Channel your inner Nike—the goddess of victory (and a very fast runner into the bargain)—on one of these scenic running trails.
By Kimon Frangakis
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Athens has surprisingly good running routes. Not just because of their beautiful locations, often surrounded by antiquities, but also due to their relative calm. In the winter, you could be running in Athens’ “Central Park” of Philopappou, right below the Acropolis, with the historic hill all to yourself. What a treat!
One of Athens’ best kept secrets, this 500 metre racetrack on the rim of the Panathenaic marble stadium (home of the first modern-day Olympic Games) boasts some of the city’s most spectacular views. Accessible only from the rear, through a green gate on Archimidous Street, it is very much open and free to use, as long as you don’t enter the actual stadium. Although this wonderful track can get crowded in the afternoons, it is very quiet in the mornings and truly magical to run along, taking in the views of the Acropolis, Lycabettus Hill, and the glowing white stadium below.
The location of choice for serious runners and probably the coolest place to jog in Athens. Imagine running all by yourself amongst wildflowers and catching cinematic glimpses of the Acropolis through clearings in the pine trees. Start at the entrance on Dionysiou Areopagitou walkway and turn left into the trees just before the church of St Demetrius. Try to follow the route to the old quarry and from there past the rock-climbing area. Meandering along the wall of rocks you will get to the landscaped stone path of Dimitris Pikionis that leads up to the monument of Philopappou on the summit. Take the opposite direction and rejoin the main path leading right. You will reach the wooden observatory and the dramatic seat of the ancient Pnyx, from where you can almost touch the Parthenon. This is what it would feel like to run in Ancient Greece (minus the sandals!).
Insider tip: there are no water fountains in this park, so come hydrated.
Suggested entrance: At the end of Dionysiou Areopagitou (no street number).
Laimos Vouliagmenis / Ladies Run
Ladies Run, the first and only race exclusively for women in Greece, takes place every October. It has the added perk of following a breath-taking route by the sea, along Vouliagmeni’s pine-studded Laimos peninsula. Of course, you can enjoy the same route all year round, especially if you are staying in the southern suburbs near the sea. The Ladies’ Run starts in front of Astir Beach (Athens’ most elite beach) and moves up Apollonos Street as far as the tip of the peninsula, taking in some of the scenic promenade inside the swish new Four Seasons resort. Having enjoyed the splendid views, run back in the opposite direction to the marina. Follow the Ladies Run route along the marina, past the yachting extravaganza, and then retrace your steps back to the beach.
Insider tip: there’s a free public bathing spot right opposite for cooling off after your workout. If you prefer beach service, Astir is worth the extra buck.
Start on Apollonos 40, Vouliagmeni.
Courtesy: Pelagia Karanikola
Photo: Georgios Makkas
This large, under-visited park is on the way to the northern suburb of Kifissia (and close to the business hub of Maroussi if you are travelling to Athens for work). Apart from the fragrant pine trees that cover most of the park, Alsos Syngrou has other attractions such as a small pistachio grove, a vineyard, a theatre, a small lake, sports courts and the city’s only Gothic Orthodox church, designed by the renowned Saxon architect Ernst Ziller. It is also a must-visit if you are training for the Athens Marathon: A full swing around the park is a tenth of the classic route, or 4.2 kilometres—ideal for clocking in long runs.
Insider tip: there is a free parking lot by the entrance (adorned by graffiti).
Entrance: Leoforos Kifissias (no street number) opposite the KAT hospital.
Your best bet for an easy run in the city centre, especially if you are staying around Syntagma and Kolonaki. The National Garden has many paths that are clearly mapped near each entrance. Attractions include ancient Greek columns, a Roman mosaic, rare century-old trees from around the globe, and a small animal enclosure. The best thing about running in the National Garden, apart from the downtown location, is that you never get bored with the routes on offer: an abundance of promenades, alleys, cul-de-sacs and lawns for stretching guarantee variety, though the layout is not ideal for those craving speed.
Insider tip: the garden closes at sunset. If you’re running around this time, stay earphone-free so you can hear the whistle signalling the gates are about to close.
Suggested entrance: On Irodou Attikou 5-11, through the old café.