Knowing the city. The Athinas Street. By Giannis Loukas



In 1834, when Athens became the capital of the Greek state, it was necessary to plan the city and draw up the urban plan that had already begun in 1831 by the architects  Stamatis Kleanthis  and Eduard Schaubert,, in a plan approved by the Regency in 1833. The original plan envisaged the construction of the Palace in Omonia Square, which would be a landmark for the city. According to similar 19th century urban plans, there was provision for the location of all the buildings necessary for the functioning of the capital, public services, parks, squares, barracks, post office, mint, etc.

However, the implementation of the project was only interrupted in 1834, when the size and cost of the expropriations became apparent and after it caused intense opposition. The famous Bavarian architect Leo von Klenze  was commissioned to draw up a new, more feasible plan, but it was subject to many modifications, as adjustments and alterations to the city plan were made throughout the 19th century.

Η οδός Αθηνάς καρτ ποστάλ (

However, there are many elements of the original design that have been retained, albeit with the relevant changes. According to the plan of 1833, the streets Pireos, Stadiou, Agiou Konstantinou, 3rd September, Panepistimiou and Athinas would radiate from the Palace, defining the Palace as the “centre” of the city and ensuring a view of the whole of Athens from the palace.

One of the streets with a central role in the new capital was Athinas Street. Its opening began in 1835 and would connect the palace with the Acropolis. The street was named after the temple of the Virgin Athena. Originally it was intended to be a noble road, a boulevard. However, the change of the location of the Palace in 1836, the placement of the street in the city centre and its connection to Monastiraki, which was traditionally the commercial centre of Athens, soon gave Athinas Street a commercial character that it retains to this day.

Οδός Αθηνάς 1920 – 1925 (Η Αθήνα μέσα στο χρόνο fb)

Athinas Street has never been a “quiet street”. Workers, residents, street vendors gathered daily on the bustling street. Visitors from the countryside, students and tourists stayed in its many hotels. In Loudovikos Square (Kotzia Square), two large hotels operated in the 19th century, the “Anglia” and the “Anatoli” and two more luxurious hotels, the “Bageion” and “Alexander the Great” at the junction with Omonia Square. Along the whole length of the street there were many more “popular” hotels and on their ground floors there were shops, cafes and kitchens. The commercial character of the street was enhanced by the railway stations at both ends, Monastiraki square and Omonia.

Ξενοδοχείο Μπάγκειον (

One of the most ” vibrant ” spots, not only of the street but of the whole city, was  Loudovikos Square , named in honour of King Otto’s father. From the middle of the 19th century onwards, emblematic buildings were constructed in the square for the functioning of the city: Ernesto Chiller’s building, which has housed the National Bank since 1979, is the mansion of the merchant Vasileios Melas. It originally served as a luxury hotel and subsequently housed the Stock Exchange (1881-1900) and the Central Post Office (1900-1974).

Μέγαρο Βασιλείου Μελά (

Another building – a symbol for the city was the magnificent  Municipal Theatre  (1886-1938) which was demolished in 1939, after many years of depreciation and abandonment. Its construction was a time-consuming and costly process. However, until the opening of the National Theatre in 1901, it was the most luxurious theatre in Athens, worthy of European standards.

Το Δημοτικό Θέατρο (Η Αθήνα μέσα στο χρόνο fb)

Of course, the most necessary building for the functioning of the capital was the Town Hall. Its construction lasted from 1872 to 1874 to the designs of the architect Panagiotis Kalkos  during the mayoralty of Panagis Kyriakos. Originally it was a two-storey building but the growing needs of the city led to the addition of another floor in the 20th century.

  The Ethnikis Antistaseos Square , as it is the official but not well-known name of Kotzia Square, has been for almost two centuries a reference point of the city’s past and present architecture. However, it is not the most imaginative space on Athena Street. This place is occupied by the Varvakeios Agora. A place in which for more than 100 years smells, colours, voices and of course the ambience of the people who gather in its corridors coexist.

Πλατεία Λουδοβίκου (

 The Varvakeios Agora was constructed at the end of the 19th century in order to meet the needs of Athens for a modern, covered municipal market. However, the great fire of 1884, which burned down the old city market in Monastiraki, played a role in the movement of traders to it. The Varvakeios market was completed in 1886 and since then it has been in continuous operation, gathering under its roof food products of all kinds: fish, seafood, meat, poultry, spices, fruits and vegetables. Apart from the Athenians, Varvakeios is now an attraction for tourists who can visit a historic, lively area of the city and get to know all the products of Greek food.

The construction of the closed market is due to the bequest of the benefactor Ioannis Varvakis. In the place where the market is located today, the Varvakios School operated from 1860 to 1944, but it followed the dramatic fate of the city centre as it was in the middle of the fighting forces during the Dekemvriana, was bombed and suffered great damage. The School remained in its location until 1955 but did not operate again on Athinas Street. It was finally demolished in 1955, depriving Athens of yet another historic building.

Of course, the image of Athinas Street through the years, as well as the city, has changed dramatically. Nevertheless, Athinas Street retains its energy, its popular identity, its commercial character. Neoclassical and newer buildings coexist, composing a mosaic of Athens’ past and present.

March 1 2024
March 1 2025