Welcome back, springtime sunshine, we’d missed you! It has been a very chilly winter indeed, and we are more than ready to bask in your golden light, as you warm our skin… and the cockles of our heart. There are so many wonderful verdant landscapes in Attica where you can take your children and friends to catch up al fresco, feast on a delicious picnic, play for hours on end and sip chilled drinks, enjoying the arrival of spring in earnest.
Here are our favourites
Right beneath the Acropolis, and offering a stunning view of the Parthenon and Lycabettus Hill, side by side, is pine-clad Philopoappou Hill, named as such after the monument dedicated to the Roman General Antiochus Philopappos. Ideal for its lush surroundings, breathtaking city views, sunset romance (often young musicians gather in various spots to play drums or guitars) and a picnic. Nearby is the lovely Pnyx hill, where the city’s Democratic Assembly took place (5th Century BC).
Especially popular amongst joggers and dog-walkers, Lycabettus towers over the city, just above Kolonaki, Ambelokipi, and Exarcheia and offers magnificent views of the city, all the way down to Piraeus port. There are several park-benches around the hill and if you trek all the way up to the church of St George at the very top you can enjoy a coffee at the cafe there too. Lovers drive to the top, grab a refreshment from the cantina and watch the sun setting over the glimmering city. You can also find your own more isolated spot for a scenic picnic. If you’d rather not walk, grab the funicular train from the corner of Ploutarhiou & Aristippou Streets in Kolonaki.
Commissioned and organised in the mid 19th Century by Queen Amalia (as today’s House of Parliament, before which the Changing of the Guards takes place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was once the Royal Palace of King Otto and Queen Amalia) this is the most central oasis in the city. It is abundant with plant and tree species from around the world and Greece, including palm trees from Africa and the Phytolacca tree from South America to Ginko Biloba from China. You’ll see parrots, goats, swans, ducks, frogs, tortoises, cats, and peacocks both kept in confinement and free. There is also a Botanical Museum, playground, and cafe on the premises, which close at sunset.
There is a delightful variety of things to enjoy in the open air at the lush grounds of the 17-hectare Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, lined with olive trees and native herbs as well as flowers and bushes. From all-day, free classes for all ages on everything from fitness, art and culture, to free pedalos that you can hop on between 16:00-20:00 and endless creative playgrounds with wooden rides, to musical floor tiles and a maze. And then there’s the new National Library, the Opera House, temporary events and exhibitions regularly taking place there and a food hall. Check out the SNFCC website before going there to make sure you’ll make the best of your visit there.
Diomedis Botanical Gardens
Unknown even to longtime residents, this glorious and massive (186-hectare) parkland in the area of Haidari is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. It has a network of paved roads leading you around the 15 flowerbeds of (over 500 species of) plants – aromatic and medicinal plants, historic plants and ornamental plants are just some of the categories. There are also a nursery, seed bank, laboratories and a greenhouse on the grounds, which include 25 pools with aquatic plant species.