National Library of Greece
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The National library of Greece in Athens is the biggest library in the country. It is the central repository of the press and the centre of national bibliography (Hellenistic) of amazing size and wonderful architecture. The first building was designed by the architect Theophilus von Hansen and executed in the Doric order. The architect Renzo Piano from Italy designed the modern building.

Why it is worth a visit

The National library of Athens keeps the Greek literary heritage, connecting the past, present and future. Initially, the idea of its creation belonged to the famous Swiss Jacob Meyer. This is confirmed by an article in the newspaper "Greek chronicle", dating from 1824. But it didn’t run to construction. Meyer's plan was taken up by the Greek government, which was led by John Kapodistrias, who was concerned with the cultivation of the capital.

Historian and philologist Andreas Moustakidis was the supervisor of the construction of the future Library. In 1829, when the Library opened its doors to the first visitors, he was appointed as its Director. By the way, during the first year of the institution's operation, it collected 1018 volumes of printed books that were gathered from the Greeks and Philhellines. At the same time, the collection was enlarging very quickly.

In addition, in 1834 the Library moved to Athens. There, it was located in the municipal bathhouse of the Roman market for some time, and later near the Church of St. Eleftherios. Eight years later, the building became part of the University of Athens’ library. By that time, it already had about 15 thousand books. In 1866, the Royal Charter officially united both structures into a single National Library of Greece. But, of course, it needed its own magnificent building, which was built in 1888 from marble in the neoclassical style.

It consists of three parts. Two of them were occupied by a giant reading room with an incredible glass ceiling that let in the sun and filled the room with an atmosphere of magic.

After having being located in the building of the Vallianos brothers, the National library of Athens in Greece moved to the Delta Bay of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’ Cultural center. It has been located there since 2018. Its area is 22 thousand square metres. The author of the its architectural project was Renzo Piano, and work on its implementation lasted from 2012 to 2016.

Collection of books 

Today, more than a million books and journals, together with handwritten codices dating back to the 9-19th centuries are kept in the National library of Greece. Thousands of books in all languages of the world can also be found here. Editions are divided into several collections: general, special, electronic, digital, web archives, etc. Each of them impresses with its fund.

For example, the general collection of the National library includes books, magazines, Newspapers, maps, microfilms and digital documents covering the scientific works and knowledge for the period between the 17th and 21st centuries. The special ones consist of manuscripts, archival materials, rare and unique books, works of art, maps, papyrus and posters.

Among them are some of the most valuable editions:

  • the Codex of the four Gospels, attributed to Matthew;
  • a unique Codex with a fragment of the Matthew’s Gospel of the 6th century;
  • "Flora Graeca Sibthorpiana" by the famous English botanist John Sibthorp;
  • the big etymological dictionary;
  • the historic Byzantine dictionary;
  • first publication of Homer's epics and hymns.

More recently, access to more than 200 million electronic online sources was arranged in the Library. Among them are books, textbooks and scientific manuals on thousands of topics and categories: archeology, education, religion, history, philology, law, economics, art, psychology, etc. Due to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’ donations to the National Library of Greece, their number is constantly increasing. A grant from the Greek state is also important in the project of transfering the Library to the same Cultural centre.

How to navigate

The Library includes reading rooms for the general collection (level 2), newspapers, magazines, manuscripts, archives and special collections and collections of rented books, as well as a reader service center.

In order not to get lost in the halls of the Library and see all its beauty, it is better to book a tour here. This can be done on the first floor of the centre. You can also open a Library map or pick up a brochure at the reception to walk through the public halls.

To get here by public transport, choose buses No. 130, 217, 550 and 860 or trolleybus No. 10. You can also use a bicycle, which can be parked on the territory. From the centre of the capital, it is easy to walk here or to take the metro to “Panepistimio station”.


  • To get on the tour for free, register in advance.
  • It is strictly forbidden to take photos in the Library halls.
  • The Library is interesting not only for its book collection, but also for its architecture and design. From the Agora you will see the famous Book castle inside the lobby. It is a 20-metre square structure, around which balconies and storage rooms filled with books are placed. In addition, on the 18-metre roof, a moving sculpture “Myth” is hung up. It is made of aluminum and fabric and was created by the Japanese artist Susumu Shungu. By the way, the roof of the Library itself is covered with greenery and is part of the park.
  • The reading room is open day and night, but tours of the Library are held from Tuesday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.