Varvakeios market finally treated to a much-needed revamp
Until recently, the square in the Varvakeios market was famous for being the ugliest in Athens, not an easy distinction to earn, considering the rest of the field – Vathis, Kaningos, Omonia and so on. It was dirty and ugly, a place very few people even came near, let alone passed through. But this is a city of miracles, where everything is possible. Music events staged by the Municipality of Athens every night in the square are a good reason to go down there and find out just what kind of a transformation has taken place. The problem was not only aesthetic. Situated about halfway between Omonia and Monastiraki squares, in a zone that is not one of Athens’s most salubrious, it was not able to evolve into a «normal» city square, caught as it was between busy commercial activity during the day and the darkness of the nights when the only lights were those from the cheap hotels and brothels surrounding it. During the 1990s, the district’s population underwent a transformation, with an influx of a large number of economic immigrants between Varvakeios and Koumoundourou squares, bringing new life and color to the neighborhood but essentially leaving the square’s image unchanged. The renaissance of the nearby district of Psyrri left the marketplace untouched. In any case, for most Athenians Varvakeios was no longer seen as a typical square. For most shoppers, it was synonymous with its underground car park. Refurbishment The Municipality of Athens commissioned an architectural design aimed at carrying over the new vitality of neighboring streets into the square. It is now divided into two main areas. At the level of Athinas Street, a municipal information booth stands next to an impressive fountain in the shape of a grandstand. On the second level above the car park is the main recreation area – a series of walkways leading to open concrete areas that serve as seating and to a cafe, another fountain and flowerbeds. Two million euros went into refurbishing the square, funds that came from the Third Community Support Framework. The reconstruction of the adjacent sidewalks on Aristogeitonos and Armodiou streets cost another 1.3 million euros, which came from municipal funds. Another major transformation has been the improved infrastructure for the fruit and vegetable stores and stands. The municipality also restored the facades of the buildings fronting the square. The result is impressive, particularly regarding the small old two-story buildings behind the square on Socratous Street. The choice of color has also been innovative; don’t miss the row of houses at the corner of Aristogeitonos and Socratous streets, where pink, lime green and lemon yellow have been used. Congratulations to the municipality and to the sponsor, Liquimar, for their efforts.