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Hadrian’s Reservoir on Dexameni square in Kolonaki

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At the western slopes of Mt. Lycabettus and just a few squares north of the Kolonaki square lies one of the lesser-known yet important Athenian sites, the Hadrian’s Reservoir. Considered the most significant infrastructure of its time and the city’s main water supply system for decades, the ancient aqueduct is nowadays a significant part of the scenic Dexameni square.

The story of Hadrian’s Reservoir

Hadrian’s Reservoir was part of a water supply system that Emperor Hadrian constructed in the 2nd century AD in order to cover the water needs of the city’s inhabitants and specifically the Roman Agora.

Stretching underground for 25 kilometers, the water supply network was supplying a reservoir and an aqueduct at the feet of Mt. Lycabettus with water from Parnitha mountain.

The reservoir was completed in 140 AD under the reign of Hadrian’s successor Antoninus Pius. The remarkable infrastructure served for several decades as the city’s main water supply system. However, it was abandoned during the Ottoman Empire’s occupation and gradually fell into decay.

Fragment of the architrave with the dedicatory inscription from Hadrian’s Reservoir (CIL III 549). Courtesy: Carole Raddato / flickr.com

Hadrian’s aqueduct started operating again in 1840 while Hadrian’s Reservoir was discovered in 1870. After being reconstructed and reaching a capacity of 2.200 cubic meters (initially the tankage was 400 cubic meters), it operated until 1940.

Visiting Hadrian’s Reservoir

Hadrian’s Reservoir sits at Dexameni square in the area of Kolonaki. Even though it is not open to visitors, you can get a glimpse of its interior structure through the large viewing portals on the western walls.

Hadrian’s Reservoir on Dexameni square in Kolonaki, Athens.
Courtesy: cinedexameni.gr

The historic reservoir opens only once a year on Epiphany for the ceremony of the “Blessing of the Waters” (also called Theophany or Phota) which is celebrated on the 6th of January.

Dexameni square in Kolonaki

Dexameni square is named after Hadrian’s Reservoir (reservoir translates to Dexameni in Greek) and it is a popular hangout spot for locals.

Here you’ll find the cozy Dexameni ouzerie/cafe which was a popular meeting point for significant writers and intellectuals such as Papadiamantis and Kazantzakis, during the early 20th century.

Dexameni cafe in the summer is one of the most “it” places
Courtesy: Myrillas / Pinterest

Today, its indoor and outdoor tables brim with life from early in the morning till night gathering Athenians from different neighborhoods.

On top of the Dexameni square lies the open-air Cine Dexameni which operates in the summer months. Watching a movie under the Athenian night sky is definitely a must-do while visiting the Greek capital and the historic cinema is the ideal place for your evening.

In the shadow of Lycabettus hill, you’ll find the beautiful open-air cine Dexameni.
Courtesy: Cine Dexameni / Theo Ntolias

In the surrounding alleys, a stone’s throw away from the square, you’ll discover fancy bars and restaurants that add a dash of luxury to the already hip area. For a high-end dinner in an exotic atmosphere go to the upscale Nikkei Peruvian Resto Bar Athens or hit the rooftop terrace on top of the St. George Hotel.

For music lovers, the atmospheric Jazz In Jazz bar is the perfect choice for savoring a premium whiskey under the sound of jazz classics of the early 20s.

Jazz In Jazz bar is a hidden gem for Jazz music and whiskey lovers.
Courtesy: Jazz In Jazz

Local’s tip: We recommend combining your visit to Hadrian’s Reservoir and Dexameni square with an outdoor exploration of Lycabettus hill for a magnificent panoramic view of Athens.

How to get to Hadrian’s Reservoir

Getting to Hadrian’s Reservoir is quite easy but be prepared to do some walking as there are bus or train stops right next to Dexameni square. The easiest way to get here is by metro from Evangelismos station (10 minutes walk) or Syntagma station (15 minutes walk).

However, there are also some bus stops within walking distance from the square, such as lines 025 and 026 from Monastiraki square (get off at the Didotou bus station and walk for 10 minutes).

If you want to avoid walking, the best choice is bus line 060, which passes by Akadimia street and goes through the Kolonaki neighborhood. Get off at the Loukianou bus stop and walk for only 3-4 minutes to Dexameni square.

Getting to Hadrian’s Reservoir on Dexameni square.
Courtesy: Carole Raddato / flickr.com

A visit to Hadrian’s Reservoir is a great choice for a day out in Athens not only because it is a historical landmark that is worth your while but also because along the way you get to discover an authentic part of Athens.

Start your exploration in the morning as chances are you’ll end up spending the whole day in the area of the Dexameni square.

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