ALTERNATIVE TOURS OF ATHENS
Looking to get a real taste of modern city life and acquaint yourself with talented creatives? The options from Alternative Tours of Athens, led by architects, photographers, artists and musicians, uncover unexpected landmarks of the city and show you life as it unfolds in lesser-known neighborhoods.
Among the most unusual options are the Grassroots Exarchia Tour, which centers around one of Athens’ most politicized neighborhoods, and the Music Lovers’ Tour, where you’ll discover the cornerstones of Greek music in traditional instrument workshops and record stores. A more conventional Best of Athens Tour is always on ATA’s menu as well.
This group’s specialty is tailor-made tours; you sign up using their easy interactive online form, letting them know about your interests and requirements. Alternatively, you can opt for one of their themed private tours; some of these include interesting options for families traveling with kids, like the three-hour Be an Ancient Athenian Tour that includes visits to Athens’ most significant landmarks, a kid-friendly experiential game about the ancient city and democracy, and even a picnic of local snacks. For first-time visitors, the Athens Orientation Tour is an excellent starting point.
BIG OLIVE CITY WALKS
With a focus on the city’s history, architecture, art and current affairs, the team at Big Olive offers insightful walking tours that satisfy even the most demanding of the culturally curious. Their “strolls,” led by scholars and experts in a number of fields, will show you around lesser-known Athenian neighborhoods, such as Kypseli and Votanikos. Their classic walks, also led by local experts, will give an educative and entertaining perspective on the city and its hidden beauties.
The three-hour long Grand Tour of Athens, for example, spans 3,400 years of Athenian history and will lead you away from the busy main roads to narrow alleyways and hidden courtyards helping you understand how this city came to be.
Originally founded in Istanbul in 2009, this group is now operating in ten other cities around the world, including Athens. Their aim is to celebrate the “unsung heroes of each city’s cuisine,” as the founders put it – to highlight, in other words, authentic restaurants and shops that are off the beaten path and uphold each city’s culinary tradition.
In Athens, they currently offer four culinary walks (all designed for small groups of up to seven) which explore the backstreets of the downtown areas of Plaka, Monastiraki, Thissio, Petralona and Psyrri. Through these walks, visitors are given the opportunity not only to taste delicious meze, like grilled octopus, or a glass of Assyrtiko, a grape variety grown mainly in Santorini, but also to meet the people behind the shops and restaurants and to gain insights into the culinary tradition they celebrate.
DISCOVER GREEK CULTURE
Their innovative, award-winning tours, led by experts in various fields, aim to reveal hidden aspects of Greek culture and to offer memorable hands-on experiences. The half-day and one-day tours cover major attractions but will also take you off the beaten path and behind a few closed doors as well.
Try the Heritage Dinner Tour, which starts with a stroll around Plaka and ends with dinner in a historic private townhouse, or the Touching History Tour, where historians will introduce you to the treasures of the Benaki Museum, even allowing you to hold historic heirlooms in your hands.
Also on offer are tailor-made tours for those who are interested in specific topics or areas, as well as family-friendly tours specifically designed for children, with an emphasis on experiential learning.
Discover Greek Culture: www.discovergreekculture.com
THIS IS MY ATHENS
In an effort to provide visitors with a different way to experience the capital, the City of Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau made a public call in 2011 for residents who wanted to express their passion for their city by showing tourists around, free of charge.
In 2014, This is My Athens became the booking platform where travelers can pick their resident guide based on common interests – such as gastronomy, urban life, nature, history or culture – and plan a walk in advance. The local guides are an ideal alternative for anyone looking to get a glimpse of the “real” Athens rather than following the usual tourist trails.
INTO STOAS ATHENS WALKTHROUGH
This unique tour, led by graphic designer Natassa Pappa, will take you through Athens’ intricate network of commercial arcades and reveal to you “a city within the city” that not even locals know exists.
During the two-hour walking lecture, you will explore building interiors and hear from shop owners about what life is like in the arcades while Pappa delivers further information about the arcades’ distinctive characteristics, their historical and cultural background and their own vernacular language as expressed through the shops’ signage and typography.