On this day, October 20, 1888 — one hundred and thirty-two years ago — Athens’ iconic Zappeion Megaron first opened its doors to the public.
The impressive neoclassical hall was built in the late nineteenth century in preparation for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
The name Zappeion comes from the building’s benefactor, Evangelis Zappas, who was a philanthropist and one of the founders of the first modern Olympic Games.
Although he spent much of his life in Romania, Zappas was dedicated to supporting Greece and Greek culture. He funded many important events and buildings in nineteenth-century Athens.
With Zappas’ funding, the Greek government allotted an enormous plot of land, inside the National Gardens, for the imposing Zappeion Hall.
The great hall was designed by Danish architect Theophil Hansen, a renowned architect in the Neoclassical style. The style includes elements directly inspired by Greece’s classical period, filtered through a nineteenth-century European lens.
The many iconic features of neoclassical architecture were adopted from ancient temples and basilicas, including columns, sculptural flourishes and friezes, as well as curved arches.
After 14 years of construction, the neoclassical gem was formally opened in 1888, and has since served an important role in the history of Greece’s capital city.
It has served as the site of many important political events, including Greece’s addition to the European Economic Community, today known as the European Union, in 1979.
The architectural marvel also served as the home of Greece’s first official national radio broadcast, by the Athens Network, in 1938. More recently, the Zappeion housed the official press center for the Olympic Games in Greece in 2004.
Now, the iconic building serves as a venue for public and private events, as well as exhibitions and conferences.