Pedion tou Areos – The largest public park in Athens
One of the largest public parks in the municipality of Athens, a breath of fresh air and a cultural landmark, the Pedion tou Areos park was first designed in 1934. Surprisingly, the aim of the design of the park was not to add to the green spaces of the fast-growing city, but to serve as a tribute to the heroes of the Greek War of Independence of 1821. Although the construction of the park began shortly after, in 1935, it was ironically interrupted by WWII, and was only finished afterwards.
Entering the park through the intersection of Alexandras Avenue and Mauromati Street a six-meter-tall equestrian statue of King Constantine the Third, created by Italian sculptor Francesco Parisi, dominates the place. A stunning sculpture of Goddess Athena is also located nearby, a standing guard commemorating the British, Australian and New Zealand troops who fought defending Greece during the German invasion in WWII. Walking along the park you will encounter the Road of The Heroes of ’21. Busts of Heroes of the Revolution are placed along the beautiful alley, inviting visitors to walk along the country’s history. An exquisite burial monument of the national hero and military commander Alexandros Ipsilantis is a not-to-be-missed, true sculptural masterpiece. All sculptures are created by well-known artists of the time, making a stroll in the park an experience of true tangible cultural heritage only comparable to the most popular museums in Athens.
Since its construction, the park has always played an integral role in the life of Athenians in the city center. Conveniently located amidst the most densely populated parts of the city, it has provided a common ground for people of different backgrounds that have a chance to enjoy urban life in unity. Residents of Kypseli, Victoria, Gyzi, Polygono and Exarcheia benefit directly from their proximity to the park. However, Pedion tou Areos also attracts visitors from several other Athenian neighbourhoods since it now offers an abundance of activities and experiences. A stroll around its paved streets will give you a good idea of its uses and amenities. People working out on yoga mats or on TRX straps tied on trees, playing sports, walking or running through nature, reading on benches, couples pushing strollers, teenagers practising skate moves and groups of retired men engrossed in games of backgammon; all creating a vibrant mosaic of a contemporary urban living culture.
Most recently, the difficult pandemic lockdowns of the past couple of years saw a renewed appreciation for the park. To slow transmission of the virus, stores and restaurants were forced to shut down, and citizens were limited to movement only within their own neighbourhoods. For those who lived near the park, there was simply nowhere else outdoors to go, and additionally, it offered the only green respite in their vicinity. Thus, the unfortunate circumstances of the pandemic led Athenians to firmly reclaim the park as rightfully theirs to care for and enjoy.
The reopening of the famed Alsos Theatre was also greeted with warm enthusiasm. During the 1950s the shows staged at the Alsos attracted residents and visitors from all over the city and it is now expected to reach its former glory. In the past five years, more and more festivals use the park to exhibit inspired installations, forming a constant dialogue between art and urban landscape. Adding to the park’s image and in close proximity to its main body, a series of buildings accommodating the Court of Athens, designed by famous architect Ernst Ziller, are located. The buildings were formerly used to host the Hellenic Military Academy and were radically reconstructed in 1983.
Upcoming major development projects in the city are expected to drive more growth throughout the region and its neighbourhoods. The much-expected completion of the Athens Metro Line 4 will result in the creation of two more Metro Stations around the park; one situated in the area of the Court of Athens and the other on Alexandras Avenue. The new line is poised to further improve the quality of life for Athenians, and in turn, this bodes well for property investment near its stations. In the late 90s to early 2000s, there was an explosion of demand for housing in areas where metro stations were planned, and there are promising signs of the same pattern for the new metro Line 4. Following last year’s announcement of the areas and streets where the new metro stations will be constructed, property portals recorded increases of up to 58% in the asking prices of real estate offers in those areas.
During the last decades, various residents of nearby locations, drawn from their love and appreciation for the park, formed groups aiming to safeguard the landscape’s identity. A beloved destination in the city centre, Pedion tou Areos was built to honour heroes who fought against great odds, soldiering on during times when it seemed all hope was lost, to realize their vision of freedom. They watch over us at the park, so we may never abandon hope and settle for anything less than all the beauty and sense of freedom the park offers. Its varied and multicultural quality serves as a standard of how green spaces can act as integration clusters in large urban spaces.
24 May 2022