Whenever we visit a new place, Joe and I like to spend our first day walking around. It gives us an overview of the city layout and helps us know where we want to concentrate our time. Our last trip to Greece wasn’t our first time in Athens, but it was the first time we weren’t touring with a group. Right after we landed in Athens and checked into our hotel, we set off on the following walking tour. We spread the walking tour over two days, but it can be done in just one.
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What to See on an Athen’s Walking Tour
1. Lycabettus Hill- (also Lykavittos Hill) This is a favorite spot for locals and tourist. It is the highest hill in Athens (about 1000 feet/300 meters) and a great spot to see a panoramic view of the whole city. To get to your starting point, you can take a taxi (3-5 euros) or just walk depending how far away your hotel is. Once at the hill, you can walk up to the top or take the Funicular, a cable car. We were already tired from our flight so for 7 euros we took the Funicular. The cable car runs every 30 minutes and takes about 5 minutes to get to the top. Your ticket gives you a discount at the restaurant on the top of the hill, but then save your ticket for the ride back down. There is a public restroom right below the restaurant. To get to the highest point, make your way up through the restaurant.
2. Xenokratous Park- After you make your way back down the hill, take the stairs that are straight ahead and make your way to Xenokratous Park. If needed, there is a public toilet in the park. Continue down Ploutarhou Street. There are several nice cafes in this area that are frequented by locals. When you get to Leof Vasillissis Sofias Street, you’ll be in a high traffic area. Make sure to use crosswalks, and only cross when you have the signal to go. Even if you’re in the right, make sure traffic stops for you. On this street are several museums that may interest you–Museum of Cycladic Art, Benaki Museum, Athens War Museum, and the Byzantine & Christian Museum. Leof Vasillissis Sofias Street is also home to several embassies so be on the look out for some amazing architecture.
3. Syntagma Square- (also Plateia Syntagmatos) At the big intersection, turn left on Leoforos Vasilisis Amalias Street and continue down to Syntagma Square. Syntagma Square is the meeting place for many tours. Centrally located and having a metro station, it is easy to find so it makes for a great meeting spot. If you’re pressed for time, start your walking tour here and skip Lycabettus Hill.
4. Peisistratos Aqueduct- To the left of the metro entrance is a portion of the Peisistratos Aqueduct.
5. Parliament- Across the street from Syntagma Square is the Parliament. Here you can see the magnificent changing of the guards. This ceremony takes place every hour, at the top of the hour. If you’re in Athens on a Sunday, plan on being here at 11 a.m. when the guards are wearing their parade uniforms and the ceremony is more complex.
6. National Gardens- From the Parliament, continue down Leoforos Vasilisis Amalias Street until you reach the National Gardens entrance. It’s free to enter the gardens and well worth spending some time strolling through the park. There’s a public restroom in the National Gardens if needed (50 cents).
7. Zappeio Palace- In the gardens, you’ll find the Zappeio Palace (also Zappeion). When we were there, soldiers were practicing their marching formation. You can enter the palace for free, but you’re only allowed in the foyer.
8. Panathenaic Stadium- From the palace, continue to Leaf Vasileos Konstantinou Street. Here you will see the Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896. It is pretty easy to take pictures without entering the stadium, but I highly recommend paying the 5 euros to enter the stadium. It comes with an audio tour (available in different languages) that makes the stadium come alive! There are public restrooms at the stadium that you can use even if you don’t enter the stadium (50 cents). It can get very hot with heat and sun reflecting off the white stone. A hat, water, and sunscreen will be your friend! I was also wishing I had a small umbrella to provide some much needed shade. Many of the ancient sites have marble steps or slippery rocks, so shoes with good traction are needed.
9. Temple of Olympian Zeus & Hadrian’s Arch- From the Panathenaic Stadium, continue down Leof Vasilissis Olgas Street to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Hadrian’s Arch is right next to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. This temple was the largest ever built in Ancient Greek history. There are only a few columns left, but you can get an idea of the size of the temple from the width of the massive columns. Closing times vary. You can view the temple fairly well without purchasing a ticket, but if you’re going to the Acropolis (and who wouldn’t), purchase the combo ticket for 30 euros. It’s only 10 euros more than getting a ticket just for the Acropolis. The combo ticket is good for 5 days and includes entry into the Acropolis, Ancient Agora & Museum, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos & Museum, and Lykeion of Aristotle. A ticket for the Zeus Temple alone is 6 euros. The heat here feels just like the Panatheniac Stadium with little shade. It can get quite hot!
10. Roman Baths- From the Temple of Olympian Zeus, you can see Hadrian’s Arch. Then continue right on Leof Vasilissis Amalias Street to the Roman Baths. No ticket is needed for Hadrian’s Arch or the Roman Baths.
11. Acropolis- From the Roman Baths, we went to the Plaka District, had a lovely dinner, and called it a night. The Plaka District is a great area to shop or sit and eat in a lovely cafe. For those who want to continue, from the Roman Baths go left on Leaf Vasilissis Amalias Street and then right on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street to the Acropolis Museum. You need at least a couple of hours to totally appreciate this modern award-winning museum. We didn’t tour the museum on this visit, but have toured it in the past. There is also some good shops and restaurants in the Acropolis Museum area.
We started this leg of the walking tour the morning of our second day in Greece. The Acropolis opens at 8 am. The earlier or the later you can visit, the better. Just like the other ancient sites, the Acropolis can get very hot, so water, sunscreen, and a hat are a must. Good traction shoes are also necessary. I saw several people slip who were wearing flip flops. The lines for Acropolis tickets get long pretty fast, but if you already have a combo ticket from visiting the Temple of Olympian Zeus, you get to go right in!
11. Anafiotika Quarter- From the Acropolis, make your way to the Anafiotika Quarter. The Anafiotika Quarter is a little neighborhood of quaint, white homes. Can you say, Instagram heaven?! Walking through the tiny meandering streets will make you feel just like you’re in the Cyclade Islands. Workers from Cyclade island of Anafi settled here in the 1840s and built these homes to resemble their island, hence the name Anafiotika! To be honest, this was very difficult for Joe and me to find. There weren’t any streets labeled on our map because the little paths don’t have names (not that I saw anyway)! We finally just asked someone walking by. If you do find your way into this neighborhood, be mindful that people live there.
12. Roman Agora- The last leg of this walking tour of Athen’s focuses on the ancient and modern gathering places of the city. From the Anafiotika Quarter, wind your way down to the Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds. Once you find Theorias Street, then turn right onto Klepsidras Street. Next you will need to turn left onto Lisiou, then turn right onto Polignotou. Yes, you’ll be making a big zig-zag! Maps are around the major sites, so if you get lost, eventually you’ll stumble upon a map or a directional sign. Locals are super friendly. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. More than likely, there will be other tourists heading to the same place, so just follow them! Once you make your way to the Roman Agora, if you bought the combo ticket, head to it. The Tower of the Winds is right beside the Roman Agora. The fencing is easy to stick your camera through if you don’t want to pay to walk through the ruins.
13. Ancient Agora of Athens- Next, head towards the Ancient Agora of Athens by heading north on Dioskouron toward Pikilis. Then turn left onto Pikilis Street. Pikilis turns right and becomes Vrisakiou Street. Turn left onto Adrianou and then take another left. Again use your combo ticket to enter the Ancient Agora. This huge complex is amazing. It is much bigger than the Roman Agora. The Temple of Hephaetos and Ancient Agora Museum are must sees! There is a restroom in the museum if needed.
14. Hadrian’s Library- To get to Hadrian’s Library from the Ancient Agora backtrack on Adrianou Street. That street will turn right. Continue on that street then turn right onto Areos. Use your combo ticket to enter Hadrian’s Library.
15. Monastiraki Flea Market- Monastiraki Flea Market is a great place to shop for souvenirs and other random things you didn’t know you needed. There is also great eats close by, too. Many of the restaurants have great views of the Acropolis on their top floor. This is a huge pickpocket area, so be aware and keep an eye on your valuables.
Depending on how much time you spend at each location, this walking tour could easily take 1-2 days. I know that is a lot of time but you will have seen most of the best tourist sites in Athens.
So do you prefer self-guided walking tours or do you prefer having a guide? Please share by commenting below! Any questions? Please ask!
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