Exploring Athens with Greeking.me
Athens is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and layers of history definitely require a professional to guide you through its rich heritage. Archaic and Ancient Periods, Byzantium Kingdom and Ottoman rule. Finally, Athens reemerges as part of an First Hellenic Republic in the first half of the 19th century. I certainly did not have enough history knowledge to explore all the ancient monuments one comes across in Athens.
My advice is, as soon as you arrive, book a tour with Greeking.me and get a solid foundation for your exploration of Athens for the week ahead. It seems that majority of tourists use Athens as a stopover on the way to the islands. As a result, they will see Acropolis and try gyros on Monastiraki square, while missing out on all the other treasures.
We spent a whole week in Athens in October 2020 and this was not enough. There is so much to see in Athens museums and open air sites, you need at least a month to do this city justice. If you want to quickly determine which monuments you want to see up close and have an overall understanding of Athens history, an introductory tour in the first day or two on your holiday is a must.
We booked Athens Higlights Evening Tour and our guide Penelope was an absolute delight. We spent more than 3 hours walking streets of Athens , absorbing history and ancient tales. Penelope was great at engaging my daughter, who is 9 and has Ancient Greece as part of her school curriculum this year, and making parallels with mythology.
We started the tour at Syntagma Square, where we went to the metro station with exposed architectural layers and traces of Athens from 2,000-3,000 years ago. Interestingly, current city centre used to be Athens’s countryside, where farmers would work the land and animals graze on green pastures. Jumping 2,000 years in time, we went to the street level to look at the Old Royal Palace and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We learned about soldier’s outfits, and how can one become a Presidential Guard. At this spot, Penelope shared the most recent Greek history, when the First Hellenic Republic was formed.
Moving towards Plaka area, we passed Roman baths, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch and finally reached Plaka. At each of the sites Penelope gave us detailed description of the history and background to the monument. She was able to show us on her iPad how some of the characters looked like , or how a certain temple or a building were used when they were first built. I thought iPad material was a great addition to a walking tour, especially for my daughter as it was much easier for her to imagine how things would have looked like when they were first built.
In Plaka there were also plenty of sites and stories to discover. We were surprised to learn that the concept of sponsorship is nothing new and was a great working model in Ancient Greece. Amazingly, some of the streets kept their original names and a lot of history can be uncovered just by reading street names.
We did not go inside any of the historical sites or buildings during the tour. However, with Penelope’s guidance we were able to determine which ones we wanted to visit during our stay in Athens and went there on other days.
For example, Penelope pointed out a couple of churches, which she suggested we could visit during the day. We did come back to a couple of them later in a week, and I thought that Penelope’s recommendations were spot on.
We loved the story about the Tower of the Winds, its intricate structure and how it was used in Ancient Athens. When we walked past it a day before our tour with Greeking.me, The Tower looked interesting, but without knowing all the background it was difficult to spot the symbols and know how the site was used. With Penelope’s storytelling, it felt like all the doors opened for us and all we had to do is to choose where to go next.
I thought that the walking route was easy to remember. I suddenly felt confident walking in the centre of Athens and it was easier to follow maps or find places of interest during our sightseeing. Penelope also knew all the best spots for pictures and she was happy to help us with family pictures.
Overall, I could not think of better guide and a better organisation of the tour from Greeking. me. Booking process was straightforward and Greeking.me was always responsive on the emails. I thought the tour was a perfect start to our holiday in Athens and would definitely appeal to families with school aged kids.
Our visit was hosted by Greeking.me, but all opinions are my own.