The Best Walking Tour of Athens | Sherpa Tours
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A walking tour of Athens is one of the best ways to discover this city’s incredible ancient history. Find out more inside.
Equal parts vibrant, graceful, and exciting, Athens is an incredible destination on the Mediterranean. Perfectly mixing old world charms and history with modern-day cool, the engaging capital of Greece will have you falling head over heels in love. But catch your feet, because a walking tour of Athens is the best way to discover all that this beautiful city has to offer.
Visit the city, and you’ll find it impossible to ignore the sheer amount of important history that has taken place on these streets. But if there’s one historic site that is a must-see in Athens, it’s the Acropolis. As the most important historical site in the Western world, it’s inside this temple city where you’ll get to the heart of Ancient Greece.
Home to the Parthenon, Agora, ancient temples, and fascinating ruins, this was once the center of all life in Ancient Greece. Perched on top of a hill rising from the middle of the city, the Acropolis can be seen from all over Athens. But don’t worry if you’re not in Greece yet – our Athens virtual tour lets you discover the history remotely as well.
But delving too far into Greek history means you might miss what’s in front of you today. This vibrant city enjoys the good life on the Mediterranean, with a relaxed pace of life, healthy and sumptuous food, and plenty of sun and sea.
There’s live music and theatre a plenty, passionate political debates on the streets, and art exhibitions and street art side by side. Incredible nature is also not far away. The seven hills of Athens beg to be climbed, and on the outskirts of the city, buildings fade into national parks and gorgeous beaches. Spend a day exploring, and you’ll discover ancient pine forests, manicured gardens, and golden sweeps of sand.
Welcome to Athens, where contemporary cool meets the ancient world.
History of Athens
It’s fascinating to imagine that the locals of Athens today play out their lives on the same streets as the Ancient Greeks. Delving into this city’s history is one of the best ways to get to know modern-day Athens.
History here stretches back longer than almost anywhere else in Europe – Athens has been continuously inhabited for an estimated 5,000 years. The city’s origins date to Neolithic times when the Acropolis was the site of a Mycenaean fortress. Archeological digs have turned up evidence that the Acropolis was an important stronghold from at least 1400 BC – probably even longer.
The Birthplace of Democracy
Jump forward in time, and you’ll find the most popular part of Ancient Greece history: the classical age. Occurring between 480 – 323 BC, it was during this period when the Greeks embraced democracy, philosophy, drama, and mythology. Art, poetry, and architecture were also big, and students traveled from far and wide to study at Athenian schools.
At the heart of this popular period is, of course, the temples and ruins of the Acropolis. It was here where it all played out, the early politics and philosophical musings. Discover it all and much more on our Agora walking tour, delving into the historic heart of Ancient Greece with a strong focus on the advent of democracy.
Straddling Eastern and Western Europe, Greece became a part of the Byzantine Empire, surviving the fall of Rome further west. Often overlooked in place of Ancient Greece’s temples and ruins, this period of Greece’s history had an equally important impact on the city. Discover the impressive churches from this time throughout the city center and explore the empire’s cultural ties that set Greece apart from other popular Mediterranean destinations like Italy, France, and Spain.
A Modern-Day History
From occupation under Nazi Germany to the country’s entry into the European Union, modern-day Greek history is equally as fascinating. Today, the city is forging its own path and becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination for its picturesque coastline and its incredible history and culture.
Both of Sherpa’s walking tours of Athens do a deep dive into this wonderful city’s history and story. All our walking tours can also be done remotely. A virtual tour of the Acropolis lets you discover this incredible history from the comfort of your own home.
Where to Stay in Athens
From the glamorous to the hip, there’s a lot of great neighborhoods to choose from for your stay in Athens.
The 5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Athens
Located just underneath the Acropolis hill, Plaka is a great neighborhood to stay in while you’re in Athens. As one of the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhoods in the world, the charming area is full of quaint architecture and loaded with bars, restaurants, and souvenir stores. Being so central, it’s a great area to stay if you’re looking at doing our Ancient Athens walking tour. All budgets will find something suitable here.
Another fantastic central area to stay in is in Monastiraki. Famous for its Sunday flea market, there’s plenty to love about this lively little neighborhood. Shops sell interesting trinkets, jewelry, and clothes, and there’s a whole lot of fantastic bars and restaurants as well. Less touristy than the above-mentioned Plaka, in general, this is one of the more affordable central neighborhoods.
Koukaki is a quiet, residential neighborhood located to the south of the Acropolis. For those travelers who want a glimpse at what local life is like, this is the spot. Quiet and calm, there are plenty of traditional tavernas and bars to explore, and friendly locals as well. Prices are affordable as well.
Budget travelers will want to look at options in the Gazi neighborhood. It’s still quite central, around 15 minutes from the Acropolis, but far less touristy than Plaka and Monastiraki. The area is also famous for its incredible nightlife and the Technopolis – a vibrant center for art, concerts, exhibitions, and loads of other social events.
For a more upscale and elegant experience, travelers will want to look at the ritzy Kolonaki neighborhood. This is one of the more high-end neighborhoods in the city, referred to as the ‘Beverly Hills of Athens.’ With fashionable boutiques and exclusive designer stores, it’s the spot for shopaholics.
What to Eat in Athens?
Foodies will have a phenomenal time in Athens. Combining age-old recipes with the freshest Mediterranean ingredients, there’s a reason Greek cuisine is famous the world over. Here are some delicious dishes you need to try to recharge after a walking tour in Athens.
5 Must-Try Dishes in Athens
- Meze platters
Souvlaki is the one dish you can’t leave Athens without trying. With its origins firmly rooted in Ancient Greece, the meat is cooked on a skewer over a grill. Coming with tomato, onion, and a creamy tzatziki sauce, it’s delicious, affordable, and filling.
Often mistaken for souvlaki, gyros are another popular dish in Athens. The main difference is the way it’s cooked. Whereas souvlaki is cooked on skewers, gyro meat is shaved off a vertical, rotating cone of meat. Marinated in fresh herbs, olive oil, and lemon juice, gyro meat is served in a wrap with fries, vegetables, and of course, more tzatziki sauce.
Visitors should also try moussaka, a casserole-style dish of eggplant and minced meat. Topped off with a creamy cheese sauce, this dish echoes a similar dish found in Turkey and the Middle East.
A meze platter is kind of like the Greek aperitif – a large board of all types of olives, cheeses, and bread, with specialty Greek classics like spanakopita (a flaky pastry with spinach and cheese inside), zucchini fritters, and a variety of specialty sauces and dips.
Finally, baklava is another quintessential dish to try in Athens. This tasty dessert is a pastry filled with nuts, sweetened with honey, and spiced with cinnamon and clove. It’s delicious and sold in most bakeries around Athens.
There’s plenty of ways to get into the groove of life in Greece’s perennial capital city. Here are just a few more ideas to check out after you’ve finished your Athens self-guided walking tour.
Athenians know it’s summer when the open-air cinemas get rolling. Setting up on countless rooftops across the city, it’s the perfect evening out. Enjoying the latest films with a cool glass of wine in hand is amazing, but add in the sunset views of the Acropolis, and you’ve got one unmissable tradition in Athens.
The 5 Best Open-Air Cinemas in Athens
- Cine Paris
- Cine Dexameni
- Cine Thision
After you’ve finished your Athens walking tours, there’s plenty to discover outside the city limits. From golden sand beaches to crumbling temples, day trips around the countryside will turn up some treasures.
The 5 Best Day Trips from Athens
- Delphi – the Center of the Ancient Greek World
- The Clifftop Monasteries of Meteora
- The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion
- Sail the Nearby Greek Islands
- Ancient Sites on the Argolis Peninsula
Leisurely road trips are the order of the day here. There’s a lot to see and do, but taking your time is key. Lazily pulling in at the beautiful beaches that take your fancy while on your way to visit monasteries and ruins couldn’t be more rewarding in this part of the world.
All in all, Athens is one incredible destination. Mediterranean charm and ancient history combine to make this city one of the most interesting places in all of Europe. If you’re looking to do a walking tour of Athens, check out our options below.