Walk the roads of the ancient Greeks
So you want to see the best of Athens with a guide but don’t want to spend a lot of money to do it? Then find free walking tours online; normally run by locals of the city, range from a couple of hours to a full day and all you pay is a tip of what you want to give. We found a couple on TripAdvisor and did 2 walking tours on separate days which took us to different places in the city and learned a lot from them both.
The walking tours didn’t involve the ruins of the city, so I’ll only talk about the sites we covered and which are worth seeing! If you want to read about the temples and ruins, check out my other post Acropolis & Ruins.
Both walking tours starting from the Arch of Hadrian, right outside the Temple of Zeus. We got an introduction and begun our 3 hour walks through the city.
One area people don’t go to check out are the national buildings on the major road called Panepistimiou surrounding the downtown area. Here stands the National Library and the Academy of Athens (where Socrates and Plato supposedly taught at and were killed).
Down the road is the Hellenic Parliament, where you can see the changing of the guards, multiple times a day. These guards protect the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, not the parliament itself. The outfits worn by the guards have 150 pleats on their skirt to represent the number of people who died in the war against the Turks. Their boots have a horseshoe and nails in it so when they do their guard change routine, their movements are swift like a horse and their shoes make noises like horses hooves.
Just outside the National Garden lies the recently found Roman Bathes still being excavated and researched. Supposedly during their last olympics, they wanted to extend the road and when escalating, they found the bathes and have been digging more ever since.
If you want to shop and check out some food flea markets, go to Monastraki, the Old Turk Monastery. Here you’ll find tiny little mosques and churches lots of food and lots of people.
On one of the tours, our guide took us to an area on a hill called Prika or The Pnyx (depending on your guide). Here gives you the best view of the Acropolis and the city below, especially at sunset! This also happens to be the spot of the first parliament of Greece, you can see the stone pedestal and walls on which they stood during their outdoor meetings. This area is not touristy but with fantastic views!
While you’re here, take a walk around the National Gardens, but beware, there are lots of bugs, an abandoned Cafe, the Zappeion Centre, lots of palmtrees and colourful birds. It’s like a rainforest climate.
An awesome place to chill and exercise, is Panathinaikon, the first Olympic stadium of modern times created of white marble! Entrance fees are about €8, and it’s quite a walk outside the downtown area, but you can stand on a podium, run around the track or up and down the very steep staircases of the stadium. A little hidden area… if you go near the far side of the stadium and walk through a dimly lit brick tunnel with steel gates, you can find a mini museum of all the Olympic torches! It’s a cool place to check out, but when you’re there near closing and no one else is around inside or outside, it’s very creepy.
Depending on how you use you money, you’ll spend on average €40 a day to cover food, entrance fees, activities/tour tips, travel money. Hostels and airbnbs are cheap there also, so don’t worry about spending too much on those.
I think that all in all, it’s a cool city to visit, for me, probably only once. I feel like I’ve seen temples and ruins over and over by going back to Italy every few years, but to say I actually went to Athens and stood where the mythological gods stood, is pretty cool.