Athens City sightseeing with a bus tour
It was an interesting thing to do – take the bus sightseeing tour in my own city, watching the city as a tourist. The team of Yachtsailing.gr Eugene, Maria and Christos on a sightseeing tour in Athens.
We arrived in Syntagma square after our tour in Acropolis and the museum. It was early in the afternoon around 17:00 (it gets dark this time of the year at around 21:30) when we jumped on one of the buses (we took the red line as this was the first one that we found, although there are three options, three different companies to choose from and from what we heard they all do more or less the same things).
The bus makes a 90 minute tour around the centre of Athens stopping at 14 different places. Below is our experience from our open bus tour.
Syntagma square from where we started the tour is the bust stop number one for the open sightseeing buses and the terminal station as well. You can reach Syntagma by metro, bus and tram and is considered to be the central station but also the point from where all distances are being calculated from. The metro station is and right below the Greek parliament and the station looks like a small museum itself as antiques that were found when the metro was being built are exposed there. The Greek parliament with the Monument of the Unknown Soldier attracts a lot of visitors, and the soldiers standing absolutely still in front of it is something that attracts the cameras together with the shift change that takes place every hour, 24 times a day.
The bus follows Vasilis Amalias street (the street right in front of the Parliament) and the second stop is in front of Melina Mercury Statue. Formal ministry of Tourist and also one of our most famous Greek actors worldwide, Melina was the first interested in the return of the stolen parts of the Acropolis by lord Elgine, that are exposed to the British Museum. One of the very few statues dedicated to one of the modern Greeks. From this stop you can access the Museum and the Acropolis after walking Dionusiou Aeropagitou street, the wide pedestrian street that leads you there.
The third stop is right at the Acropolis Museum. Do remember that travelers can get on and off from the bus anytime (only at the stops), visit the sights of their interest and then take the next bus to continue their sightseeing tour.
The fourth stop is right near the entrance of the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Here at this stop you can also change bus lines if you want to continue with a tour to Athens and Pireaus. Or you can also start your tour from here if you have already visited the Acropolis before. We changed a bus here and embarked to a same one that will continue our tour.
The tour continues through Sygrou avenue and the fifth stop is at the temple of Zeus. The famed Arch or Hadrian that is visible from the street and right after the entrance to the Temple of Zeus. We are now at the street where we started from going to the opposite direction, towards the Greek parliament again where the next stop is.
We are again at Vasilis Amlias street and the bus stops 6 and 9 are both in front of the Greek Parliament and the entrance to the National Gardens. After the 6th stop we will make the round of the biggest square block in Athens. This is the block where the parliament, the National Gardens (and the botanical museum located in the gardens) and Zappio megaro are located. This conference and exhibition center was built to initially serve Olympic needs and it was the first one ever made for that cause. The founder Evangelis Zappas wanted this Olympic building to be located as close to the Panathinaic stadium as possible.
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The following stops number 7, 8 and 9 are all around this same block. If you like walking you can walk around the block and access the museums and the stadium that you can reach from the following stops.
From bus stop 7 you can access the Benaki museum, the Cycladic museum and the Byzantine museum. All three are worth a visit if you are into Ancient history and like museum visits. Details about the museums you can find at this article here.
The following stop (number 8) is right across the Panathinaic stadium. The ‘Kallimarmaro’ as it is called in Greek is a combination of the words kalo (good) and marmaro (mable) as it is made from the finest white marbles from Mount Penteli in the suburb of Athens. The stadium was built around 330BC and was restored for the first modern Olympics. The size of the Stadium usually surprises the visitors that definitely do not expect such an old stadium to have such a great glory.
Through Vasilis Olgas avenue we ride in front of the Hadrian’s Arch again and through Vasilis Amalias we will pass in front of the Parliament again (if you want to disembark here there is stop number 9 again). We are almost half way already.
At Panepistimiou street (renamed El. Venizelou) that was named after the university, the bus stop number 9 is located right in front of the National Library and right next to the University of Athens and the Academy of Athens. Three neoclassic buildings right next to each other.
The bus will reach Omonia square and will turn right to Patision Aveniue. The following stop is right in front of the National Archaeological Museum. This is the biggest museum in Greece, and if you really want to see all the exhibitions you have to spend at least 2.5 hours and it is not possible to combine in one day sightseeing tour in Athens, together with Acropolis and Parthenon visit, Acropolis museum and include the Archeological museum as well because of the opening and closing times of them.
The bus will make a small round and come back from the same street to get back to Omonia square again where the bus stop number 12 is. This used to be a round square where 5 of the major streets in Athens end. It used to be the commercial center of Athens back in times, but now, and after many rebuilds and traffic control developments it has lost the old glory. Under the square the metro station meets the train station here as well and this used to be the biggest station when the metro was built and before it’s expanding.
The following stop is at Karaiskaki square. The monument at the center is the image of the fall of Icarus, who according to Mythology, is the first Greek who tried to fly using wings made from feathers and wax. Together with his father who is believed to have come up with the idea in order to escape from Crete. Following the route we will pass through Thermopulon Street and have a good view of the Acropolis again before reaching our next stop.
This next stop is maybe my favorite, Monastiraki square. Before you arrive to the square from the top of the bus you can enjoy another beautiful view of the Acropolis. For us the time when we arrived, with the sun going down, the colors have been ideal for photo shooting. This is the commercial stop of the tour. Do stop here if you haven’t been here before. Little shops with traditional products, jewelry, sandals, modern art, and more are located at Pandrosou Street, and the flea market at Ifestou Street. There is also a train stop here and right in front of the station you can buy fresh fruits in good price. The smell of grilled meat will maybe lead you in one of the small restaurants at the area. Do try Souvlaki if you haven’t already done it. A sliced grilled pork meat called gyros wrapped in pita bread together with fresh sliced tomato; sliced onions and tzatziki sauce compose the Greek souvlaki. If you are hungry you can stop and try one here.
After the stop at Monastiraki square the bus will turn to Athinas street, the road is named after the goddess Athina as well (Athens name – Athina in Greek is also dedicated to the goddess). The last stop of this tour is at Kotzia square near the end of the street and close to Omonia square. During the year some street exhibitions like flower or book, or other happenings can take place at the square but other than that the reason to stop here can be the parallel street from where we disembark, right behind the square. This is a commercial street with affordable clothing stores, and not only. At the nearby streets you can also find various staff at affordable to low prices.
This was the last stop of the bus tour; we are now following Athinas street to Omonia square where we will turn left to Stadiou Street that will lead us to Syntagma square where the terminal destination is. If you have started the tour from another stop and want to disembark there ask the driver for the first bus that will start the tour again.
I never expected this to be such an interesting sightseeing experience. I can say that I really enjoyed and it was worth it. Would I do it again? The bus ticket is valid for two days so if you do have time to spend, and you enjoyed the ride do it again, you can have the time to disembark to more stops that attract your interest and explore Athens even more…