Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center – SNFCC is a multifunctional and environmentally sustainable complex in Kallithea, region of Athens. The whole Center, which consists of the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera and the 210,000 m² Stavros Niarchos Park, was a donation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to the Greek state and for all Greeks delivered in 2017. The SNF committed to fund all the costs of the Center which summed up to €630 million, including a €20 million grant to help maintain and sustain the center for the first four years of its operation. The purpose of the Center was to provide a space where everyone, regardless of disabilities, could have free access to education, recreation, arts, music, culture, sports and nature.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation – SNF
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, named after its benefactor Stavros Spyros Niarchos, was founded in 1996. Stavros Niarchos was a shipping tycoon, one of the most successful and richest ones in the twentieth century, worldwide. Niarchos’ immense passion for his country and people inspired him to build the SNF, a foundation focused on donating loans to the areas of arts, music, culture, education, health, sports and social welfare. The foundation up to today has donated a total amount of €2.65 billion for 4,700 different projects, in 132 countries around the world. The largest fund in the history of the foundation has been donated to the construction and maintenance of the SNFCC, which is also the largest donation in the nation’s history.
The architect of the SNFCC
The architect of the SNFCC was carefully chosen, after a process of thorough evaluation of candidates. Architect Renzo Piano is an Italian internationally acclaimed architect who is committed to excellence in all his projects. Renzo has successfully worked on projects of similar scope of the SNFCC, as the Center George Pompidou in Paris, The Skyscraper Shard in London and the old port of Genoa, where the architect is from. Renzo has also expressed admiration and respect to the culture and history of Greece, which made him the ideal candidate.
The sustainability of the SNFCC had two goals: one was to reduce the functionality costs that would burden the Greek State once the project was handed to the nation and two to avoid creating a toxic environment for the residents of the nearby neighborhood.
How was this achieved?
The most important installation ensuring the Center’s sustainability is the Photovoltaic Canopy, which is the roof of the center. From far this instalment seems weightless and very thin, while in reality, it weighs 4.000 tones. The solar panels power 90% of the center’s needs during the hot seasons, while during winter 50%.
Also, the structure of the buildings avoids water and energy sources waste, due to the use of sustainable technologies. The water in the Center’s Canal comes through the sea which is located at a very close distance. All the plants of the Stavros Niarchos Park are resilient, picked particularly because of their endurance in the local microclimate which can go through drought periods and very hot damp summers, therefore also reducing the water usage.
Top 15 Things to do at SNFCC
The Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center is a wonderful destination for all ages. Here are the top 15 things to do at SNFCC.
The Stavros Niarchos Park covers 85% of the SNFCC complex.
1. Playground for Children
The Stavros Niarchos Park’s playground aims to bring children close to nature and encourage creative and educational play. The playgrounds scattered around the Park are all wooden, the floors are made of a special soft cement to avoid injuries and are surrounded by trees, inviting the little ones to explore for themselves.
The park is totally safe for kids as it is 24/7 secured by guards.
2. Practice your chess skills at the Park
In a quiet peaceful corner of the park there are six chess tables and two oversized chess floors, where the older generations of locals love to assemble and play. The chess pieces can be rented free of charge from the visitors center for those interested. Also there are chess classes running for beginners.
3. Enjoy a Picnic on the SNFCC Park Central field on a sunny day
Gather your family or friends, pop up at a local market, buy some fruits, cheese, and wine, and head to Stavros Niarchos Park to have the perfect picnic. In the Park’s center, there is a large field built for the purpose of hosting summer concerts, sports practicing, and picnics. The surroundings of the park give you a feeling that you are out in the wild in a forest somewhere in Greece, minus the wildlife!
4. Discover Greek Nature
The vision of the architects of Stavros Niarchos Park was to maintain a natural Mediterranean habitat by using only plants and flowers that grow in Greece’s Mediterranean climate. The park is rich in olive trees, carob and almond trees.
The floral scent that reigns the park smells’ is a combination of the 50 different lavender varieties planted in the park, including thyme, oregano, and rosemary.
5. Take a SNFCC tour
Tours of the center including that of the National Library, the Opera and the Park take place every day. The tours take 30 minutes or 60 minutes depending on the tour chosen and are free of charge with an online-registration. The tour guides will walk you through the center and embellish you with important facts and details about the cultural center. The tour is conducted in English every Thursday.
DUE TO COVID-19 SAFETY MEASURES THE TOURS NOW ARE ONLY OPERATED IN THE PARK.
6. Take a fitness class at SNFCC
The Center offers free fitness classes: Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, Archery, Gymnastics, Qigong, Special classes for people with special needs to name a few. These classes aim to benefit the local society and incentive people to engage in exercise and well-being.
7. Attend an educational seminar or workshop
Take an alternative afternoon at SNFCC by following a workshop or an educational seminar. The SNFCC runs hundreds of different seminars and workshops per month on various topics: arts, science, health, literature, history, theater, the sea-life, nature and many others. Check online the up-coming events to pick something of your interest.
8. Visit the National Library of Greece
The National Library of Greece, founded in 1832, was relocated to the SNFCC in order to modernize the institution, to keep up with the technological advances and allocate all the collections in one building, instead of three as it was before. The Library is home to significant historical documents and archives that are available for members to make use of.
9. Watch a play at the Greek National Opera
Another institution of great significance to the Greek nation that was reallocated to the SNFCC complex was the Greek National Opera. The new facilities enable a range of activities taking place in either the 1,400-seat opera auditorium or the 400-seat black box theater. Such activities include opera, ballet, shows for children, educational programs, dance classes by professionals and experimental projects. Artists like Olivier Py, Anita Rachvelishvili, Marina Abramović, Dimitris Karantzas have performed in the past at the new GNO.
10. Watch the SNFCC Dancing Fountains show
The Dancing Fountains located in the SNFCC Canal are composed of 59 water jets, 10 swiveling fountains, LED lights installations underwater and sounds of the most-loved artists of the previous century: ABBA, Nacio Herb Brown, Manos Hatzidakis and more.
11. Jog at the SNFCC running track and practice sports
One of SNFCC missions is to encourage people to live a healthy lifestyle, which includes practicing exercise and sports. The SNFCC complex includes a running track and an outdoor gym so everyone can exercise for free. The center also accommodates fields for football, tennis, basketball among other sports that can be practiced in the open.
12. Water Sports at the SNFCC Canal
The SNFCC Canal has a length of 400m, width of 30m and depth of 70cm at the edges and 140cm in the center. The canal water is salted water, which comes from the sea which is located very close to the center. The structure of the canal makes it clean and safe for water sports to be practiced. Kayaking and Sailing lessons are available free of charge with an online registration. Ideal for adults and children.
13. Rent a bike
A special bike lane of 2.5km has been designed around the SNFCC complex. Cycling around the SNFCC is a perfect way to have a complete independent tour of the complex. Bikes and helmets are available for rent free of charge.
14. Watch the beautiful view from the Lighthouse
Walk your way up from the Park to the Lighthouse where you can gaze on the beautiful views of Piraeus bay and parts of the Athenian Riviera and the marinas, home to the biggest yachts in Greece. Turning to the east and south you also get the city views, which are also breathtaking. The spot is perfect to catch a magnificent Greek sunset.
15. Coffee and Dine
The SNFCC has two main restaurants and three cafeterias scattered around the complex. All products are of Greek origins and ingredients are all carefully picked. The Delta Restaurant provides a brunch, lunch, and dinner menus and also offers amazing views of the Palaio Faliro Marina. The Canal cafe located next to the visitors center and in front of the Canal is perfect for warm days and also the waffles are mouthwatering. There are also vans and kiosks around the complex serving fast-food, ice-creams, and refreshments.
The Stavros Niarchos Park, including the Lighthouse which is the viewpoint of the center, opens daily from 06 am to midnight. It is safe to wander during dark hours as the park is secured by security guards.
The visitors center, the National Library, the cafeterias, and restaurants are open from 9 am every day until 22:00 pm.
The private Parking is open 24/7.
How to get to SNFCC
A free of charge for visitors shuttle bus starts from Syntagma Square bus stop every 30 minutes on weekdays and every 1 hour on the weekends and national holidays. There is a stop at Syngrou-Fix.
If you are comfortable with using the bus and the tram, the bus and tram stop Tzitzifies is a 5-minute walking distance from Stavros Niarchos Park.
Alternatively, a taxi is a good option for transportation to SNFCC. From the center of Athens, the journey takes less than 10-15 minutes and the rate is € 7-10.
The vision of SNF was to make the cultural center available for everyone, regardless of disabilities and age. The facilities are all structured to favour people with disabilities. The park’s hill goes upwards gradually avoiding the sharp steepness, making the park wheelchair friendly.