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National Garden Review
When you can't take the city noise anymore, step into this oasis completed in 1860 as part of King Otto and Queen Amalia's royal holdings. Here old men on the benches argue politics, police officers take their coffee breaks, runners count early-morning jog laps, and animal lovers feed the stray cats that roam among the more than 500 species of trees and plants, many labeled. At the east end is the neoclassic Zappion Hall, built in 1888 as an Olympic building (with funds from Greek benefactor Evangelos Zappas). Since then it has been used for major political and cultural events: it was here that Greece signed its accession to what was then the European Community. Next door, a leafy café and open-air cinema attract Athenians all year round. If you like walking, make the trek to the nearby Panathenaic Stadium, which was built on the very site of an ancient stadium for the revived Olympic Games in 1896. You can look at the stadium only from the outside, but there is an elevated dirt running track behind it (free entrance through a big gate on Archimidous street, which runs directly behind the stadium). The tree-lined track area and adjacent Ardittos hill constitute one of the most pleasant, quiet public spaces in the city—athey also offer some stunning vantage points.
National Garden playgrounds, duck pond, and small zoo. Children appreciate the playgrounds, duck pond, and small zoo at the east end of the National Garden. East end of park, Amalias 1, National Garden, Athens, 11557. 210/721-5019 or 210/725-5106.
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