Though its name and regal white sculptures conjure thoughts of ancient Greece, the First Cemetery of Athens isn’t even 200 years old. It’s the city’s official cemetery and was only founded in 1837, not long after the modern Greek state was established. As such, it’s the oldest cemetery of modern-day Athens.
Like much of the city, the graveyard provides a time-warping blend of modernity and the ancient world. It’s located right near the Panathinaiko Stadium and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which were both built thousands of years ago.
The cemetery pays homage to the city’s architectural history and boasts gorgeous examples of Neoclassical and Romantic features. Striking sculptures guard equally beautiful tombs. One of the most noteworthy is I Koimomeni (The Sleeping Girl), a sculpture of a dead young girl created by Yannoulis Chalepas, who also happens to be buried in the cemetery.
It’s a rather prestigious place to be interred. The graves of important politicians, including a handful of prime ministers, can be found there. The bones of prominent Greek artists, actresses, poets, and musicians also now call the cemetery their eternal home. Heinrich Schliemann, the archaeologist who excavated the city said to be Troy, was buried beneath a particularly impressive tomb.
Many claim that the cemetery is haunted by the ghostly presence of Nikolas Batsaris, a wreath bearer who worked in the cemetery until his death who is oblivious to human presence and can supposedly be seen sitting by a wreath.