A top destination for cultural tourism, Athens is a city that has it all: rich heritage and history, stunning beaches and picturesque islands just a stone’s throw from the buzzing city center, and a progressive urban lifestyle that remains grounded in the familiarity of Greek traditions and values.Shaped by a unique blend of influences from East and West, Greek culture is complex and dynamic, full of fascinating historical narratives and everyday magic that intrigue and inspire first-time visitors and seasoned travelers alike.
Today, more than ever, visitors are spoiled for choice: A new breed of cultural tours seek to provide immersive cultural tourism experiences to savvy travelers looking for that something more. In addition to the country’s magnificent ancient monuments and distinctive version of Mediterranean cuisine, these tours focus on lesser-known aspects of Greek culture, offering opportunities to learn about Greece’s fascinating history and contemporary art, explore the interplay between ancient heritage and modern life, and discover intimate aspects and hidden gems of the city’s contemporary life and culture.
Ready to be inspired? Here are five fabulous ideas for cultural tours and experiences in and around Athens:
1. The Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the Ancient Agora
Absolute must-sees for first time visitors to Athens, the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the Ancient Agora are absolute Greek essentials. Stunning to behold, they are also a great starting point for delving into various aspects of Greek culture: history, myths, architecture, ancient and contemporary performance arts, democracy, early medicine, and even Greek modernism and the art of archaeological reconstruction.
Guided tours are excellent ways to make the most of your visit, taking you on a walk through history to discover the myths and wonders of ancient Greece. And because cultural tourism isn’t just for grown-ups, those travelling with children can choose from a number of family-friendly tours that use fun activities and games to help young explorers engage with history and culture, ensuring a fun day out for the whole family.
2. Day trips to the ancient sacred sites around Athens
Visited the Acropolis but can’t get enough of Greek antiquity? A number of magnificent ancient sites are located just a few hours from Athens, making for perfect day trips that will give you the chance to discover the grand temples and breathtaking nature beyond the capital.
Look for tours that go one step beyond and focus on both the archaeological sites and the areas around them, letting you experience the monuments in the natural surroundings that inspired them and showing how their legacy lives on in the local areas to this day. Great ideas include visits to the Sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron and the Vravrona Wetland on the Aegean coast, and excursions to Ancient Delphi and the picturesque medieval villages of Mount Parnassus.
3. Modern history and neoclassical gems
Hiding in plain sight in the city center, a number of exquisite historical buildings and museums bear testament to the country’s modern history and to its transition from part of the Ottoman Empire to the sovereign republic that it is today. Often overlooked, these fascinating early days of the Greek state left a lasting legacy both culturally and politically.
Get to know the city of Athens in a new light, with focused tours that present the world-class neoclassical architecture, spectacular clothing and jewelry, royal residences, enchanting gardens, and irresistible 19th-century charm of the early days of the Kingdom of Greece.
4. Art, art, and more art
Athens boasts a number of internationally acclaimed museums that showcase fine examples of Greek art—from Bronze Age figurines to the monumental sculptures and intricate ornamental objects of Ancient Greece, and from Byzantine and post-Byzantine religious art to the romanticism and academic realism of the 19th century. And beyond these museums and galleries, there’s a city buzzing with creativity waiting to be discovered.
Guided art-themed tours are a great way to get to know the capital’s vibrant contemporary art scene and its new generation of artists and designers. For the best experience, look for tours that combine museum exhibitions and up-and-coming art spaces and explore the indy art-spaces and ateliers of the city’s thriving downtown neighborhoods.
5. Exclusive experiences
If you want to go off the beaten path and do something truly unforgettable, you can choose from a selection of unique tours and bespoke experiences that provide exclusive access to hidden gems around Athens.
Go behind the scenes and literally touch history, with exclusive artifact-handling sessions at some of the capital’s foremost museums; spend the day with local artists in their ateliers to get an insider’s view of the capital’s art scene; or visit some of the city’s most remarkable historical townhouses—private properties with unique architectural features and vibrant histories that are normally off-limits to members of the public. And if you really want to spoil yourself, you can even opt for a period-themed private dinner at the former royal residence.
Whatever you’re looking for, Athens offers many unique opportunities to go off the beaten path and to discover—and re-discover—Greek culture in new and engaging ways. Choose a great tour, have an unforgettable experience!
article by Discover Greek Culture