Though they are two of the oldest neighbourhoods of Athens, Gazi and Psyrri are today synonymous with trendy, contemporary culture. Psyrri was the first area to change in the mid-nineties, when one by one its old crumbling neoclassical houses and workshops were turned into art galleries, theatres and restaurants. In a few years, the narrow streets of Psyrri filled with cafés, modern tavernas, bars and clubs, all lined up next to the other, packed with people looking for a chair to sit. Without a broader plan for organised gentrification, the area soon reached saturation point and in a few years restless souls were looking for something new.
In 2000 Gazi emerged as the next best thing, an untouched industrial neighbourhood with loads of potential. Once a derelict working class village, the area of Gazi, known locally as Gazohori (village of Gazi) has transformed into a busy neighbourhood. Much of the metamorphosis is due to the restoration of the old factory, the refurbishing of public buildings and the opening of restaurants and bars which attracted the city’s youth. The scarlet chimney Technopolis, a hub of modern culture and events, became the point of reference around which the previously forlorn area was being restored. The opening of Benaki Museum’s Pireos annexe cemented Gazi’s newly acquired identity as an up-and-coming, industrial-chic area. Although both areas have by now become part of the mainstream weekend bar crawl, they still sport a distinctive old-town feeling, as they are some of the few places in Athens were you may still find small copper workshops and cobblers. Street art is right at home here, with graffiti artists using any available flat surface to paint. The most impressive one is the colourful work of Brazilian artists Os Gemeos painted on the walls of the trolley depot station in Pireos street, right across Technopolis.
Technopolis - Industrial Museum
The industrial chic cultural centre of Technopolis in Gazi represents the capital’s turn towards contemporary architecture and art. The old gasworks building dating from 1862 was converted into a complex of venues refurbished to house exhibitions, festivals, concerts and other events all year round. In the summer months, Technopolis houses design exhibitions, craft markets and open-air concerts. The main building’s slender chimney, beautifully illuminated with red lights in the evening, has become a local landmark, while other features like the massive furnaces and cauldrons testify to the industrial past of the area. The centre is also home to the city’s first Industrial Museum which organises one-hour guided tours around its premises. The burning of coal to produce gas was an old form of energy used in Athens for over 130 years. The long history of the factory is revealed as visitors wander through various rooms which were not accessible to the public for about 30 years. During the tour, visitors make 13 stops at specific areas around the factory buildings which mentally track the original production line of gas and allow visitors to see the old mechanical equipment and understand the role of the businessmen who run the factory and the working conditions of the workers. The Museum also houses rich photographic and archival material as well as audiovisual material from interviews of old workers and local inhabitants. There’s a café at the left of the main entrance offering juices coffees and light snacks open from 8am until midnight on weekdays and from 9am on weekends.
The small museum shop is a true gem selling decorative and functional objects inspired by the chimneys, machines and iron-works found around the industrial complex. The shop controls the whole process of the production of these objects and cooperates with Greek craftsmen and factories, thus supporting their work and domestic production.
- 100 Pireos, Gazi, Tel: +30 210 3461589 / Hrs: Mon-Fri 08:00-21:00, Sat 09:00-22:00, hours are extended when there’s an event / to book a guided tour in English call: +30 210 3475535, 210 3475518, 210 346158, cost: €3 per person, minimum 5 persons for each group, includes entrance fee and an Athens Gasworks guide / www.technopolis-athens.com / Metro: Kerameikos
Foundation of the Hellenic World (FHW)
The FHW is unique in its kind, creating the first digital presentation of Greek history through high technology and a series of informative exhibitions like “Meeting in Ancient Agora”, “Travel in the World of Ancient Greek Math”, “Theatre - an Art of Arts”. The mission of FHW is to gather, preserve and exhibit Greek history and tradition.
- 254 Pireos, Tavros, Tel: +30 212 2540000, Mon-Fri 09:00-16:00, Sun 10:00-15:00 / Ticket: price depends on exhibition / Train: Kallithea
Islamic Art museum
The Islamic Art museum of Athens showcases one of the best collections of Islamic art in Europe and is spread across two neoclassical mansions. About 10,000 artefacts of the early Islamic and Ottoman periods have found their place in this modern museum, including artwork such as the Iznik ceramics, carved wooden doors, payer carpets, jars, bowls with intricate designs and bright colors. The first two levels trace the history of Islamic art from the 7th century until the 16th century, while the fourth level exhibits Iranian artwork of the Qajar period.
The ceramic collection is one of the finest of its kind with beautiful items of the Fatimid era, detailed jewelry and calligraphic inscriptions. Among the museum’s highlights are unique pieces like the silk garments, the brass chests, carved wooden doors and Islamic tiles, as well as the detailed reconstruction of a 17th-century interior of a Cairo mansion on the third floor. During the reconstruction of the crumbling building which was to house the museum, workers uncovered part of the foundations of the ancient wall of Athens, as well as a tomb. Archaeologists examined and preserved the site and today visitors can see it at the lower lever.
- 22 Agion Asomaton & Dipylou, Keramikos, Tel: +30 210 3251311 / Hrs: Thu-Sun 09:00-17:00, Mon-Wed closed / Entrance: €7, every Thursday free from 15 July 2013 to 15 July 2014 / www.benaki.gr /Train: Thisio.