Nature’s Oasis in the Heart of Athens: A Guide to National Garden and Zappeion Hall
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Adjacent to the Hellenic Parliament and just a few meters away from Syntagma Square lies the National Garden of Athens. Spanning 16 hectares in total, this green oasis in the center of the Greek capital is home to historical landmarks and the Ζappeion Hall.
Locals head here for a relaxed morning walk or in the evening to catch a movie in the open-air Cine Aegli.
Take a stroll in the peaceful flourished garden and discover its history through the building and antiquities that lie in its premises.
The National Garden of Athens
Commissioned in 1838 by Queen Amalia, wife of King Otto, the National Garden of Athens was initially named the “Royal Garden” or “The Garden of Amalia.”
It is said that Her Majesty was spending at least three hours daily in the garden and she planted herself the imposing palm trees that today are 25 meters long.
The German agronomist Friedrich Schmidt was appointed for the design of the garden and he imported 500 species of plants and various animals such as peacocks, ducks, and turtles.
Even though many of the plants didn’t survive in the Meditteranean climate, the garden is until nowadays home to 519 species and plant varieties.
The King and the Queen had their own private space in the upper garden and allowed the entrance to the public only in specific hours.
However, since the 1920s the garden is open to the public from sunrise to sunset.
The National Garden of Athens was the setting in an incident that played a great role in the country’s history. On the 30th of September 1920, King Alexander who was ruling Greece at the time was bitten by a monkey while walking in the Royal Garden.
Upon his death, the deposed King Constantine I, the father of King Alexander, returned to Greece.
He supported and succeeded in the election of the monarchist Dimitrios Gounaris as a new Prime Minister changing the country’s political environment.
A series of political events followed leading to the catastrophe of Smyrna in 1922 and the Exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey.
As you walk through the garden you’ll also discover the Zappeion, a neoclassical building that was built in 1878 for the modern Olympic Games.
Today it hosts public exhibitions, conferences, and events. The donator was Evangelis Zappas, founder of the Zappian Olympic Games.
Why You Should Visit the National Garden
Visiting the National Garden of Athens is certainly a must.
Not only is it a great place to escape the city’s hustle and bustle but also due to its privileged location, it can easily fit your sightseeing schedule.
As you stroll around Athens’ most beautiful public park you’ll come across six lakes, around 7,000 trees, and 40,000 bushes that originate in different parts of the world.
Palms and cypress trees from the Canary Islands, pines from Australia, and Chinese trees-of-heaven compose the fairytale scenery.
Moreover, the garden features statues and monuments as well as antiquities such as the sundial at the main entrance.
A Roman floor that was discovered during excavations in the 19th century is now placed close to the entrance on Vasilissis Sophias Avenue.
The National Garden of Athens not only is a place of unique beauty but also of great historical significance.
Things to Do in the National Garden of Athens
Aside from a long walk or a picnic, there are plenty of things to do in the National Garden of Athens.
If you’re traveling with kids, make sure to visit the children’s library and the playground.
The entrance to the library is free and little ones will love it.
It features two reading rooms, a room for music and films, and a room where fairytale narrations take place.
There is also a conservatory that is considered to be the country’s first greenhouse and until nowadays, plants are cultivated here before being replanted to the garden.
The perfect place to finish off your walk is the little cozy cafe which is located at the entrance of Irodou Attikou Street.
Take a stroll to explore all of the garden’s hidden corners and discover the Zappeion Hall. The neo-classical building is of great importance and it is certainly worth a visit.
Finally, if you’re visiting Athens in the summertime, you should definitely watch a movie in the open-air Cine Aegli.
It’s one of the most popular Athenian summer cinemas and one of the locals’ most favorites.
How to Get to the National Garden of Athens
The easiest way to get to the national garden of Athens is by metro.
Take off at Syntagma Square and in about a 5-minutes walk you’ll be at the garden’s central entrance on Amalias Avenue. Visit our Athens Maps page and download for free the Map of Athens Center
There are seven entrances in total, one on Vasilissis Sophias Avenue, three on Irodou Attikou Street, and two more in the area of Zappeion.
Check this map of the National Garden to see the entrances and other details:
Located among the areas of Monastiraki, Kolonaki, and Pagrati, the National Garden of Athens is also easily accessible by foot if you’re roaming in the city center.
If you are getting around Athens by bus, lines 040, 224, 550, 856, Α2, Α5, and Ε14 pass by or close to Syntagma square and the National Garden of Athens.
The Zappeion Hall in Athens
Commissioned by the philanthropist and businessman, Evangelos Zappas, the Zappeion Hall (or Zappeion Megaron) was the first building to be erected for the revival of the Olympic Games in the modern world.
Its construction began in 1874 and was completed in October 1888.
Unfortunately, Zappas wasn’t in life at the time the Zappeion Hall was completed but he left behind one of the most important buildings.
Theophil Hansen, a Danish architect well-known for his structures in Athens and in Viena was the designer of the neo-classical Zappeion Megaron.
Over 120 years, the Zappeion has been an integral part of the capital’s history.
Even though it was always connected with the Olympic Movement, the Zappeion has served different operations.
In 1940 for example, it was converted into a hospital and a year later occupied by the German army was transformed into a storehouse and later a barracks.
It hosted three fencing events during the 1896 Summer Olympics and ten years later it served as the Olympic Village.
In the 2004 Olympic Games, The Zappeion Hall served as the press center.
From 1936 to 1970, the Athens Radio Station, the country’s first national broadcaster, was operating on the hall’s premises.
Featuring fully-equipped meeting rooms as well as exhibition and congress halls, the Zappeion is nowadays used for public and private exhibitions and events as well as conferences.
Why You Should Visit Zappeion Hall
Often overlooked by tourists, the Zappeion is not considered one of Athens’ main attractions but it is certainly worth your while.
Having witnessed Greece’s history for more than one century, the neoclassical building has its own story to tell.
Even though it was built for the modern Olympic Games, over the years it has served multiple usages.
Stroll around its lavish garden and discover its beautiful trees and flowers as well as the statues and the cast-iron lamp-posts that adorn the Zappeion Garden.
How to Get to Zappeion
Standing at the crossing of Vasilissis Olgas Avenue with Vasilissis Sofias Avenue close to the National Gardens of Athens and the Hellenic parliament, the Zappeion Hall is easily accessible.
Take off at the Syntagma station and walk around 700 meters to reach its entrance at Vasilissis Olgas Avenue.
If you’re getting here from the Athens International Airport you can use either the subway or the X95 Airport Express Bus.
Several buses and trolleybusses pass by the Zappeion Hall since it’s very centrally located. Some of them are lines 040, 227, 856, A2, E14.
Where to Stay Near the National Garden and Zappeion Hall
Opened in the 60s and recently renovated, Hotel Amalia Athens is one of the city’s gems ideal for business and leisure travelers. The four-star hotel features 97 rooms that overlook the Greek Parliament and the National Garden of Athens.
Featuring 37 rooms in total, Innathens Hotel aims at offering a personalized experience to its guests. Each one of the rooms is decorated in a unique style that is based on Greek simplicity.
Electra Hotel Athens
Electra Hotel Athens is a four-star hotel located in the city’s main shopping district. It offers all the amenities for a comfortable and at the same time stylish stay in the heart of Athens.
In case you might be asking yourself, we have also written a great guide about where to stay in Athens and why. Check it, you shouldn’t miss it!
Where to Eat Near the National Garden and Zappeion Hall
By the Glass
By the Glass is an elegant wine bar offering a selection of over 500 wines from Greece and abroad and a mouthwatering food menu. Based on Mediterranean cuisine, all dishes are designed for pairing with the wines.
- Address: G. Souri 3 & Filellinon, Ralli Arcade (Stoa) Syntagma, Athens, 105 57 Greece (Map)
- Telephone: +30 210 323 2560, +30 210 324 9988
7 food sins
Inspired by the English gastropubs, 7 Food Sins, combines high-quality food and drinks in a relaxed-atmosphere restaurant. It is housed in a neoclassical building, featuring a rooftop terrace and a stylish indoor room.
- Address: Plateia Filomousou Etaireias 1, Athens (Map)
- Telephone: +30 210 701 1108
Nolan is a high-end fusion restaurant located in the heart of Athens’ city center. Its dishes are a combination of Greek and Asian flavors and its atmosphere boasts the Greek capital’s
- Address: 31 Voulis Street, Athens (Map)
- Telephone: +30 210 324 3545
And if these options are not enough don’t worry. Read the article below, we have gathered a huge collection of restaurants in Athens!
Both the National Garden and the Zappeion Hall that adorns it are attractions you cannot afford to miss on your visit to Athens.
The former is an ideal place to spend a relaxing day in nature hidden in the city center while the latter will give you a glimpse into the city’s rich history.
When you explore these popular tourist spots, make sure to follow our recommendations for nearby hotels and restaurants.
You certainly won’t be disappointed!
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