ATHENS — Psyrri,Thisio and Keramikos

Psyrri is a neighbourhood often overlooked by visitors to Athens but it is only a short distance away from the Plaka. It is fast becoming one of the trediest nightlife areas with lots of restaurants, bars and art galleries. The narrow, cobbled streets around this area are great for walking around and have their own charm. Thisio is another nearby neighbourhood that has a lot of cafes and bars and is popular after dark. You can get a wonderful view of the Acropolis from this area. In ancient times the area of Keramikos was the centre of the pottery industry and since then has been the location of a huge cemetery.

The sights found here are:
A.antonopoulou Art
Museum of Traditional Pottery
Keramikos
Street of Tombs
Bernier Eliades Gallery
Melina Mercouri Cultural Centre
Herakleidon At Museum
Ancient Agora
The Temple of Hephaestos
Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios
Temple of Apollo Patroos
Bouleuterion
Metroon
Monument of the Eponymous Heroes
Altar of the Twelve Gods
The Odeon of Agrippa
The Royal Stoa
Tholos
Monastiraki Flea Market
Filopappou Hill
Phynx Hill
Hill of the Nymphs

A.antonopoulou Art
This gallery is found in a former warehouse in the Psyrri district of Athens. It houses an impressive range of both contemporary and international art exhibitions. Included in its collections are installations, video art and photography.
For information about A.antonopoulou Art visit the website at: http://www.aaart.gr/Content/currentExhibition.asp?c=7&l=uk

Museum of Traditional Pottery
This small but interesting museum is found at 4 - 6 Melidoni Street in the Keramikos area. It was founded by Betty Psaropoulou in 1987 in her house in the Plaka area but it was subsequently rehoused to its present address in 2000. The museum allows you to explore the different stages of pottery- making in a reconstructed pottery workshop. There are around 4,500 pieces of ceramics in the museum but they aren’t always on display together. There are also temporary exhibitions and educational activities. The museum is open from 9am until 3pm Monday to Friday and on Sundays from 10am until 2pm and it is closed on Saturdays. It costs around 6€.

Keramikos

Keramikos
This area was named after the pottery workers who lived and worked here. The walls of Athens had two gates and divided this area into two parts. These gates called Dipylon and the Sacred Gate were at the beginning of the two most important processional roads in Ancient Greece — the panathenaic Way which led to the Acropolis and the Sacred Way leading to Eleusis. The Keramikos cemetery is found just beyond the Dipylon Gate.

Keramikos Museum is a small museum found in Ermou Street at number 148 and houses the findings from excavations of the cemetery of Keramikos. Most of the objects are directly connected to the cemetery and burial customs of Ancient Athens and include funerary urns, funerary monuments and grave offerings. The museum is open from 8am until 7.30pm daily except Mondays when it opens at 11am in the summer months and in the winter months it is open from 8.30am until 3pm. It costs 2€.
For information about the museum visit the following website at: http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/1/eh155.jsp?obj_id=3443

Street of Tombs

Street of Tombs
The Street of Tombs refers to both sides of the road that led to Piraeus and is a branch of the Sacred Way that was used as funerary allotments. This practice had been happening since the beginnings of the 4th century BC. The width of the road was 8 metres. Excavations revealed more than 20 tombs from around 90 metres of the road. These were the allotments of the eminent citizens and the wealthy of Ancient Athens. The most important funerary monuments found here are:the tomb of Dionysios who was the son of Alfino from Kollytos, from 345 BC; the stele of Dexileos who was the son of Lysanias and was killed in the battle against the Spartans in 394 BC; the stele of Hegeso who was the daughter of Proxenou, from 410 BC and the Stele of Pamphile and Demetrias, from the late 4th century BC.

Bernier Eliades Gallery
This Thissio art gallery exhibits contemporary works by Greek and international artists as well as hosting exhibitions.
For information about the gallery visit the website at: http://www.bernier-eliades.gr

Melina Mercouri Cultural Centre
This centre is named after the Greek actress, Melina Mercouri whose most widely known film is Never on Sunday. The centre is found in a former hat factory built in 1886. One of the highlights of the centre is found on the first floor. It is a permanent exhibition showing the neighbourhoods of Athens at the beginning of the 20th century. The exhibition includes paintings, the interior of a house, authentic clothing from the time and shop windows complete with authentic merchandise. The centre is free to visit and is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9am until 1pm and then from 5pm until 9pm. On Sundays it is open from 9am until 1pm. You will find it at 66a Iraklidon Street.

Herakleidon Art Museum
This private art museum opened in 2004 by collectors and art lovers, Paul and Anna-Belinda Firos. The building that houses the museum was part of their inspiration to set up an art museum to preserve these types of buildings as well as to share their art collection. The building dates from 1898 and is a great example of neoclassical architecture and one of the few remaining buildings of its type still in existence in Athens. The museum shows not only the art works of its artists but also the processes artists go through to produce them. Some of the items on display include sketches, photographs and personal items. The museum also plays hosts to a variety of exhibitions and in the past this has included such artists as M.C. Escher, Victor Vasarely and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.
For information about the mueum visit the website at: http://www.herakleidon-art.gr/index.cfm

Ancient Agora

Ancient Agora
The Agora was the heart of ancient Athens, the focus of political, commercial, administrative and social activity, the religious and cultural centre, and the seat of justice. Throughout the history of Athens the Agora was in constant use as a residential and burial area from the Late Neolithic period (3000 BC) to early in the 6th century when the Agora became a public area. It was a place where people gathered to buy and sell all kinds of goods as well as a place to discuss business, politics and current events. Many excavations have taken place here over time uncovering the remains of ancient buildings as well as sculptures. The most important monuments on this site are: The Temple of Hephaistos; Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios; Temple of Apollo Patroos; Bouleuterion; Metroon; Monument of the Eponymous Heroes; Altar of the Twelve Gods; The Odeion of Agrippa; The Royal Stoa (Stoa Basileios) and Tholos.
To find out more about the Ancient Agora visit the following website at: http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/eh351.jsp?obj_id=2485

The Temple of Hephaestos

The Temple of Hephaestos
This is the best preserved ancient Greek temple and is mostly intact probably because it was turned into a Christian church and served as the Greek Orthodox church of St George Akamates from the 7th century until 1834. It is found at the northwest side of the Agora of Athens, on top of the Agoraios Kolonos hill. The Temple of Hephaestos was built two years before the Parthenon in 449 BC. It was the first temple in Athens to be built of marble. It stands on an elevated platform and the temple measures 13.7 metres north to south and 31.8 metres east to west. The temple is Doric peripteral with some Ionic elements and consists of a rectangular closure surrounded by an outer colonnade on all four sides. The temple is made of marble with marble decorations and the roof is wooden. The interior is divided into a foretemple (pronaos), an inner shrine with interior colonnade (cella) and a rear temple (opisthonaos). The eastern end of the enclosure is open to the sky. There are huge statues of Hephaestus who was the Greek god of volcanoes and metalworking and Athena either side of the altar. Highlights of the interior are the friezes. On the eastern metopes (end gables) that face the Agora are friezes depicting the Labours of Hercules. The four easternmost metopes on the north and south sides depict the Labours of Theseus. The frieze over the pronaos shows a scene from the Battle of Theseus and the Pallantids while the frieze over the opisthonaos depicts the Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs.
To find out more about the Temple of Hephaestos visit the following website at: http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/2/eh251.jsp?obj_id=6621

Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios

Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios
This stoa or covered walkway was erected at the end of the 5th century BC for religious purposes and was dedicated to Zeus by the Eleutherios (Freedom) who were a cult founded after the Persian War. Scholars believe that it also served other civic purposes due to its location at the northwest corner of the Agora. Socrates is said to have met his friends in this stoa.

Temple of Apollo Patroos

Temple of Apollo Patroos
This small Ionic temple was erected around 340-320 BC between the Metroon and the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios. The temple measures approximately 10 x 16.5 metres and has four columns on the east facade. It is the temple of Apollo who was worshipped as the ‘Father’ (Pater) and the founder of the Ionian race which included the Athenians. A 2.5 metre tall statue of a draped Apollo was found near the temple and may be the cult statue by the sculptor Eupranor. It probably would have stood inside the cella. This statue is now in the Agora Museum.

Metroon

Metroon
This building that was named after Meter who was the mother of the gods was constructed in 140 BC along the western side of the Agora. The huge red-brown stone foundations are clearly visible and the building consisted of four rooms with a row of Ionic columns on the facade facing the Agora. The building was used as a sanctuary for the goddess Meter and as a state archive. In the building there were documents of laws, decrees, lawsuits, financial records, lists of offerings, weights and measures.

Bouleuterion
The Old Bouleuterion dating from the 6th century BC was a simple structure found on the western side of the Agora. It was used to house the 500 members of the Boule which was a council with major advisory, legislative and administrative responsibilities in the Athenian Democracy. The building consisted of a large, rectangular ante-chamber and a rectangular main hall that could hold 700 people. A colonnade which had the shape of the Greek letter Π supported the roof. The New Bouleuterion was built to the west of the old one which they had outgrown at the end of the 5th century BC. This new building was rectangular, with windows and tiered wooden benches and included a monumental gateway. The Old Bouleuterion was used to store archives. The ruins of this building were found beneath the Metroon.

Monument of the Eponymous Heroes

Monument of the Eponymous Heroes
Near the Metroon you will find the remains of a marble oblong pedestal enclosed by a fence. This pedestal supported the bronze statues of the legendary heroes who gave their names to the ten tribes of Athens. It was a prominent noticeboard for the ancient Athenians and important announcements and decrees were posted here. It dates from the second half of the 4th century BC.

Altar of the Twelve Gods

Altar of the Twelve Gods
This monument stood north of the Agora and was used as a reference for the centre of the city in measuring distances. It was constructed in 522 or 521 BC and was dedicated to the twelve Olympians: Zeus; Hera; Poseidon; Demeter; Dionysus; Apollo; Artemis; Ares; Aphrodite; Hephaestus,Hermes and Athena.

Traveller's Tip

During recent renovation work on the Athens-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) the Altar of the Twelve Gods is believed to have been unearthed but because it has held up the renovation of the railway there is some controversy between Archaeologists and the ISAP which is still being resolved.
The Odeon of Agrippa

The Odeon of Agrippa
This was an auditorium that could seat around 1,000 people and it was built by Agrippa in 15 BC. As well as the auditorium there was a two-storey portico. It was a Roman addition to the Agora. There were two entrances to the auditorium: a front one in the north for the elite and the performers and a back door in the south for the common people. Around 150 AD the building had to be renovated as the roof had collapsed and the seating capacity was halved. It was then used mainly as a lecture hall. Also around this time large statues of Tritons and Giants were added to the facade.The building was destroyed by fire in 267 AD and in about 400AD the Gymnasium was erected here. It consisted of numerous rooms, peristyle courts and bathing establishments. Its north side was adorned by four colossal figures of Giants and Tritons set up on massive pedestals. These statues were the original ones from the Odeon and can still be seen today on the facade.

The Royal Stoa

The Royal Stoa
This was the ancient seat of King Archon who was one of the heads of the Athenian government and was responsible for religious matters and presiding over laws. The Royal Stoa was built around 460 BC and is found in the northwest corner of the Agora, facing east overlooking the inner open square of the Agora and the Panathenaic Way. In this stoa the laws of Solon were displayed, and the Council of the Aeropagus held its meetings. It is comparitively small for a stoa, measuring only 18 metres in length by 7.5 metres in width. Eight Doric columns ran across the eastern opening of the stoa and the roof was supported by first two and then four interior Doric columns. The building is constructed mostly of yellowish limestone. The roof is a unique feature of the stoa because in addition to terracotta tiles, it also featured terracotta ornamental sculptures. Evidence indicates that two wings were added to the building after its reconstruction and these were eventually used to display all of the Athenian constitution. Directly in front of the stoa is a large base of four, square-cut blocks of stone which date back to the last half of the 4th century BC. These blocks represent the foundation of a large statue of either Themis, goddess of Justice, or Demokrateia. This statue was found built into a Byzantine wall immediately above the stone foundation. It is approximately 3 metres tall and is draped in marble. This stoa is famous for being the site of the indictment of Socrates who was charged with impiety and corrupting the youth in 399 BC.

Tholos

Tholos
This circular building was erected in around 460 BC and stood south of the Bouleuterion complex which it was part of. The building had a diameter of around 18.3 metres and was originally used as a dining room for the members of the Boule. There is a small kitchen on the north side of the building and six interior columns that served as roof supports to the cone-shaped roof. The building was also as a small boarding house for the members of the Boule so that they could be called upon quickly if an emergency arose and as a Bureau of Standards, housing an official set of weights and measures. These were inscribed with their weights and were decorated with different symbols for easier recognition.

Monastiraki Flea Market
This is a ‘must-see’ when visiting Athens especially on Sundays when the locals are out in full force. At this market you will find everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, trendy clothing, antiques, jewellery, books, food, wine, souvenirs and so on. The market starts from Avisynia Square and then branches out in every direction around the surrounding streets. On other days things are a little quieter here but it is still an interesting shopping area with the tiny shops found here selling worry beads, furs, backgammon sets, toy soldiers, ancient Greek bottle openers and cigarette lighters, Byzantine Icons, paintings, statues, postcards, high fashion such as T-shirts, handbags with pictures of the Parthenon and so on. The market is open roughly from 8am until early afternoon.

Filopappou Hill

Filopappou Hill
This is a green area to the south west of the Acropolis. It is a favourite walking place for locals and from here you can have wonderful views of the Acropolis, the whole city of Athens and the Aegean Sea. It was called the Hill of the Muses but is now known as Filopappou Hill or Philopappou Hill. In 115 AD, a marble monument dedicated to the exiled Roman Prince Gaius Julius Antichus Philopappos of Commagene was erected on top of the hill. Philopappos was exiled from his home and settled in Athens and held religious and civil offices. He was considered a great benefactor and was highly regarded by Athenians. Near the monument but hard to see is a stone structure with iron gates. According to the tradition, this is the prison where the great Greek philosopher Socrates was imprisoned and died. Philopappou Hill can be reached via the Athens Metro to Thissio or Acropolis. The Church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris is found on the hill and you can reach it by taking the paved path that is found near the street kiosk on Dioysiou Areopagitou. The path is around 250 metres and goes right up to the church and past it. The church contains some lovely frescoes.

Phynx Hill
Phynx Hill is found between the hills of the Muses and the Nymphs, opposite the Areopagus, and alongside Apostle Paul Street. It has a huge man-made semicircular flat space with a speaker’s platform for orators, on top. For the ancient Athenians the Pnyx was where the great orators delivered their speeches and the institutions needed for their democratic governing of a people were born and developed here. It is believed that the Pnyx was founded in the 5th century BC and there were three construction periods. At first, it was a plain, natural area with a retaining wall to the north. Then a semi-circular retaining wall was built and two staircases led to the place where the orators could speak. The area also had 500 wooden seats for the Councilmen elected by the Assembly. The third construction of the Pnyx was based on the same design but was on a larger scale. In the 1st century BC the Pnyx started to decline because Athens was getting bigger and it was difficult for many citizens to come here so the new Assembly of the Athenians took place in the theatre of Dionysos. It is believed that the Pnyx could hold 20,000 citizens, although a minimum of 6,000 Athenians was necessary in order for a discussion to start. The Assembly usually met once every nine days to discuss political, social and war issues. Excavations of the area were made early in the 20th century and these uncovered the platform of the Pnyx, as well as two large stoas, built to shelter people in case of bad weather, the altar of Zeus Agoraios and the sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos. Today international events which have to do with democracy are held on Phynx Hill and the arena is also used for the ‘Sound and Light’ show of the Acropolis.

Hill of the Nymphs

Hill of the Nymphs
This is a 105 metres hill that looks like an extension of the Hill of the Muses. From the end of the 6th century BC, it gradually became the official location for the meetings of the Athenian popular assembly. From ancient times this site was sacred to the Nymphs. According to legend, the Nymphs were masters of nature, and could also master the souls and minds of mortals. At the crest of this hill you will find the Observatory of Athens and in the garden there is an ancient rock with an inscription alluding to the Nymphs. The observatory was built in 1842 and is open to visitors on the last Friday of every month. Near the observatory is a building with a large telescope and a seismological station. On the slopes of the Hill of the Nymphs you will find ancient ruins which are the foundations of buildings that once stood here.