Visiting the Panathenaic Stadium, Athens
If you’re planning a visit to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens then you might have noticed it has a second name. You will see that the name of the stadium is Kallimarmaro if you look carefully at a map. This Greek word simply means ‘beautiful marble’. To this day it is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. This amazing structure is one of Athens’s main attractions and well worth adding to your travel itinerary if you’re visiting Athens for more than a day. I made my trip solo, which gave me space and time to soak up the facts.
Disclaimer: I went a bit geek on the history facts here so bear with me with this one.
History of the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens
The Panathenaic Games
The stadium was first built in 330BC primarily to host the Panathenaic Games. Held every four years the games were a religious and athletic festival celebrated in honour of the Goddess Athena.
Reconstruction of The Stadium
Between the years 139-143AD Herodes Atticus rebuilt the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. Built almost completely in marble, the stadium seated approximately 50,000 people. (Today you are still able to see some of the original marble. The audio guide points it out.)
Fun Fact: The stadium is the length of one ‘stadion’. A Latin word which the Greeks interpreted to mean a measurement of about 600 human feet. Yes, human feet, which of course come in all different shapes and sizes. Meaning the exact size of a ‘stadion’ is really anyone’s guess. But the Greeks tried their best to build all stadiums during the Hellenic period (323BC – 31BC) to the same size. We then adopted the word stadium into the English language.
Rise of Christianity
After the rise of Christianity at the end of the 4th century, all festivals and bloody spectacles were banned. The games, which had been running since 776BC, ceased entirely in 393AD. Left abandoned the stadium quickly fell to ruin.
Archaeological excavations began in 1836 and the remains of Herodes Atticus’s stadium were discovered. Greek benefactor Evangelis Zappas sponsored the reconstruction work. By 1896 the new stadium was complete, ready to host the opening ceremony of the modern Olympic Games.
The Modern Olympic Games
So the games were resurrected. The stadium filled with approximately 80,000 spectators watching athletes compete in athletics, wrestling, weightlifting and gymnastics. These became known as the modern Olympic Games.
History of The Marathon
On the 10th of April in 1896 the first ever marathon took place in Athens. In a nod to Greek history the length of the marathon is 26.2 miles. This is intended to commemorate the run of the soldier Pheidippides, who ran 26 miles from a battlefield near the town of Marathan to Athens in 490BC to announce the defeat of the Persians to those awaiting news in Athens. Pheidippides allegedly reached his destination, made his announcement and keeled over and died.
The 0.2 of a mile was added in 1908 at the London Olympics. The route was laid out from Windsor Castle to White City stadium, about 26 miles. However, in order for the race to finish in front of the royal family’s viewing box, an extra 385 yards were added.
Ticket Prices & Opening Times
Now for the details. A standard ticket to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens will cost you €5.00. Students and visitors over the age of 65 will pay only €2.50. Visitors with disabilities and those accompanying them receive free admission, as do children under the age of 6. This is definitely one of the cheapest entry prices in Athens so great if you’re travelling on a budget.
Kallimarmaro Audio Tour
The Panathenaic Stadium in Athens has a great audio tour. You will walk around the stadium from start to finish listening to an explanation of the history. Audio tours are great because you can take them at your own pace. You can re-listen to anything you might have missed and spend time looking around and taking pictures in between clips.
Is The Panathenaic Stadium in Athens Worth A Visit?
If you’ve only got a short stay in Athens then this should be the second place you visit, after the Acropolis, of course. The stadium is breathtaking. If you feel like it you can ever take a run around the track. With cheap entry and a useful audio guide the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens is a great addition to your travel itinerary. If you do pay a visit let me know what you think!