Visit the place that gave birth to the Olympic Games : the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens ! This monument is still used nowadays and is the most unique stadium in the world.
The Panathenaic stadium is the only stadium in the world that is entirely made out of marble. It is two thousand years old, and it hosted the first ancient Olympic games as well as the modern ones. It is a sacred place not only for the religious people but also for those who love sports. Don’t just stand at the entrance and only get a glimpse of it through the bars, come in! Visit the Panathenaic stadium to understand where the spirit of sports comes from and have a real experience. It has a pure and noble design that is unequaled by any other modern stadium structure ; even though a lot of them have much more spectacular dimensions they lack all the historical background that makes this place special.
This stadium is situated between Ardettos hill and the river Illissos. Before the stadium was built the location was used by Socrates and his disciples to converse about philosophy. It was created in 139 BC for regular athletic games. It started to be used around 330 BC for grand athletic championships during the Panatheia celebrations. The athletes participating were only nude males and perpetuating the Greek thirst for beauty of mind and body, as you can find in philosophy and literature. This was the time when Athens was under the rule of Emperor Hadrian and developed a lot of artistic and intellectual projects. The stadium was financed by Herodes though and his tomb used to be on the hilltop next to entrance. The stadium was adorned with ivory and gold statues and a temple of Tyche/Fortuna was also built on the summit of the hill Ardettos. When big monuments where built, the Greeks usually built at the same time small sanctuaries or temples in order to not upset the gods for being too vain and to thank them. As time passed and Rome fell apart, the stadium lost his glory. Christianism started to spread and roman influence began to fade away, the bloody duels and gladiator contests became prohibited and the place wasn’t as popular anymore. Marbles pieces started to be taken away from the stadium and used for other Athenian buildings, statues were taken away as well so you won’t see all of them on site. If you want to get an idea of what you would have seen, you can always head to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens which houses a large collection of well conserved statues from this era. Finally, magical rites also took place in the ruins and the stadium’s original use started to vanish.
Thousands of years later, the French aristocrat Pierre de Coubertin started to spread the idea of sports in the world. As he wanted to revive the ancient Greek architectural magnitude, in 1870 the stadium was rebuilt from pentelic marble in order to respect the original design of Herodes. A first Olympic game happened there in 1896, but the stadium wasn’t in a proper shape yet as it was mostly destroyed. The first modern Olympic Games took place in this stadium in 2004 after it was intensely reconstructed thanks to the benefactor Georgios Averoff. A marble statue was carved to the image of Averoff and is now displayed on the entrance of the stadium. Today you can still visit the Panathenaic Stadium during other sport events than the Olympic games, as they now take place in other places in the world every four years. The reason why they have always happened every four years is because time wasn’t counted in years in antiquity but in Olympiads which are four years periods of time. The Panathenaic Stadium has been the venue for intense emotions and demonstrations of athletic prowesses since antiquity.
What to do and see at the Panathenaic Stadium
If you visit the Panathenaic stadium today, you will see it is in perfect condition and understand why it is also called the “Kallimarmaro” stadium ; which means fine marble. It follows a classical horseshoe shape. At the top of the stairs you will have a spectacular view on multiple monuments including the Acropolis. You can also visit the underground part where there is a small museum. By passing under the bleachers you will pass through the same alleyways Olympic athletes have gone through before performing. You can also see a collection of Olympic torches, that are still burning up to today. Even though the Olympic games do not take place in Greece anymore, the Olympic flame still travels from the ancient site of Olympia to the Panathenaic Stadium to be handed over the new host country in a grand ceremony. It is then handed back when the Olympics is over. It still remains today the finishing line for the annual Athens Classic Marathon ; a sport even that was also one of the most popular sports in ancient times.
If you want to fully experience the stadium, visit the Panathenaic Stadium while an actual event takes place, the stadium hosts concerts in summer and not only sport events. Unlike some cultural events like theater, you are not required to know the Greek language to fully appreciate the events that take place there, so do not hesitate to come. At autumn you can visit the Panathenaic stadium and go see the Athens Authentic Marathon or even participate yourself if you wish. Between these events you will still appreciate a visit there for different reasons ; it can be your interest in history, sports or simply art. You can actually do sports yourself there outside the big events, or just admire how motivated the numerous morning joggers you will see there. After blowing off steam or just because you need to rest, go have a drink at the café stadium.
The Stadium is approximately a hundred and eight five meters long. It can host up to fifty thousand spectators. Because of the marble, the stadium can be very hot. For this reason it is suggested to visit the Panathenaic stadium during the morning or evening. It is a great place to visit with your kids, if they want to unleash their energy by running around and imagining they are a world renowned athlete. Don’t forget to take a fun picture on the top position of the podium. An audio guide tour is proposed at the entrance and is pretty useful as is provides good information and because there isn’t any other information regarding the history of the site either.
How to go to the Panathenaic stadium
The exact address is : Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue
There are different ways to come and visit the Panathenaic stadium :
- Bus : 2, 4, 10, 11, 90, 209, 550
- Metro : line 2 (Acropolis or Syntagma), line 3 (Evangelismo).
- Car : There is no parking facilities on site but you can go to Vasileo Konstantinou avenue and then exit on the southeast corner of the national garden to find parking space near the entrance.
- Train : Syntagma stop
Rates and opening hours
Entrance is accepted until thirty minutes before closing.
The entrance fee includes the audio guide tour of the site.
- Normal ticket : 5€
- Reduced ticket (EU students and seniors) : 2,5€
- Free for minors
The stadium is open everyday except for the 1st of May.
- During spring-summer (1st of April-30th September) : Mon- Sun: 8:00am-7:00pm
- During autumn-winter (1st October-31st March) : 8:00am-5:00pm
- Closed on: 1 January, 25 March, Easter Sunday, 1 May, 25 & 26 December
GOOD TO KNOW
Photography is permitted on site, and you will get a spectacular view if you climb up the stand twenty one : there you can capture at the same time the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Filopappos hill, The Olympieion temple, Zappeion the National Gardens and Lycabettus hill!
During winter and wet weather, the marble can be slippery so be cautious during your visit to the Panathenaic Stadium
It is possible to book the Atrium to use it as a conference space, and join it with a nice tour of the Stadium also.
If you are lost and are looking for directions, do not ask for the Olympic stadium or people will direct you to the modern Olympic stadium situated in the northern suburbs, instead ask for the Kallimarmaro stadium.
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