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A Closer Look at Athens

A local guide can make the city come alive

In  the 17th- and 18th-centuries, wealthy young British men (and some women) undertook an educational rite of passage called the Grand Tour. Hiring a local expert- dubbed a ‘bear-leader’-  to unlock the secrets of each destination became standard – and the guided tour was launched. Today following a guide is still the quickest and surest way to get a taste of local culture, to go ‘behind the scenes’ and to experience the city in a meaningful way

While antiquities tours are the most popular excursions in Athens, local walking tours of neighbourhoods, often combined with an introduction to Greek food, are an attractive option. They offer a couple of hours of relaxation along with an introduction to new foods, a look at unfamiliar areas, and perhaps a chance to meet new friends.

Tours by Locals offers  a typical ‘small group’ Athens Food and Wine tour that starts in Monastiraki square, takes in the flea market, stops for locally made pastries and a coffee, continues to the central food market. Food and wine tasting in a renowned delicatessen follows and sets you up for lunch.There’s time for souvenir shopping, of course. This five-hour walking tour runs every day but Sunday (when the market is closed). Details at www.toursbylocals.com. For a one-on-one private food tour,  check out  Athens Walks Tour Company. Their customisable tour is suitable for vegetarians and their website is at www.athens-walks.com

If an evening outing would fit your schedule better, consider the alluringly titled ‘Athens Twilight Small Group Tour with Drinks and Meze Dishes’. This guided walking tour takes a small group to  visit three bars and to hear live guitar folk music at a bouzoukia venue. You’re introduced to local spirits like ouzo and raki paired with meze (Greek finger food). ‘Rooftop views and secret gardens’ are promised on this three and half hour tour. Dress is ‘smart casual’ and you’ll need a  government-issued ID. Visit www.athensurbanadventures.com

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