Ardittos Hill and the National Gardens together comprise the only obvious oases of green in a rocky capital city which is densely and chaotically built. Nevertheless, while walking through the city of Athens, one stumbles upon any number of small, tranquil pockets of shade and tranquility offering a welcome refuge from the summer sun. Such vest-pocket parks, gardens and courtyards more than compensate for their rarity by their unique and hospitable character.
The gardens of the Byzantine and Christian Museum: On central Vas. Sophias Avenue, and next to the friendly dirt paths radiating from the “Villa of the Duchess of Plakentia”, which houses Orthodoxy’s most valuable religious treasures, the ever cool and welcoming Café Bistrot Ilissia beckons us to enjoy a cool drink or light meal in the shade of bitter orange and Cypress trees. Vas. Sophias 22.
The summer café of the National Archaeological Museum: At Greece’s most important museum, hosting the country’s most precious finds from antiquity, a peaceful outdoor café invites you to relax and compose your thoughts after your great journey through the world of ancient Greek history. Patission 44.
The garden of the Athens City Museum: On Paparigopoulou Street, between Stadiou and Parnassou, there is a museum devoted to the history of Athens. Within this lovely building is a tiny garden where you can relax with a refreshing drink and delicious snack. At Ioanni Paparigopoulou Street 5-7.
The garden of the Numismatic Museum: In the heart of the city center, on Panepistimiou Street, the Numismatic Museum occupies the imposing mansion formerly owned by the famous industrialist, archaeologist and philhellene Heinrich Schliemann. In the courtyard just behind the mansion is an unexpected and welcome surprise – a small café offering a respite from the summer heat and a refreshing pause before you continue your exploration of the city. Panepistimiou 12.
The Mediterranean gardens of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s Cultural Center: Stroll along the fragrant paths lined with thousands of herbs and aromatic shrubs. Open from 6 a.m. until midnight. Syngrou Avenue 364.
At #96 Hadrianou Street there is a stately house which, from the 16th Century until today, has stood apart thanks to its history, its religious significance and its architecture. This house, known as “The Benizelos Mansion” after its first owner Angelos Benizelos, scion of an aristocratic family and the father of Saint Filothei, has been restored with the combined support of the Greek State and the Orthodox Church – and is now open to the public as a museum.
The mansion’s historical significance
The house is a classic example of pre-revolutionary urban Athenian architecture and provides eloquent testimony to life in Athens during the years of the Ottoman occupation. The Benizelos Mansion was built in the 16th Century, with the enclosed overhanging balcony (hayiati) most likely added in the 18th Century, at a time when Athens was a small provincial town in the sprawling Ottoman Empire. Accounts from that time by various travelers refer to the house in their journals or depict it in their sketches and paintings. On the property’s south side can be seen an old olive press as well as the remains of two small dwellings, one of which was the home of Saint Filothei. On the lower level, columns support simple arches, while a stone staircase leads to the courtyard and the upper level. The rest of the building, with its large windows, skylights and semi-enclosed spaces is quite representative of aristocratic architecture in the time around 1800.
The restoration of the mansion as a museum
The restoration of the mansion was undertaken by Professor Yiannis Kizis and his colleagues at the National Polytechnic University of Athens at the behest of the building’s owner, The Archbishopric of Athens, while the overall responsibility for the functioning of the museum belongs to the Archbishopric’s philanthropic organization “Apostoli”.
In the calm and protected waters of the Saronic Gulf, along the coastline which extends from Zea in Piraeus to the promontory of Sounion, this most beautiful section of Attica, which we call “our Riviera”, is home to a series of marinas which serve as oases for all types of motor-yachts and sailing vessels, large and small – and which also provide the ideal place for a leisurely stroll alongside the sea in a tranquil and cosmopolitan setting.
Agios Kosmas Marina: With the capacity to host up to 337 yachts ranging in size from 15 to 80 meters, Agios Kosmas Marina, right next to Glyfada and just 15 kilometers from the city center, is widely known for its exceptional location and facilities. Poseidonas Avenue, Ellenikon.
Flisvos Marina: In cosmopolitan Old Faliron, the marina has berths for 303 vessels, featuring luxury yachts longer than 35 meters. Only 6 kilometers from the center of Athens, Flisvos has a new commercial complex, an expansive esplanade and a variety of fine restaurants and cafes. Old Faliron, Athens.
Astir Marina – Vouliagmeni: Within this quiet bay of the Argosaronic Gulf, in a truly cosmopolitan corner of Attica, a “little” marina, Astir Marina – Vouliagmeni, offers just 103 berths for yachts up to 50 meters in length and comprises one of the city’s most beautiful spots for long, romantic walks. Apollonos 77 - Vouliagmeni.
Zea Marina: Across the Faliron Bay from Vouliagmeni, on the Eastern shore of the Peiraiki Peninsula, the Zea Marina is brimming with boats - and space for up to 670 motor-yachts and sailing vessels at both permanent and floating pontoon-docks. Zea, Piraeus.
Athens Marina: Just 7 kilometers from the city center, with mooring space for 130 yachts, including berths for yachts of 50 to 130 meters in length, Athens Marina offers a heliport and is famous for hosting some of the world’s most luxurious yachts. New Faliron.
Olympic Marina: Awarded the coveted “Blue Flag” for 16 consecutive years, the Olympic Marina offers 680 berths as well as a boatyard and repair unit. The marina is located in a strategic location – only 20 minutes from the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport. 77th Kilometer Athens–Sounion.
Greeks associate Kolokotronis Square with the beginning of Parliamentarian democracy in Greece in 1843, when Greece was declared a free and independent nation. Parliament was first housed in the Kontostavlos mansion, built in 1833 on the site of today’s square. After the destruction of the building by fire in 1854, Parliament then moved to a building on the Western side of the square, which was reconstructed from the courtyard of the Old Parliament. Today, this square represents a century of Parliamentarian tradition in Greece and is dominated by a bronze equestrian statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis.
The Old Parliament
The mansion which housed the Old Parliament was built in 1858 according to plans by the French architect François Boulanger at the instigation of Queen Amalia in order to house both the Senate and the Parliament. However, after King Otto was deposed, the Senate ceased to exist; the plans were reconfigured, and the building was turned over to the Hellenic Parliament on 11 August 1875, with Harilaos Trikoupis presiding as Prime Minister. Here Parliament functioned uninterrupted for 60 years until 1935, when it moved permanently to the old Royal Palace. The Old Parliament building, in which so much of the nation’s history unfolded, has housed the National Historical Museum since 1962 and has been the site of countless exhibitions of historical and cultural interest.
Aside from the massive bronze equestrian statue of Kolokotronis, in the courtyard of the Museum there is a marble statue by Thomas Thomopoulos of the statesman Harilaos Trikoupis – as well as a statue of his arch-rival Theodoros Deliyiannis by Constantine Demetriades. The building, the square and these sculptures embody the history of Greece’s Parliamentary democracy and of the nation itself in the early 19th Century.