Just a few metres away from Syntagma metro station and right next to the Greek parliament lies the national garden which, together with the zappeion hall garden, covers 24 hectares full of vegetation, rare kinds of plants, saplings and birds.
The Garden is accessible from seven entrances. The central entrance on Amalias Avenue, one on Vasilissis Sophias Avenue, three on Irodou Attikou Street and two more in the area of Zappeion park.
Before it was renamed “National”, the garden was called “royal” or “the garden of Amalia” the queen to whom it owes its rare existence. The interest of Queen Amalia, wife of king Otto, in the Garden was such that she is said to have spent at least three hours a day personally taking care of it. She herself also planted the iconic 25-metre-high Washingtonia palm trees which grab the attention when one enters the garden from the gate on Vasilissis Amalias Avenue.
Next to the gate on Amalias Avenue, there’s always a street vendor supplying passers-by and visitors with traditional “koulouri Thessalonikis”, bread rings covered in sesame seeds, people are crowded at the bus stop and the kiosks are stocked for every contingency. A few steps into the garden allows you to escape the hurly burly of the city. Shaded by eucalyptus trees, its benches make an ideal spot to bury yourself in a book , make new acquaintances or perhaps even start a romance. There are also many Athenians who prefer the National Garden for their exercise and every now and again you will spot people jogging through this luxuriant city paradise.
The impressive numbers speak for themselves. The Garden is home to 7,000 trees, 40,000 bushes and other plants, making up 519 species and varieties. 102 of them are Greek, with Judas trees, oleanders and carob trees the undoubted stars, while others come from different countries all over the world such as Australian pines or Chinese trees-of-heaven. Centenarian Holm oaks, cypress trees and Canary Island date palms are also amongst the plants that have been a feature of the garden since it was first created.
A walk in the National Garden is love at first sight. It isn’t only a verdant oasis in the centre of a metropolis. The heart of Greek and Athenian history beats in the National Garden and it is there waiting for you to explore it.