In the sometimes chaotic sprawl of concrete, Athenians and visitors alike find refuge in the city's many parks, green spaces, and picnicking grounds. Old men play chess and tavli, women drink coffee and gossip, the doves coo, the cicadas sing, and the tense urban pressure along with the heat drops down to a more manageable level.
First and second on our list are practically one; it's difficult to amble through the royal palms of the National Gardens without stumbling onto Zappeion where statues guard graceful arching benches filled with golden-aged loiterers. The gardens themselves offer up little surprises like ancient ruins, a duck pond, small zoo and playground. Head down Panepistimiou Street to the mansion of Heinrich Schliemann where behind an ornate iron gate lies a cafe within a garden.
Further away from the historical center is the recently restored Pedion Tou Areos, a beloved 100 year-old neighborhood green space and the city's main lung between Omonia and Ambelokipi. Walk down the paths of Philopappou beautifully sculpted by 1950's architect, Dimitrios Pikionis to find shaded picnic tables for a lunch of local goodies, or drive up high to the benches on Lykavittos Hill in Kolonaki for a view of the entire city. Exarcheia's Strefi Hill is a more residential hill abuzz with social neighbors and their canine companions.
Parks and gardens worth getting out of the city center for include the grounds around 11th century Kaisariani Monastery, a gorgeous protected space leading all the way to the foot of Hymettos Mountain, and the estate of 19th century engineer and benefactor of the city, Andreas Syngrou, where visitors can walk down sand paths and come upon the rare Mediterranean Land Tortoise. For a seaside stroll Flisvos Park is a calm oasis with dozens of cafes combined with playgrounds and fancy coin-operated rides to satisfy both children and parents. In the evening, walk along the sea toward Alimos Marina to see an intense chess match with life sized pieces.
Main entrance on Amalias Ave. Two other entrances from Vassilisis Sophias Ave. and Irodou Attikou Street.
Once the royal family's garden - now shared by all... read more
Robertou Galli Street
Strolling around the birthplace of democracy...
Corner of Aristippou & Ploutarchou Streets
A bit of earth and an urban retreat... read more