My Tour of Athens with Walks
The Best Way to See a New City is to Walk it with Walks
Let me start off by saying this: I don't do tours. The word “tour” in the context of travel makes my skin crawl. I immediately think of those awful red double decker buses that zip around major cities, dumping people off here and there, and promoting a fast-paced, “see all the sights or nothing mentality”, while sacrificing the ability to stop, go slow, enjoy, and take it all in. Or worse, I think of those giant coach buses, full of fanny pack (not the trendy kind), tube socks and shorts (in all seasons) wearing mid-westerners that have never been out of the country in their life. Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not turning my nose up at these people (well, maybe I am a little), but that is just not my jam. That’s not how I travel and not something I believe in. I do understand there is a place in the travel industry for those out there who might not be comfortable enough in a foreign country to go out and do it on their own. I’m just saying it’s not for me.
Walks is not that type of tour company. Walks offers small group walking tours in thirteen major cities around the world. They guarantee a local, knowledgeable guide to not only show you all the places outlined on your tour, but to give you the backstory of a particular building, the history of a monument, or the reason a traditional dish got its name. And they only offer walking tours.
I’ve always said the best way to see a city is to walk it. Chances are, if you pick one of my blog posts about a metropolitan city at random, you’ll find a comment about how you should walk everywhere. And it’s so true! Why would you want to be stuck on a bus or underground on the metro, zooming from destination to destination? You see so much more when you walk, and you’d be surprised how much more enjoyable it is. I think you’d also be surprised to find that most cities aren’t as big as you think they are.
Generally, I don’t do large tours and I often like to explore cities on my own, mostly because I enjoy walking and I like to go at my own pace. But while I can’t stand large group tours, there is something that I am always missing when I go off and travel on my own without a guide: knowledge. No matter how much researching I can do ahead of time, no amount of Googling can replace the wealth of knowledge of a tour guide. So how do you see a new city and get all that history and information about a new place without joining one of those horrible tours? Walks is the answer.
My first Walks tour was in the ancient city of Athens. Athens is a new addition to their repertoire, and currently their only city tour in Greece, though I’m sure the plan is to add more locations as they grow, which seems to be at a pretty rapid pace.
We were set to meet at 7:45 am for our tour that began at 8:00 am. After booking my tour, I got a confirmation email with all the instructions I would need for the day. It said when to meet, what time the tour started, it gave directions to get to the meeting place from the nearest metro station, and had multiple phone numbers in case you needed to contact them.
Naturally, I chose to walk to the meeting point from my hotel, so I didn’t follow the directions from the email and just used the GPS in my phone. Unfortunately, Apple Maps dropped me off in the wrong place, and I actually ended up having to pull up that confirmation email and call the emergency number. It was early in the morning, so I had to leave a message.
Thankfully, I put the address into Google Maps instead and it told me I was about 50 yards away from the real Acron Cafe, so I headed that way and thankfully found the meeting point.
About five minutes after 8, I received maybe 4 or 5 calls from an 888 phone number, which I ignored thinking they were telemarketing calls. I quickly realized after about the fifth ring that maybe I should answer it, and it was someone from Walks frantically calling me back because I had called and said I needed help. What I appreciated most is that the gentleman who got my message didn’t just call me back, leave a message, and then wash his hands of the issue; he called me until he got ahold of me and knew I didn’t need help anymore.
Our guide’s name was “Mel”, short for Melina. She was incredibly knowledgeable, and definitely knew her history. I won't spoil the stories though--you'll have to take the tour yourself.
We got to experience the Acropolis before the crowds, explored the Greek Agora, walked on one of the oldest streets in the world, gazed at the relics housed inside the New Acropolis Museum, and walked on the track of the Olympic Panathenaic Stadium--all in a day. With our skip-the-line tickets, we were able to see a lot of the highlights of the city in a short period of time.
And by the way, my tour only cost $113, which included the entrance to each of these places. After Mel brought us our tickets at each location, I noticed that nearly half of the cost of the tour were the actual entrance fees for the museums and historical sites we were visiting, so the tour is quite a steal considering you are paying less than $15 per hour for a guide.
Not quite sold on Walks yet? Well if that didn't do it for you, how about this: Walks offers over a hundred tours in 13 major cities, you get an expert travel guide (Walks only works with people who are experts in the local culture, food, art and history that are passionate about what they do, walks only offers small group tours (that's a big one for me) and can grant you access to places that other tours can't. Whether it’s to see off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods or an exclusive area in a famous attraction, Walks wants each individual’s experience to be unique, so they scour the city for fun and exciting opportunities that aren't offered to most tour groups..
To book tours, CLICK HERE to view all the tours that Walks has to offer.
Happy travels friends!
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