The Perfect Greek Temple: Right At Home In Nashville

Remember Dorothy, the intrepid traveler from the classic Wizard of Oz? She said it best: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.”

And while Nashville might not be exactly in your back yard, it’s almost certainly closer than Athens, Greece. So if you want to see the world’s only full-scale replica of the world-famous Parthenon, then pack your bags for Tennessee.

The ancient Parthenon, perched atop the Acropolis in Athens, is one of the most recognizable buildings on the planet, and for many visitors, it’s the inspiration for the journey to Greece. Historians and architects alike consider it the perfect Greek building, but 2500 years and a turbulent history have not been kind to the structure. And truthfully, the restoration that remains today takes a good deal of imagination to fully appreciate. But if you need a little nudge to complete your vision, then the Nashville replica is perfect.

In 1897, a Centennial and International Exhibition was held to blow the Tennessee trumpet, or more appropriately, twang the Nashville guitar. Their state was modern and looking to the future, and planners wanted the world to know it. 

Athens Corner
The Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
The Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee

Playing on their reputation as “The Athens of the South,” the fair committee decided to construct a complete, full-scale replica of the Parthenon as the centerpiece for the exposition.

Athens Horses
Athens Parthenon Pediment
Nashville Parthenon Pediment

Like most exhibition buildings at the time, the original temple was meant to be temporary. But it proved so popular that it was rebuilt with more durable materials, and today it functions as a museum, which showcases the work of local artists, and an interesting display on the Centennial Exhibition.


But, the headliner of the show is a replica of the statue of Athena, which originally stood in the Parthenon in Athens. Completed in 1990, this golden sculpture is astonishing, and it dominates the interior. The temple and sculpture are exceptional because not only are they full-size but they’ve been reproduced with scholarly detail.

So even if Athens has been checked off your bucket list, if you’re anywhere near Nashville, do yourself a favor and make the detour to see the Parthenon. And who knows, you might develop a taste for toe-tappin’ country music, and you’ll certainly enjoy a bit of southern hospitality.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri

P.S. In our next post we’ll go inside for an up-close and personal look at the fabulous Athena.


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

24 thoughts

  1. Beautiful! When I asked my husband about this, he said, “I know. We saw it.” For the life of me I couldn’t recall that, and I certainly have no pictures. He said we went through the park. Then I remembered that we did the Nashville Tour by bus! We might have passed by the Parthenon, but the experience wasn’t memorable. I think we need to return, and stay longer!

    1. Judy, architects have copied the Greeks for two thousand years, so there are lots of buildings around that look classically Greek. Having said that, I can see how you could cruise by this building and think that it was just another copy cat building – particularly given its low-key location. Watch for our next post if you want to be convinced that you should return to tour the inside. ~James

    1. Susan, the Nashville Parthenon is the perfect example of not looking “in your own back yard.” I grew up 100 miles from this building, and I traveled to Athens twice before I discovered this wonderful replica. Go figure. ~James

  2. Crazy but beautiful, and the Dorothy quote is very apposite. 🙂 🙂 Perhaps not quite the same without the Plaka district down below, but I guess you can throw plates to honky tonk music, James? 🙂

    1. Jo, not so far from Nashville’s Parthenon is a street called South Broadway. It has the look, and the reputation, of being the country music equivalent of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street. I’m not sure about the plate throwing, but with the mix of booze, dancin’ and drinkin’, I’m sure lots of things get thrown. 🙂 ~James

    1. Thanks Jane. I’m sure there are a few folks in Nashville that grow tired of the “Music City” moniker, and are happy when there are cultural alternatives. This replica temple is certainly one of them. ~James

  3. How cool is that!!! I’ll never get to Greece, but Tennessee I can manage. I recently watched a show about the restoration of the Parthenon, it’s incredible the work going into it.

    1. Laura, Nashville’s all about music and if you visit, that’s pretty much all you hear about. But, Nashville has a long history and there are other things to see. The inside of the Parthenon is even cooler, so watch for our next post. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment Gracia and for dropping by the blog. Nashville and its country music scene isn’t for everyone, but the area has a lot of other things to see and do, so it makes a great destination. ~James

  4. I have been at Nashville many times and never knew about this. Thanks for the tip. I’ll tuck that away for safe keeping and my next trip through Nashville, whenever that may be.

    1. Amy, the Parthenon is in Centennial Park just SW of downtown. It’s a nice area and a good break from the the country music scene downtown. Also, FYI check out Cheekwood Gardens – very cool. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment Ingrid and for dropping by the blog. You are so right about surprising attractions close to home. We recently moved back to our university town after years living abroad, and we’re amazed at all the things we missed when we were students here. Of course, we were poor students and our minds were somewhere else, but still. It’s good to take another look around. ~James

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