Coming to the metropolis of Athens, sandy beaches and cerulean waters may not be the image that springs to mind. Yet, like so many things about this contradictory city, it is one of the many delights Athens has to offer. Whether you prefer to spend your days and nights in luxurious marinas, Tahitian-esque beach bars, and decadent spas, or you simply want to seek out a tranquil escape from the trappings of the city, the Athens Riviera awaits you.
The South-East coastline of the Athens peninsula is home to a myriad of beaches, coves, marinas and parks, each with its own quirks and charms. The advent of the tram which goes from Syntagma square to Voula has made much of the Riviera completely accessible on foot. However, the more untouched areas are still best accessed by car or taxi. The number of beaches to choose from is perhaps overwhelmingly extensive but, fortunately, there are apps like Keeano that will help you find the beach that is absolutely right for you. Don’t want to scramble for a sunbed? Apps like Summerize let you pre-book your sunbed, umbrella and even a few drinks ready to sip for when you arrive!
The main areas going from north to south along the Athens Riviera are Faliro, Glyfada, Voula, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza, Lagonissi, Saronida, Anavyssos. Depending on what you’re after, each has its own appeal and, to be perfectly honest, if you have the time, it’s worth visiting them all! This coastline with its eclectic mix of humble fishing harbors, exclusive nightclubs, organized beaches, water sports clubs, secluded coves, and even golf clubs and outdoor cinemas, certainly has something for every mood and every taste.
All along the coastline, Athens has some pretty impressive marinas. One of these is undoubtedly Marina Flisvos, a haunt for the ‘yachties’. This is the place to go if you want to marvel at gin palaces and sip exotic cocktails on the waterfront. Lively during the day and vibrant at night; the collection of modern style bars, boutique shops, and decadent ice cream parlors are consistently popular with locals and visitors alike. Right next door is Flisvos park, a perfect spot for bike rides and leisurely strolls. It’s a great place for families too, with playgrounds and cafes nearby. A little further along the coast are some beach bars that are not to be missed if you love music and you’re after that beach party vibe. Bolivar Beach Bar regularly hosts international DJs and has a very Tahitian style with its straw beach huts and luminously colored cocktails!
Perhaps one of the most elegant districts in Athens, Glyfada hosts many stylish restaurants and hangouts that offer international cuisine as well as Greek and fusion foods. With a sizeable shopping area, an esplanade of palm trees and luxuriously designed beach clubs, this is truly the best place to go if you want to feel pampered! For golf enthusiasts, there is the Glyfada golf club and if you’ve still got work to do while in Athens, Balux Café is a must. Where else would you find a beach club that has a library and computers available to work from? Checking your emails might not be so terrible if you can sip a Freddo Cappuccino while you do so and cool off in the sea afterward!
Bolivar beach - credits: JoyTV.gr
Awarded the European blue flag for coastline cleanliness, Voula has two organized, long sandy beaches with beautiful clear waters. If you’re in the mood for a sporty afternoon there are plenty of activities such as beach volleyball, basketball and water sports. For the young -and the young at heart- there are waterslides and inflatable obstacle courses to have hours of fun on. After all that activity, choose from any number of enticing cafes and restaurants to refuel and unwind in.
Voula beach - credits: Aerial-motion/ Shutterstock.com
This stretch of coastline, only half an hour from Athens' city center deserves a particularly special mention. As well as beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters, only 5 mins walk from the main square in the center of town is Lake Vouliagmeni. Visually striking, it is a deep turquoise aquatic paradise surrounded by sheer rock face; Mother Natures’ very own spa. With a focus on fitness and wellness activities (and with mineral waters that are said to be healing), it is the perfect place to recalibrate and switch off from all of life’s pressures. The lake also has an elegant café and restaurant and is nothing short of magical, come nightfall.
Vouliagmeni lake - credits: Sven Hansche/Shutterstock.com
However, Vouliagmeni’s hidden treasures do not end there. A well-kept secret by local Athenians is Liminakia Beach Bar. Perched on a rock face, this humble bar has simple wooden decks adorned with comfy bean bags to lie on. Take around 5 steps from the bar and you dive into pristine waters and swim to your heart's content. At night, it comes alive with locals visiting for sundowners and moonlit swims.
A little further from Athens, but still easily accessible by bus, lies the area of Varkiza and it is absolutely worth the trip. The beaches are less crowded beaches yet still offer plenty of facilities including volleyball courts, play areas and a plethora of restaurants and cafes. For anyone who’s addicted to windsurfing, this is the place to come to.
Varkiza beach - credits: Nou Pou
The Grand Beach at Lagonissi really does live up to her name. Not only can you relax on the sweeping sands of this organized beach, but there are also sporting facilities, changing rooms, showers, an open-air cinema and a jetty bar with impressive views and a menu of cocktails and fresh juices to match. Greece is famed for her seafood dishes, so experiencing one of Lagonissi’s authentic fish tavernas and restaurants which serve local catches daily is a must. There are also quite a few scuba diving centers here and every water sport that you can imagine so why not try out something new in the idyllic blues of the Aegean!
Lagonisi at Sunset - credits: KOSTAS_TSEK/ Shutterstock.com
For those who like to escape to the wilder parts, Saronida beach may be the choice for you. With its sandy coastline, clean and clear waters and easy access, it is a perfect setting for a Sunday afternoon. However, when you’re ready to return from serenity the beach is conveniently close to Saronida Village with plenty of shops and eateries on offer. There is also a beach playground that will keep your little ones busy for hours!
Sunset at Saronida - credits: Jorgos-Loukianos/ Shutterstock.com
If there was ever such a thing as a sandy Garden of Eden. This might be it. Surrounded by lush green pine trees with golden sands that reach the crystal ever blue waters of the Aegean, Anavyssos is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the beautiful country that is Greece. Flanked by enticing tavernas serving fresh Greek food and also specializing in cuisines from around the world, you will certainly be spoilt for choice.
Islet of Agios Nikolaos, Anavyssos - credits: Aerial-motion/ Shutterstock.com
From Anavyssos the coastal road continues to the southern tip of Cape Sounio. Here, stands the imposing Temple of Poseidon, a humbling site particularly at sunrise and sunset when the rays of sunlight shine through between the towering columns. The very last sight of our ancient Athenians as they sailed into the Aegean in search of adventure. For an evening of history, dining in an unbeatable setting that Lord Bryon famously adored and even a sunset swim, join us on a trip to Cape Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon.
Temple of Poseidon - credits: sborisov/Depositphotos.com