Athens is a patchwork of different architectural styles. Significant archaeological temples belonging to the city's rich historical past, neoclassical mansions and massive concrete blocks of apartments create a chaotic yet interesting city.
Although Athens does not have the impressive baroque architectural style as fellow European capitals like Rome, nor the best-organized street structure, the capital of Greece has managed to create an architectural identity that is quirky but never fails to bore you!
Of course, the year-round good weather, the fascinating gastronomy scene, the emerging street art, the proximity to the sea and the open-hearted people come to fill in the gaps of the almost non-existent town planning and succeed in making Athens one of the most alternatively attractive cities in Europe.
Traces of the Byzantine and Ottoman Era are also found in Athens, although they are not as numerous. They mainly consist of small Byzantine churches such as Kapnikarea.
Reminiscent of the Ottoman days is the mosque at Monastiraki Square and a distinctive Turkish Hammam in Plaka.
The War of Greek Independence in 1821 and the inauguration of Athens as the capital of modern Greece in 1834 marked a new era for this Mediterranean town and construction took place.
Many architects from abroad such as Ernst Ziller and Theophil and Christian Hansen who envisioned a revival of the ancient glorious days, settled in Athens and got involved in shaping a new face to this long-forgotten city.
As expected, their inspiration derived from the country's ancient history and mythology and the cultural movement of Neoclassicism flourished.
Examples of Neoclassicism are found in many public and governmental buildings such as the so-called Athenian Trilogy - the Academy, the University and the National Library in Panepistimiou Avenue - the National Archaeological Museum and the National and Technical School in Patision Street.
Furthermore, the Historical Museum (former Parliament) on Stadiou Street, the Greek Parliament (former palace) in Syntagma Square, the Numismatic Museum (house of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann) as well as Zappeion Exhibition Hall, banks, galleries, museums, hotels and private mansions were all built in the style of the Neoclassicism. Kolonaki and Plaka were and remain the aristocratic neighborhoods of Athens while the suburb of Kifisia, which back then was considered a province, is home to some of the most beautiful neoclassical buildings of that time.
Another neighborhood with high architectural interest although small in size is Anafiotika.
It is a minor district located in the upper region of Plaka, just in the foothills of the Acropolis. Some of the oldest houses in Athens are found here. Their cubic design and the very narrow, labyrinth-like alleys remind of the Cycladic architectural style. Anafiotika was built in the mid-19th century and was inhabited by poor families of builders who migrated from Anafi and helped with the construction of the Palace of King Otto. Nowadays, there are a few remaining buildings that are considered a part of the architectural heritage of Athens.
Over the years, different styles and architectural movements developed in Athens. One shall encounter Bauhaus-style and modernist-era buildings, especially in the neighborhoods of Exarchia and Kipseli.
An important period in which Athens was massively restored was after World War 2 and more specifically during the '50s and the '60s. These decades were marked by the urbanization of Greece; the population from small towns and villages all over Greece fled to Athens in order to find jobs and create a new and better future for their families.
The housing problem had become huge and a solution was given via the antiparohi system. According to this system, an owner of land could give his land to a building constructor and in exchange, the constructor would give him some of the apartments when the building was completed. This motivated many Athenians to demolish their old and neoclassical mansions and build huge blocks of apartments in their place called polikatikies.
The massive construction of polikatikies solved the housing problem on the one hand but destroyed a huge part of the architectural treasure of Athens on the other.
It was only in the 1980s that a law came into force to protect and preserve buildings of architectural importance.
Nowadays, Athens is home to some significant, contemporary architectural works by internationally acclaimed architects such as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center by Renzo Piano, the Acropolis Museum by Bernard Tschumi, the Olympic Sports Complex (OACA) by Santiago Calatrava and others.
Furthermore, signature buildings of the modernist era have been renovated and are landmarks of the city.
The (former) Hilton Hotel, the National Gallery, the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) and the American Embassy by Walter Gropius and Pericles Sakellarios are some examples.