The Panathenaic Stadium, also locally known as “kallimarmaro” is one of the most important historic sites in Athens. It boasts a fairly central location and can be found just across from the National Gardens on the main boulevard of Leof. Vasileos Konstantinou.
The stadium is slightly out of the way of other central Athens attractions. It is a 14-minute walk away from Syntagma Square, and a 10 minute walk away from the Temple of Olympian Zeus, respectively.
Regardless, you should certainly take the detour. In doing so, you will also pass through the beautiful National Gardens, past the gorgeous Zappeion, and wind up in close proximity to the charming, underrated Mets district.
History of the Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium dates back to 566 BC. It is one of the oldest Olympic stadiums in the world and the only one that is made entirely out of marble.
The location is significant. Legend has it that Greek Philosophers Socrates and Phaedrus would meet here to have philosophical discussions.
It also sits close to another interesting historical site: the Lyceum of Aristotle. This site was founded by Aristotle in 335 BC and sadly, lies in badly preserved ruin. However, it is worth visiting while nearby at the Panathenaic Stadium.
The initial Panathenaic Stadium structure was made of wood. It was upgraded to marble later during the Roman Era.
The Panathenaic Stadium and the Roman Era
Herodes Atticus rebuilt the stadium in 140 AD and used exquisite white marble from the slopes of Mount Penteli to do so. If this name sounds familiar, itś because Herodes Atticus also founded the Odeon of Herodes Atticus that sits on the slopes of Acropolis Hill.
The stadium was expanded and modified to become a horseshoe shape as per what was typical during the Roman era. There was a large gate (propylon) at the entrance but unfortunately that no longer stands today.
These changes, made during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian, saw the Panathenaic Stadium transform into the condition it was found in when it was excavated in 1870. The final amendments and repairs were made in the 19th century.
The First Modern Olympic Games at the Panathenaic Stadium
The city prepared the Panathenaic Stadium to host the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. These last tweaks were made by architect A. Metaxa, and overseen by Ernest Ziller.
The first modern Olympic Games were a major event in modern Greek history. More than 80,000 people came to view some of the events – far more than the stadium’s seating capacity, with locals spilling out onto the streets of Athens.
Perhaps one of the most notable accomplishments was Greek Spyridon Louis winning the Marathon race. It was challenging for Greece to get everything prepared and ready for the 1896 Olympics and initially, there were concerns that the country couldn’t afford it.
Fortunately, everything worked out. For Greeks, the Olympic Games were not ¨just¨ a sporting event but a major positive turning point for a country that had struggled under the Turkish occupation for centuries.
The Panathenaic Stadium Today
Today, the Panathenaic Stadium is in excellent condition. So much so that you can still catch events and live performances here and the acoustics are perfect for live music.
Numerous Greek and international musicians and performers have hosted shows at the stadium in recent years. Perhaps most notably, American rock band Scorpion and the Harlem Globetrotters delighted crowds here.
Admission to the site costs €5. Concessions are available for seniors, students and children provided you present the necessary identification.
Entrance to the stadium also includes admission to the Panathenaic Stadium museum. The exhibits here contain Olympic torches from various Olympic Games around the world, old promotional posters and memorabilia, and interesting facts about the history of the events.
You don’t need an awful lot of time to explore the stadium and its museum. Maybe an hour or so.
You can climb up the steps to take a seat on the marble steps as Roman nobles would have done all those centuries ago as you take in the view. If you like, you can take a victory lap around the stadium!
Every day, you will see people running around the track in the centre of the stadium and posing on the winner´s podiums! The Panathenaic Stadium is seldom overcrowded so this is a wonderful place to snap some photos of your day in Athens. The stadium is also the endpoint for the November Athens marathon.
The modern Olympics have been hosted here three times over the centuries. Although this is an important global event, Greece will always be the birthplace of the Olympic games.
Every four years, an opening Olympic ceremony is hosted here to celebrate the start of the games. The Olympic torch travels from Ancient Olympia, across the Peloponnese and Attica, to Athens and the Panathenaic Stadium.
Points of Interest Around the Panathenaic Stadium
If you are exploring Athens on a budget and don’t want to pay for entrance, honestly, you can see most of the stadium from the outside. By nightfall, it is illuminated with dozens of twinkling lights and looks spectacular.
You can see the illuminated Panathenaic stadium glittering in all of its marble glory from various rooftop bars and viewpoints around the city. For instance, from Mount Lycabettus, Filopappou Hill, and the rooftop bar of Hilton Athens.
An alternative view of the Panathenaic Stadium can be found by ascending the adjacent Ardittos hill which sits directly next to the stadium. From here you have a birdseye view of the stadium and a unique perspective of the city skyline.
Other notable things to do in the area after visiting the Panathenaic Stadium? Head to one of the cute coffee shops in the nearby Mets district for a Greek coffee or a generous slab of cake.
Consider stopping for coffee at Kain (Anapafseos 22) or Metz Coffee bar (Mark. Mansourou 63). If you’re here in the evening, grab some Athens street food at nearby Elvis Souvlakia and head for cocktails and live music at Half Note Jazz Club (Trivonianou 17).
Getting to The Panathenaic Stadium
It is easy to get to the Panathenaic Stadium from Syntagma or other central points of Athens. It does not take long to walk from the centre, although public transport links are also available.
Trams 2, 4, 10, and 11 all stop directly outside the stadium, stop name ¨Kallimarmaro¨. So too, do buses 209 and 550.
Evangelismos and Syntagma are the two closest metro stations to the Panathenaic Stadium. Expect a circa 10-minute walk from each of them.