The 8 Best Parks and Green Spaces in Athens, Greece

Take a break in the National Garden
Take a break in the National Garden | © dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Heidi Fuller-Love
20 December 2019

Athens might be a bustling, vibrant capital, but it’s easy to get some nature therapy in the city’s countless parks and gardens – you just have to know where to look.

Split into dozens of different neighbourhoods, Greece’s sprawling capital – backed by the pine-clad peak of Mount Lycabettus and descending towards the Athens Riviera – has a surprising number of natural spaces where you can escape from sizzling temperatures in summer and enjoy colourful flora and fauna in autumn and spring.

Stavros Niarchos Park

Yoga Studio, Park
Map View
Stavros Niarchos Park plays host a plethora of free events
Stavros Niarchos Park plays host a plethora of free events | © LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / Stringer

Home to the Greek National Opera and the National Library, this cultural hub is surrounded by tree-lined paths perfect for jogging and cycling. These trails lead to a vast central park that is ideal for picnicking, playing football or doing some yoga stretches. The park also has a network of canals where you can splash about in a kayak in summer and a green space on top of the opera house with panoramic views. Look out for the yoga workshops, film screenings and other (often free) outdoor events that are held here in summer.

Diomedes Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden
Map View

Want to see the plant that was used to poison Socrates or the ivy dedicated to god of wine Dionysus? The best place in town to discover plants from Greek mythology is the Diomedes Botanical Garden in Haidari, a short metro ride from the city centre. This is the Eastern Mediterranean’s biggest botanical garden – apart from the hemlock that killed Greece’s famed philosopher, there are more than 4,000 species brought in from all over the planet.

National Garden

Park, Building
Map View
The National Garden is not far from Syntagma Square
The National Garden is not far from Syntagma Square | © PanosM / Alamy Stock Photo
Step back in time as you stroll around this lush expanse just steps from Syntagma Square. Once part of Athens’s Royal Garden, this urban oasis was imagined by Queen Amalia – wife of Otto, the first modern king of Greece. The garden is a haven of peace, with hundreds of rare and exotic plants circling dozens of swan-dotted ponds. “It is the quintessence of a park … a place one would like to be in and never finds,” said writer Henry Miller when he visited here in 1939.

Athens Riviera

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark, Hiking Trail
Map View

This stretch of sandy beaches and secluded coves is linked by seafront hiking trails to some luscious green spaces. One of the most popular of these is the stylish Flisvos Marina. With its swanky shops, elegant restaurants and tree-lined esplanade, the marina is always packed, and is a firm favourite of joggers and cyclists. “Kids will also love the vast central playground here, which has swings and other games,” says Maria Fafalios, who has a shop nearby.

Hymettus

Hill Station
Map View
Hymettus is a popular spot for hiking and mountain biking
Hymettus is a popular spot for hiking and mountain biking | © CoinUp / Getty Images
Known in Ancient Greece as the sanctuary of Zeus the rain god, this forested mountain is a favourite with Athenians, who come here to hike or cycle along one of the trails, look at the rare birds that nest in the lofty pines or stop off to light a candle at the 11th-century Kaisariani Monastery. Hymettus is also a great picnic spot, offering spectacular views over to the mythical mountains of Parnitha.

Syngrou Estate

Park, Historical Landmark
Map View

Syngrou Estate in the northern Marousi suburb is another of Athens’s little-known green hideaways. “Syngrou is a real hidden gem – very few people know about it and yet it’s one of the best parks close to the city,” says outdoor adventurer and local resident Dora Zervakis. Donated to the Greek Agricultural Company in the 1920s by the widow of wealthy businessman Andreas Syngros, this park is home to rare plants, including wild orchids. Make sure to visit the nearby Church of Agios Andreas, which is the only Neo-Gothic Orthodox church in Greece.

Parnitha National Park

Park, Hill Station
Map View
Marked hiking path on Parnitha Mountain
Parnitha National Park offers over 75 hiking trails | © Tadej Perdih / Alamy Stock Photo
A 25-minute drive from the capital, this fauna- and flora-filled national park – centred in Mount Parnitha, Attica’s highest mountain which is, according to mythology, haunted by cloven-hoofed god Pan – is a great place to get in touch with your inner self. A network of hiking trails lead through bouldered landscapes, blissfully shaded by sweet-smelling pine trees where deer, foxes and rabbits can be spotted.

Tatoi Estate

Park, Historical Landmark
Map View

If you fancy getting back to nature while exploring the former residence of the Greek royal family, Tatoi Estate is for you. Located in the foothills of Mount Parnitha – just a 10-minute drive from Kifissia – this glorious verdant space was bought by King George in 1872 as a summer home for his family. Surrounding the old houses – which are now atmospheric ruins – this impressive park is a blend of dense forest and gentle meadows that are ideal for walking and mountain biking. It’s also home to a cemetery, where ornate graves, buried in lush undergrowth, date back several centuries.

These recommendations were updated on December 20, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.