The sunny southern Athens’ coastline – aka the Athens Riviera – now has a new green recreation space to entice visitors away from the city, in what will eventually become the world’s largest coastal metropolitan park.
About 20 minutes from downtown Athens, the 7 hectare “Experience Park” is the long-awaited first slice of the €8bn Ellinikon redevelopment project of the former international airport. One of the biggest urban redevelopments in Europe, the Ellinikon project - to better connect Athens with its stunning coastline and foster tourism and city investment - will ultimately span an area of 6,200,000 sq m (about three times bigger than Monaco, according to the official site).
The new eco-friendly "Experience Park" lies next to the old airport’s three Aviation hangars, declared as Modern Monuments by the Ministry of Culture. The centrepiece and social hub of the new green retreat, which opened free to the public in mid-December, is an interactive fountain display that creates aquatic music choreographies with hundreds of jets to excite the senses while visitors cool off from the city heat.
Open daily between 5pm and 11pm, the “Experience Park” also offers wellness areas equipped with exercise installations and spaces for yoga, running or other outdoor pursuits, a Forest Playground for children, and a Zen Garden with secluded nooks to connect with nature, surrounded by tranquil water features and abundant Mediterranean flora.
According to Lamda Development, the company at the helm of the historic project, 500 trees and 55,000 varieties of Mediterranean flowers and bushes have been planted in this initial phase, to a design based on local biodiversity. Other environmentally-friendly features include rainwater collection to cover irrigation needs, minimal use of pesticides and fertilizers, and benches and paths built from existing materials.
The redevelopment of the prime coastal parcel has been a long time coming, with the former airport lying abandoned for almost two decades, since the new Athens International Airport opened in March 2001.
As well as the Metropolitan Park, which will eventually cover an area of 2,000,000 sq m, the Ellinikon redevelopment project also consists of: a diverse range of residential communities, hotels, shopping malls, family entertainment venues, museums, and cultural venues, health and wellness centres, significant space for sports and recreation, a modern business park with an educational and R&D hub as well as the total regeneration of the existing marina and the entire Coastal Front. The pivotal project is currently estimated to be completed in 2025-2026. You can read more about it here.