Athens is home to many beautiful churches that showcase the city’s rich religious history dating back to the Byzantine period. These structures serve as places of worship and showcase stunning art and architecture in historic locations. Visitors can also explore the picturesque monasteries located just outside the city. Athens’ diverse religious communities are reflected in the various houses of worship, each with unique charm and aesthetic appeal. If you are planning a trip, here are some of the most stunning churches in Athens.
Churches in Athens
Let’s explore the ten leading churches in Athens, one by one!
1- Church of Panagia Kapnikarea
In the busy city of Athens, there is the peaceful Church of Panagia Kapnikarea, an impressive church from the 11th century that has survived until today. The church is tucked away in the heart of the city center, on the famous shopping street of Ermou. Despite the city’s modernization, the church remains slightly recessed below the pavement level.
It owes its preservation to King Ludwig of Bavaria, who insisted on saving the church when the new city plan was being developed. The church is a beautiful example of Byzantine architecture with detailed wall paintings by famous icon painter Fotis Kontoglou. It provides a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle while offering a glimpse into its rich past.
2- Agios Georgios Church – Lycabettus Hill
The Church of St. George is situated at the highest point of Mount Lycabettus. It is one of the must-visit attractions in Athens. This elegant, modest white church offers breathtaking views of Athens and the sea. It was built in 1870 on a former Temple to Zeus site. St. George, a Christian martyr, was a member of the Praetorian Guard under Emperor Diocletian and is often portrayed as killing a dragon.
You can witness soldiers ceremoniously lowering the Greek Flag for the night just before sunset. If you’re not up for the hike up Lycabettus Hill, you can take the funicular and climb the final two flights of stairs to reach the church. After your visit, you can unwind at the cafe or restaurant slightly below the church. The church is particularly lively on St. George’s feast day, which is celebrated on April 23.
3- Agios Eleftherios Church or Mikri Mitropolis
Agios Eleftherios Church, also known as “Panagia Gorgoepikoos” and “Mikri Metropolis,” is a small church in Cathedral Square. It is situated in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens. The church is believed to date back to the 15th century.
Mikri Metropolis is much older than the nearby Metropolitan Cathedral and features building materials from structures dating back to Classical antiquity. After the Greek War of Independence, the church was abandoned and later served as the Public Library of Athens. Unlike most Byzantine churches, it makes no use of brick and has over 90 sculptures.
4- Church of Agios Nikolaos Ragavas
The Church of Agios Nikolaos Ragavas is ancient and historical in the charming Plaka district of Athens. It was once part of the Palace of the Ragavas family and is one of the oldest churches in Athens. The church has a unique bell that rang in freedom after the Germans’ occupation of Athens during WWII.
Also, the church features beautiful brickwork in a faux Arabic Kufic style, popular during Byzantine. The church’s cross-in-square design provides a beautiful and serene atmosphere for worship. It has been extensively restored and renovated in recent decades.
5- Church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris
The Church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris is situated on Filopappou Hill. It is named after a legend from the 17th century. The story goes that an Ottoman Garrison commander, Yusuf Aga, was struck by lightning on the eve of Agios Dimitrios, killing him just after he installed a giant cannon to attack the Christian faithful.
Moreover, the church is a mixture of old and new, with some parts dating back to the 12th century and beautiful masonry on the exterior. The church’s location, surrounded by pine trees on Philopappou Hill, is beautiful.
6- Church of Metamorphosis Sotiros – Anafiotika
Anafiotika is a hidden gem in the bustling city of Athens. At its heart lies the Church of the Metamorphosis Sotirios, which dates back to the 11th century during the Byzantine era. During the Ottoman occupation, it was used as a mosque, explaining the pointed arch in the architecture.
Also, the church follows the Cross-in-square style, which provides a cozy and intimate atmosphere for worship. The church’s exterior walls boast decorative cloisonne masonry, complete with zig-zags, rhomboids, and Cufic – an angular form of the Arabic alphabet. The dome is another standout feature, with its octagonal shape, marble columns, and windows allowing ample natural light.
7- Metropolitan Church of Athens
The Cathedral Church of Athens, which serves as the main church of Greece, is a stunning landmark in the heart of the city. Initially designed by Theophil Hansen, this neoclassical masterpiece evolved over the years with the contributions of many architects. The cathedral is a domed basilica with three aisles built with marble from 72 other demolished churches. King Otto and Queen Amalia laid the cornerstone in 1942, which took 20 years to complete.
In addition, the church is decorated with sculptures by Giorgos Fytalis and icons by Spyridon Giallinas and Alexander Seitz. The cathedral enshrines two saints, Philothei and Patriarch Gregory V; both were martyred during Ottoman rule. The church is where the nation’s leaders celebrate significant holidays, and its grandeur and magnificence make it a must-see landmark in Athens.
8- Catholic Cathedral Basilica of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite is one of Athens’ most beautiful buildings. It was designed by Leo von Klenze, who also created the city plan for Athens when it became the capital of Greece. It was built in a neo-Renaissance style during King Otto’s reign and opened in 1865. Today, it is the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Athens. The church is located on Panepistimiou avenue, close to other stunning buildings in Athens, which makes it an inspiring place to visit.
9- Church of Agia Ekaterini
You can find the Church of Agia Ekaterini in the Plaka neighborhood of Athens. This church has a rich history, built over an ancient temple dedicated to Artemis. In the 5th century, the wife of Emperor Theodosius II constructed the church of Agios Theodoros on this site. Later, the Monastery of Agia Ekaterini acquired the property, and it was renamed in 1767. Today, the church is surrounded by palm trees, giving it a tranquil and serene atmosphere amidst the busy neighborhood.
10- Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity
The Church of the Holy Trinity is near the Kerameikos Cemetery in Athens. It was built in the 11th century and is one of only eight churches in Athens that has remained unchanged except for minor repairs. During renovations, the only catacombs in Athens were discovered and can be visited by appointment with the priest after Sunday mass. The area is also home to the Eridanos stream and many tortoises.
The Bottom Line
Athens is rich in history, culture, and religious heritage. Also, this stunning city is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and significant churches. Each church holds a unique story and significance, from ancient Byzantine masterpieces to modern renaissance marvels. Visiting these churches offers a glimpse into the city’s history, art, and architecture and is a must-do for any traveler exploring Athens.
FAQs about Churches in Athens
No, you do not need to pay, as most churches in Athens do not charge an admission fee. However, some churches may require a donation or ask for a small fee for specific events or tours.
The best time to visit these churches in Athens is typically during weekdays, as weekends and holidays can be busier with tourists and locals. Additionally, early morning or late afternoon visits may offer quieter and more serene experiences.
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