Lifestyle & Culture

Christina Hudson in Greece: My expat guide to the rare green spaces of Athens, Pt. 2

With only 6 square meters of green space per person, Athens residents have to search for natural environments. Photo by Christina Hudson


(Editor’s note: This is Pt. 2 of a two-part post on the green spaces in Athens. You can see Part 1 here.)

The metro area of Athens, Greece is one of the most densely-populated in Europe. With only 6 square meters of green spaces per person, we the residents are more than a little deprived of natural environments. Athenians may not have nearly enough public parks in this city of grey cement, but we do have a few outstanding choices for residents or visitors who need to do some tree-hugging as an antidote to the sometimes harrowing hubbub of city life.

Even during the current COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, Athens can present a sensory overload for many, so, whether or not you are a nature lover, please take note of the following:

Lycabettus Hill

Likavittou, Athina 11471

This iconic Athenian landmark with its spectacular 360-degree views is a limestone hill skirted by a pine forest and topped by the sweet little chapel of St. George. The summit is a favorite destination for sunset-selfie lovers as it the highest point in central Athens.

You can drive to a parking lot near the top (the last bit consists of some wide steps) or take the funicular railway right up to the café-restaurant which is next to the chapel. The railway station is located in the chi-chi neighborhood of Kolonaki, at 1 Aristippou Street. However, if a great dose of green is what you are after, be sure to schedule an extra 30 minutes or so to saunter up through the pine trees. There are numerous footpaths to choose from, the setting is fresh and serene and the views around every corner are definitely rewarding.

Tatoi Estate

Entrance to Greece’s former royal estate, Tatoiou, Acharnes 13672

The country’s former royal estate is set in a gorgeous wooded area about 20 kilometers from central Athens, on the slopes of Parnitha mountain. The estate, which had been abandoned for decades, is now set to be converted into a distinctive destination in the near-ish future, complete with a museum as well as a luxury hotel and spa. In the meantime, the grounds are a fantastic destination for anyone needing a day of forest bathing.

Make sure you bring food and water and a picnic blanket is also a good idea as there aren’t many benches or tables. I highly recommend the walk to the Tatoi Royal Cemetery, which is situated at the super-peaceful southern end of the estate. It’s not every day you can see a place where nearly two dozen kings, queens, princesses and princes are buried!

Diomidous (Diomedes) Botanical Garden

Iera Odos 403, Chaidari 12461

Not too far from the city center is the region’s largest botanical garden and it is very impressive. It features countless tree and plant species, both native and international. Its shady paths, ponds and benches provide a tranquil respite from busy city life.

This is a special place for everyone. You will find university students carrying out botanical projects, joggers taking their daily exercise, artists painting floral scenes and families strolling and taking in the sounds and sights of nature. When COVID-19 restrictions are eased or lifted, you can visit the sweet café near the entrance and you can also book a special tour of the gardens and the amazing seed bank.

Stavros Niarchos Park

Leof. Andrea Siggrou 364, Kallithea 17674

Located in southern Athens, this magical Mediterranean sun-drenched park is a green dream of biodiversity. Here you will find nearly 200 species of regional plants and the aroma of seasonal aromatic ones often fills the air.

On the Great Lawn, visitors can take in world-class concerts, screenings and a variety of other activities. The park houses several natural wooden playgrounds, a unique one- dimensional labyrinth, a vegetable garden, splash pad, giant chess set and more. When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, be sure to register online for a free walking tour of this modern marvel of landscape architecture. Once a week, the tour is conducted in English, which is great for both expats and tourists.

Finally, it should be noted that the grounds are fully accessible to those with disabilities.

Andonis Tritsis Metropolitan Park

Spirou Moustakli 21, Ilion 13122

With the wetlands of the Attica region shrinking by the day, this park is one of the last wildlife sanctuaries in Athens’ urban areas. It has six artificial lakes and an artificial canal, attracting a wide variety of birds and other wildlife. The Hellenic Ornithological Society runs educational programs, bird-watching events and eco-tours in the park, teaching both schoolchildren and adults about the natural environment and its inhabitants.

Each season brings a different visitor to watch out for, from turtles, frogs and bats to special birds like the Kingfisher, the Hoopoe and the Glossy Ibis. Surrounded on all sides by densely-populated Athenian neighborhoods, this park (largely covered by Aleppo Pines) is truly an urban wonder.

dav

About the author:

A Pittsburgher by birth, Christina T. Hudson is also half Greek and has – so far – spent most of her life in Athens, the chaotic but captivating capital city of Greece. She studied Language and Literature at Moravian College and has worked as a teacher, an editor, a writer and a photographer.

You can see more of her work here at A Pixel for Your Thoughts.

You can see more of her posts here.

See more about Greece in Dispatches’ archive here. See our Athens archive here

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