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Best Walking Tours in Athens
Magical Walking Routes

Best Walking Tours in Athens

18 March 2020

Athens is a city that offers wonderful walking routes for any taste. Most of its monuments and landmarks are located in the city center. Athens' center is also where its most vibrant life and nightlife is taking place; local markets, shopping stores, cafés, restaurants, museums, archaeological sites, neoclassical buildings are things that a traveler meets walking in the streets of the Greek capital’s center. And because walking is not only enjoyable and good for our health but also the best way to get to know Athens, here are the 10 best walking tours and routes you can follow to discover the city of Theseus! Whatever route you choose to take, Athens will reward you with beauty, an aura of rich history and local vibes. So, put your comfortable shoes on and get started!

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Little square in Plaka, next to Tripodon street - Credit: Greek TravelTellers

1st walking tour: Acropolis - Hadrian’s Arch - Dionysiou Aeropagitou

One of the best walking tours in Athens, and probably the most famous one, is around the Acropolis Hill. Get off at Acropolis Metro station and walk to Dionysiou Areopageitou street, arguably the most historic and beautiful pedestrian street of Athens. With the Acropolis and the Parthenon always in view, it is a magical street to walk, especially during and after sunset. Start your walking tour from Hadrian’s Arch, a historic monument that served in the Roman period as a gate, connecting the old city of Athenian hero Theseus with the new city of Emperor Hadrian. ‘Cross’ the gate and enter the old city of Athens. Walk down the Areopageitou street and take in the local vibes and the special energy of the place. Walk past the Acropolis Museum, climb the steps to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and marvel at the sacred rock of Athens, Acropolis. At the end of the pedestrian street, you have two options. Either continue straight ahead and towards Thiseio and Monastiraki, or take a right, towards the rock of Areios Pagos, the ancient criminal court of Athens offering spectacular panoramic and sunset views, and Plaka.

Tip! If you wish to explore these neighborhoods in an alternative way, join this Athens walking tour.

Walking the Dionysiou Areopageitou Street

2nd walking tour: Wandering the little alleys of Psyri

In a short walking distance from Monastiraki Metro station, you will find the vibrant neighborhood of Psyri. The cobblestone streets of Psyri are ideal for a morning walk if you wish to visit local shops with traditional products or enjoy a Greek breakfast (have a look at the traditional Greek foods you need to try when you visit Greece). In the evenings, the area is transformed and its little alleys are filled with young people. Psyri offers a rich variety of traditional taverns (‘koutoukia’) and locals go there for dinner. Most of the taverns offer live Greek music as well. After the hour is passed, Psyri is one of the most famous nightlife destinations, with fancy cocktail bars, hidden rooftops offering spectacular views of the Acropolis and underground clubs. If you are a fan of street art, then Psyri is your to-go area in Athens. The walls and houses of the neighborhood are filled with murals from some of the most famous street artists in the world.

3rd walking tour: National Gardens - Zappeion - Panathenaic Stadium

The National Gardens are literally an oasis right in the center of the city. A famous escape for the locals from the hustle and bustle of the big metropolis, the Gardens offer a labyrinth of pathways each one leading to new discoveries. Originally known as the Royal Gardens of the first queen of Greece, Queen Amalia, the Gardens consist of more than a thousand different plants and trees, a gift to the Greek Queen from Kings and Queens around the world. Walk the green routes, follow the map signs and make your way to the little pond in the center of it. During the way, try to find hidden ancient treasures that were part of Athens’ history and are now lying, half-hidden, on the ground. Exit the National Gardens and make your way to Zappeion, a wonderful neoclassical building and the first one raised specifically for the first modern Olympic Games in Athens. Enter its imposing entrance and marvel at its atrium. Next stop is the ancient Panathenaic Stadium, also known as Kallimarmaro. Dating back to the 4th century BC, the stadium hosted venues again during the first modern Olympics in 1896 and it is now the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. Enter the site and run the court, imagining you are an Ancient Olympic athlete.

Hint for families! There is a family-friendly mythology workshop taking place inside the National Gardens during summer. Press here to book.

Zappeion Mansion

4th walking tour: Ermou - Syntagma - Kolonaki

Get off the train at Monastiraki station and walk all the way up to Ermou street. Ermou, named after god Hermes, protector of trade, is Athens’ main shopping street and a pedestrian street for its most part. Along the way, you can take some small turns at the vertical alleys, exploring the local shops and life and then head back to Ermou again and continue your walking tour. Get a ‘koulouri’, a traditional bun, from the many street vendors and walk all the way up to the imposing Greek Parliament at Syntagma square. Make a quick stop there to admire the change of Guard and follow for a while the Greek Guards, dressed in traditional Greek costumes, across the Vassilisis Sofias Avenue. Take a left to Voukourestiou street with all its boutique shops and expensive brands. Continue uphill until you reach Skoufa street, having arrived now at the heard of Kolonaki district, a former aristocratic and now a very expensive and hip neighborhood in the Athenian center. There you will find fine dining restaurants offering modern takes on Greek cooking and trendy bars with live music.

Hint! The Guard changes every hour, so make sure to be there about 15 minutes earlier.

The Guards in front of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier

5th walking tour: Syntagma - Panepistimio - Exarcheia

Another walking route to take and tour the Athenian center can start from the Syntagma square. After admiring the peculiar walk and change of Guard in front of the Greek Parliament building, follow just for a few meters the Greek Guards as they leave and continue straight ahead on Panepistimiou street. You will come across expensive jewelry stores, old cafés, shopping malls and many theatres. You can make a stop at the Numismatic Museum and drink coffee or wine at the beautiful quiet garden, or continue until you reach the famous triptych, the dominant and beautiful 19th-century buildings of the “Greek Revival” movement: the National Academy, the University of Athens and the National Library. After you admire and take pictures, continue your walking tour towards the Exarcheia district via Emmanouil Benaki street. Exarcheia is a vibrant neighborhood of Athens, with an edgy alternative vibe. Make your way to Exarcheia square and then walk the Valtetsiou street to enjoy your lunch or dinner in a low-key Mediterranean or veggie-friendly restaurant.

Tip! Exarcheia is another neighborhood of Athens where you can admire amazing street art, with societal and political meanings. You can also join a street art walking tour with a local guide.

The ‘No Land for the Poor’ mural by WD

6th walking tour: Plaka - Anafiotika

Among the best walking tours in Athens is the exploration of Plaka and Anafiotika. Just meters away from Acropolis Metro station you can enter the picturesque, and possibly Athens’ oldest, neighborhood of Plaka. The cultured alleys of this area, the beautiful neoclassical houses as well as the fuchsia bougainvillea that decorate the little houses, compose a magical image of colors and memories for anyone visiting. After exploring and discovering the local culture and happenings of Plaka, find the famous “Yassemi steps” and take a short break, enjoying a Greek coffee or a traditional dessert. Originally named “Mnisiklis’ steps”, after the famous architect who designed the entrance to the Acropolis, the steps are also named after the traditional café ‘Yassemi’ (meaning ‘jasmine’ in Greek). After your batteries are fully charged, continue your walking tour upwards and find your way to the so-called ‘secret neighborhood’ of Anafiotika. The cute, cube-shaped white and blue houses under the walls of Acropolis were built to resemble the houses of the Cycladic island Anafi. Sip in the Cycladic aura and marvel the panoramic view of Athens and its hills.

7th walking tour: Monastiraki - Thiseio

Around the Monastiraki Metro station, ancient aura and local vibes interplay to create a unique atmosphere and area to discover. Most of the Athens walking tours begin or end in Monastiraki square. Start your walking tour from the Hadrian’s Library, the Roman Agora and the Tower of Winds. Then head to the Monastiraki’s flea market and Avissinias square to admire vintage products from the past of Greece and wander in the little alleys that lead to alternative cafés and rooftops. Continue your walk towards the Ancient Agora and walk down Adrianou street. This is a very beautiful pedestrian street, with the Ancient Agora, the Stoa of Attalos and the Temple of Hephaestus at your left and local taverns and stores at your right. Your destination is Thiseio and its street vendors, a trade alive at the same place for more than two millennia! From there, you can continue your walk on Areopageitou street, towards Acropolis, Koukaki and Plaka, or start the next walking tour (the one below).

The Stoa of Attalos in Ancient Agora

8th walking tour: Thiseio - Kerameikos - Gazi

From Thiseio Metro station, take the pedestrian street of Ermou towards Gazi. On the way, you will come across an archaeological site that is not well-known but is actually one of the most important in Athens. Kerameikos was the ancient cemetery of Athens, where the most prominent men of the ancient great power were buried, like the great Pericles. This was also where the greatest gate of the ancient world was located, Dipylon, and the starting point for many important Athenian festivals, like Panathenaia and the Eleusinian Mysteries. Unfortunately, today Kerameikos site consists mostly of ruins and you need a guided tour to fully grasp the importance of the place and bring its past to life. After Kerameikos, continue your walking tour towards Gazi and Technopolis (the old gas factory), where there is always something happening (festivals, concerts, exhibitions, etc.). This is a district to visit best in the evening, as it is a famous nightlife destination, with many bars, pubs and clubs.

9th walking tour: Petralona - Philopappos Hill - Koukaki

Surely one of the best walking tours in Athens and definitely the most alternative one. Petralona is arguably the hippest neighborhood of Athens and a far cry from its center. Get the train (metro line 1) and get off at Petralona station. We, the locals, divide this district into two different areas: Kato (Lower) Petralona and Ano (Upper) Petralona. Kato Petralona offers industrial tones, so you should head towards Ano Petralona and its elegant streets of Troon, Kydantidon and Kallisthenous! Their splendor unfolds in day, evening or night: a gorgeous neoclassical here and there, a picturesque little square with cute cafés and little restaurants, a flowered slope behind a whitewashed wall that looks like it was teleported here from an island… Their tranquility is almost dreamy, and the trails are magical. So, start your walking tour by reaching the picturesque Mercuri Square of Ano Petralona; Troon street is especially popular during the night, with locals filling the chairs of bars and restaurants on the pedestrian road. You can also take the Αnteou street from Mercuri Square to explore the little alleyways around it, which are full of cute little courtyards, low-lime walls and scenes that bring to mind an old village. Just next to you there is the Philopappos Hill, a large green space that if you cross it you will reach Acropolis Hill. Instead of going through it, you can just circle it from its southern side and it will shortly lead you to Koukaki, another alternative neighborhood of Athens that becomes alive at night.

Street in Petralona

10th walking tour: Exploring the SNFCC

Perhaps one of the top destinations for an afternoon/evening escape or exploration is now the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. The SNFCC is a massive cultural center in Palaio Faliro neighborhood, next to the sea of Floisvos. This is where the National Opera and the National Library have been moved, housed in a modern architectural marvel. There is also a vast garden consisting of countless varieties of Mediterranean plants and olive trees, with pathways that lead to new happenings and activities. You can take a walk next to the artificial pond or sign up for kayaking or sailing. During the summer months, there is usually a free movie screening at the center of the lawn where you can finish your walk and enjoy some popcorn (just make sure to take a jacket because the sea breeze is quite chilly in the evenings here).

The garden at SNFCC

If you are staying for more than a day in Athens, try to take as many of the walking routes as possible. Alternatively, you can book a walking tour guided by a local expert, to save time and make your experience even richer, with local insights and stories. If you plan to spend 2 days in Athens, have a look at our guide on how to spend 48 hours in Athens and enjoy it like a local.

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