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Athens, Greece

Syntagma Square Metro Station

Where commuters walk through remnants of an ancient Greek necropolis. 

Needless to say, you can’t dig a hole in downtown Athens without hitting something of historical value. As a result, in an unprecedented move, teams of archeologists worked alongside the metro engineers for years, in what became not only Athens’ first subway, but also the largest archeological excavation in the city’s history. They uncovered tens of thousands of artifacts in the process (estimates range from an impressive 30,000 to a staggering 50,000) and the end result is both a greater knowledge of Athens’ buried history and metro stations which double as museums!

The metro stop for the Greek Parliament, Syntagma Square, boasts one of the larger of these collections. Since in ancient times this area lay outside the city walls, it was a natural location for cemeteries, starting as early as the 11th century BC/BCE. The station thus exhibits several finds, including grave goods, (or their reproductions if the originals are too valuable) ancient Greek plumbing uncovered during the excavations and building of the metro.

However at Syntagma they’ve done even more. Since subways by definition provide a great cross-section of the substrata beneath a city, they’ve displayed this behind a glass wall. Visitors can see clearly the myriad layers of human history at this site, starting with Byzantine times, moving down through Roman, ancient Greek, and finally prehistoric, including the open grave of the ancient necropolis which originally existed here.