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The Stavros Niarchos Park is a very unique, one of a kind, park in the Southern suburb Kallithea in Athens. The park is build with the focus on 'an enrichment for the body and the soul, and this, for young and old'.
Before the park was build (and completed in 2017), the area was a thorn in the eye of the city of Athens. It used to be an abandoned hippodrome in which many illegal activities took place during the night going from illegal street races to prostitution and drugs.
Back in 2012 the 'Stavros Niarchos Foundation' donated a huge amount of money to implement something unique on the 21 hectares here. With the help of the architect Renzo Piano, they created a public space, where everyone has FREE access and can participate in cultural, educational, athletic, environmental and recreational activities. On its completion, the park was delivered to the Greek state and is now supervised by the Greek Ministry of Finance.
The premises consist actually out of 3 parts which are very smoothly interwoven with each other. You can find here 'The National Library of Greece', 'The National Opera of Greece' and 'The Stavros Niarchos Park' itself.
As mentioned above The Stavros Niarchos park is 'one of a kind' because it is actually a green roof park constructed on top of the library and the opera.
Unfortunately I can not show you any pictures from the inside of the library and the opera because of the 'COVID-19' regulations. I seems I had to make an appointment to enter these places. (I should have done my homework better). So if you want to visit the library and the opera, please make an appointment on the following number: +30 216 8091000.
The park itself integrates 10 different gardens: the 'Running track', the 'Vegetable garden', the 'Western walks', the 'Olive Grove', the 'Great Lawn', the 'Pine Grove', the 'Sound Garden', the 'Southern walks', the 'Mediterranean garden' and the 'Grand Canal'. Each garden has its own type of vegetation and activities.
The Running Track
The running track is FREE and open for the public, throughout the entire year, between 06:00 in the morning and midnight. I prefer to come here in the late afternoon as the black texture of the underground tends to become very (very) hot during the noon.
The Vegetable Garden
The vegetable garden is setup as an educational project, where schools come, to teach/show children how to plant and maintain a vegetable garden (something uncommon for kids that grow up in a city like Athens).
The Olive Grove
This part of the garden houses a lot of olives trees. Bear in mind that you can not pick any olives as it is forbidden to leave the paths and to collect any (parts of) plants and/or fruits.
The Great Lawn
The Great Lawn is the heart of the Stavros Niarchos Park: this is the point where all other paths cross. During the summer it hosts a wide range of events and activities like open air movies, concerts, yoga, Pilates, Qigong and so on. Take in account that this lawn remains closed on certain days of the week, so that the grass can rest, grow, remain green and healthy.
The Sound Garden
This piece of the park is an interactive part meaning it is equipped with some instruments where children can express themselves by means of music in a playful way.
The Mediterranean garden
This part of the garden houses as the name already suggests a lot of plants and trees that are typical for the Mediterranean: olive trees, oleanders, thyme, oregano and much much more.
The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal is the eye-catcher of the park and is located on the very east. There are a lot of water jets and LED lights build into this canal which are used to perform different water & light shows throughout the entire day. We call them 'The Dancing Fountains'. Each month they program different shows. The programming for this month (July 2020) is as follows:
10:00 Habanera (George Bizet).
10:30 Epirot Dance, Ser. I/4 (Nikos Skalkottas).
11:00 Slawischer Tanz, Furiant, Op 46/8 (Antonín Dvořák).
11:30 Serra (George Koumentakis).
12:00 Dance with my own shadow, Gioconda's Smile (Manos Hatzidakis).
12:30 Waltz No. 2 (Dimitris Shostakovich).
13:00 Dancing Queen (ABBA).
13:30 Habanera (George Bizet).
14:00 Slawischer Tanz, Furiant, Op 46/8 (Antonín Dvořák).
14:30 Dance with my own shadow, Gioconda's Smile (Manos Hatzidakis).
15:00 Waltz No. 2 (Dimitris Shostakovich).
18:00 Habanera (George Bizet).
18:30 Epirot Dance, Ser. I/4 (Nikos Skalkottas).
19:00 Slawischer Tanz, Furiant, Op 46/8 (Antonín Dvořák).
19:30 Serra (George Koumentakis).
20:00 Dance with my own shadow, Gioconda's Smile (Manos Hatzidakis).
20:30 Waltz No. 2 (Dimitris Shostakovich).
21:00 Dancing Queen (ABBA).
21:30 Habanera (George Bizet).
22:00 Epirot Dance, Ser. I/4 (Nikos Skalkottas).
22:30 Slawischer Tanz, Furiant, Op 46/8 (Antonín Dvořák).
23:00 Dance with my own shadow, Gioconda's Smile (Manos Hatzidakis).
23:30 Dancing Queen (ABBA).
00:00 Waltz No. 2 (Dimitris Shostakovich).
Spread throughout the entire park there are several playgrounds where children can indulge. On the pictures below I show you just a few examples. During the hot summer days, the most popular area is the 'Water fountains'. (If only I was just a few decades younger...)
Also for 'older children' (especially men) there are a some places here to come and play. Every day, in the late afternoon, some older men come here to play Chess. I just love the way they play this game: With a lot of spirit, as if it is the last thing they will do in this life. Cursing and everything included. Greeks, you know, warm wholehearted people!
There is also a sports cage where you can practice football (5-5) and basket.
Thank God, the park has also several kiosks where you can buy a snack, a refreshing drink or an ice cream because the sand used for the paths here radiates a lot of heat. For this reason I recommend you to come here (only) in the late afternoon!
Totally in the back, on the top of the park, there is also a small tavern - bar where you can enjoy a light meal, a refreshing drink or a cup of coffee. The place is called 'O Faros' which means 'The lighthouse'. It has a nice view over the park, the sea and the city of Athens. A must SEE!
On the down floor, next to the library, there is also a small shop where you can buy some souvenirs. The revenues of this shop are you used to maintain the park.
The easiest way to get here is by taking the tram line (number 3) from the Syntagma square (the main square of Athens) towards 'SEF' (Στάδιο Ειρήνης και Φιλίας) translated as the 'Peace & Friendship Stadium'. The stop here is called 'ΤΖΙΤΖΙΦΙΕΣ' (Tzitziphies). From here you will need a 10 minute walk. In this way, you will reach the park in about 40 - 45 minutes.
You can also come here by car following Siggrou Avenue (from the center of Athens) and keep driving on the right lane. The interchange to Poseidonos Avenue happens automatically. The park has a very big underground parking which has a capacity of about 1.000 cars. The price charged is €1.50 per hour.
For the more 'sportive' people among us, the Stavros Niarchos Park is also, in a safe way, approachable by bicycle. I will link, in a few days, the following article: Around Athens - Biking: Thissio - Athens Riviera.
Whenever I come here, I always make the following joke with the guardians: 'After how many days (of walking here) they will give me my costume and my badge to become a guardian here?'. There are so many guardians here to safeguard the area (from graffiti and other damages), that this must be the safest place in the entire Greece. Nearly every 50 meters you will find someone to protect the area. (and I totally agree with this).