Last week I visited Athens for the first time in my life. As a former classics student, it was an amazing experience. But as a current literature student, there’s also lots to do!
Odeon of Herodes Atticus – Areopagitou Dionisiou
Do you love the plays by Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides as much as I do? This ancient theatre shows you’re not the only one. It was build in the second century AD and has room for 5000 people! Nowadays it is still used to perform ancient tragedies. Just around the corner of this theatre you can also find the theatre of Dionysus, but unfortunately it hasn’t been as well preserved as the Odeon of Herodus Atticus.
Little Tree Books & Coffee – Kavalloti 2
This bookshop is one of the cutest ever! It has small but great collection, fiction and non-fiction, and both Greek and English books. Most Greek bookstores sell no to little English books, so if you’re looking for a Greek author in English, this is the place to be. And they also serve delicious looking cake. It’s just heaven.
The National Library – Panepistimiou 32
Not only does this building have magnificent stairs, it also contains a lot of books! Every time a Greek book gets published, a few copies have to be sent to the National Library. As a visitor, you can see the main reading room with beautiful columns. The books however look a bit neglected, and dusty, with can be nice for a picture (#bookstagram), but it’s not that good for the books. Tourists are not allowed to take pictures of the reading hall, to make sure it’s a quiet place for people to study.
Bookstore Polis – Dimokritou 26
This is one of the bookstores that only sells Greek books but the vibe is really nice! You can find it in the cosy neighbourhood of Monastraki and it seemed to mainly sell (auto)biographies and other non-fiction (here you have to take into account my horrible understandig of New Greek. It might have well been childrens books with a very adult cover). Outside, they offered a few second hand books!
This street is in the middle of the Monastraki flee market and contains several shops that sell, well, old shit. And among that old shit is old books. It’s mostly Greek, and several genres were represented nicely: I saw a lot of comicbooks, thrillers and romance novels. The comics seemed to be originally Greek, but among the thrillers and romance novels I recognized a lot of translated books.
The ancient agora – Adrianou
If you enjoy reading philosophy, this is the place to be. The agora used to be the main commercial and political centre of the city, and it is where you could find Socrates, Plato, the Sofists, Zeno, and many more. It is just amazing to stand in a place with such a rich history.
That weird place at Astiggos street
When I was walking around in Monastraki I noticed a bar called The James Joyce, with some books being sold near it. When I arrived in the street, the bar turned out to have nothing to do with the books. The books belonged tot his huge, crazy bookstore located next to it (I couldn’t figure out the name and Google doesn’t seem able to help me). They had a few crates of books located outside, with absolutely no order. I saw philosophy next to pulp next to childrens books. Then I went inside and I was absolutley flabbergasted. The piles of books went up to the roof! It was just stacks of books everywhere with bookmountain in the middle of it all. I did not dare look at the titles of the books below eye level, because it would be a huge problem if I’d see something I liked: how would we be able get to the book? This bookstore is complete chaos.
Public – Syntagma Square
You can find one of the biggest bookstores of Athens at the main square, Syntagma square, in the city centre. The first two floors is just electronics, but after those you get to two floors filled with books. Here you can find almost anything: romance novels, poetry, philosophy, young adult, etc. There’s also a good English section available with mostly classics: the best is really the bookcases filled with all kind of Penguin Classics. Unfortunately, there’s only a small collection of Greek literature translated into English available.
Streetsellers around the university buildings
Athens has streetsellers everywhere: little houses where you can get some coffee, a snack, a newspaper and gifts. But when you enter the streets around the university, they start selling something else as well: books! Mostly big, classic, academic books, really the kind of stuff a student needs. The main part of these books are in Greek, but sometimes there’s also English, French or German available.
Library of Hadrian – Areous 3
Combining ancient stuff and books? That sounds ideal! This library was built in 132-134 AD by the Roman emperor Hadrian. At this time, the books were papyrus scrolls, and the library contained 16.800 books! The library where they were kept was just one of the rooms of this big building. On both sides of the library there were reading rooms, and the building also contained lecture halls. It’s almost like a little university!
Books+ – Panepistemiou 37
This bookstore is just one of the many bookstores near the university with a focus on academic works, but I want to mention it because of what happened when I visited it. When I walked past it I was surprised to see this big poster about a book by a Dutch writer. So I went in and said to the staff: “Hi, I’m Dutch! What’s with the big poster about Joost de Vries?” Apparently, due to the rise of more extreme parties in Greek politics, people are getting more interested in books about the second world war. Dutch writers are famous for their books about the war, and so Joost de Vries’ book about Hitler sells really good.
Stoa tou vivliou – Pesmatzoglou 5
The stoa tou vivlou (gallery of the books) is a beautiful gallery filled with all kinds of bookstores. You can find some great specialists over here, but unfortunately, during my trip, this was one of the places where the economic crisis was most visible. Almost half of the available spaces for bookstores were empty. Don’t let this hold you back though: it’s a good reason to go to the bookstores that are still there and support them by buying a book!