From touring the Parthenon and the Acropolis to taste testing all the ancient delicacies of Greece, Athens is a hotspot for any cruiser looking to get an authentic look into ancient Greece. Whether it’s the majestic Acropolis, the bustling Plaka district, or the serene Temple of Poseidon, Athens offers an authentic and enriching experience for cruisers looking to connect with the roots of Western civilization.
Situated in the southern part of Greece, Athens holds a pivotal place in the annals of history and culture. A thriving capital city in its own right today, Athens’ strategic location over the centuries made it a major center for trade, politics, and philosophy in antiquity.
Athens is not only geographically significant but is also considered a cradle of Western civilization. Known for its ancient landmarks such as the Acropolis, Parthenon, and Agora, the city attracts visitors from around the world. Its rich history and cultural significance as the birthplace of democracy and a hub of intellectual enlightenment make Athens an enduring symbol of human achievement and ingenuity.
As cruise ships dock in the bustling port of Piraeus, passengers are welcomed with open arms to explore the vibrant markets, savor delicious Mediterranean cuisine, and immerse themselves in the enduring legacy of Greek mythology. Athens, a city where antiquity meets modernity, promises an unforgettable adventure for cruise enthusiasts seeking a perfect blend of history, culture, and maritime splendor.
Things to Do in Athens
Walking Tour of Historic Landmarks
This guided walking tour of Athens‘ historic landmarks is a great way for first-time visitors to get their bearings, and perfect for those who want a little of everything — some history, some shopping, and some time for personal exploration.
Upon arrival to Athens, your guide will take you on a narrated city orientation of the major landmarks including the Temple of Zeus and the former Royal Palace before taking you to the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium for a photo at the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games. From there you will have two choices: three hours exploring the Plaka area (on your own), or climbing the Acropolis (entrance fee additional).
The Plaka area is the historic heart of Athens, with a little bit of everything — ancient ruins, beautiful Byzantine-style churches, several museums, and endless boutiques, shops, and cafes. Check out the famous (and reasonably priced) Greek gold jewelry, then get a bite to eat as you soak in the lively atmosphere.
For those choosing the Acropolis option, you will ascend with your guide to the top of the hill to come face-to-face with the Acropolis, long considered the culmination of Greek architecture, art, and sculpture. While up here you will see the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Propylaea, and the Temple of Athena Nike. You will also enjoy a birds-eye view of Ancient Agora, Tower of the Winds, Herodes Atticus Theater, and the Theater of Dionysus down below. Enjoy some free time to explore the site on your own, then you’ll have one hour to check out the Plaka once you descend.
Guided Tour of the Acropolis
The Acropolis is at the top of many Athens sightseeing lists, and when you visit it you will understand why! Journey to this famed site with your knowledgeable guide who will help you navigate any crowds, and walk you through the hallowed grounds while revealing the stories behind these iconic monuments.
Gaze in wonder at the Parthenon, an enduring symbol of intellectual achievement, as well as the six graceful Caryatids (maiden statues) that adorn and support the Erechtheion, a temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. Moving on, you’ll cross the imposing Propylaea, a monumental gateway that once marked the entrance to this sacred precinct. And don’t forget to pay homage to the Temple of Athena Nike, a testament to the city’s reverence for its namesake goddess.
Add onto your Acropolis experience with this alternate tour that covers the landmarks mentioned above, plus Mars Hill where St. Paul preached; the Herodes Atticus Theatre; the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium; the New Acropolis Museum with more than 4,000 artifacts; and some free time in the Plaka with its Byzantine and Neoclassical architecture, museums, shops, and sidewalk cafes.
Whichever tour you choose, we advise you to wear comfortable shoes for exploring the uneven terrain, stay hydrated under the Athenian sun, and to not be shy about asking your guide questions; their passion for history can unlock hidden gems in this remarkable archaeological site.
Biking Tour of the Old Town
Hop on your e-bike for this novel introduction to Athens’ Old Town. These electric bikes are easy to ride and help you cover more ground than you would in a typical walking tour. Your guide will help familiarize you with your bike and you will be outfitted with a bike helmet.
Your expedition will take you past many of the city’s major attractions including the Parthenon, Hadrian’s Gate, The Temple of Zeus, Syntagma Square, the Central Market, and much more. Pedaling through the enchanting districts of Plaka and Anafiotika, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Greek postcard. These picturesque neighborhoods, with their cobblestone alleys and whitewashed houses, are the epitome of charm.
As you bike through Athens’ Old Town, you’ll uncover hidden gems and local attractions, like the Ancient Cemetery of Kerameikos. Take time to pause at scenic viewpoints for remarkable photo opportunities, and at traditional cafes to savor some local flavor and soak up the city vibes. Along the way your guide will share fun stories and fascinating facts about the city — as well as the inside scoop on the best places to go to in your free time.
Safety first! When exploring Athens Old Town on a bike, it’s crucial to prioritize safety for an enjoyable and worry-free time. Stay with your guide and group and stick to designated bike lanes when available as Athenian streets can be bustling. Wear weather-appropriate clothing and closed toe shoes, use hand signals to communicate your intentions to other road users, and maintain a safe distance from vehicles.
Half-Day Excursion to Ancient Corinth
The ancient city of Corinth once served as a major trade center, and is a must-do for history buffs!
As you stroll through the time-worn pathways of this historic city you’ll see the Temple of Apollo, a majestic structure that offers a glimpse into the grandeur of ancient Greek architecture. Nearby, the tranquil Fountain of Peirene invites contemplation.
Exploring further, you’ll stand at the awe-inspiring Bema of Saint Paul, where the apostle is said to have preached his message, connecting the ancient world with early Christianity. Then stand in wonder at the Agora Marketplace, where ancient merchants once traded stories and goods such as food, gems, silk, livestock, and even slaves.
After enriching your mind, enrich your belly by exploring the local culinary scene. Corinth offers multiple dining options that cater to diverse tastes. For a taste of authentic Greek cuisine, head to a traditional taverna and savor dishes like moussaka, souvlaki, and fresh seafood. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in locally produced wines, as Corinth is renowned for its vineyards. For a quick and refreshing snack, try some loukoumades, delicious Greek doughnuts drizzled with honey. Exploring the local eats and refreshments adds another layer to your Corinthian adventure, making it a well-rounded and memorable experience.
Full-Day Excursion to Delphi
As the sun casts its warmth upon the rugged slopes of Mount Parnassus, you’ll begin your tour with a visit to the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi. Delphi was considered to be the center, or “navel,” of the earth by the ancient Greeks, and hosts many terraces, treasuries, and temples. This city was once a rising influential center and home of the Pythian Games.
Explore the grounds and stand at the majestic Temple of Apollo, where pilgrims sought guidance from the god of light. Here, the ethereal whispers of ancient prophecies once echoed from the priestess Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi, who communed with the gods over a chasm at the temple’s base.
Your expedition continues at the Delphi Archaeological Museum, housing an extraordinary collection of artifacts including the exquisite Charioteer of Delphi and the Sphinx of Naxos. As you wander through the ruins, you’ll encounter the imposing Athenian Treasury, a testament to Athens’ gratitude for their victories, and the awe-inspiring Theatre of Delphi, where ancient drama and music once enraptured audiences.
To make the most of your day trip to Delphi, wear comfortable walking shoes, bring sunscreen and water, and be prepared for the moderate inclines and uneven terrain. Don’t rush through the site; instead, take your time to absorb the historical significance and stunning views. With your expert guide and these tips, your day in Delphi will be both comfortable and unforgettable.
Food Tour of Athens
Foodies rejoice! There are many great places to eat in Athens, Greece. Partake in a food tour that will tantalize your taste buds with the rich flavors of traditional Greek cuisine. You’ll visit produce stalls, bakery shops, and the buzzy Athens Central Market that will welcome you with a sensory overload of colorful produce, aromatic spices, and fresh seafood, providing an authentic glimpse into daily life.
As you traverse the charming streets of this ancient city via a walking tour or electric trike, prepare to indulge in a symphony of tastes, from the savory delights of souvlaki and moussaka to the flaky goodness of spanakopita. But that’s not all—save room for the sweet finale, as you savor the heavenly loukoumades or baklava while sipping a cup of strong Greek coffee.
These culinary adventures not only satisfy the palate but also reveal the deep-rooted traditions and hospitality of the Greek people. However, for those with allergies, it’s crucial to remember that many dishes contain nuts, dairy, or gluten — so don’t hesitate to ask the waiter or food staff any questions.
Hiking Tour of Mt. Parnitha National Park
This moderate hiking tour is a must-do for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts! Get a great workout as you follow a challenging yet manageable trail for all hiking levels that ascends up to 328 feet in the air, rewarding you with amazing wildlife and miles upon miles of spectacular views.
As you set foot on the rocky terrain, you’ll be amazed by the park’s stunning natural beauty and rich biodiversity. Towering trees, lush meadows, and pristine streams beckon you deeper into the wilderness, where every step reveals a new wonder. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for elusive wildlife, from red deer to vibrant birdlife, with opportunities for phenomenal nature photography. Mt. Parnitha National Park is home to more than 40 species of mammals and over 120 species of fauna, promising you an unforgettable journey through Greece’s untamed wilderness. While on the mountain you will stop to enjoy a traditional homemade lunch by the fireside.
Some tips to stay safe while in the wilderness:
- Dress in layers and wear sturdy, comfortable hiking boots
- Bring a fully charged phone with you
- Stay with your guide and group, and on designated trails to preserve the natural beauty of the area
- Carry enough water some high-energy snacks to stay hydrated and fueled
- Keep a safe distance from wildlife, and never approach or feed them
Day Tour to Mycenae, Nauplia, and Epidaurus
Head to the ancient ruins of Mycenae, where the imposing Lion’s Gate guards the entrance to this once-mighty citadel. As you explore the remnants of this Mycenaean civilization, dating back to the 2nd millennium BC, you’ll gain profound insights into the architectural and engineering prowess of its time.
You will also visit the charming town of Nauplia with its cobblestone streets and Venetian architecture inviting you to wander through time, from Byzantine churches to Ottoman fortresses. And at Epidaurus, you’ll discover the ancient theater that stands as proof of Greece’s cultural excellence. Built in the 4th century BC, this theater’s impeccable acoustics continue to mesmerize visitors, offering an unparalleled glimpse into the theatrical arts of antiquity.