The National Library of Greece is the guardian of the national publishing collections. The collection of 5,400 manuscripts (dated from the 9th to the 19th century), is one of the largest collections worldwide. The National Library aims to serve as an international center of Greek studies and as a pillar of the conservation and dissemination of Greek civilization
The Library was designed by Theophile Hansen, and financed by the Vallianos family, Greek businessmen of the diaspora. Constructed with white Pentelic marble and adorned with Doric columns, the building also boasts a stunning, Renaissance-style twin staircase. The façade and vestibule are decorated with statues of the Vallianos family.
The Library was originally established by Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias on the island of Aegina in 1829. At the time, the library’s vast collections were housed in numerous buildings, including the small chapel of Agios Elefterios next to the Cathedral.
Even more library holdings were kept in the University of Athens, the two collections finally being merged in 1866 and moved permanently to their current location in 1902.
In 2017 the National Library of Greece was relocated to its new premises at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center.
With a history of over two centuries, containing more than one million books and magazines, and a host of handwritten codices dating from the 9th to the 19th centuries, the National Library of Greece is the custodian of the Greek literary heritage, bridging the past, the present and the future. On the occasion of relocation, the leading institution regroups its forces and enters the digital age.
In its new facilities, it redefines its relationship with the public as a space for study, research and education, a crucible for ideas and an open place for learning. Finally, for the first time, the National Library of Greece creates a Public Section which offers a separate collection for children, teenagers and adults combined with a wide range of educational and interactive programs.
Starting in 2017, the National Library of Greece successfully completed in 2018 its relocation from the Vallianeio historic neoclassical building in downtown Athens to its new premises at the SNFCC. Moving 720,760 items of the Library’s collection was a painstakingly complex and demanding venture that lasted three months.
It demanded the collaboration of more than 100 people on a daily basis, the adaptation of existing spaces and tools, and it took 235 truck drives to the SNFCC for its completion. To ensure a smooth operation for transferring the items as safely as possible, new, wheeled bookcases were custom-made in order to absorb rail vibrations and prevent the items from shifting.
The special collections, including several outstanding treasures of Greece’s printed heritage, were accompanied by the Greek Police, according to the legal procedures that demanded the protection and safe delivery of our national relics. The National Library of Greece is now ready to open its doors to everyone who wants to experience its new, state-of-the-art technology and facilities.