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There’s no real way to prepare for the sense of wonder you experience when walking around the ancient sites of Greece. Homages to an old religion and culture, the birth of the Olympic Games or one of many other contributions to modern culture are all lovingly preserved here.
Many of the remaining ancient landmarks in Athens date from around 500 BC, so it remains the number one destination for travelers looking for a direct glimpse into the real, living past. Not surprisingly, there are several Athens, Greece tours and day trips to choose from. Here are just a few tours to help you experience the best of Athens.
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The Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is probably the most recognizable structure in all of ancient history, next to the Pyramids. This tour shows off its magnificence in an engaging way.
The theatre of Dionysis is also included on this walking tour. Here, you’ll get a sense of how the ancient Greeks attended their plays and performances. It’s considered by many to be the place where modern performing arts was born.
Other stops along this classic Athens tour include the Propylaea gateway, Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike, and Parthenon. And don’t forget to take a moment to enjoy the breathtaking view from the top of the hill.
Take a three-day guided and driven tour, to the most iconic surrounding ancient cities. You have the added bonus of staying overnight in each of these cities, as part of the tour.
Olympia is the birthplace of the Olympic Games, and you can visit one of its museums dedicated to the history of the event. The Temple of Zeus is also a throwback to the times of the Greek gods.
The highlight of day two is a visit to Delphi, which has always been a bit of a tourist hub. Most of the day is spent visiting the fascinating sites like Oracle of Apollo and the Sphynx of Naxos.
Day three explores the monasteries of Meteora and the almost mythical site of the battle of Thermopylae. Where Spartan King Leonidas was said to have battled a Persian army with just 300 men.
It’s always interesting to get underneath the skin of a city, so to speak. This fun and unique tour allows you to get past the tourist face of Athens, and go into the secret alleys and scenes that only the locals really know about.
Discover more about modern Athens. What to drink and eat; what makes the art scene bustle – did you know that Athens has one of the biggest street art scenes in the world?
The local people will tell you about their own histories, and how the ancient city of Athens collides with their modern lifestyle.
Movies at open-air cinemas are popular with locals and run throughout the high season. The warm Greek evenings are perfect for activities like this. The two popular venues are in Thissio or Marina Floisvou.
This tour offers a bus drive through the city as it starts to light up at dusk. You’ll also pass some of the famous landmarks like the Temple of Zeus and the Olympic Stadium.
Because of the long summer days, movies tend to start late at 21:00 – that’s when the sun goes down. At the show, you will receive a complimentary souvlaki and beer – or a soft drink if you prefer.
This professionally guided ten-hour tour takes your from Athens to Mycenae comfortably on an air-conditioned bus, and along the way, you’ll stop at other awesome sites like the Corinth Canal. There’s also a stop at Nauplia, which was the first capital of modern Greece.
The theater in the village of Epidaurus, which is one of the stops on this tour, is thought to be one of the best-preserved sites from the ancient era. In fact, it is still used today for performances. The tour has the option of a tasty three-course lunch.
Poseidon, the god of the sea, is honored at the Temple of Poseidon near Cape Sounion. You can explore the temple with your guide on this tour, before taking in a magnificent sunset over the water. Afterwards, you can enjoy a blissful evening walking along the promenade on the Athens riviera.
But the main attraction on this tour is walking around the archeological site at Cape Sounion. The site was immortalized by Homer in the epic poem The Odyssey.
Have some time in Athens? These are our favorite day trips from Athens!
Corinth is filled with notes from history and Christian lore. In fact, it is one of the first major cities in Europe to embrace Christianity as the dominant religion. Corinth is also where St Paul is said to have addressed the Corinthians, as depicted in the book in the Bible.
You’ll get to visit the Corinth canal, which tells another remarkable tale of how citizens manually dragged boats from one sea to the other. Visit the museum and the Temple of Apollo as revealed by an archeological dig. The tour includes lunch at a nearby restaurant.
The Plaka district near the Acropolis is known for its cobbled streets and village feel. Many small family-run eateries and shops operate here, and there’s a definite “old and traditional” feeling in the air.
This is where you will spend the evening, at a long-running family-owned restaurant. Local entertainers perform classic Greek music and dance, while you enjoy a fine three-course Greek meal and wine. You may even feel the urge to join in the dance.
This is the perfect day trip If you fancy a day on the Aegean, with a few stops at the famous islands of Hydra, Aegina and Poros.
Hydra feels like a snapshot of a past era. Donkeys are still used as transport on the island, which has been a favorite for artists for many generations. Aegina offers a floating market, pistachio groves, and a temple to Aphaea.
Climb the bell tower at Poros for a view to remember. And before your day ends, take in a folk performance complete with dancers and puppets.
Walking a neighborhood with a local is always the first prize. This excursion explores Koukaki, with an eye to getting you into the mood of the streets and the nightlife
Your guide will let you in on the secrets to a great evening out here. Visit the trendiest hangouts, try the wine and beer, and even some food from four of the stops. The wine and cheese pairing will leave an impression. And make a point of sampling the Ouzo!
Best of all, you can ask your guide for some advice on what to do for the rest of your stay in Athens – they will be glad to advise.
Planning a trip? See our list of the best things to see in Athens!
Go on a night walk in the city that seems to have a different personality from its daytime identity. There are stories to be told about the famous philosophers who walked here, the urban legends of ghosts and celebrities.
There’s also a thriving music scene, rooftop bars and local drinking habits to discover and emulate. Discover parts of the city that aren’t on any tour map. The cherry on top is the option to continue the night with the locals at a VIP folk music club.
If the tales of Zeus and the Greek gods are your cup of wine, an insightful chat with a knowledgeable Greek guide is a definite must. Start at the Trilogy of Athens, as your guide talks you through some of the legends represented by the statues and monuments of the area.
Varvakios market is a stop along the way, where you can take in the wares and aromas, as your guide relates tales of Hermes, Apollo, Demeter and the other deities who represent more than just myth for the ancient Greeks.
Editor’s Note: You might also like to look at our best hotel recommendations in Athens.
Wander the streets of three artsy neighborhoods to discover the street art of Athens. Your guide is an artist, too, and will point out some of the most interesting graffiti than can be seen in the city.
More than the art, the artists themselves that have stories behind them. As an active member of the scene, your guide will share amazing background on the various artists and their work. Best of all, you don’t need to be an art expert yourself to enjoy the tour. It’s also a very “local” way to explore the city and its street culture.
The train from Athens station to Kalambaka gives you an opportunity to admire some of the Greek countryside beyond the city. At Kalambaka, a driver receives you and takes you to your hotel. That evening, you will join up with the breathtaking Meteora sunset tour.
The next day, you can embark on a private walking tour of Meteora, exploring the monasteries and hearing the stories of the first monks who arrived there. You can choose between a hiking tour or an easier half-day tour.
Ready to book? Here are our favorite areas to stay in Athens!
Without a doubt, a walking tour of food markets would be a foodie favorite of all Athens excursions. Fuel up first, though with a koulóuria – a traditional sesame bread ring – and Greek doughnuts (loukoumades). The first bit of the walk focuses on pies and pastries.
Then it’s off to the meat and fish markets. Along the way, you can sample all the local usuals – wine, coffee, olives, ham and cheese. The main idea of the walk is to introduce you to the small shops and delis that provide everyday Greek patrons with their favourite produce. Enjoy.
There’s a lot to see in Athens, it’s true. So if it feels like too much to do on foot, you can get around faster on an electric bike. You’ll still take in many of the popular sites around the city, but actually have time to get to more.
See the city from Pnyka and Filoppapos Hill, for example. And if you’ve never ridden an electric bike before, don’t worry. Before you set off, you’ll have a quick lesson and park ride to get familiar with the mechanics.
You can choose between two snorkeling destinations on this trip. Either head out to Dipsa Island, or explore the Marathon coastline. Either way, your guide will offer some instruction on the equipment if you need it. Then, you can enjoy the crystal clear waters of the Med.
Afterwards, relax on the boat, enjoy some snacks, and if you like you can stretch out on the beach in Shinias Bay.
This list of things to do in Athens is by no means complete. Its highly influential history can still be explored through its remarkably well-preserved ancient monuments. And even today, its traditions live on through its music and dance and food.
Visitors can walk the city, discover its nightlife, day-trip to its islands and outer-lying towns, and even go swimming in the ocean. So take at least one of these tours of Athens, Greece. It’s all here to be discovered.
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Born in Los Angeles, Aaron Hovanesian is one of the original staff writers for Hotel Jules. Having backpacked the world as a young man, Aaron now prefers to travel the world in luxury, proudly staying in the world's most amazing hotels and properties. When Aaron is not traveling he lives in Western Colorado he can be found brewing his own beer (probably an IPA) or spending time with his two amazing golden retrievers.