Exploring Athens Riviera and the City's Southern Suburbs
Sandy beaches that rival those of the Greek islands and luxurious seaside beach bars might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Athens, but the Athens Riviera is a delightful gem in the buzzing metropolis that should not be missed.
The Athens Riviera is the large coastal area in the southern suburbs of Athens from Piraeus to the tip of Sounio where the temple of Poseidon can be found. More and more tourists are discovering these areas along the coast; the opening of the coastal tram and the continuation of the Athens Metro all the way to Elliniko has been seen with an influx of foreign travelers. Take a day apart from Syntagma Square to explore this gorgeous coastline by the Aegean Sea and all that it has to offer. The hardest part now is to figure out which beach to visit first!
The main notable areas/neighborhoods of the Athens Riviera include:
Palaio Faliro (Faliro) is home to Flisvos Marina, one of Athens’ largest harbors and a favorite hangout spot among locals. The area is a hub for luxury yachts and boats seen parked across the seaside bars and cafes on the picturesque Marina. If you’re hungry, VinoBeeroteca is a bar/restaurant with a cool and relaxed atmosphere. They serve great burgers and pizza along with a wide selection of beer and wine for every taste. Faliro is also a spot known for its nightlife and is dotted with outdoor clubs where you can dance under the moonlight till dawn.
There are beaches here but to be honest they aren’t the best that you’ll find along the coastline. I would recommend going to the more southern areas for nicer beaches as there’s plenty of things to do besides the beach here. If you’re into museums, check out the floating Naval Museum Battleship Averof. For something different to do with the whole family and kids, visit one of the largest and best equipped digital planetariums in the world, the Eugenides Planetarium.
Glyfada has some gorgeous seaside beach bars with picturesque views of the Aegean Sea and lots of shops and boutiques to do your shopping. If you are taking the tram, get off at Kolymbiterio stop (Κολυμβητήριο) and check out Balux Seaside on Poseidonos Avenue. It has a super cool vibe with a swimming pool, cafe/restaurant, and bar all in one!
Explore the Athenian Riviera in a Private Tour!
When you get to the suburbs starting with "V", the swimming and beaches get to the next level. Voula is located a few km to the south of Glyfada, and is the last stop if you’re taking the tram. There are areas where you can swim for free but the beaches with paid entry are a bit nicer and worth the money. Cross Poseidonos Avenue and there is a pay-for-use beach with the usual beach amenities such as cabanas, rental sun beds and umbrellas. Voula Beach A is characterized by a Blue Flag, which is only awarded to environmentally friendly beaches that comply with stringent safety and water quality standards. Voula Beach B is noted for being accessible for people with disabilities.
Vouliagmeni is famous for two small peninsulas, Kavouri and Lemos. Spend a lazy evening on Astir Beach, a clean beach along crystal clear waters and heaps of sun beds and places to relax. Get there early or reserve your sunbed in advance to get a spot close to the front of the beach. The only downside to this beach is that there is an entrance fee of €20-€30 depending on if it is a weekday or weekend during high season. If you’re down for some exploring after a dip in the sea, visit the Temple of Apollo Zoster. It dates back to the 6th century BC and graces Astir Beach with its elegant marble altars and thrones.
Alternatively, enjoy a rejuvenating soak in hot springs and head to Lake Vouliagmeni, where the minerals in this natural lake are said to have healing properties. The imposing rock, thermal waters, the labyrinthine underwater tunnels and the lush vegetation of the area create a unique geological phenomenon.
More adventurous souls should check out Seahorse Dive Center in Vari (which is one third of the municipality of Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni). If you’ve never went scuba diving before, the center offers a fun introduction course for the very beginner that last two hours. Vari is also known for its psistaries (or grill houses), where you see restaurant after restaurant with outdoor barbecues cooking whole lamb, pig, and goat.
Vari spreads down to the sea to a town called Varkiza that has one of the most beautiful beaches within striking distance of Athens along with a fishing port and fish market. Varkiza, like the rest of the coast is a town of apartment buildings, mostly modern, and lots of shops, cafes, restaurants and bakeries.
At the very tip of the Riviera, you’ll find the photogenic temple of Poseidon in Sounio where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Aegean Sea. Visit the beach below the temple, a unique pebble beach with beautiful clear waters great for swimming. Driving to Sounio is an amazing scenic drive along the coastline, but if you don't have access to a car, the local bus (KTEL) runs hourly to Sounio from either Vouliagmeni Square stop or Vouliagmeni Lake. It is an affordable trip with a ticket costing €5. All stops are listed here. You can also join our private tour realized by car, where you can explore Sounio, the temple of Poseidon and the whole Athenian Riviera!
According to Greek mythology, it was in Cape Sounio that Athenian King Aegeus killed himself, giving his name to the Aegean Sea. The myth states that before Aegeus’ son, Theseus, left for Crete on a mission to kill the Minotaur. Aegeus asked him to change the black sails of his ship if he was successful on his quest or for his crew to leave them black in case he was killed. Theseus did indeed successfully kill the Minotaur but forgot to change the sails upon his return. Aegeus, who was waiting for him in Cape Sounio after seeing the black sails believed that his son died and decided to jump off the cliff.
After a long day in Sounio splashing around in the sea, watch the famous Sounio sunset while enjoying some delicious seafood at a local fish taverna.
Bonus: Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
You cannot leave the Athens Riviera without visiting the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, the new architectural gem of Athens, which has been designed in accordance with the principles of sustainability, ecosystems and the alternations of a place that is in constant evolution. It hosts the new building of the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera, a park with tall pine and olive trees and an esplanade right next to an artificial canal. Visit the Center on your own pace or on one of its free guided tours.
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Have you visited the Athenian Riviera before? What were your thoughts? Let us know by commenting below!
Words: Prachi Oza