in the big city
Hadrian's Arch, National Garden, Zappion
Come along to another walk on a sunny day to the centre of Athens. We’ll start from the historical southern entrance of the city, Hadrian’s Arch, and the great archaeological site of Olympieion. Then we’ll walk towards Syntagma Square and visit the National Garden and the open-air park of Zappion.
The Arch was built in 131 AD by the Athenians in honor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who adored Athens, benefited the city with a lot of cultural and useful constructions and expanded its limits towards the today’s Syntagma Square area. Hadrian’s Arch is 18 m high and 13 m wide, constructed by Pentelic marble. It has two inscriptions on the architrave over the arch. The one, facing Acropolis and the old city says: “This is Athens, the city of Theseus”. The other, facing the sanctuary of Zeus and the expansion by Hadrian says: “This is the city of Hadrian, not Theseus”.
The Arch was built right after Hadrian completed the temple of Zeus. It was one of the biggest ancient temples; its length is 110 m and its width 44 m. In the site of Olympieion are also Roman baths, classical houses and a section of the ancient fortification wall built by Themistocles.
The National Garden is an area of 160.000 sq m. The construction started in 1838 and ended in 1860. In the beginning it was the palace garden. It has 7.000 trees and 40.000 bushes coming from various regions of the world. It is an oasis in the centre of the city keeping away the noise, the heat and the exhaust gas, being in the same time a natural reserve for birds, ducks, turtles, hedge-hogs and other species. It is open from dawn to sunset and has six entrances. Two of them lead to the park of Zappion.
The park offers a nice walk and relaxing places. The fascinating building in its centre, constructed during 1874 – 1888, was designed by the great architect Th. Hansen and funded by the Zappas brothers. We can see their statues on both sides of the main entrance, which is a Conference and Exhibition Mansion. Here some of the most important events took place, political conferences, European summits and art exhibitions. Beside the building is a nice old café and an open-air cinema.