Athens Off The Beaten Path
I adore the city of Athens and it’s a place that I always keep coming back to. The city may be world famous for the Acropolis, but there are so many more cool things to to see and do, especially when it comes to eating. So after you’ve visited the Acropolis and had a gryo, get a little off the beaten path in Athens with these Top 7 Things to Do!
1. Take a Walking Tour Around Athens
Getting a tour of the city is the best way to start your visit in Athens. You get to see different areas, learn about the history and all the best spots to visit from your guide. I was lucky enough to experience the Delicious Athens Food Tour with Alternative Athens.
Alternative Athens shows travelers the genuine side of Greece. They offer a number of different tours within Athens as well as other places in Greece.
Within Athens, they have City, Food, and Nightlife Tours, Local Experiences, and Kids & Family activities. Alternative Athens separates themselves from other tour operators by having all tours based on what their team likes and not on the marketing hype.
I was on the Delicious Athens Food Tour which was a non-stop, mouthwatering, tasting experience.
Cost: 50 euros per person
Duration: 3.5 hours
My Athens Tour Guide
Tania was my guide on the tour and she was amazing! She’s from Athens and a passionate history major by education, so she has a plethora of knowledge on local life and food history. Best of all, before trying every new dish, Tania would tell us a story behind the history of each dish. It was both tasty and fascinating!
For example, we got to try some amazing Baklava which is a delicious sweet pastry. The version we know today was developed long ago in Damascus. It has many layers of phyllo, nuts such as pistachios, almonds, or walnuts, and a drizzle of honey on top. A more modern version has chocolate. Either way, Tania says you should eat it upside down!
We were taken to a very famous Baklava patisserie amongst locals in the city. The bakery was first founded in Istanbul in 1949 and then opened a second shop in Athens. Baklava is a beloved dish not just in Greece but also in Turkey and Cyprus. When the EU declared it to be the national sweet dish of Cyprus, Turkish citizens went out on the streets and protested!
My Tour Highlights
- There is so much food to try on this tour and the best part is you get a large sample portion. My husband Jugo was able to join me on this tour and we would receive an entire dish that we would split between just the two of us. This reminded me a lot of our honeymoon in Italy where the portions were so large we could hardly finish one plate!
- With all that eating, it was great to be able to walk it off and explore different areas of Athens. We were able to get out of the heavily packed touristy areas and visit some of the hidden gems of Athens, Greece which I would not have otherwise known.
- The tour also included walking through the Varvakios Market where we saw fresh seafood, meat, fruits, and veggies being sold. If you are staying in an Airbnb, I totally recommend taking a trip to this market and buying some fresh ingredients to cook your own meal at home.
- Best of all was the stop to a local pastry shop where we got to watch the pastry chefs make bougatsa. Bougatsa is the most delicious phyllo pastry with a cream filling and topped with icing sugar and cinnamon. The chef was flying the phyllo in the air like pizza dough, then spreading it on the table so thin you can almost see clearly through it. He would slather the phyllo with chunks of butter and the amazing cream before putting it in the oven to bake.
There’s a lot more to this tour, but I’ll leave it to you to try for yourself with Alternative Athens!
2. Open Air Cinema in Athens
This is one of the most fun things to do in Athens. From April to October, you can watch a movie outdoors! Not only can you catch a flick but these cinemas offer tasty things that go beyond popcorn and can of coke.
Open air cinema is a part of local Athenian life. Each cinema is known for the different foods they offer and the locals pick what place they go to not by what movie is playing but by what they feel like eating. One cinema specializes is souvlaki, while another does sushi and another has baked pies. Most places also offer alcoholic beverages from beer to cocktails.
There are many cinemas to choose from in Athens. For me, I like Cine-Thisio because you have a great view of the Acropolis lit up in the background.
3. Athens Fish Spa
After walking all over the city, take a break and let some special fish work on your feet!
The Athens Fish Spa is not your regular spa, they offer a special fish pedi service. For just 15 euros, you can have live fish nibble the dead skin off your feet and leave them healthy and smooth as a baby’s bottom. Don’t worry, the fish have no teeth so it doesn’t hurt and may only tickle your feet a bit!
4. A Picnic on Filopappou Hill
Catch a view of the city and the Acropolis without the hoards of tourists around by taking a walk up in Filopappou Hill (also known as Hill of the Muses). A secret spot in Athens, this place is perfect for a picnic during the day or sharing a bottle of wine and catching the sunset over Athens. Amazing photographing opportunities guaranteed!
For a truly off the beaten path experince in Athens, catch a performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This amazing ancient stone amphitheater is located just below the Acropolis and was built to fit 5000 people. It was first constructed in AD 161 by Herodes Atticus for his late wife Rigilla.
In ancient times, it was used for musical contests and now in the modern day, it has been hosting some of the world’s best performances including Frank Sinatra and Nana Mouskouri.
Performances run from May to October. You can see a full list of events here. Just remember to buy your tickets well in advance because they sell out fast.
Open daily from 8:00-18:00
Ticket cost: €8 or free with the Acropolis ticket
Don’t miss out on seeing the ancient ruins of the Agora. The word agora means ‘open place of assembly‘ which is exactly what it was used for in ancient times. The agora served as a marketplace where open-air stalls sold pastries, sweets, fish, shoes, clothes, pottery and much more. It was also a place where locals would gather to discuss politics and social activities. Some of the greatest philosophers of all time taught and learned there including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
7. Dine at a Traditional Greek Tavern
I can’t stop talking about how great Greek food is. What makes it even better is when you have the chance to eat at a local tavern with a musician strumming the bouzouki (Greek guitar), serenading you with Greek music over a candlelit dinner. If you are traveling with kids though and looking for some good foodie options, click here.
One spot I love going to is Efxaris located in Monastiraki. They have a great atmosphere with an outdoor stone courtyard lined with fairy lights and live Greek music. If things get a little crazy, you may even see some Greek dancing! Make sure to order the meat platter. The platter includes grilled sausage, fried meatballs, chicken, pork, cheese croquettes, potatoes, tzatziki pickles, peppers, and tomato all on one plate!
If you are vegetarian, don’t worry, there are also a lot of great options for you too! Try the stuffed tomatoes, zucchini courgettes, baked feta cheese with tomato and paprika and grilled peppers stuffed with different cheeses.
Now that you’ve read the top off beaten experiences to have in Athens, what are you most excited to try? Interested in learning more about Athens? Click here.
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A big thanks to Alternative Athens for hosting me on the Delicious Athens Food Tour. As always, all opinions are my own.