Old Athens Photos Ermou Street.

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Ermou street is one of the first three streets that were designed in modern Athens. The greek architect Kleanthis made the first city plan in 1834. The city was based in a right triangle. At the upper angle is the Omonoia square and the planed royal place.
The base of the triangle is the Ermou street  at the right side the Stadiou street and at the left side the Piraeus street. Ermou (Hermes in english) was from begging a commercial street, hence the name. Hermes in english the ancient greek God of commerce. The construction works of the street began in 1835. Ermou is The city plan was changed a little later by Klenze but the basic triangle remained the same. The street was designed to be very wide with big pavements. Due to landlords’s interests that wasn’t accomplished. Building grounds at the streets sides were extremely valuable and owners didn’t want to loose an inch. Only a small part from Syntagma square until Voulis street is truly wide. Its distance is 1,300 meters (4,200 feet) and it is in average 10 meter wide. Athens may seem chaotic and without any urban planning but in 1856 rules for the construction of buildings were enforced in Ermou street. All new buildings were obliged to have high ground floors with upper story. All the floors of the buildings should be lined. If you look carefully at the old neoclassical houses in Ermou you’ll realize that. It was one of the first streets with stone pavement and sewer for the rain water. It was made a heaven for upscale shoppers. If you watch a map or stroll in the street you’ll observe that Kapnicarea church is right in the middle of the street.
Athens had about 130 small churches. It was usual during the roads making, according to the city plan, some of them to be demolished. Kapnikarea church was planed to be demolished for freeing the Ermou street. Despite that, the king of Bavaria Ludvig, father of the greek king Otto, intervened. He was astonished by its beauty and save it. To solve future traffic problems, the Kapnikareas square was built around the church.

The oldest know shop in Ermou street is the Ermion in 1853. It belonged to Ioannis Tsatsos who moved from Nafplio to Athens. The shop was selling carpets, home-ware and accessories for women. In 1856 the urban railway from the port of Piraeus to Athens was designed. According to the original plans a terminal station in Ermou street should be constructed. Nevertheless the pressure from landowners was huge and the terminal was built instead in Thiseio district. The same period the street was lighted by oil lamps. The gas lamps were introduced a few decades later. After 1860 the street had the most luxurious hotels of Athens.  It was full of elegant shops with clothes, shoes and hats. Many of these items were imported from Paris, London, and other european cities. At the first floors were shops with dressmakers. Ermou then was the female shoppers destination. That period hats was a must and Ermou was full of hat shops for men and women. Additionally it was the center for jewelers and watchmakers. Tailors and shops for men were in Aiolou street and Stadiou street.

In 1863 the king Otto is exiled and the Kapnikarea church for a second time is in danger. The traffic from horse carriages is enormous and the kapnikarea square with its church in the middle caused problems. The greek government voted for its removal. Luckily the project was abandoned. Until 1870 the upper part of Ermou street from Syntagma square to Aiolou street was commercialized. The lower part from Aiolou to Piraeus street was a residence area with rich neoclassical houses with a view to the Acropolis. Gradually the residents began to move to the new more aristocratic neighborhoods like Kolonaki near the royal palace. New shops appeared with coopers, smitheries, paint stores, distilleries e.t.c. A famous shop of this part of Ermou street was that of Pitsos. Pitsos created iron boxes with screens which protected food from insects. It was wrongly named Psigio (Refrifirator in English) because it didn’t cool anything. Pitsos ancestors expanded the enterprise into home electric appliances. In 1870 at the end of Ermou street close to Piraeus street, all the buildings were demolished for archaeological excavations. It was a good decision since the Keramikos archaeological site was unearthed. The only bad thing is that one of the most important coffee shops of that period the Prasino dendro (Green tree in English) was demolished.
In 1870 Palis stationery was created and until 2007 it was prosperous in Ermou street, now it has moved to the northern suburbs. In 1886 Alexandrakis created a shop with clothes. Its ancestors still keep it open. At the start of 20th century at the intersection of Ermou street and Syntagma square there was two big luxurious hotels. The Aglias or grand hotel de l’Angleter (England Hotel in english) hotel and the Victoria hotel with the famous Gannakis and Zovoritis Coffee Shops on their ground floor. Zavoritis Coffee shop was also confectionery and was creating excellent chocolates like its famous competitor Pavlidis. Ermou then had 360 shops with various items from Hats to shoes, stationery, jewelers e.t.c. The street remained a destination mainly for upscale ladies. In 1890 the shoes shop Kalogirou opened. It provided exclusively shops for the royal families. Nowadays the company still exist and have moved to more prestigious Kolonaki district.  In 1910 the Chatziphotiou textile shop was prominent. Chatziphotiou was a very wealthy textile merchant. His son didn’t follow his legacy and preferred journalism and beautiful ladies. That period the ready made clothes didn’t exist at top quality and textiles shops were thriving. Very a few of them remain.

During the 20s and 30s the concrete invaded Athens and the Ermou street. Old buildings were being demolished. At their place office buildings from concrete and some tall apartment buildings were built. Nevertheless their architecture wasn’t bad at all but they were much different and they didn’t match with the older ones. In 20s Ermou street was monopolizing the women’s high fashion. All the fur-shops , exclusive dressmakers and dress importers were there. Cheaper ready made clothes were only in Aiolou street. Until late 60s Ermou street is the center of high fashion. Shop like Kalivitiotis offered everything a professional or amateur dressmakers needed. In 70s the market changed criticaly. The ready made clothes of big foreign brands flooded the greek market. The Kolonaki district was the center of high fashion shops. Best greek fashion designers preferred it too. Ermou street was downgrade as a high street for middle class shoppers. Today it is full of franchising multinational brand shops. There is no fashion exclusivity.

Coffee Shops

Oraia Ellas coffee shop.

The most historical and one of the first coffee shops of Athens was the Oraia Ellas (The beautiful Greece in english).
It situated in Ermou street and Aiolou street. It was created in 1839 from the italian Sandon. It was firstly name Bella Grecia and afterward the greek translation remained. It was the first modern and comfortable coffee shop in Athens. Its clients were warriors from the greek revolution, diplomats, politicians, journalist and in general the hight society of Athens. It was considered as an unofficial parliament. It was the place were democratic opinions were heard. Every political and social crisis was discussed heavily on its tables by its regular customers. in 1841 the danish writer Hans Christian Andersen was impressed by its atmosphere. He described as an excellent european coffee shop between the traditional turkish style coffee shops. It was equipped with a billiard, something totally unknown in Greece. The king Otto used to pass in front of it, in order to see the customers reactions. If they stood up and applauded him, everything was fine. I they were rather indifferent, there were problems in the horizon. The coffee shop was a center of democratic movements like the revolution for constitution in 1843 and the coup against king Otto in 1862 which led to king’s exile. One floor above the coffee shop was the merchants club. In 1870 the coffee shop was transformed by the merchants as an unofficial stock market. That was decisive to its future. The coffee shop lost its regular customers and its character changed. After the stock market crash in 1874 plans for a proper stock market were made. In 1879 it was sold and used as a textile shop.

Anatolis-Zavoritis coffee shop.

During 1850-1853 the Koromila mansion was built in Ermou street and Syntagma square. It was designed by the greek architect Panagis Klakos. In its ground floor the Anatolis coffee shop (Easter in english) was operating. The Koromila mansion was a great building that survived for a century until its demolition in late 60s. In the begging it was a two floors building because queen Amalia didn’t want it to obstruct the view from the royal palace. After the exile of king otto and its wife Amalia in 1862, a third floor was constructed. The Anatolis coffee shop was operated by Vasilis Graikos. Despite its name was an upper class coffee shop, under european standards. The customers enjoy their coffee in luxury and were reading french and germans newspapers. Near the Anatolis coffe shop was a humble wooden coffee shop owned to Vasilis Vasileiou. One of its working class customers was the train engine-driver Giorgos Zavorits. Both Zavoritis and Vasileiou hated their jobs and admire the others job. So they agree to change their professions and Zavoritis became a coffee shop owner and Vasileiou became a train driver. He was very fond of his job and he soon was very successful. He rented the basement of Koromila mansion and made it a confectionary. After Pavlidis, he was the second chocolate maker in Athens. His chocolates were not industrialized like Pavlidis ones. So they were preferred by upscale customers. In 1901 Zavoritis bought the whole Koromilas mansion. The Anatolis coffee shop was renamed Zavoritis coffee shop. The koromilas mansion and subsequently the coffee shop were demolished in 60s.

Churches of Ermou street.

Before the construction of Ermou street, there were many churches in its length. The majority of them were demolished the first decades after the liberation of Athens from Ottomans. During the greek war for independence greeks warriors for a short time liberated Athens 1821-1822. However the sultan of the ottoman empire sent Kioutachi and Omer Vrioni to recapture the city 1826-1827. They succeeded and retaliated with extended damages to churches and homes. After treaty of Constantinople in 1832, ottomans were ordered by the sultan to leave Athens. Most of the churches in Athens were in such a bad condition that only for construction material were useful. Some of those who was in decent condition were an obstacle , according to the first city plan of Athens. So they were demolished without second thought. The true is that the number of churches was too big in comparison to the population of Athens. Traditionally most of small greek churches began as private constructions of wealthy families and during the passage of centuries became public properties. The examples of big churches which were built by the authorities for many hundreds of worshippers are not many. Additionally it was well know by archaeologist that ancient greek temples were transformed into churches. The lovers of ancient Greece supported strenuously the archaeological excavations below byzantine churches. Inevitably many churches were sacrificed for the glory of ancient Athens. Another reason for the perish of churches was the metropolitan cathedral church of Athens. Between 1842-1862 the building materials were needed for its construction. Due the lack of funds an easy solution was found. Many nearby churches was demolished in order to provide the necessary material.

Kapnikarea church.

Nevertheless the kapnikarea church survived with the intervention of Bavaria’s king. Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea is a beautiful small byzantine church right in the middle of the width and length of Ermou street. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It had many names in the past. It was know as Eklissia tis Vasilopoulas (Chruch of the princess in english) due to the connection with three Athenian byzantine empresses. In 19th century was known as Panagia Prentza church from the name of the greek warrior Prentzas during the greek war for independence. For the current name Kapnikarea there are many interpretation. First from a icon of virgin Mary that was smoked from a fire (Kapnismeni in greek = Kapnikarea). Second from a paraphrase of  kamoucharea silk textile that adorned the icons. Third from a tax that was forced to house with fireplaces. The fireplaces produce smoke (Kapnos in greek = Kapnikarea). The tax collector who built the church was named with his nickname.

In reality kapnikarea church is complex of three different constructions. The church is a connection of two older churches. One of them is the Agia Barbara church which was probably build during the ottomans rule and the second is a small church of a monastery built around 11th century. Kapnikarea church has decoration in Kufic alphabet, an early form of the modern arabic alphabet.  The walls paintings were made during 1940s mostly by the prominent hagiographer Fotis Kontoglou.

Churches of Ermou street lost for ever are:

Panagia-Rodakiniotisa church in Voulis street and Ermou street.

Panagia-Angelou Benizelou church in Fokionos street and Ermou street.

Agia Thekla church at Agias Theklas street and Ermou street.


Ermou street old photos. History of the street its churches, hotels, coffee shops etc.

1880 Ermou Street Pallis Bookstore - Stationary.

1885 Athens Ermou Street

1892 Athens Kapnikarea Church

1900 Athens Ermou street

1917 Athens Ermou street

1920 Athens Ermou Street

1900 Athens Ermou Street

1910 Athens Ermou Street

1934 Athens Ermou street- Zavoriti Coffee shop

1940 Athens Ermou Street and Voulis Street

1966 Athens Kapnikarea Church

Athens Ermou Street Kapnikarea Church

Athens Ermou street

1912 Athens Ermou street

1910 Athens Filellinon Street 02

1910 Athens Ermou street - Kapnikarea Church

1900 Athens Ermou Street

1897 Athens Ermou street

1896 Athens Ermou Street

1903 Athens Ermou Street

1900 Ermou street

1900 Athens Ermous street

1892 Athens Ermou Street and Kalamiotiou Street.

1890 Athens Ermou street.

1885 Athens Ermou Street

1884 Athens Ermou street