Many of Europe's parks and gardens were created at the request of the kings, queens, princes and princesses who once ruled over the Old Continent. Some have exceptional qualities or stunning styles that put them on the map for visitors vacationing in Europe, such as the National Garden in Athens.
The royal connection
The garden was commissioned by Queen Amalia, queen consort of Greece and spouse of King Otto, as a garden for the Royal Palace. It was commissioned in 1838 and completed by 1840. The queen played an active role in the design of the garden, which, at the time, was a royal garden reserved exclusively for her use. Only the most prestigious Athens families had access to the garden and only when the Queen was absent. The Queen often had her chair placed in the garden to supervise the work or take in the scenery, from a spot now known as Amalia's Rock.
The National Garden, Athens
The garden was originally called the "Royal Garden," under the reign of King Otto from 1833 to 1862. In the 1920s the park was opened to the public and renamed the National Garden. Covering an area of 123,500 square meters, it is notably home to Zappeion Hall, built in the second half of the 19th century, currently used as a conference and exhibition center. The Old Palace is now home to the Greek parliament.
The history of the garden is closely linked to the history of the country, which made Athens its capital in 1833. The city saw its layout modified and major construction work was undertaken. The Royal Palace, adjacent to the Royal Garden, was one of the first buildings to be built.
As many as 15,000 ornamental plants were brought in from Genoa. Many of the species planted at the time are still alive today, such as the monumental Washingtonia Palms at the Amalias Avenue entrance, the casuarinas and the large Australian eucalyptus trees. Other highlights include Australian pines, Chinese trees of heaven, as well as Holm oaks, cypress trees and Canary Island date palms. The garden is home to around 7,000 trees and 40,000 bushes. There are also lakes and a zoo.
What to see
As well as its many plants, the park has various decorative features and architectural elements, such as a sun dial, sculpted busts of various national figures, a Roman mosaic, a pergola, a Botanical Museum, a zoo, lakes, a Spanish Fountain and more.
The Athens National Garden is open daily, from dawn to dusk.