Building Period: 1854-1888 (with interruptions)
  • Current Use: A venue for cultural events and exhibitions
  • Zappeion Mansion

A remarkable example of Danish Historicism. Designed by the Hansen brothers, Theophil and Christian, construction spanned from 1878 to 1888. The building’s grandeur is evident in its elaborate ornamentation, arched windows, and central dome. Notably, the Zappeion Mansion played a pivotal role in the revival of the Olympic Games. It served as the venue for the first modern-day Olympic Games held in 1896. Today, it continues to be a prestigious venue for cultural exhibitions, conferences, and other significant events.

National Observatory of Athens

Perched atop a hilltop overlooking the city, is a prominent landmark. Designed by the renowned architect Theophil Hansen, construction took place between 1842 and 1848. The building exemplifies the neoclassical style, featuring clean lines, symmetrical proportions, and a Doric portico. Beyond its architectural significance, the National Observatory has played a crucial role in scientific advancement in Greece. It continues to be a center for astronomical research, observation, and public education in astronomy.

Vallianeio Mansion

A neoclassical gem designed by Theophil Hansen and constructed between 1862 and 1864, the library has since moved to a more modern facility. Its imposing facade with grand columns and a central pediment reflects the architectural style popular during the 19th century’s neoclassical revival. The Mansion serves as a vital repository for Greek publications, historical documents, and artifacts, safeguarding the nation’s memory and fostering scholarship.

Stathatos Mansion

  • Address: Irodotou Street 1, Athens
  • Architect: Ernst Ziller
  • Building Period: 1895 (approx.)
  • Current Use: Museum of Cycladic Arts
  • Stathatos Mansion

The Stathatos Mansion stands as a testament to the influence of European architectural trends on Athenian elites in the late 19th century. Built around 1895 by German architect Ernst Ziller, the mansion exemplifies a blend of architectural styles. While its overall structure leans towards neoclassicism, elements like decorative details and balconies hint at emerging European artistic movements. Originally a private residence for the wealthy Stathatos family, the mansion has since been transformed into the Museum of Cycladic Arts

Maximos Mansion 

The Maximou Mansion exudes an air of power and prestige. Designed by Stamatios Kleanthis, a pivotal figure in shaping the architectural identity of the newly established Greek capital, construction took place between 1832 and 1837. The building’s neoclassical style, characterised by symmetry, clean lines, and a grand portico, reflects the aspirations of the young Greek nation. Since its completion, the Maximou Mansion has served as the official residence of the Prime Minister of Greece.  Its enduring presence embodies the continuity of Greek leadership and the nation’s democratic institutions.

Presidential Mansion

The Presidential Mansion is a grand example of eclectic architecture designed by the German architect Ernst Ziller, who lived and worked in Greece for many years. Built for the Crown Prince, it became the office of the President of Greece, after the monarchy was abolished. The mansion’s architecture and extensive gardens contribute to its status as a national landmark.

National & Kapodistrian University of Athens

The Kapodistrian University of Athens, holds the distinction of being the first university established in the newly independent Greece. Founded in 1837 by King Otto I, and named after Ioannis Kapodistrias (Greece’s first head of state), the university played a critical role in reviving Greek scholarship and fostering intellectual discourse. Architect Christian Hansen, is credited with designing the original neoclassical building.

Academy of Athens

  • Address: Panepistimiou Avenue 28, Athens
  • Architect: Theophil Hansen
  • Building Period: 1859-1864
  • Current Use: Home to the Academy of Athens, the highest academic institution in Greece
  • Academy of Athens

The Academy of Athens is a neoclassical building designed by the prolific Theophil Hansen. Inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, it features a distinctive dome and a grand portico with Ionic columns. The Academy serves as a prestigious institution that recognizes excellence in various fields and promotes scholarly research.

Old Parliament House

  • Address: Stadiou Street 13, Athens
  • Architect: Panagis Kalkos
  • Building Period: 1840-1844
  • Current Use: National Historical Museum
  • Old Parliament

The Old Parliament House is another example of neoclassical architecture, designed by Panagis Kalkos. It served as the private estate of the wealthy Konstostavlos Family and later as a permanent royal residence by King Otto I. It was also the seat of the Greek Parliament from 1875 to 1935. Today, it houses the National Historical Museum museum showcasing the history of the Greek Parliament and democracy in Greece.

Andreas Syngros Mansion

  • Address: Vasilissis Sofias Avenue 5
  • Architect: Theophil Hansen
  • Building Period: 1872
  • Current Use: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece
  • Syngros Mansion

Originally  a grand residence for the wealthy banker Andreas Syngros (1830 – 1899), it reflects neoclassical style with a history as opulent as its architecture.Designed by Theophil Hansen, Syngros himself added flourishes and completed the masterpiece. Today, it serves as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece.

Villa Ilisia

Originally built in the mid-19th century, the Ilisia Mansion is a beautiful example of neoclassical architecture. Designed by the prominent Greek architect Stamatios Kleanthis, it reflects the emerging national style that drew inspiration from ancient Greece.The mansion’s history is intertwined with the city’s development. Initially a private residence for Duchess Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, it later served various public functions before becoming the permanent home of the Byzantine and Christian Museum in 1926.

4. Witness history and brilliance in Athens

History buffs, take note! Athens is a feast for the eyes, with 19th-century gems lining its streets. From the neoclassical House of Parliament to the Romanesque Zappeion Mansion, each building whispers a tale of Greece’s rebirth. Explore university campuses, presidential abodes, and scientific wonders, all within this vibrant city.

If you are interested in visiting Athens, here is our complete guide!

Athens 19th century
Ermou Street and the Royal Palace ατ 1880.

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