The National Garden and Zappeion Megaron together cover some 70 acres. The Garden is located next to the Parliament of Greece, formerly the palace of King Otto and Queen Amalia. The Garden’s main entrance can be found at Vassilisis Amalias Avenue, named after the queen who conceived it.
There are six additional entrances into the garden: one through Vassilisis Sofias Avenue, three through Irodou Attikou street and two on the side of Zappeion. Ancient ruins, columns, mosaics, modern statues, as well as duck ponds, a small zoo, a café, a children’s library and a playground can be found inside the Garden.
The National Garden was formerly known as the Royal Garden, owing to the fact that it was founded by Queen Amalia. The rationale behind its inception was that the royal palace should come complete with its own fragrant garden, where rare species of flora could be planted to the delight of the palace’s residents. To that end, the Queen consulted with Bavarian and French experts. Over 15,000 ornamental plants were transported from Genoa and planted in the Garden; spontaneous plants from Sounion and Euboea were also planted. The preservation and expansion of the Garden continued through the reigning years of King George I.
After King Constantine I was forced from the throne, the nature of the Garden began to change. From 1923, the the Garden is as a “public garden” and was subsequently handed over to the residents and visitors of Athens, without however shedding its distinctly romantic character. Writer Henry Miller wrote in 1939: “It remains in my memory like no other park I have known.”
Having survived numerous natural and human disasters, the National Garden – the name was officially adopted in 1974 – is open to the public daily from sunrise to sunset.