Please sign in to post.

EDITED FOR MAJOR CHANGE Time is running out for RS tour !?!

edit: After the May 1 realization came the revelation that I would be arriving in Athens on Easter Sunday, with nearly everyone out in the country or the islands for the day and the city a ghost town. In desperation, I phoned the RS office and they found one place for me on the April 24 tour. What wonderful people. I am truly elated. And it even saves me about $50 on airfare. New flight plan - arrive on the morning the tour begins and explore, then stay ??? nights in Athens. I'm thinking 3 days/nights pre-tour, and would welcome budget hotel recommendations. and any other suggestions

Original post:
I had pretty much decided to take the RS tour April 24-May 7, based on your recommendations . . . avoiding hot weather and end-of-season October. Now that tour is waitlisted! I can just manage the one before it - April 17-30. My only option is to fly into Athens on Sunday morning, April 16. That gives about half of Sunday and most of Monday to see Athens before the tour begins on Monday evening, but I can stay on after the tour for as long as I want. . . . but I need to book flights soon, this is a very popular time for flights so the cheap seats are selling out.

How much time should I allot after the tour to see Athens? I love ruins, museums, I'm not interested in shopping or beaches.

Posted by
975 posts

You'll have about 1-1/2 days to see Athens before your tour. Not quite enough to see what most people go there for and even less time for those who really want to experience Athens without rushing around and not letting what you experience sink in.

If you have extra time after the tour then I would recommend a couple more days at least for Athens. Most of what people go to Athens for is in a relatively small area, still there's plenty to see and experience.

Athens has World-Class Archeological sites and museums, there's the Plaka, Monistiraki & Syntagma Squares, the Central Markets, the Psiri District, Anafiotika on the north side of the Acropolis, lots of side streets filled with local shops, even if you don't buy much it's wonderful to check out local products & goods.

Athens is often times not ranked like Paris, London, Rome or other major European cities, but for me and many others . . . it's great!

Posted by
2930 posts

Hi Chani,

I haven't been there yet, but I my feeling is a lot of people don't really explore Athens so it was hard for me to decide on the number of days to take in Athens (and reasons at home I didn't want to take too many this trip). However, because some people don't like to explore Athens, I suggest you look at Matt Barrett's Athens Survival Guide as he has much to see in it (if you haven't already). http://www.athensguide.com

Posted by
489 posts

You should not miss the National Archaeological Museum. Many items from all over Greece are on display here. Stay extra days and visit the ruins early or late (miss the tour groups). Not sure if you are into this, but I took a food tour of Athens and was given great food and a view of the city I would never have found myself. Also great history info and general info about life in Athens. I did the Culinary Backstreets tour.

Posted by
3656 posts

Since you love ruins, museums, and the historical things, my thoughts are that you need at least two full days if you can arrange it, and two and one half or three would be better.

Posted by
3175 posts

We've been to Athens several times and love it. I could just wander and be surprised by ruins around every corner in the part of the city where we stay, near La Plaka. I hope when I return again to Athens I'll try to stay at least 3-5 days in the city.

Posted by
6513 posts

You'll have some of Sunday (arrival day) and most of Monday on your own and then you'll have dinner and a walking tour with the group Monday evening. You'll have all day Tuesday touring the sights with the group and then the Archaeological Museum with the group on Wednesday. That's a total of 3 days to explore Athens. I'm not sure you'd need more than one add'l day after the tour unless you wanted to get out of the city and see something the tour did not go to. This is just a personal opinion that 3 days was plenty of time there for me. I'm sure others will disagree.

Posted by
2053 posts

Hi Chani. Nancy pretty much covered what I was going to say. We took this tour a couple years ago and found Athens was sufficiently covered by the tour itinerary. We did arrive in the morning one day prior to the beginning of the tour and stayed in Athens two days after. We revisited a couple of sites and just enjoyed relaxing in Athens during that time. Take a look at the sites/activities specifically listed in the "not covered on the tour" section on the RS tour itinerary and see what you might like to do in addition to what is already planned. And btw, this was one of my favorite tours; we loved every minute and I bet you will, too!

Posted by
21314 posts

I'm not a big fan of ancient ruins, so I wouldn't be the one to help you decide how many days you need in Athens. However, I will dare to say that--aside from the sites and historic neighborhoods specifically listed in guidebooks--Athens isn't particularly lovely. As I'm sure you know, it was a small city until late in the 19th century, so it doesn't have the huge number of beautiful buildings you'll find in many other European capitals. The development seems to have been pretty haphazard. I don't think I'd be too thrilled to find myself there for an extra two days after I ran out of sights and picturesque neighborhoods to explore.

One place I liked that no one has mentioned so far is the Cycladic Art Museum.

Posted by
1164 posts

Hi Chani -- if you are really arriving from Tel Aviv you won't be dealing with any jet lag and so can hit the ground running, as it were. So you really will have the full 1 1/2 days before the tour begins.
That said, I have been to Athens twice, once in 2002 for maybe 3 days and again in 2009 as part of the RS tour. For the tour I arrived one day early, as you are planning, but couldn't stay longer.
I really enjoyed Athens on both visits and all the ancient sites. I would have liked more time there as there was more to see and experience than I had time for. So, in your position, I would add on more days. You might even think about adding on one of the islands to your trip.
I loved the Best of Greece tour. It's a winner!

Posted by
15053 posts

I just booked the tour ! And there's another wrinkle. The tour ends on April 30. The next day is . . . .

wait for it . . . .

May 1. As I understand it, just about all the sights are closed. So now the question is whether there's anything worth seeing/doing on May 1, and then staying another 1-2 days for museums and ruins, or maybe just flying home on May 1 in the morning. I'm willing to stay on, but I need to be convinced. I'm definitely not a foodie - eating vegetarian, and from the little I've read so far, the food is very similar to what we have here.

Andi - thanks for pointing out the "not covered" section of the tour page. I had totally neglected to look at it.

Wray - I took a look at some of the website, lots of good information. I looked at his photos of the central market and decided to skip it - lots of raw meat and seafood (ugh) and the rest of it looked pretty much like the markets here at home (not surprisingly).

Sharyn - you're right. It's a 2-hour flight and no time change. Leave the house around 6 am and land in Athens at 10.45.

acraven - I am trying to figure out if my reaction will be similar to yours . . . except that I will probably like the ruins. I usually enjoy museums so if anyone has recommendations, I will make notes.

Posted by
21314 posts

Chani, I hope you'll report back on your experience afterward. I may be traveling to Greece with a friend of mine in 2018 or 2019, and it's useful to have input from others on places you're lukewarm about. I know I'm sort of an atypical traveler, and my friend is probably very different in her travel philosophy. It will be her first trip and my third, so already a bit of a disconnect.

Posted by
2930 posts

Chani, We can compare notes after our trips. I'm usually a vegetarian but am laid back on trips to make it easier, but I will let the guide know that I don't want any fish who might be looking back at me on my plate! On the website of Matt Barrett, I particularly liked the photos of neighborhoods, which means I will be wandering...as well as seeing some of the museums, ruins, etc. I have 2 1/2 days before the tour starts, but have to get right home afterwards...so I'll see if I feel 4 1/2 days was sufficient in Athens. Unlikely to go back though, but if you're flight is just two hours...then it's easier to return if you feel like you just did't finish up with Athens.

Posted by
72 posts

Chani

I wouldn't just end your trip because May 1 some of the museums may be closed. If you love ruins as much as you say and have any interest in staying - you should take advantage of the fact you are in the country and go see some wonderful places that your tour does not cover. For instance does the tour go to Cape Sounion? I don't think so and that is a wonderful and spiritual place. Best seen at sunset.

Another thought is to quiz your RS tour guide about sights in and around Athens that the RS tour doesn't cover. I bet they would love
to advise you. And they can even help with May 1 things to do.

I also second the Matt Barrett website. He has done an amazing job covering all things Greece and Athens. Even though I have been to Greece several times - I often defer to Matt's wisdom.

Have fun!

Posted by
15053 posts

More research . . . googling "May Day", "May 1" and reading various forum posts, it would seem that the only thing to do in the city is walk around (which I will have done quite a bit by the end of the tour), shop for souvenirs or sit at a cafe. From what you've all said, I can see the best of Athens with the time I have pre-tour, and on post-tour Monday. I've booked the tour hotel for the night before and the night after the tour - not cheap but worth it not to change hotels for a night.

Thanks, all.

If anyone can give me an idea of how to organize my time and how long to allow for various museum visits, it will be most appreciated!! On my list - Benaki Museum, Benaki Museum of Islamic Art, Greek Folk Art Museum, Museum of Cycladic Art. Has anyone been to the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum?

Posted by
2898 posts

Chani, I so appreciate your organized approach! I know you truly will get the MOST out of both your tour and your D-I-Y days in Athens. Thanks for sharing exact times you'll have;a final helpful fact would be what hotel -- a previous RS traveler mentioned group booked at "the Parthenon" (I think she meant Airotel Parthenon). That would be great! Just south of the Acropolis & handy to your whole list. Incidentallly this website -- http://www.athensinfoguide.com/open.htm -- while a bit outdated, is Super for quick-ref on museums & other Athens highlights. It confirms that May 1 is a "closed day" for almost all ... when you think about it, its because museum/site staffing is the "labor" that's getting a holiday.

GOOD news -- Cycladic Museum & all Benaki Museums are private Museums thus don't follow the state-owned "closed on Monday" rules. So those can fill your after-trip Monday. Also, the small but worthwhile Jewish Museum (which you Could squeeze in, on Sunday). Ilias Lalounis Museum is Always closed Monday-Tuesday and on its open days is only 11-1600 (4pm). So IL is your challenge for arrival day, Sunday. if u land 10:45, with luck you’re on the curb 11:30 — taxi to hotel near Acropolis by 12: 15. If room not ready for check-in you could drop your bag, wash your face in the lobby powder-room and head right over to --

ILIAS LALOUNI — this is directly on the pedestrianized promenade s. of Acropolis, just a few 100 meters West of Acropolis Museum. It’s a beautiful Mansion, once the home of this world-famed jeweler ( for prestige think Cartier-plus-Louis Tiffany). I went there MY first day in Greece, in 1999, and still remember it.. my Sister-in-law was a jewelry designer & insisted. The permanent collection dates from 1960-80, and was designed to reflect the main ancient civs - the Minoan, Mycenan & Byzantine Greek + Roman + Asian… Mainly gold, some jeweled. At main floor workshop u can see goldsmith at work. You can enjoy in 90 minutes.

JEWISH MUSEUM of GREECE — Nearby, in Plaka Side street (nikis). In a small, stately townhouse. 5 floors, depicting the vibrant Jewish communities prior to WW II, then the Holocaust (how Greeks fled to farthest isles in vain), and the remnant that remains today. I went with a Jewish friend we found it poignant and memorable; you can go thru it in under an hour.Open M-F + Sundays til 14:30 (2:30).

BENAKI — I’ve not done the Islamic Art one, but am BIG fan of Main museum. It’s got All of Greek history Very well curated — i.e., instead of ROOMS full of OK vases, it has two glass cases of GREAT Vases. Also excellent signage for good D-I-Y. A floor for each era, so you go from Ancient Greece thru Byzantine, then the 1820s Revolution for Independence, one of few Museums to depict this thoroughly. Has elevators (yay!) and a beautiful 3rd floor Cafe VERY popular with chic athenians plus a smaller cafe-bar. A great place to rest your feet & have a wine! Also. Gift shop is tasteful, unusual. well-priced. You could well spend 3+ hours here, with the afore-mentioned "wine break" of course.

CYCLADIC - If u are not going to Naxos, this is the BEST representation of fascinating Minoan-era “Idol” statuettes. Also, on top floor, a superb video (acted by today’s Greek youth) making ancient customs meaningful … I’d recommend it to anyone wanting a 20-minute intro to ancient culture & rites. I think you can do the important stuff in 1 hour + the video.

GREEK FOLK ART -- Small, not really worth the time IMHO. The BEST folk Museum is in Nafplio -- but I see from your crowded RS schedule that you only have half a day plus overnight in that enchanting town. BTW, free Nafplio tip: RS itinerary suggests walking UP the 999 steps to Palamidi Fortress. NO NO NO. With 3 other tour-mates. TAXI up the back way, take Fab Photos, then some can get back in taxi, others may want to do steps, but DOWN, not up ... u can await such fools in a nice cafe at foot of steps!

Posted by
3175 posts

Hi Chani. You don't say what your budget hotel price desire is but our favorite hotel in Athens is in the Plaka neighborhood just steps away from historic sites, restaurants, metro, etc. It is the Airotel Parthenon and in April the rates seem to be between 75USD AND 95USD PER night. We love the location, staff and cleanliness of this hotel.

Posted by
15053 posts

Mona, you made me look :-) Hotel rates are significantly lower in April than in May, so now I'm thinking of spending 3 nights pre-tour in Athens and flying home on the morning the tour ends. The Airotel's lowest rate for a single is €278, nonrefundable. The Hera (which the RS tours also use) is nearby and is €80/night for those 3 nights (fully cancellable) , it's also much closer to the hotel the tour is using, the Acropolis Select. That's right about my "affordable" ceiling. (I used the hotels' websites for pricing/booking.)

Janet - what a wealth of good info! I'm going to start digesting it all over the weekend.

Now I'm wondering why I've waited so long to go the Greece!

Posted by
2898 posts

Chani -- for the benefit of those who first read your "EDIT" at the top -- because of your new headline --it would be good to mention your significant Athens-stay CHANGe in the "edit" at the top, not just in a Post at the bottom . At present your edit says you'll be staying several days POST-tour, not PRE-tour. Why not say "3 days/nights PRE-tour (April 21-22-23)" .... that will prevent helpers from jumping right into the search of a good May 8-9-10 budget accommodation for you... After checking with my favorite "filter" on booking.com (hotels ranked by distance to landmark/Acropolis), I'm confirming that HERA is the "best buy" in terms of location ... all the others in that area are either fully booked or more costly. go ahead and BOOK. Most Greek hotel booklngs policies are Free Cancellation without penalty with adequate advance notice -- so it's No-risk.