When visiting a new country I always try to find a tour made by locals as I believe it’s one of the best ways to experience a place and learn more about the way of life. I was very happy to discover that my own hometown, Athens offers visitors an experience like this, a free tour with a local. I have decided to give it a go and let you know if it’s worth it.
How to book a free tour with a local in Athens
First of all I should tell you that the free tour with a local is organized by This is my Athens, which is part of the city’s official tourism entity. To book one of these tours is very straightforward and I will explain it to you now:
First of all you need to head to This is my Athens website http://myathens.thisisathens.org/
You then press I’ m a visitor which leads you to a new page with two choices : Meet our locals or Book a tour.
As I am a local in Athens and already know some stuff about the city I decided to browse through the locals and select one of my choice.. To tell you the truth it was a difficult decision as all the locals have very interesting personalities. I decided that I wanted to do my tour with Alexandros who is also an archaeologist. As I am very passionate about history I though that it was the best choice for me.
I then headed to the page “Book a Tour” where you have to fill your contact information, the date and time you prefer to have the tour, the number of people attending, your interests and finally on the blank space you can write about yourself and your special requirements. At that space I requested to do the tour with the local I chose. You don’t have to choose as well because depending on your interests and the availability the system will automatically find a local matching your criteria. As soon as you send your request you will receive an email saying that your request has been registered and that they will get back to you within 48 hours.
I shortly received an email that my tour has been booked, the tour date, the name of the local that would give me the tour and his contact details. I was asked to contact my guide within 72hours in order to confirm it and arrange the last details like the meeting point and time. Talking from experience I should tell you that you should also check your email’s junk folder as this message ended up there.
I then exchanged a couple of emails with my local guide in order to arrange a meeting point, time and tell him more about myself and what I was interested in. Meeting points are in very central location like Syntagma square or Monastiraki square so you shouldn’t be worried.
My tour with a local in Athens
On a lovely sunny Sunday morning I met my local guide Alexandros in Syntagma Square. As we were going down on one of the most popular streets in Athens, Ermou street, we were talking about what I wanted to see during our walk. He headed towards Plaka, Athens’s oldest neighborhoods and even though I have been there numerous times Alexandros showed me a lot of places that has slipped my attention. As I have already mentioned Alexandros is an archaeologist so he told me a lot of historical facts about many monuments that we saw along the way and described to me how they were in ancient times and how they were used.
One of our stops included the tower of the winds that is consider the oldest meteorological station where my guide explained how the Athenians used it to see the weather and the time. I also had the chance to see a building that used to be a private hammam and the place where the public hammams were during the Ottoman Occupation.
The latter one operates as a museum. To tell you the truth I didn’t know these places existed. We then headed to the oldest house in Plaka, that was recently restored and will start operating as a museum this month. You can find it at 96 Andrianou street.
After wandering around Plaka and admiring the neoclassical buildings, the ancient monuments and some lovely pieces of street art Alexandros suggested if I wanted to visit another side of Athens, the areas of Kerameikos and Metaxourgio. I hadn’t set foot on these neighborhoods for years as I though there was nothing there to see and do. Guess what? I was wrong.
The areas of Metaxourgio and Keramikos are a ten minutes walk from Monastiraki square. On our way there we passed through another central neighborhood called Psyrri where one can find a lot of cafe, bars and restaurants along with some amazing pieces of street art. At the areas of Kerameikos and Metaxoyrgio there are a lot of beautiful neoclassical buildings some dilapidated and some restored.
We passed through the red light district, we saw many nice art galleries along the way and more beautiful works of street art. Although the area is considered degraded, it has started to come alive again with many nice restaurants and bars operating along its streets.
My guide recommended a couple of them and I am planning to visit them all in the near future. I already visited one restaurant that he recommended called Rakor with friends and we all loved it. Nice food, traditional Greek flavors and great prices. I would never have found it on my own. I would describe these areas as alternative and lively with great nightlife and full of young people.
My tour lasted for 3 hours that passed very quickly. Although I live in Athens my guide managed to show me many parts of it that I didn’t know. He was very friendly, polite and incredibly knowledgeable. I really felt like I was on holidays exploring new places.
That was my custom-made tour of Athens, you can make yours depending on your interests.
If you are visiting Athens I totally recommend that you book a free tour with a local. I am convinced that it will be the highlight of your trip.
Have you done a tour with a local before?
How was it?