You’ll find more than cars packed into this underground parking garage. In addition to all the modern vehicles, you’ll spot slivers of Athens’s ancient past hiding in plain sight.
When the Themistoclean Wall was completed in 478 BC, it was Athens’s primary fortification against invaders. It was constructed using primarily spoila from the buildings and monuments destroyed during the Second Persian War mixed together with mudbrick. Running parallel to the Themistoclean Wall in some key strategic areas was the Proteichisma. This barrier, which stood beyond the Themistoclean Wall and was the first line of defense, was built after the signing of the Peace Treaty of Nicias in 421 BC.
Both walls stood until 404 BC, when the Athenians were defeated in the Peloponnesian War and were forced to destroy what was left of them after their defeat. The walls were rebuilt in 394 BC and again in 260 AD. The walls remained the main line of defense for the city until their gradual disassembly, decay, and disappearance over the centuries.
A portion of the Themistoclean and Proteichism Walls passed through what is now known as Klafthmonos Square. During excavations in 1972 for a large subterranean parking garage, several portions of these walls were discovered. The longest portion discovered was about 213 feet (65 meters) long and sat 16 feet (five meters) below current street level. Also revealed were shorter lengths and a foundation for a large tower.
Due to strict Greek laws protecting archaeological sites and artifacts, the building plans were modified to both protect the walls and allow the public to admire them. The new plan called for the long walls to be on open display in the two lower levels of the structure and the remains of the shorter portions and other ruins were moved and put on display in the park that sits above the structure.
Know Before You Go
Klafthmonos Square is generally a safe area of Athens during the day, however this area is frequently used for political demonstrations and other protests and it is not uncommon for clashes with law enforcement to take place. Additionally it is advisable to proceed with caution and be alert after dark in this area (and in most underground parking structures in an urban environment). Individuals with issues in underground and/or confined spaces should consider the environment before entering. The ruins are so obscure many of the parking attendants that work in the facility are unaware of their existence within the structure and will try to direct you to the ruins in the park upstairs if you use words like “archaeology” and “Themistocles”. They are not archaeology experts (nor expected to be) and are deserving of respect.
The largest standing portion of the wall is on display at the archaeological site of Kerameikos (north west portion of wall). This site displays the remains of the wall outdoors. The site requires a fee to enter however there is great viewing from public areas outside the paid site.
The parking structure is currently open the following hours:
Monday and Tuesday: 07:00-24:00
Wednesday and Thursday: 07:00-03:00
Friday and Saturday: 07:00-06:00