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. I wanted to not only learn about the history of the city, but I also wanted 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
The tour began inside of the Syntagma metro station where I met Aristotle, who would serve as the tour guide for the day.
The tour began with learning about a brief history of the Athen’s metro system before making our way to the nearby Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb is an important site in Athens 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) whose duty is to keep guard over the Tomb.
I was fascinated by the men who wore a uniform 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.
Day after day, these men perform quite an impressive changing of the guards ceremony which should not be missed during a trip to Athens.
Once the ceremony ended, my group was begging for relief from the beating sun and 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. I was very surprised at how few people were inside of the gardens since it is one of the few green spaces in the entire city.
After spending about fifteen minutes relaxing in the garden, we reluctantly stepped back into the heat and headed over to the Zappeion.
The Zappeion is the first building in the world that was specifically built for the Olympic games. One thing that I really loved about the building was its magnificent marble columns, which could be found both inside and outside of the building.
The next stop on the tour was to visit 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. The temple has experienced a fire, two major earthquakes, and a marble extraction the marble for the purpose of constructing buildings elsewhere in the city.
Of the original 104 columns, only 15 remain standing. I think that the destruction is quite a pity as the blueprints of the building show that it was quite a magnificent sight to behold in the past. 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 conclude 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 theater being born.
When we left the theater, we 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 to stand in front of the Parthenon, a building I had learned about in high school and to look out over Athens from the top of the Acropolis. It was truly a sight to behold and an experience that I cannot fully describe words.
Our guide, Aristotle, told us of the interesting history of the Parthenon which served numerous purposes besides being a temple dedicated to Athena. The building had once 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 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. I was able to make a connection between what I had read in history books, and what I was seeing in real life, and that truly made my time in Athens memorable.
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.