Updated: Nov 3
CaptK and I have made 6 trips to Greece since 1983 and all have included a visit to Athens. Each of our visits have included some type of organized tour in Athens. On our first visit to Greece in 1983, we did a Delphi Day Trip from Athens and a Day Cruise to Greek Islands: Poros - Hydra - Aegina. If you are staying in Athens for longer than 2 days, I would recommend these tours. We have taken a Small-Group Food Tour and Wine Tasting in Athens by Night, a Half day Athens Sightseeing and Acropolis Museum and a Skip the Line Acropolis of Athens and New Acropolis Museum Tour.
If you are in Athens, Greece for the first time or for a short period of time or if you have a keen interest in Greek History, I would highly recommend the Skip the Line Acropolis of Athens and New Acropolis Museum Tour. For the money, this small group tour is a great value and walking tours are traditionally less than 15 people. This allows you to ask questions easily, take advantage of the skip the line privileges and move at a good pace through the tour. What can you expect from this type of tour?
Athens attracts people from all over the world that are interested in Ancient History. Because of this attraction, there are a large number of people with advanced degrees in Greek or Ancient History. It is highly likely your tour guide will be well versed in Greek and Ancient History, and most likely have an advanced degree, even a Doctorate in one of these topics. Their knowledge greatly enhances your understanding and appreciation of the sites you are seeing.
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Most Tours Start in or Around Syntagma Square
In Athens, most walking tours start at Syntagma Square, which is centrally located and easy to find. Your guide will be holding up a sign with the name of your tour on it.
On our most recent visit to Greece, our walking tour guide met us in the Syntagma Square Metro Station, under the clock. This allowed us to begin our tour with the archaeological finds that were uncovered when the underground metro station was built. The pieces that were unearthed are very interesting because this site was a burial ground in ancient times.
The Changing of the Guard
Just across the street from Syntagma Square is the Presidential Mansion and Parliament Building. They are a special unit of the Hellenic Army that guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier right outside this building. These elite Guards are called Evzones. The two person team is changed every hour in a flamboyant ceremony. It is quite a sight to see. Most tours of Athens make a stop to see this military spectacle. Your tour will narrate the ceremony for you, using what is called whisper technology. As you can see in the center photograph above, you wear a receiver around your neck with an ear piece. The ear piece allows you to hear the tour guide while she or he whispers into their microphone.
A Walk Through the National Gardens
To the south of the Parliament Building are the National Gardens. It is a lovely and well shaded place to walk through on your way to the Acropolis. There are more than 7000 trees providing a cool comfortable place for you to enjoy your explorations. You may continue on to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, a half ruined temple that was constructed over 337 years and finish in 174 BCE.
Just outside the grounds for the Temple of Olympian Zeus, is the impressive Hadrian's Gate. This gate was finished in 131 AD. It was constructed to honor Hadrian and his many benefactions to Athens. At this point most tours cross over to the modern neighborhood this below the Acropolis. On the"Skip the Line Acropolis of Athens and New Acropolis Museum Tour" that we did on our most recent visit to Athens, we took a 20 minute break in this area for shopping and to get a snack.
Beautiful Vistas on the Walk to the Acropolis
While some seniors, empty-nesters, or retirees can be nervous about walking to the top of the Acropolis, it is definitely worth the walk. The vistas of Athens are beautiful. The tour guide will stop frequently, in the shade whenever possible, to share information about the sites you see on the way up. These sites include the ancient theatre where Athenians came to hear speeches and debates. The auditorium is still used for musical performances today.
Interesting Facts about the Acropolis, Parthenon, and Other Temples
The Acropolis is the top of the hill with several buildings on it. Ancient Athenians built their key buildings at the top of a hill to protect themselves against marauders and tsunamis. At the top of the Acropolis are the remains of the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike, and the Ancient Agora (market). There is evidence that the Acropolis was inhabited starting around 4000 BCE. Many of the current remaining structures were constructed from 495-424 BCE.
Skip the Line Acropolis Museum Entrance
The lines for the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum can be very long, especially in the summer months. One of the biggest benefits to taking the tour is the skip the line privileges. The new Acropolis Museum is spectacular and contains many of the original artifacts and antiquities excavated of the Acropolis. It is designed to bring the ruins on the Acropolis to life for you. Your tour guide will add to the visual picture the museum presents. Many tours end at the museum, so you can explore it in depth on your own.
A Walk Through the Plaka
Some tours visit the Acropolis Museum first, then visit the Acropolis proper. These tours often end with a walk through the Plaka. The Plaka has the feel of a village with cobble stone streets, many shops and restaurants. You will find evidence of modern life in the vibrant street art that decorates walls and vacant buildings. If your tour does not continue through the Plaka, make sure you allocate time to visit it on your own.
Have you taken a day trip or tour of Athens? Please leave a message in the comments section about your experiences.
Recommended Tours for Athens:
Here are my best recommendations for Hotels in Athens:
For a luxury experience: Grande Bretagne Hotel
For a more budget friendly experience: NEW Hotel
Here are my best recommendations for Hotels throughout Greece:
Eretria, Evia - Elia Luxury Apartments
Elounda, Crete - Elounda Heights Hotel
Agios Nikolaos, Crete - Ikaros Art Hotel
Nea Chora, Crete - Sea & Town Getaway
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Looking for more information on visiting Greece, check out these other Blog posts.