Parks can be found everywhere in Athens and nearby. This weekend we ventured out to the Penteli Mountain in the Northern part of Athens. We had a great autumn day out and returned with a bag full of acorns, oak leaves, berries and more. This inspired me to create a blog post about my favorite forest places and parks in Athens for an autumn day out.
Parks in Athens
The number one place on my list of best parks in Athens: the National Gardens. The National Gardens, formerly called the Royal Gardens, are a wonderful oasis of 15.5 hectares of green right in the heart of the city. The park is located directly behind the Greek Parliament building (the old palace) and in between the Zappeion and the Panathenaiko Olympic Stadium. The park is a labyrinth of winding paths through beautiful tall trees and rare plants in impressive botanical gardens. There are also plenty of open grass areas and benches to have a picnic or to play. My kids also love the playground (with sandbox!) hidden in between the trees and the little farm and turtle pond. The National Gardens also host a small cafe and a children’s library (only Greek books). The main entrance to the park is on Amalias Avenue but you also enter the garden from Vasilissis Sophias Avenue, Herodou Attikou street, and the Zappeion park area. Easy accessible for strollers and good for bike riding too.
If you need more ideas for the National Garden with kids, have a look at the self-guided audio tour for families called Athens National Garden tour: the early years for kids. Do you want to meet the Queen? Have at the Athens National Garden tour for kids: Meet the Queen. These tours are part of the Clio Muse concept and readers of this blog are eligible for a 15% discount on the tours. For more information, have a look here.
Park or Hill? The panoramic view from the top of the pine-covered Lycabettus Hill is well worth the beautiful hike up through colorful trees. But this is not suitable for strollers or young children. Instead, you can take your small children up to the slopes by riding the funicular, a 200 meters cable car ride inside a tunnel through the mountain. What I usually do is we take the cable car on the way up and after a nice break we walk back down the stairs. A beautiful hike in the middle of the city with an amazing top-down view of the Acropolis and Athens. My kids love exploring the winding footpaths among the pine trees, bushes, and even cacti. There are a few scattered benches and picnic tables for a break.
Facing the south side of the Acropolis, the Filoppapou hill is a not exactly a park but a green spot covered in tall trees and plants. This is not an actual forest but a great place where green and culture comes together. You can see the remains of Greece but enjoy nature too. There is a stone paved walkway climbing to the top. The paths on the hill are steep and not suitable for bikes. But they continue also on the flat pedestrian area between the hill.
Kaisariani Monastery Forest
The Kaisariani forest or park is only 15 minutes (5 km) away from the city center. The forest is located around Mount Ymittos. The forest has many footpaths climbing their way up and around the forest of Mount Ymittos towards the monastery of Kaisariani. On your way, you will see beautiful cypress trees, old churches, ruins and steep rocky hills. There are flat sunny grass areas for play and picnic, there are picnic tables and areas turned into a botanical garden. The forest is great for a treasure hunt or an Easter Egg hunt as we did a couple of years ago.
Sygrou Estate Marousi
Syngrou Estate in between the Northern suburbs of Marousi and Kifissia belonged to Andreas Sygrou, a successful and wealthy Greek businessman, who donated the park to the Institute of Agricultural Sciences. The Estate is a very large natural park with a large variety of trees and shrubs and many pathways and open areas. Although the park is surrounded by the city, it feels like a piece of unspoiled countryside. There are many trees to climb in, thick pine tree forests, streams, and rocks. It is great for little explorers and one of our personal top favorites. There are also olive, peach and pistachio trees and a vineyard with over 500 different varieties of Greek vines. Beehives, a cactus museum, and volleyball, basketball, and football courts complete the experience at Sygrou Estate. There are paths that are suitable for strollers and bikes. The park is a half hour drive from the Athens city center.
Hiding in between the trees at Sygrou Estate
Tatoi King’s Estate Parnitha
The Tatoi King’s Estate is a great park for a long quality day out. This is the estate of the now empty summer residence of the former Greek Royal Family on the east-facing slopes of Mount Parnitha, 27 kilometers from the Athens city center. This is where we go climbing in a tree, play in mud paddles but also fantasize about the past. Because you can go very near the royal buildings and walk through the estate, now boarded up or under renovations. The area around is beautifully unspoiled and the gardens, fountains, caves, tunnels and fairytale buildings will surely inspire your children’s imagination. The Royals wanted the landscape to resemble Switzerland and some parts still do. They have also planted a botanical garden. Find endless walking paths in woods but also open grass areas with swings and picnic benches. It is best to park on Tatoi Avenue (see map attached) and walk hill up towards the estate. You will find an open grass area near the former stables and service houses. Here are some cows roaming around freely so be careful with young children. Most paths are bike and stroller friendly. A hiking map is a good idea but there are also good signs that offer tracks or footpaths.
Penteli Mountain is a great place of interest. And not only for its beautiful forest with oak trees leaves in all colors during autumn. Penteli Mountain is historically important because it’s where the marble for the Parthenon was quarried. The stone was then moved down to the city with an intricate network of carts and pulleys, and you can still see the tracks today. Penteli Mountain also hosts the Athens National Observatory, several educational farms, monasteries, and churches. But the most fascinating thing about the mountain is certainly the Davelis Cave, a mysterious place surrounded by myth and local superstition. One of the easiest ways to find autumn colors on Penteli is to drive up to Moni Kimiseos and park your car nearby. The monastery is worth a visit and afterward, you can continue exploring the surrounding forest and collect forest treasures.
More ideas for Autumn
Looking for autumn colors but don’t want to stay inside the big city? In the orchard of Perivoli stin Vari near Athens airport, you can combine nature with urban farming. Drive a bit further out and find the beautiful forest of Varnavas. If you want to combine autumn with outdoor sports, then the climbing forest in Malakasa is great with kids and teens. Consider visiting an island nearby Athens. The Saronic islands are the closest. Poros is the greenest of these islands and ideal for hiking and walking. Find out more about Poros and its surroundings in my previous blog post called Holiday in Poros Island with Kids. Another nearby place for an autumn escape is Nafplion. Nafplion is the first capital of Greece and has a lot to offer for families. Besides beautiful monuments and sites, it has stunning nature and parks. Take a look at my photo album in Nafplion with Kids. Finally, Autumn is when the Greek grapes are harvested. It is thus a great time to visit a winery and learn more about wine culture. In my post greece2taste wine tour Nemea I reviewed an organized family-friendly wine excursion to several wine estates combined with a visit to the famous archeological site in Nemea.
Have a beautiful autumn!
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