Jews have been present in Greece for a little more than two thousand years. The oldest and the most characteristic Jewish group that has inhabited Greece are the Romaniotes, also known as “Greek Jews”. However, the term “Greek Jew” is predominantly used for any person of Jewish descent or faith that lives in or originates from the modern region of Greece. The Jewish community in Greece currently amounts to roughly 8,000 people, concentrated mainly in Athens, Thessaloniki, Larissa, Volos, Chalkis, Ioannina, Trikala and Corfu, while very few remain in Kavala and Rhodes. Greek Jews today largely “live side by side in harmony” with Christian Greeks, according to Giorgo Romaio, president of the Greek Committee for the Jewish Museum of Greece.
Your day starts with a visit the Old Synagogue, Etz Hayyim, built in 1904. This is the smaller of the two synagogues and is no longer open for use. Your driver can have it unlocked especially for you, though. Right across the street you will find the larger New Synagogue, Beth Shalom, a Sephardic synagogue built in 1935 and renovated in the 70s. This is the one that is used today. Admire the exterior of white marble with neoclassical elements, as well as the spacious interior.
Now your driver will take you to Plaka, the old historical neighbourhood of Athens, just under the Acropolis. Adrianou is the oldest street in Athens still in use, and is now home to many tourist shops. Right on the edge of the Plaka you will find new Jewish Museum, one of the finest Jewish museums in Europe. Enjoy a one-hour tour by a museum representative, viewing items that had been confiscated from Greek Jews during the war, Ancient Hebrew books, and other items commemorating the Holocaust. At some point during your tour, you will also visit the Jewish cemetery.
In addition to the fascinating Jewish sites, you will also see the must-see sites of Athens. See Syntagma Square, the tourist core of the city that is dominated by the old Royal Palace, now the Greek Parliament (where you can see the changing of the guards in front every hour on the hour!). You will see Old Olympic Stadium, Temple of Zeus, Lycabettus hill.
And of course, you won’t miss the Acropolis, the trademark of Athens. The ancient “high city” is topped with marble temples dedicated to the city’s goddess Athena, and dates back to the Late Bronze Age. Following your climb to the top, you will be rewarded with a visit to the architectural masterpieces of the Golden Age of Athens: the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion, and finally, the Parthenon.
Alternative Tour Options:
There are so many other things to see in this area. Keep in mind that your driver is at your disposal, so if you would like to adjust the proposed itinerary at all, just let him know!
What Makes this Τour Unique?
This is a great introductory tour of Athens, to help you get oriented and better organize the remainder of your stay.
- Comfortable clothing and sensible, flat-soled walking shoes are recommended. Sun glasses and sun screen are suggested.
- Walking: Difficult.To climb up to the Acropolis, guests must be able to walk over paved, inclined paths, some with steps, then climb a series of steps to reach the propylea. The walking surfaces on top of the Acropolis are uneven.
- Disabled access at the Acropolis is provided by a wheelchair stair climber lift elevator.Please do keep in mind that this is an elevator strictly available to disabled visitors only.
- visitors using a wheelchair or some other kinetic equipment,
- visitors with some kind of physiopathological situation that affects their kinetic ability either permanently or temporarily and
- visitors that have a certified rate of disability whether this is affecting their kinetic ability or not.
- This tour can run on Saturdays and Sundays, but please be aware of the following: The Jewish Museum is closed on Saturdays, but the New Synagogue holds services for Sabbath. Your guide or driver will try to get you inside during the services. On Sundays, the Jewish Museum of Greece is open, but the New Synagogue is closed. The Old Synagogue is closed on both Saturdays and Sundays, but can still be viewed from the outside.
- The order of the sites may change due to crowds, traffic and demonstrations.
- We do our best to ensure that every stop described is available for your visit. There are some times when a site or building is closed at the last moment with little to no warning. We assume that those in charge make those decisions based on external information and for the visitors’ safety and we apologize when this causes inconvenience and disappointment.
- It’s always a great idea to bring a bottle of water and sunscreen with you because in the warmer months it becomes quite hot and sunny.
- A hat to protect your head and shade your face is also recommended when spending a significant amount of time in the sun.
- The area around the Acropolis Hill and Syntagma Square (changing of the guards) can become quite crowded, especially during the peak travel months, so be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close to you.
- Do not accept ‘gifts’ from street vendors approaching tourists. They may offer you roses, but if choose you accept, you will be expected to pay or give a tip for them.
Did you Know?
The Jews of Greece sustained a cooking tradition that reflects their unique historical experience. The Romaniot Jews, who lived in Greece as early as the second Roman Empire, and the Sephardic Jews, who came later at the invitation of the Ottoman Empire after the expulsion, brought their love of yogurt, honey, eggplant, garlic, and onions. Using the basic laws of kashrut as a foundation, they adapted these food preferences to Greek food customs. In their honor, here are some wonderful recipes perfect for a hot summer’s evening.