When traveling to a new city, one of my favorite ways to both meet people and get acquainted with the layout of the city is to take a walking tour.
Since I only had two days in Athens, Greece, I felt that it was absolutely essential for me to take a walking tour that would not only provide me with a history of the city, but would also help me to get a feel for the city’s culture and composition.
I opted for taking a tour with Athens Walking Tours that included both an overview of the city and a trip to the Parthenon.
Athens Walking Tours: The Tour
I made my way through the sea of people at the Syntagma metro station to meet up with my group for my 9:30 am tour. Our tour guide, Aristotle introduced himself to the group and began to discuss the intriguing history of the metro stations in Athens.
After learning about the history of the metro system, we made our way outside of the station and over to the nearby Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which pays tribute to all of the Greek soldiers who have lost their lives in battle.
Standing directly in front of the Tomb were two Evzones (elite presidential guards) who are there to keep guard over the Tomb.
I was fascinated by the Evzones, who wore a uniform like none I had ever seen, which consisted of a skirt-like garment called a foustanella, wool stockings, and stiff leather shoes called tsarouhi. I was impressed to learn that the evzones wear these uniforms year-round, even in the sweltering heat.
I was also very impressed by the very militaristic changing of the guards ceremony that they performed.
When the ceremony ended, my group began to for relief from the beating sun, so our guide directed us down the street and into the National (Royal) Garden. The garden, designed by Amalia the first Queen of Greece, was absolutely beautiful and I was very surprised at how few people were inside of it, being that it is one of the few green spaces in all of Athens.
After spending about fifteen minutes walking through the garden, we reluctantly stepped back into the heat and headed over to the Zappeion,the first building in the world to be specifically built for the Olympic games. One thing that I really loved about the building were its magnificent marble columns both inside and outside of the building.
After departing from the Zappeion, we made our way through the streets of the city and over to the Temple of Zeus, which was constructed as a dedication to the Greek god Zeus.
Unfortunately in the present day, the Temple of Zeus is mostly in ruins after undergoing a fire, two major earthquakes, and a disassembling of the temple to use the marble in construction in buildings elsewhere in the city.
Of the original 104 columns, only 15 remain standing, which I think is quite a pity as the blueprints of the building show that it was quite magnificent. There are currently no plans for renovating it back to its original state as it would be a very costly project.
Our journey started to end as we neared the Dionysus Sanctuary (Theater of Dionysus), the birthplace of modern theater. I was amazed at the fact that I was sitting in the very seats that men sat in thousands of years ago as they witnessed history being created and theater being born.
We stood up to leave the theater and made our way up the hill of the Acropolis, past the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and into the crowds of people who were all gathering to see the Parthenon.
It was amazing not only to stand in front of the Parthenon, a building I had learned about in high school social studies, but also to look out over Athens from the top of the Acropolis; it was truly a sight to behold that I can not accurately put into words.
Our guide went on to tell us some very interesting facts about the Parthenon including the fact that the building served numerous purposes outside of being a temple dedicated to Athena. The Parthenon has served as a church, a mosque, and even a treasury!
I found the tour to be a wonderful way to not only see the historical places of the city, but also got the opportunity to learn some very interesting facts about each of the places we visited. I also loved that I was constantly surrounded by so much history and culture and that I was able to make a connection between what I had read in history books, and what I was seeing in real life.
Tips for taking a walking tour in Athens:
- Bring a bottle of water with you (or buy one during the tour during the rest period). Athens is extremely hot and there is a lack of shade in many areas.
- Wear comfortable non-slip walking shoes as you have to climb the hill of the Acropolis for approximately 15-20 minutes to reach the Parthenon. (i.e. avoid wearing flip-flops and heels)
- Once at the Parthenon, there are slippery marble rocks on the ground so pay close attention to where you are walking – people have fallen.
If you are interested in taking the same tour that I took during your stay, or perhaps you are interested in taking a food tour in Athens, check out the website of Athens Walking Tours.
Thank you to Athens Walking Tours for hosting me on this tour and as always, all opinions about my experiences are my own.