As you would expect from a European congress capital, Athens offers numerous special venues that will fulfil the expectations of even the most demanding of congress guests. Not only that, but you will often find these venues in city spots awash with unmatched cultural, historical and architectural value, while at the same time being very thematically, artistically and ecologically balanced. These special venues blend in perfectly with the history and essence of Athens, in fact, so much so that they are a key source of surprise at social programmes – and there is no lack of those in the Greek capital!
Besides those we will cover here, there is a vast number of other special venues, such as the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Athens Golf Club, Mettalurgio, Aigli Zappeiou and many other kinds of places like wineries or luscious gardens scattered throughout the city. All of this, along with the possibility to venture even further and go to one of the city’s many sandy beaches, really makes the diverse Athenian incentive offer one of the most desirable anywhere in Europe.
If you find yourself scratching your head at the abundance of unusual and truly special venues, we suggest a visit to the following selection that we had the pleasure to visit the last time we were in Athens.
ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTRE
Famous shipbuilder turned multimillionaire, Aristotle Onassis didn’t only leave us with juicy stories from his personal life, but also with a respectable foundation, enriching Athens with the Onassis Cultural Centre. The cultural centre building was designed by Architecture Studi, a French architectural group, and their philosophy can be seen as soon as you step through the front door: a white rectangular shell forms the mask of the building, made up of horizontal layers of marble that reflect the sunlight by day and glow with colour by night. The centre encompasses the entire spectre of art, from theatre, dance, music and virtual art right through to written word, and with a strong emphasis on modern cultural expression achieved with the help of both Greek artists and the entire international art community.
Re-opened in 2000, Antonis Benakis’ personal collection showcases everything from amazing ancient Greek works of art to different modern installations. There are over 30,000 works of art in the collection, which also reaches into Islamic and Byzantine art, both of which of course influenced the development of the city. Events can be organised in four different buildings: a part of the Museum of Greek Culture, 138 Pireos St., the Museum of Islamic Art and the Delta House. Each of them boasts different capacities, with the biggest being in the central museum building, where the popular café-restaurant is capable of hosting up to 400 participants.
The birth-place of the modern Olympics is today also known as a special venue, but it didn’t achieve such acclaim solely for being the first host of our modern take on the ancient Olympic games. There is the fact, for example, that it is completely made out of marble. It can also accommodate 50,000 spectators. And, of course, in 1896 the first modern day Olympic games were held there. In 2004 the stadium finally got one more chance when the city hosted the 28. Summer Olympic Games and the marathon runners streched their weary limbs over the last few metres of the course that ended at the stadium. If you want to organise a meeting at the Panathenaic Stadium you can rent the Atrium Hall, which is suitable for smaller congresses.
This impressive venue took its name Evangelos Zappas, a famous entrepreneur from Pirija and the sponsor of the first modern-day Olympics in 1896. The building was designed to serve the Olympics as the first European multifunctional event space and it is abundantly clear that the man behind the design of the building, architect Theophil Freiher, did a truly excellent job. The venue, located in the middle of a city park, is still renowned for its functionality today. After its thorough technological make-over it has hosted everything from events such as the Greek EU Presidency in 2004 to numerous exhibitions, fairs, degustations and fashion shows. The classical architecture of the building is impressive, enhanced by the large oval open space by its entrance.
Most often it is the case that abandoned old industrial buildings are pretty doomed, and such was the case with the old Gas Works factory in Athens. Fortunately, however, public opinion prevailed that re-using old facilities like this actually has its benefits – and so it came to pass. After an almost 30-year standstill the former works re-opened its doors in 2004 under the new name of Technopolis. The transformation opened up new possibilities and different options for using the old infrastructure in fresh and innovative ways. Its industrial flare pervades the spaces that hide interesting museum collections, along with loads of space for event organisation, whether it’s out in the open or indoors.
Rather than simply exhibit some ‘dusty antiques’, this modern building creates a strong dialogue with the world-recognized building perched on top of the hill and guides people through an excellently showcased history of this ultimate Greek symbol, offering a much better understanding of what the Acropolis actually is. Swiss-German architect Bernard Tschumi, in cooperation with the aesthetic touches of his colleague Michalisa Fotiadisa, have here created a living organism directly connected to its natural habitat and the roots of its treasures. The minimalist museum creates an excellent congress venue, using glass and concrete surfaces that leave room for the works of art to shine. The peak of the experience is reached on the top floor, where the incomplete Parthenon façade maintains hope that all of these Greek national treasures will one day return to their natural home.