(Editor’s note: This is Pt. 1 of a two-part post on the best kid-friendly spots in Athens for kids – and parents – to play. You can jump to Pt. 2 here.)
By Christina Hudson and Daniel Barnias-Hudson
Danny, my 9-year-old son, told me that it was high time I wrote about what kids (and their family and friends) can do in Athens. He had a point and thus began the following “collab” between a fourth-grader and his mother.
Downtown Athens and the Athenian suburbs are not generally very kid-friendly. Sidewalks (even in the “best” areas) are often unusable. They are frequently covered in trash cans, randomly-planted greenery and illegally-parked cars, or many are in such poor condition that you have to walk in the street.
A baby wrap/carrier is your best friend if you have a very little one whereas a stroller is your worst enemy.
Once your kiddo is too heavy for a carrier, it’s time for walking! Dangerous driving is the norm, not the exception, and even pedestrianised shopping streets almost always have motor scooters zipping around. That means kids here have to learn to be extra cautious from an early age and, because public transportation is patchy in many areas, they also have to be chauffeured around a lot more than they would in other cities.
I think that’s one of the reasons why parks are so important to my son and his friends – they are some of the only places in the city where kids are free to run around without concerned parents telling them to watch out for motorcycles, cars, etc, all the time.
Some of Danny’s favorites:
Andreas Papandreou Park
Eschilou 18 Nea Erithraia 14671
This is a spacious playground with a large biking area connected to it.
(It’s not so much a park, despite the name.)
It does contain some green space around its perimeter but there is very little shade within the main area. So, be sure to visit in the early morning or evening on those hot sunny days.
Papandreou Park has some decent outdoor exercise equipment as well as some fun climbing equipment for older kids and a smaller area geared towards younger children, with swings, slides and so on. There is also a small café serving ice-cream, coffee, juice and sandwiches.
The quality is not great, but it’s fine for a quick snack or drink.
Adjacent to the main playground is the dedicated biking area with traffic signs where many a local kid has taken their first proper bike ride. There, you will see a little hut where kids can rent bikes by the hour for a small fee.
From 5-to-7 years old, I spent lots of time learning to ride a bike and getting to know traffic signs here. We kids have a good time at Papandreou Park. The ice cream at the café isn’t very good, but there’s a lot of space to run around away from the bike tracks and playground equipment. My friends and I love climbing the trees along the fence.
Mavrommateon 22, Athina 10434, but there are other points of entry
all around the perimeter
The translation of Pedion tou Areas is “Field of Ares” (referring to the Greek god of war). This famous urban landmark is one of the largest in the city and was designed to honor the heroes of the Greek War of Independence of 1821. There are marble busts of about 20 of these historical heroes in the park.
In addition to lots of lovely greenery, you might spot a wedding or christening here as there are two churches with the park limits. There is also a theater, dog park, public sports center and large statues of the goddess Athena as well as one of King Constantine the First.
Pedion tou Areos is an urban oasis for those living in the vicinity, which is among the most densely-populated areas in the city and country!
The serious marble statues among the bushes are fun for silly selfies. In the center of this very green park, there is a splash pad to help you beat the Greek heat. Last time I was there biking with my dad, we discovered a mysterious, unmarked sanctuary that looks more like a small cave. It is possibly from pagan times and contains some spooky animal and human figurines which have a very odd melted appearance. It is a perfect spot for kids to play and make up scary stories. The nicest walking paths in the park, in my opinion, are near the Alsos Theater.
Spyros Louis Kifisias 35, Athina 15123
Served by Line 1 (Green Line) train stations Irini and Neratziotissa as well as the Neratziotissa station of the Suburban Railway, this huge sports complex has a ton of flat outdoor space for walking, running and biking. It also has a wide variety of indoor facilities for soccer (football), swimming, tennis, track and field, archery and more. Running events and concerts are often held here too. (Andrea Bocelli and Guns n’ Roses performed there this past summer.)
The main facilities were built in the 1980s but extensively revamped for the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics and Paralympics under renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Sadly, the property
has not been properly maintained over the years and there is talk of handing it over to a private company to clean it up and get the safety up tp scratch.
Even though the outdoor area here is almost completely paved with very little shade and few trees, it’s a biking and athletic paradise! There is so much open space! I bike and walk here a lot and do a martial-arts lesson here once a week. It gets very hot in the daytime – especially when it’s sunny – but evenings are very pleasant.
Alsos Papagou (aka Papagou Park)
Koritsas 31, Papagos 15669
This park is a 10-to–15 minute walk from Ethniki Amina metro station (blue line). It is a sprawling green haven located under Hymettos, a very picturesque mountain range in the Athens area. Beloved by kids and adults alike, Alsos Papagou has long and lovely walking trails, a theater, soccer field, running track, playground, picnic areas and more.
Piu Verde is an all-day bar-restaurant-coffee shop near the center of the park where patrons can enjoy a coffee, cocktail, meal, sweet treat or all of the above, whenever the park is open.
Papagou Park is perfect for playdates. I love to go up to the top of the giant spider climbing frame. The playground is beautiful and has a small but exciting zip line. The ice cream at Piu Verde is delicious and my friends and I like to explore the walking paths that go all in all directions.
Read more about Athens here in Dispatches’ archives.