When my husband and friends were growing up in and around Athens, they and their peers had the opportunity to see wild animals only in a couple of not very well maintained places. This all changed a few years ago, when a Frenchman decided to open a real zoo in a valley outside Spata, near the airport. His admirable work has brought a new weekend activity for those now grown up Athenians, who as parents have found a new way to entertain their young (and young at heart) and for the first time experience the view of a grey-crowned crane taking a bath in the shade of an olive tree.
My friend Yorgos, one of those children growing up animal and bird deprived in the suburbs of Athens, recently paid a visit to Attico Parko, and sent me his impressions of Athens’ first and only proper zoo.
Although it takes some time (75+ minutes) to travel by bus to the Attica Zoo, (speed up you journey by taking a rental car or a taxi – which shortens the trip to about half an hour from downtown Athens), but the trouble is worth it to take a long stroll and find the cacatua that says “yiassou”, gaze at zebras as they chase each other on a vast plain among cooing antelopes, nosy ostriches and friendly giraffes, visit lemurs that will only hesitate a little to lie on your lap and check out the Park’s newest residents, the few months old brown bears, Aris, Artemi and Ariadne. This zoo stands apart from others in that it offers its animals more space to run and play and its guests more interesting information about the various species, where they live, what they eat, if they are endangered.
One would expect that a zoo would not be much more than a certain number of animals. But this ingenious Frenchman had more in mind: numerous picnic sites, a special reptile area, a heated walk-in shelter for tropical birds and a farm where children can actually walk and come in direct contact with rabbits and goats, only these peaceful, funny-looking goats have come from farms in Africa! As for the rabbits, they are the freeest of them all and you’ll find them at almost every turn. Lucky for them, the holes of the wire at the white lions’ and the tigers’ cages are just not wide enough for them to cross.
You can bring your own food and have a picnic on the grass or on the picnic sites (we liked the one across from the reptiles and the bears) or you can buy packaged but very fresh sandwiches and tiropitas at the zoo café for more or less 5 Euro for a sandwich and a little bottle of water. From its shady veranda you can see the “African savannah” beyond the grassy yard. Various types of candy bars and sodas/drinks are sold both at the café as well as at the numerous vending machines around the park.
UPDATES: The sea mammals have arrived!!!
The Attica Zoo Park is open 365 days of the year!
Daily from 9 am to sunset.
Adults €15, children 3-12 €11, children under 3 free
Groups over 25 people and people over 65 €11
Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) €48
Family ticket (2 adults + 3 children) €58
Primary schools, junior high and high schools: €9
Students (with ID) €11
Disabled people free
Annual pass €50 (adults) €40 (children)
Marine Mammals Educational Presentations:
Adults and children: €3.00, in addition to zoo ticket
By public transportation: take blue metro line 3 to Doukissis Plakentias, then bus 319 or 321 to the Spata Municipality and then local bus 320.