Walking Tour Around the Peaceful National Garden, Athens (Self Guided)

The National Garden is an impressive, historic park in the center of Athens. Formerly known as the Royal Garden, it was commissioned by Queen Amalia in 1838, reason why it is located right behind the Old Palace (currently the Greek Parliament). Many major tourist attractions are situated in and around this peaceful site. The following tour will guide you through this Garden and the amazing surrounding sights.
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Walking Tour Around the Peaceful National Garden Map

Guide Name: Walking Tour Around the Peaceful National Garden
Guide Location: Greece » Athens (See other walking tours in Athens)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 km
Author: emily
National Garden

1) National Garden (must see)

The National Garden is a large green refuge right beside Syntagma Square and the Greek Parliament in the heart of Athens. It is open dawn to dusk, and is quite popular with tourists. Along with the large variety of plants and trees, this garden encloses some ancient ruins, Corinthian capitals of columns, as well as mosaics, and other features. On Southeast side are the busts of Capodistrias, the first governor of Greece, while on the South side is the bust of celebrated Greek poet Dionysios Solomos, author of the Greek National Hymn.

The park doesn't charge an entrance fee, but there is a fence surrounding the gardens, so you'll have to find an open gate for entrance and exit. The main entrance is on Leoforos Amalias, the street named after the Queen who envisioned this park. In the National Garden you will find a duck pond, a small zoo, a small cafe, and a Children's Library and playground. The place is quite clean, suitable and safe for everyone in daytime.

Why You Should Visit:
By far the best park in the center of Athens. Large variety of plants and trees. Quite clean, safe, and suitable for everyone in daytime.
Could perhaps be nicer with a bit more upkeep but it is almost as good as it gets by local standards.

No entrance fee, but there is a fence surrounding the gardens, so you'll need to find an open gate for entrance and exit.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-7:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Lord Byron Monument

2) Lord Byron Monument

Close to the center of Athens, Greece, located at the entrance to the National Garden, is a statue depicting Greece in the form of a woman crowning Byron. The statue is by the French sculptors Henri-Michel Chapu and Alexandre Falguière. This marvelous monument portrays Lord Byron, a romantic poet, who loved Greece and Athens. The statue was erected in 1896. The Greeks mourned Lord Byron deeply, and he became a hero. The national poet of Greece, Dionysios Solomos, wrote a poem about the unexpected loss, named To the Death of Lord Byron. Βύρων ("Vyron"), the Greek form of "Byron", continues in popularity as a masculine name in Greece, and a suburb of Athens is called Vyronas in his honor.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Arch of Hadrian

3) Arch of Hadrian (must see)

This triumphal arch was built to celebrate the arrival of Roman Emperor Hadrian and to honor him for his many benefactions to the city. It serves as a gateway between the ancient part of Athens and the then new district constructed mostly during the rule of Hadrian, who reigned over the Roman Empire until the year 138 A.D. Hadrian was a great admirer of classical Greek literature, philosophy and arts. During his reign, he sponsored a number of important projects in Athens, including the Library of Hadrian and the Hadrianic Aqueduct, as well as the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, among others.

The entire monument to honor Hadrian is made of marble from Mt. Pentelikon, located 18 km away. The design is fully symmetrical from front to back and side to side; however, while the lower part recalls similar Roman arches, the top is typical of a Greek arch. There is one inscription on the west side that reads, "This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus." There is also an inscription on the east side that reads, "This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus." This monument can be viewed for free on your walk through Athens; but, if you want to get up close you'll need to either buy a ticket to the Temple of Olympian Zeus or a combination ticket for the major archaeological sites of Athens.

Why You Should Visit:
Worth a stop to understand the relationship between the Roman Empire and its province of Achaea, conquered by the Romans in the year 146 BC.

It can be viewed for free but if you want to get up close you'll need to either buy a ticket to the Temple of Olympian Zeus or a combination ticket for the major archaeological sites of Athens.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Temple of Olympian Zeus

4) Temple of Olympian Zeus (must see)

Right behind Hadrian’s Arch, with a clear view of the Acropolis, is the Olympieion, also known as the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Its construction began in the 6th century BC during the rule of the Athenian tyrants, who planned on building the greatest temple in the ancient world. Their plans seem to have not worked quite well, as the temple was only completed some 640 years after, under the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian, a known admirer of classical Greek culture.

When construction was at last completed, the Olympieion was renowned as the largest temple in Greece, housing a gold and ivory statue of Zeus that was one of the largest in the ancient world. It also had 104 colossal columns of which only 15 remain standing today. The other columns were destroyed by successive conquerors that used them as building material, but also by natural causes such as earthquakes. A 16th column that fell during a storm in 1852 lies near the ruined temple. The ruins extend past the gigantic columns, but you're not always allowed down into them as it's still an active archaeological site. If you have purchased the Acropolis multi-site ticket you can get into the temple for free.

Why You Should Visit:
Although a lot of the temple is missing the sheer scale of the remaining columns and size of the site excites one's imagination. There is also a great photo backdrop with Acropolis in the distance.

If you have purchased the Acropolis multi-site ticket you can get into here automatically.

Opening Hours:
Summer: Daily: 8am-7:30pm
Winter: Daily: 8:30am-3pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

5) Zappeion

Located between the National Gardens and the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, is a large conference hall called the Zappeion. It gets it's name from the men who donated the funds for the building, Greek-Romanian millionaire, Evangilis Zappas and his cousin Konstantinos Zappas.

The original plans of the Zappeion were formulated by French architect, Francois Boulanger. They were later modified by Danish architect, Theophilus von Hansen. The building was constructed between 1874 and 1888. In the Summer Olympics of 1896, it served as the main fencing hall and in the Olympic Games of 1906, it was the Olympic Village. It is now used as a conference center and exhibition hall. In 1981, it was the venue of the accession of Greece to the European Economic Community. The Zappeion was remodeled by architect, Vassilis Sgoutas in 1982 to house the offices of the Greek Presidency of the EEC.

The Zappeion has 25 halls ranging from 97 square meters to 984 square meters. The exhibition hall is one of the best examples of Athenian classicism. The building has a Corinthian portico and two side wings lined with decorated pillars. The entire design alternates open and closed spaces making it environmentally friendly in addition to being a visual delight.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Panathenaic Stadium

6) Panathenaic Stadium (must see)

The Panathenaic is the world's only major stadium that was built entirely of white marble. It's also one of the oldest in the world. In ancient times, the stadium on this site was used to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games every 4 years in honor of the Goddess Athena. In 329 BC it was rebuilt in marble and in 140 AD was enlarged and renovated, giving a seated capacity of 50,000. After the late 4th century AD, however, the stadium was abandoned and fell into ruin.

The remnants of the ancient structure were excavated and refurbished for the revival of the Olympic Games that were held in the late 19th century. The stadium is much smaller than the Olympic stadiums built today, but one still has to be impressed with its simplicity and, of course, its five Olympic rings. At the entrance, you can see four stones carved with all the interesting history of the Olympics from the late 19th century to present day.

The first international Olympic Games in modern history were held in this stadium in 1896 and King George I of Greece opened the ceremony. Among participants were 241 male athletes from 14 countries, competing in 9 sports and 43 events. The first 9 modern Olympic sports were athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, tennis, shooting, swimming, weightlifting and wrestling. Every four years since then, athletes from all over the world came together to compete against each other. Only the great wars of the 20th century have prevented the normal schedule of the Olympics – but as soon as those wars ended, the tradition went on. The last time Athens hosted the Olympics was, in fact, in 2004. The stadium itself is very nice to visit but note that you'll probably get the best experience with the free audio guide provided.

Why You Should Visit:
It is a beautiful stadium and the place where modern Olympics were born.
The small museum on site offers an exhibition on the history of the Olympics.

Make sure you ask for the audio guide (included in the affordable entry ticket) upon entry and then climb to the upper tier for stunning views of the stadium.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Postal and Philatelic Museum

7) Postal and Philatelic Museum

The Postal and Philatelic Museum showcases stamps and other postal material that are of interest to visitors and philatelists. The museum was established in 1978. The house was once owned by the wealthy Athenian Stratos family. It forms part of the Greek postal service, Hellenic Post.

The Museum consists of three halls, the postal hall, the philately hall and a hall in the first floor where meetings and seminars are held. There is also a library with postal service related circulars, bulletins and books and material relating to the activities of the Greek Philatelic Club that date back to 1865.

Exhibits in the Postal Hall include boxes, franking machines, bags, horns and a range of objects used by post, telegraph and telephone services. Mailboxes and weighing machines dating back to the 19th century are also on display. The museum also houses an impressive collection of stamps in the Philately hall including stamps from the 1st Olympics, the Hermes Head stamps and seals. There is also a section devoted to stamp printing techniques and the models used as the original subjects of stamp art.

The museum organizes a one hour conducted tour for groups of 10 persons and for educational institutions. The tour includes a short film about Hellenic Post and philately.
Presidential Palace

8) Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace is a three storey neoclassical mansion located near the national garden and parliament in Athens. It is the official residence of the President of the Hellenic Republic.

The Presidential Palace was the official residence of the Greek Royal Family before the 1974 referendum that abolished the monarchy. The building was designed by architect, Ernst Ziller and constructed between 1891 and 1897. It was used at first as the Crown Prince’s Palace. In 1909, a fire destroyed the main palace that now houses the Greek parliament and in 1913 it became the official residence of the royal family.

At first the structure was simple without any elaborate ballrooms as was customary in other palaces. When the royal family started using the building, Ziller designed an extension in 1909 for a ballroom which is now used when foreign ambassadors present their credentials to the Greek President. In 1962, Alexander Baltatzis designed another extension called the reception hall for the engagement of Sophia, Princess of Greece with Prince Juan Carlos of Spain. It is the largest room in the palace. The Presidential Mansion today, is surrounded by gardens and covers an extent of about 7 acres. The building is not open for public viewing.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Maximos Mansion

9) Maximos Mansion

From 1982, the Maximos Mansion was used as the official seat of the Prime Minister of Greece. It occupies a central location in Athens near the Presidential Palace and the Greek Parliament.

Construction of the Maximos Mansion began as the residence of Alexandros Michalinos, a Greek ship owner in 1912. He purchased the land that was once the vegetable garden of the Royal Palace. In 1916, his widow married Greek banker and politician, Dimitrios Maximos. The incomplete building was sold by Maximos to Leonidas Emperikos, another shipping magnate. Maximos bought the structure back and completed the construction of the neo classical style building in 1921. The family moved in and lived there in the 1920s. The design was by architects Anastasios Helmis and Anastasios Metaxas.

The German Admiral of the Aegian Sea used the mansion as his official residence during the German occupation of Greece. The US ambassador to Greece used the building as the official residence for a short span of time after World War II. The government of Greece purchased the mansion from Maximos in 1952. Until 1982, the building was not put to any official use. Though it is the seat of the Greek prime minister, it is not his official residence. The building is not open for tourists and visitors.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Benaki Museum

10) Benaki Museum (must see)

The Benaki Museum is a repository of the collection of historical objects by Athenian resident, Antonis Benakis. It was established in 1930 in the house of Emmanouil Benakis, the father of Antonis.

The museum is in a house built in neoclassical style for the merchant, Loannis Peroglou who later sold the mansion to businessman, Panagis Charokopos. Emmanouil Benakis bought the building from Charokopos in 1910. The entire structure was redesigned and a wing was added to house the museum in 1930 after the death of Emmanouil. After 1974, several works of art were added that exceeded the capacity of the building. Many exhibits, especially the objects belonging to the Islamic era and the Chinese collection, were moved to other facilities and today the main Benaki Museum has only collections pertaining to Greece.

The Benaki Museum has three floors with exhibits that go back to 6500 BC. Objects include gold and silver bowls from 3000 BC, jewelry dating back to 1500 BC and an extensive range of ancient to modern costumes. There are also two rooms that are replicas of traditional Greek houses showing the typical lifestyle of the people.

The Benaki Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It is located close to Syntagma Square and has a cafe and well-stocked gift shop for the convenience of visitors.

Why You Should Visit:
Suitable not only if you're a fan of culture and arts, but also a history fan, especially if you're visiting Athens in a short period of time and want a museum that sums up the history of Greece.

Try to visit on Thursdays, when it is both free and open until midnight.
The museum's hidden asset is its rooftop cafe with delicious foods and marvelous vistas of the National Gardens and the House of Parliament.

Opening Hours:
Wed, Fri: 10am-6pm; Thu, Sat: 10am-12am; Sun: 10am-4pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Hellenic Parliament House

11) Hellenic Parliament House (must see)

The building that houses the Hellenic Parliament was once the old palace of the Greek royal family. After being damaged by a fire at the turn of the 20th century, the royal family moved to the new palace which is now the Greek Presidential Mansion.

This neoclassical building was originally completed in 1840 based on the plans of Bavarian architect, Freidrich von Goertner. It served as the official residence of Otto, the first King to rule Greece after the end of the Turkish occupation. Otto’s father King Ludwig of Bavaria financed the building's construction, which was later remodeled to make it a suitable parliament house. It became the building of the National Assembly of Greece in 1935.

The building now houses the offices of the President of the National Assembly, along with archives and other services. To the front is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guarded by an elite regiment called the Evzones. The changing of guard by the Evzones takes place on the hour and is a popular tourist attraction. The traditional outfit and the ceremony are something not to miss!

Keep in mind that you cannot step on the marble stairs and only enter one side of the palace that shows the beautiful marble walls/floors as well as the artistic ceiling of a palace. No tour guide needed.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Athens, Greece

Create Your Own Walk in Athens

Create Your Own Walk in Athens

Creating your own self-guided walk in Athens is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Monastiraki Gift Shops

Monastiraki Gift Shops

It would be a pity to leave Athens without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. As an ancient city, rich in culture and traditions, Athens certainly has something interesting to offer its visitors, including something one may take home. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs that can be purchased in the shops of the famous Monastiraki Area.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 km
Walking Tour Around the Legendary Acropolis

Walking Tour Around the Legendary Acropolis

The Acropolis of Athens is famous all over the world, it is the symbol of the city of Athens. The first habitation remaining on this site dates back to the Neolithic period. The Acropolis hill is also called the "Sacred rock" of Athens, as it was home to temples and churches throughout recorded history. It is the one historic site you cannot miss!

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 km
Walking Tour Along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue

Walking Tour Along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue

Vassilissis Sofias is a major avenue in the eastern part of the city. Walking along this street you will have the chance to see some of the most popular attractions of the Greek capital, such as the Byzantine and Christian Museum, the War Museum, and many others. Don't miss the opportunity to enjoy this interesting tour.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Athens without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. As an ancient city, rich in culture and traditions, Athens certainly has something interesting to offer its visitors, including something one may take home. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs that are unique to Athens and will make a wonderful memento or...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 km
Walking Tour Around Athenian Exarcheia

Walking Tour Around Athenian Exarcheia

Exarcheia is a district of Athens, it is next to Kolonaki and shares in the abundance of historic buildings and landmarks. The district is home to the Academy of Athens, the National Archaeological Museum, Cultural Centre of Athens, and many others. Exarcheia is also a famed shopping destination, being originally named after a merchant who opened a large general store here more than a hundred...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 km
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

Athens is one of the oldest European cities, widely regarded as the birthplace of Western Civilization. Its history begins in the Neolithic period between 4th and 3rd millennium BC. The first settlement on the site of Athens was situated on the rock of Acropolis which means “high city” in Greek.

According to the Greek mythology, the name “Athens” emerged from a competition between the...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.6 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

15 Best Cafes in Athens

15 Best Cafes in Athens

While in Athens it is immediately noticeable that the local cafe culture thriving. Through this directory you will get a chance to visit very different establishments, ranging from "kafenia", to hip, modern coffee shops and get first hand experience of the diversity of contemporary Greek...
Souvenirs Shopping: 19 Uniquely Greek Products to Bring from Athens

Souvenirs Shopping: 19 Uniquely Greek Products to Bring from Athens

A cradle of European civilization, Greece, in general, and Athens, in particular, have long been - from the days of the Roman Empire up until present - the lure for travelers and history buffs seeking to find and bring home something memorable. Today's Athens (much as its ancient self) offers a...
A Self-Guided Food Walk in Athens

A Self-Guided Food Walk in Athens

Just as many things in Greece, dining in Athens is very much laid-back with the majority of local eateries seeing patrons begin to congregate for dinner only after 8 pm. Eating-wise, the Athenians favor simplicity, leaning to the more casual and not so pricey tavernas where food is plentiful. To...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Athens for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Athens has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Athens's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Athens Tourist Card, Athens City Pass, or Athens Museum Pass.

A city pass combines all or multiple Athens's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Athens hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: Electra Hotel Athens, Hotel Grande Bretagne, King George.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Athens, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Athens typically costs somewhere between US$15 and US$100 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of Athens from the open top of the bus, listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get on and off at any of the stops along the three interconnecting routes (your ticket is valid for all three).

- Explore Athens in its entirety, from the beautiful beaches to historic treasures, on a similar hop-on hop-off double-decker sightseeing tour running straight from the sea shore all year round! Ideal for those arriving on cruise ships!

- Embark on a self-balancing Segway tour of night Athens – this usually lasts about 3 hours and allows visitors to get a real sense of the Greek capital in its nighttime ambiance. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise would have by walking.

- Pedal your way around Athens on a 3.5-hour bike tour visiting the city's most spectacular sights, stopping at each of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning much about the city from an informative group leader.

- Acquaint yourself up-close with the wonders of Ancient Greece on a 3-hour walking tour of UNESCO-listed Acropolis and other fascinating sights within its walls, plus many more historic and otherwise notable attractions in Athens.

- Awaken your taste buds to an array of authentic Greek delicacies on a 4-hour guided gourmet food walk in Athens during which you will sample some of the finest street food in the city. Apart from feasting on the local specialties, with each bite you will also learn about the culinary history of Athens.

Day Trips

If you have a full or half day to spare whilst in Athens, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Delphi, Meteora, Mycenae and Epidaurus, Corinth, or Cape Sounion and Temple of Poseidon. For as little as circa US$50 to US$120 per person you will get a chance to discover the highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites including fascinating monuments of Greek mythology and history, immerse in Greece’s spectacular scenery, admire the beauty of the local countryside replete with breathtaking views, scenic monasteries and villages existent for centuries, explore ancient ruins, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight from your hotel or a designated place in Athens, and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach, minibus, train or private vehicle (whichever is applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.