Great City Routes To Explore On Foot In Athens

  • by XpatAthens
  • Wednesday, 10 February 2021
Great City Routes To Explore On Foot In Athens
Athens reveals its best charms to those who put one foot in front of the other!
Whether you're looking to just stretch your legs while taking in some key sights and gorgeous scenery or want to give your kids the chance to burn off some steam, here are some great walking routes in Athens to cover all the bases.
The Great Athens Walk 
A new name for what is effectively a (very) old route. Since the first prehistoric settlers set up camp in the caves around the Hill of the Acropolis, people have continuously inhabited the area we know today as the Historic Centre. And it’s here that you'll find the city's most famous ancient sites: the Parthenon, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Ancient Agora and much more. During Athens' post-war development, many of these sites became isolated from one another; the ancient landscape broken up by the busy roads of the modern metropolis. But that’s now changing, thanks to a major project launched by the City of Athens. Through interventions such as limiting traffic on certain roads, creating bike lanes and green pedestrianized areas and extending pavements, moving around the entire Historic Centre on foot is getting easier and more enjoyable. Key sections of the Great Athens Walk are already in use (such as Vasilissis Olgas from the Arch of Hadrian toward the Panathenaic Stadium, and the lower half of Ermou Street). The end result, by 2022, will be a roughly circular 6.8 km route that links all of Athens' major cultural stops, making them accessible on foot.

Lycabettus Hill
To the northeast of the Acropolis lies Lycabettus Hill, the tallest point in central Athens. A path winds (rather steeply) up the hill through pine, cypress and eucalyptus trees. If you don't fancy an uphill trek in the heat, a funicular train runs up there every half hour from Aristippou Street in the neighbourhood of Kolonaki. It's a great option for those with kids in tow; they'll get a kick out of the train. You can then walk down the path. At the top of the hill there is an interesting church built into a cave, an upscale restaurant and a café, but the primary reason to head up here is for the best view in downtown Athens. There's an open-air amphitheatre near the top which hosts concerts and film screenings in summer. If you get the chance to see a show up here, don't pass it up!

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
A few minutes south of the city-centre, near the Athens waterfront, the SNFCC is a relatively recent addition to the Athenian landscape but one that swiftly became a favourite day out destination. With good reason. Its centrepiece is an inspiring Renzo Piano-designed complex of buildings, home to the Greek National Opera and the National Library. But what makes this a true walker's delight are the well-manicured 50 acre grounds. There’s a 400m long canal, a Dancing Fountain, exercise and play areas, cooling water jets to play in and groomed gardens with indigenous plants. The latter merges with the buildings, becoming part of the roof. Walking up the slope will take you to the “Lighthouse”—a viewing platform with a dramatic city and sea panorama. When the city begins to stifle, the sea views and open horizons are, literally, a breath of fresh air. It's also an ideal stop if you have time to kill before heading to nearby Piraeus to catch a boat. It's worth mentioning that each June, the SNFCC hosts the Summer Nostos Festival with concerts and performances including major international acts. Tickets are free but often must be booked in advance.

Marina Flisvou & The Athenian Riviera
About 1 km from the SNFCC  is Flisvos Marina, marking the start of an attractive and walkable strip of the Athens seafront, close to the city-centre. Next to the marina is a tidy park and children's playground, followed by a 4.5 km stretch of seaside promenade. This stretch features another large marina and a number of beaches small and large (some undeveloped, others with umbrellas, bars and restaurants). You can continue along on foot easily at your leisure until you come to the former airport, where a large-scale development is underway, making walking by the sea presently more difficult. In the summer, this is a very enjoyable route for a stroll with all the classic seaside amusements: ogling multimillion-euro yachts, eating ice cream by the water, watching the sunset, chatting with fishermen, or just gazing out at the deep blue thinking deep thoughts. If you fancy a dip, follow the locals and dive in! How long: Walking from Flisvos to the old airport at a steady pace will take about an hour, but in practice you'll dawdle a lot more. Note that all along this route you will be walking alongside the tram line, so you can always hop on for the return trip.

The National Garden 
Where's the best place to walk with kids? It's actually right next to busy Syntagma Square in the National Garden. This 38 hectare park, once the Royal Garden, is a wonderful downtown oasis with a number of diversions to delight kids of all ages. Why: With tall trees (of a wide range of species) shading much of the park throughout the day and multiple ponds and streams, the air temperature is noticeably cooler than outside the gates. Kids can spot the fish and frogs in the ponds and there's a central lake with geese and ducks, along with a small zoo with goats and rabbits. They'll also enjoy the well-maintained playground, and the grassy open spaces for picnics and games. A permanent population of bright green parakeets lives in the park – listen for their loud screeching and try to spy them in the treetops!

This content was originally published on This is Athens
Photo Credit: Christos Pastalidis

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