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Some independent travelers eschew organized tours. Nonetheless, such a tour can be an efficient and easy way to get an overview of an unfamiliar city. We're impressed by the number of people we know who confess that they are glad they took a tour, which helped them get oriented and figure out which sights they wanted to see more thoroughly. Most tour guides must pass stiff tests to get their licenses.

The CitySightseeing bus (www.city-sightseeing.com; 18€ adults, 8€ children) is an open-top double-decker bus that begins and ends its journey at Syntagma Square. The ride through central Athens lasts 90 minutes, with stops at the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, Plaka, the university, Omonia Square, Kerameikos, Monastiraki, Psirri, Thission, the Benaki Museum, the National Gallery, the Central Market, and the Panathenaiko Stadium. Prerecorded commentaries are available in English, Greek, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Japanese. Tickets are valid for 24 hours and buses depart every half-hour from 7am to 6pm. Also, Hop in Sightseeing (tel. 210/428-5500; www.hopin.com) allows you to get on and off the bus tour over 2 days and even does hotel pickups.

Fantasy Travel, 19 Filelinon (tel. 210/331-0530; www.fantasytravel.gr), is one of our favorite travel agencies in the city as they have splendid deals and can come up with excellent suggestions and ideas on the spot. They offer half-day and full-day tours of the city, an Athens Segway tour (which is a great way to get around the city), an "Athens by Night" tour for 62€ including dinner at the Mikrolimano harbor and great packages for the islands. Our other favorites are CHAT Tours, 4 Stadiou (tel. 210/323-0827; www.chatours.gr), and Key Tours, 4 Kalliroïs (tel. 210/923-3166; www.keytours.gr). To take any of these tours, you must book and pay in advance. At that time, you will be told when you will be picked up, or where you should meet the tour. Athens Walking Tours (tel. 210/884-7269; www.athenswalkingtours.gr) also has some nice packages, including a "shopping tour" and a very popular "food tour."

Each company also offers excursions from Athens. A visit to the popular Temple of Poseidon at Sounion costs about 60€ for a half-day trip, including swimming and a meal. A trip to Delphi usually costs about 110€ for a full day, and often includes stops at the Monastery of Osios Loukas and Arachova village. If you want to spend the night in Delphi (included are hotel, site, and museum admissions, as well as dinner, breakfast, and sometimes lunch), the price ranges from 50€ to 160€. Rates for excursions to the Peloponnese, taking in Corinth, Mycenae, and Epidaurus, are similar to those for Delphi. If your time in Greece is limited, you may find one of these day trips considerably less stressful than renting a car for the day and driving yourself.

If you want to hire a private guide, speak to the concierge at your hotel or contact the Panhellenic Guides Federation, 9a Apollonas (tel. 210/322-9705). Expect to pay 90€for a 4-hour tour. Through Athenian Days (tel. 210/864-0415; www.atheniandays.co.uk) you will have classicist Andrew Farrington lead you through tailor-made cultural and historical tours of the city for up to six people. Rania Vassiliadou (tel. 210/940-3932; www.raniavassiliadou.virtualave.net) offers tours of Athens's archaeological sites and day trips for up to six people.

For the more adventurous, there are two ways of sightseeing that will offer you a unique perspective on the city -- the first one is on the ground and the second above.

Pame Volta (Let's Go for a Ride), 20 Hadjichristou, Acropolis (tel. 210/922-1578; www.pamevolta.gr; Wed-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-7pm), offers bicycles for rent and bicycle tours around the city. It's a unique and fun way to explore the city.

Much more expensive (with prices ranging from 1,800€-3,380€ for groups of up to five), but also much more spectacular is the Helicopter Sightseeing Tour of Athens by Hop In Zinon Tours, 29 Zanni St., Piraeus (tel. 210/428-5500; www.hopin.com). Seeing Athens from above, especially at night when all the monuments are lit, is an unforgettable (if pricey) experience.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.