Take a tour of Athens architecture and more

There is a lot happening in the Greek capital, where history, modernity and a bright future converge in the worlds of architecture, design and art. Here’s what to see and do in Athens

Render of The Ellinikon redevelopment
Visualisation of The Ellinikon redevelopment
(Image credit: press)

For the Athens-bound, the well-known mix of Greek sun, sea and classical antiquity may feel like an obvious draw, but do not be distracted by the clichés; there are riches aplenty far beyond these in the Greek capital's cultural scene. Following almost a decade of financial troubles, topped by the challenges brought by the pandemic, Athens is now, again, on the up. Parts of the city are being rethought through art, including an unexpected corner of Piraeus, and the Pedion Areos park; some of the capital's most iconic 20th-century heritage is being given a new lease of life – there’s the ongoing renovation of the former Hilton hotel, one of Athens’ most iconic modernist buildings, into a new city destination, as well as the Fix brewery and Piraeus Tower; and a wealth of stylish hotels and eateries are opening all over town. And all that is on top of the Greek capital's existing charms and cultural haunts. Here, we pick some of the finest Athens architecture, design and art currently on offer, and flag up some of the exciting projects coming up in the Mediterranean metropolis. All you need to do is hop on an Aegean flight. 

Athens architecture and more

Piraeus art district

Athens architecture, design and art guide: India Mahdavi renders her most iconic piece in all-white for Athens' Carwan Gallery

Currently showing at Carwan Athens is India Mahdavi. 

(Image credit: Giorgos Sfakianakis)

The ancient port of Piraeus has proven to be the capital's newest art hub, with a trio of international galleries flocking to the neighbourhood of Agios Dionysios (also known as Papastratos, from the namesake tobacco brand that had its factory there in the last century). Rodeo, Carwan and The Intermission have each recently launched an outpost there, bringing contemporary art and design to the industrial landscape of this part of the city. The area has more coming up, with modern workspace and some residential projects courtesy of local design-led developer Dimand, as well as the Piraeus Tower at its doorstep (more below).


Athens architecture, art and design guide: mona hotel in athens

(Image credit: press)

The little sister of the established Shila hotel in Kolonaki, Mona is the freshest addition to central Athens' hospitality scene. The brainchild of creative director Eftihia Stefanidi and entrepreneur Shai Antebi, Mona is not just a hotel. Located in an eight-storey industrial factory from the 1950s in the edgy Monastiraki district, it features 20 rooms, a concept café, lounge and bar, and a speakeasy basement venue, as well as a members’ club rooftop terrace. The space has been styled with immaculate attention to detail, merging contemporary art and design objects from independent local designers as well as the owner's own design studio (Shila Maison d’Objets). Every beautiful piece found in the rooms can be purchased, and happenings make this stay as fun as it could possibly be.

The Ellinikon Experience Centre

Athens architecture, art and design guide: The Ellinikon Experience Centre 

(Image credit: George Fakaros)

When the new Eleftherios Venizelos airport opened in Athens in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics, its predecessor, Ellinikon airport, was left neglected and without purpose. After a few years spent working out how best to use its prime real-estate draws (located beside the beach and across a surface larger than the whole city-state of Monaco) and architectural heritage (it includes a main building, often referred to as the East Terminal, by midcentury modernist Eero Saarinen and created in 1959-63), it is now being redesigned by Lamda Development in stages as a mixed-use complex along with an extensive park. The Ellinikon Experience Centre, a reimagined airplane hangar, acts as a visitor centre for the area's redevelopment, telling the story of what was and what’s to come. The projects included feature local and international architecture studios, such as Kengo Kuma, Foster + Partners (see below) and Doxiadis+. 


Modern domestic interior in rental property m18 in athens

(Image credit: press)

If you want to experience the city like a true Athenian, book a stay at M18. The rental, owned by Oliaros – the real estate powerhouse behind a string of design-led homes in the boutique island of Antiparos – used to be the company director’s own home. It is also right next to the Acropolis museum and hill, as well as the green expanses of Filopappou Hill, right in the heart of Athens. The property, originally built in 1923, consists of three units of different sizes that are available for short- or long-term stays. Interiors have been sensitively refreshed by architect Argyro Pouliovali of ARP - Architecture Research + Practice, and graced with the owner’s personal art and design collection. This includes work by a mix of Greek and international artists, a Gio Ponti dining table, Alvaro Siza lighting, Flos pieces, traditional azeri carpets, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and Martino Gamper garden furniture.

Piraeus Tower 

Athens architecture, art and design guide: Piraeus tower render aerial

(Image credit: press)

This tower is not only the tallest in Piraeus but also the second tallest in the whole of Greece. Now, local design-savvy developer Dimand, alongside emerging Athens architecture studio Pila (founded by Ilias Papageorgiou, who relocated from New York, leaving a partner position at SO-IL in 2019 to set up on his own), the 1970s building is being reimagined for the 21st century, bringing together modern workspace, generous retail and food and beverage elements, and public green spaces. Combining sustainable principles with sleek design, as well as urban gestures in the form of a raised, green public pathway that connects the tower to the port, creating a welcome promenade, the refreshed tower is set to be completed in late 2023.

Gagosian Athens

Minimalist interior of gagosian gallery in athens featuring one artwork

Installation view, artwork by Sarah Sze.

(Image credit: Paris Tavitian)

Set within a majestic building masterfully redesigned by Kois Associated Architects, in the urbane Kolonaki district, Gagosian Athens has not one, but two worthy offerings for the art-savvy traveller this autumn, uniting the worlds of fine art and high design. Sarah Sze launches her first solo exhibition in Greece here, blending new oil and collage panel paintings, and small-scale sculptures and video installations from existing work, in a show that merges the physical and the digital worlds. At the same time, Marc Newson draws inspiration from Greece, and in particular the islands, to put together an exhibition of new cloisonné and cast glass furniture, exploring materials, processes, and skills, and neatly following on from his partial takeover of Gagosian’s retail location in Burlington Arcade in London this summer. 
Sarah Sze, Early September - October 2022
Marc Newson, October / November 2022

Estiatorio and Ksenodoxeio Milos

Athens architecture, art and design guide: estiatorio milos

The restaurant’s interior. 

(Image credit: Dimitris Poupalos)

The Milos restaurant (Estiatorio Milos) is well known in culinary circles for serving the finest fish in town and now its brand-new venue by London- and Athens-based studio Divercity Architects means it has some fine design to boast too. Sleek, seamless design featuring swathes of white marble, including a sculptural staircase, and minimalist decor mirror the beauty in simplicity found in the restaurant's dishes. Additionally, its new location, just a stone's throw from the heart of Athens and Syntagma Square, also comprises a chic hotel offering, Xenodocheio Milos, created by the same practice and featuring warm wood and elegant, contemporary interiors. 

Marina Tower by Foster + Partners 

Athens architecture, art and design guide: Tower by Foster and Partners

(Image credit: press)

Foster + Partners is behind one of the first residential schemes to be revealed at the redeveloped Ellinikon airport – while also masterplanning the whole estate. The Marina Tower is located right on the Athens Riviera, hailing its contemporary residential vision for this newly formed corner of the city. Surrounded by green expanses and blue waters, the project aims to be Greece’s first eco-conscious skyscraper, created following principles of sustainable architecture, as well as offering open-air planted terraces for residents. The tower is set to complete by 2026. 

National Museum of Contemporary Art Αthens (EMST) 

Athens architecture, art and design guide: EMST in athens, exterior detail

(Image credit: Spiros Rekounas)

The former Fix brewery in central Athens has been a city landmark since its creation in 1963 by Greek modernist Takis Zenetos – for its elegant lines, but also its sheer scale, dubbed by locals the ‘horizontal skyscraper’. Following a lengthy redesign process, the building was recently reopened as the National Museum of Contemporary Art Αthens (EMST), reimagined by 3SK Stylianidis Architects, in collaboration with Kalliope Kontozoglou, I Mouzakis & Associates-Architects Ltd, and Tim Ronalds Architects, ready to lend its vast expanses to art displays. Unfortunately, the museum launched just as the pandemic started, so had to remain closed to visitors for a while, but it is now reopening with a bang and a wealth of cultural programming, including temporary exhibitions, special projects and dedicated foyer commissions by local and international artists.

Delta at the Niarchos Foundation

Interior of flowing bar inside Delta restaurant at the Niarchos Foundation 

(Image credit: press)

The cultural hub and green lung that is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens’ southern residential district of Kallithea has been open since 2016 – but one of its most prominent spaces, the contemporary restaurant at the complex’s very top, only just opened in the past year. Designed by Kois Associated Architects, Delta offers an open, flowing interior that allows the gaze to wander through its warm composition, and towards the striking city views from its glazed walls. Inside, contemporary, abstract shapes, such as the bar’s organic form – a functional sculpture specially made by artists Voukenas Petrides – create physical centrepieces for the diners within the otherwise minimalist architectural experience.


Art inside renovated tobacco factory in athens

(Image credit: press)

This expansive new cultural space sits within a remarkable renovation of the city’s former Public Tobacco Factory – a majestic, historical building from the 1930s, which was later used as the Hellenic Parliament Library and Printing House. NEON was founded in 2013 by collector and entrepreneur Dimitris Daskalopoulos and moved into its current home in 2021, promising a mix of contemporary art forms, wide community engagement and public space for all in its vast halls. Here, industrial architecture meets modern art, in a redesign led by architect Fanis Kafantaris.

Athens Design Forum 2022 

Athens architecture, art and design guide: fassianos house in kea

(Image credit: Image from the Fassianos archive)

The Athens Design Forum, a festival dedicated to promoting Greek design, art and architecture, is back, following a successful first year featuring buildings such as the Kypseli house of Greek modernist Aristomenis Provelengios. Now, the late Athens artist Alekos Fassianos takes centre stage and the forum opens his island home in Kea, an Aegean retreat that is just a one-hour ferry journey from Athens. In collaboration with The Alekos Fassianos Estate, this will be the inaugural opening of the Fassianos residence and atelier, where visitors can enjoy his art as well as the home's typical regional island architecture of humble, white, low forms. The public launch takes place on 10 July 2022.

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Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).