One of the glories of Athens is that within less than an hour you can reach a port from where you can sail off to any of thousands of beautiful islands. However, even without going anywhere near a boat you can luxuriously bake in the sun on a pretty beach, sip the golden sunset at a glamorous seaside bar, fine dine over the twinkling velvet blue sea and dance with as much abandon as at a favourite island club.
Heading south from the city is a seemingly endless, varied and meandering coastline known as the Athenian Riviera. This is where the refreshing ozone-rich air and dazzling array of shopping, swimming, dining, drinking and dancing spots in neighbourhoods like Faliro, Alimos, Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Kavouri, Varkiza, and Lagonissi keeps Athenians swarming there throughout the summer months. Here we offer you some top tips on how to make the most of this part of Attica.
Swim & Play
Let’s start with the simplicity of jumping off rocks at Limanakia, located at the base of the coastal road of Vouliagmeni in the direction of Varkiza!
If you like to make the beach an all-day experience, head to Balux Seaside Cafe in Glyfada, where you’ll find a whole host of activities and restaurants that suit the entire parea or family from morning to late at night, with a pool as well as sea games for kids and delicious cocktails for adults; similarly, Yabanaki in Varkiza is great for water-sports (from SUP and windsurfing to wake-boarding and banana boat rides for kids) as well as having a good choice of places to eat anything from a burger and fries to seafood meze with ouzo. Windsurfers head to Anavyssos beach where there is also a playground, beach volleyball court and a stretch of sun loungers and umbrellas.
For the most upmarket experience, lounge at the newly renovated and reopened Astir Beach Club in Vouliagmeni, where the pampering (and accordingly pricey) services and luxurious swimwear fashion around you will make you feel… expensive.
For seaside family fun head to Flisvos Park where you’ll find Athens’ largest and most entertaining play area – bring along a bicycle or scooter and change all your notes into one euro coins as your kids will keep asking to go on all the rides! The parkland-covered area is especially pleasant on a summer evening when you can also relax (read: recover) at one of the cafes for snacks and refreshments.
The verdant, sea-facing Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC) where the National Opera and National Library are now located also offers a colourful and exciting variety of activities to enjoy with family and friends. Apart free-to-rent pedalos (between 16:00-20:00) in the lake to a huge playpark filled with creative games for kids and several food stands the SNFCC has a daily schedule of free activities for people of all ages to enjoy – just check out their website to see the day’s plans. With a wonderful, large and quiet library space, this is also a great place to take your laptop and work.
Eat & Party
From casual seafood tavernas to high-end gastronomy, the Athens Riviera caters to all tastes and budgets. One of the area’s classic gems, which has served some of the world’s jet-set on their visits to Athens for 20 years, Ithaki in Vouliagmeni’s Laimos remains at the top of the fine dining list, while Moorings, in the same region, is also top notch. Kastelorizo in Varkiza is another favourite amongst those in the know, while Ark, Sardelaki and Mezze in Glyfada are also popular for their great views and quality dishes.
For something different, head to Yi in Glyfada, Athens’ only raw food restaurant with highly sophisticated and flavoursome dishes, or the Hellenic Nautical Club of Egyptians in Aghios Cosmas serves delicious Middle Eastern cuisine. Island Club & Restaurant in Varkiza serves Mediterranean cuisine as well as Asian fusion and fancy cocktails.
In Kavouri you can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the coastal promenade and then eat at the little tavernas looking out to the pine-clad park and Kavouronissi islet right across.
In the late hours (or if you’re doing the Greek thing, the late, late hours, well past midnight), there are clubs lining all of the paraliaki (seaside road) to choose from, where you can dance til dawn and sometimes even get down on the sand and splash around in the surf to cool off. The most popular include Akanthus Summer Club (Alimos), Disco Vinilio (Glyfada), Holy Spirit Beach Bar (Varkiza), Bikini Beach Bar (Poseidonis Ave) and Bolivar Beach Bar (Poseidonos Ave).
The southern district most famed for its singular shopping scene is Glyfada, where you’ll find stores that are unique to the area. Along with local designers, you will also find Zara, H&M, Pull&Bear, while rubbing shoulders with serious shoppers with a distinct sense of designer know-how.