On busy Iera Odos avenue you will find a stone entrance at number 401. This is the entrance to the Julia and Alexander N. Diomedes Botanic Garden, a green wonderland spanning 460 acres west of Athens, in Haïdari. The garden is home to over 3000 plant species and has an area dedicated to the maintenance of plant biodiversity in Greece.
The Diomedes Botanical Garden is the largest of the nation, and it aims to promote scientific research. Used by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA) for teaching purposes, the garden is also open to the general public, making it a great destination for exploring rich local flora.
Alexander N. Diomedes (1875 – 1950), the founder of the garden and member of the Athenian Academy, was a professor and one of the patrons of the NKUA. Before his death he left instructions in his will for the establishment of a botanic garden, to be used by the university and other institutions for the study, cultivation and development of plants, trees and flowers, and to foster an interest in these in the younger generations. Founded in 1951 through a charitable foundation set up by Diomedes, the botanical garden opened its doors to the public in 1975. Today, the garden features several sections, with paths, playgrounds and greenhouses, as well as laboratories and administrative buildings. Around 20% of the total area is cultivated, while the rest is divided into an arboretum, an ornamental plants section, an historic plants area and an aromatic and herbal plants section, as well as a nursery and a greenhouse.
Besides being a botanical garden, the area is also a natural habitat for local fauna, which makes it an ideal real-life lab for students of biology at NKUA and the agricultural university. The garden includes a seed bank with over 800 plant species represented. The ultimate goal is to create a section with endangered and rare species. Others objectives include raising awareness on the importance of environmental preservation and the protection of endangered species through guided tours.
If you are a plant lover or simply looking for a quiet and tranquil spot to escape the hustle (and heat) of the city, at the Diomedes Botanical Garden you will enjoy the endemic and exotic plant and tree species. If you are in Athens during the spring, the flowers here are especially beautiful and fragrant. There is also a small cafe at the garden, and plenty of places to have a picnic.