Every time I was travelling from Thessaloniki to Athens, I wished I had more time to take delight in this enchanting city. A city that holds the “sceptres” of civilisation for centuries. I wished to get to know each and every side of it. Because, Athens, the capital of Greece, hides many diamonds that every tourist has to unveil. My time was never enough. In this trip, though, I decided to take the time in order to make my dream come true. The means that would get me out of the trouble, discomfort, and tiredness of seeing all those that were on my schedule, only in one route, was the Hop on Hop off bus. Come with me to a tour around Athens.
A guided tour with a Hop on Hop off bus around Athens
I thought about sharing this ride with you, in order to arouse your interest in choosing this relaxing tour when you visit our Athens. photo
A Hop on Hop off bus gives you the opportunity to get to know Athens from above, to discover it and, of course, thanks to the 14-stop-convenience, to get to know in person everything that the city has to offer and a tourist could see. You can hop off at any stop you want and after the tour you can hop on the next bus to the next top. If you don’t want to hop off, you can take your ride, enjoying Athens from the deck of the bus, which gives you the opportunity to make better photos because of its height.
Columns of the Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch
I sat back on my seat and my tour started with the first stop at the Columns of the Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. The columns we see and admire consist a part of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, which was one of the biggest temples of ancient times. Today, unfortunately, out of the 104 Corinthian columns, the most beautiful of their kind, there are only 13 at one corner and 3 more further down remaining.
The temple started getting built around 590-560 B.C. and completed by the Roman emperor Hadrian at 125 A.C. Hadrian was a true philhellene and for that reason he wanted to be present at the official dedication of the temple.The arch we see is the one built by the Athenians in honor of the emperor Hadrian, in order to pass by it underneath as a triumphant.
Panathenaic Stadium/ Kallimarmaro
Our next stop is at Panathenaic Stadium, also known as Kallimarmaro. I disembarked at this one in order to admire it in detail. At first sight I was fascinated by the simplicity, the size and the beauty of the stadium and it felt like I could sense the history behind it, floating on the air. It is simply wonderful! Think about how many years ago it was built and how big it was for the building standards of that time. Now it is located on Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue, but at that time its location was considered to be outside the city of Athens.
The stadium is a Lycurgus’ of Athens work and it was named Panathenaic, because it hosted the Panathenaic Games and had not the marble panelling yet. However, rich Herodes Atticus during 140-144 A.C. renovated the stadium and faced it with marble from Penteli.At 1896 its marble was refined and it took also the name “Kallimarmaro” ever since.
- Learn the history of the Panathenaic Stadium with an informative, fun audio guide
- Enter the vaulted passage, run on the track where nude athletes and Olympic contenders once raced!
- Watch highlights from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games on two big screens and play on a multimedia touchscreen table
We all hop on the bus again to the next stop, which is at Syntagma Square. There is no tourist or visitor in Athens, that hasn’t passed by this square. It is the central square of the city and is located in front of the Hellenic Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Of course we don’t forgo taking the necessary pictures either with the fountain, or the square, or the Hotel Grande Bretagne and definitely the Parliament as a background. I recommend that you go down to the square with the fountain, which reminds us of old times, since the square’s character did never degrade, despite the tampering that took place during all those years. You will catch the delicious smell of freshly baked sesame bread rolls floating on the air and you won’t definitely be able to resist to it!
As I did, I suggest that you hop off and admire the building of the Hellenic Parliament, which I believe it is the most imposing building in Athens and, certainly, the most photographed one carrying the Athenian identity, along with Acropolis. The building, where today the Hellenic Parliament is housed, is the old palaces that housed the first King of Greece, Otto, and later King George I, till 1910.
In front of the Parliament there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier since 1932. The Evzones are standing still on their outposts in front of the Tomb and we admired them and photographed next to them, of course without bothering them. Standing still, unexpressed and erect (required height over 187cm), are the guards protecting the holiest thing in peoples’ lives, their homeland. All over the square, there are dozens of flying pigeons, symbolising freedom.
Evzones (Tsoliades) can keep after training their eyes open up to 2.5 minutes. Their fustanella has 400 pleats, as many as the years of Greek slavery under the Ottoman Empire. Their vest takes at least two months to be made and it is all embroidered with gold. The shirt is white with large sleeves. The fez is made of felt and the black tassel symbolises the tear of Jesus Christ during His crucifixion. Their tsarouchia weigh 3 kilos and have 60 cleats on each sole.
At Styntama Square the Hop on Hop off bus turned right and entered Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, where Benaki Museum is located. The museum is housed in one of the most beautiful neoclassical buildings in Athens and is the family home of the museum’s establisher, Antonis Benakis.
The Benaki Museum of Greek Civilization is a hive of gorgeous Greek art and material representing the country’s culture and traditions. See Prehistoric, Ancient Greek and Roman antiquities, The Byzantine Collection and more in a beautiful neoclassical-style building.
Book here your ticket to Benaki Museum of Modern Greek Culture. Have access to the permanent collection and to the temporary exhibitions. Scan your smartphone ticket at the box office of the main building.
Museum of Cycladic Art
The Museum of Cycladic Art is located in the same avenue and is housed in a fine corner building. It was established in 1986 and hosts the collections of works from the Cycladic culture by Nikolaos and Dolly Goulandris.
The Museum of Cycladic Art is a testament to what was a flourishing civilization on the islands of the central Aegean during third millennium BC! Step back to the Bronze Age at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, which has the world’s most complete collection of Cycladic antiquities. See how the Cyclades built and fought by examing bronze tools and weapons.
Tip: If you wish to visit any of those museums you can hop off and take the next red Hop on Hop off bus passing by the stop.
Book here you ticket for Museum of cycladic Art and have access to the permanent collection and to the temporary exhibitions. Scan your smartphone ticket at the box office of the main building.
Our next stop is the area around the well-known Hilton hotel, with its singular semicircular architecture. My eye went directly at a unique work of modern art. It’s the Runner!!! The work represents a man running and showing his speed through the position of the glass, also symbolising the speed of peoples’ daily life, giving us the illusion that he will lead us with his speed not only on our foot movements, but also on our visions.
National Art Gallery
Passing by Michalakopoulou Street the bus stops at the National Art Gallery of Athens. We definitely hop off in order to make a visit and admire the wonderful exhibits. The collection of works is big and significant, including modern Greek art sculpts, paintings from Greek and foreign artists, with highlight the paintings from Domenikos Theotokopoulos. All the exhibits of the National Art Gallery are from the 19th and 20th century. The National Art Gallery is also known as Alexandros Soutsos Museum, because he donated to the state his moveable and real estate property, as well as all his collections, so that the Museum would be created.
Read also on Greek Travel Family:
- Athens: the Parthenon!!
- A walk at the picturesque district of Anafiotika below the Acropolis of Athens
- Explore the Acropolis Museum with kids
- Athens: On the Filopappou Hill admiring the Acropolis
If you don’t disembark at the National Art Gallery I recommend you to visit the Archaeological Museum of Athens. It is an opportunity to admire the exhibits of the museum that is housed in a fabulous neoclassical building and match harmoniously with its exhibits. Its collections come from all the cultures of the Greek area from the Prehistoric till the Roman era, including a collection of Egyptian and eastern antiquities as well.
The vehicle continues its route and is heading to Panepistimiou Street. A street that has to show the most beautiful possessions of Athens, because it is lighted up by three buildings – jewels. The Academia of Athens, the University of Athens and the Library of Athens. It is the so-called neoclassical Athenian trilogy, the three temples of learning, seeing them in this row when entering Panepistimiou Street with direction to Omonoia Square.
Academia of Athens
The Academia of Athens is a diamond of Greek classicism, one of a kind in this world. Its external painting has so much gold, as any other building in Athens. The statues of Greek goddess Athene and god Apollo surround the wonderful building and the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates stand of its façade and looks like they are waiting to spread their wisdom to all the young people passing by its door.
University and Library of Athens
The University of Athens, also known as Kapodistrian University, in honor of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first governor of Greece, stands out between the two buildings because of its colour combinations and its architecture. Next to it is the Library of Athens, which is housed on a exquisite building decorated by the beautiful semicircular stairs.
The vehicle started moving fast and our cameras is on fire. In a bit we arrived at Omonoia Square. The bus is moving round the square and is entering Athinas Street, so that we disembark and take pictures of Kotzia Square with the Town Hall, the pigeons and the lots of people.
It would be nice to go down to the square and be mixed with the people in order to get to now in person the daily life of Athenians. Athinas Street, the biggest shopping street, the street of the market, is all the goods of Athens, the soul of the city, the vibe of its life and the best place to buy cheap, thanks to its big market. In this street there is Varvakios market, a building where many merchants of, mostly, meat, fish and fruit are co-located. The area is an ideal place for spices, cheese and cured meat products. Here you can find everything you want and even in low prices.
Walk between the people and get lost in the smells, scents and colours A pandemonium of people, cars, voices and sounds of the pitchmen touting their merchandise, are blended and consist an alternative setting, but also modern and contemporary. All this situation looks like a trade fair and your walk there will definitely be delightful.
Our tour came to its end and it is time to disembark from the Hop on Hop off bus, that guided us in so many places in the city of Athens, without even get tired or stressed out by the traffic jam and the transportation to all those places I saw, photographed and enjoyed. This experience taught me that Hop on Hop off buses are a very good means of touring around a city and, ever since, I have been using this means for my guided tour at every big city I visit.
You can also plan a trip to Athens, the capital of Greece, and be sure that your travelling experiences from that trip will be unforgettable.