The Athens Riviera
Ancient ruins and sleek apartment buildings, traditional tavernas and hip cafés, tourist shops and high-street boutiques, congested boulevards and cobbled streets that seem to jump out of an era long gone: the Greek capital is a city full of contradictions that you can never get tired of exploring. Being one of the world’s oldest cities, Athens is inevitably rich in antiquities. Yet, aside from the abundance of archaeological sites and museums, the city has a burgeoning contemporary art and design scene that is definitely worth discovering. Hit the galleries and cultural centers or book a seat for a performance at one of the ancient theaters to experience Athens like the locals do. The entertainment options are endless, from fashionable boutiques and little designer shops where you can find one-of-a-kind pieces, to open-sky cinemas, cosmopolitan wine bars and pulsing night-clubs that stay open until sunrise. Athens is also an exciting foodie destination, with an inexhaustive list of eateries that range from groovy street-food joints to Michelin starred restaurants. And, if you feel like taking a break from the commotion of the city center, you can do as the Athenians do and head to the coast, where the cityscape gives way to glittering water vistas and palm-tree esplanades.
Stretching along the Athenian coastline and yet only about 15km from the bustling city center, Glyfada is a jewel among the southern suburbs and a favorite among the city’s rich and famous who are attracted by its laid-back lifestyle and cosmopolitan vibe. Although the area is buzzing all year long, it really comes alive in the summertime, when the suntanned locals leave behind their downtown favorites for the charms of the Athenian riviera. The most popular among the seaside suburbs, Glyfada offers a vibrant local life along with some excellent places to eat, drink and shop, as well as easy access to some of Attica’s most stunning beaches. Whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure, this is an ideal alternative if you want to escape the commotion of the city without missing out on any of its perks.
With its clean, sandy beaches, manicured boulevards and yacht-lined marina, Vouliagmeni is the most brilliant star among the constellation of southern suburbs. An all-time favorite among affluent Athenians, the area boasts an array of upscale restaurants, beach clubs with excellent service and cosmopolitan cafés frequented by beach goers and locals. There are many beaches to choose from, as well as a lake with mineral rich waters and a charming 60s ambience. Despite the extravagant houses and glamorous residents, Vouliagmeni has the laid-back vibe of a surf town. Flowery streets, esplanades dotted with palm-trees and the blue splendor of the seascape compose a scenery of pure seaside bliss. Conveniently located just a 30min drive from the center of Athens, Vouliagmeni is a great option for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and the perfect base to explore the Athens’ stunning coastline.
Located about 40min from the center of Athens, Varkiza is the perfect place for visitors who want to combine a city stay with a dose of sand and surf. Leaving behind the dust and traffic of the city, the seaside town of Varkiza with its suburb beach, quaint neighborhoods and verdant esplanade has an inimitable charm that has turned it into a favorite destination for Athenian weekenders. The lively promenade is lined with colorful restaurants, cafes and shops where you can buy groceries and beach trinkets. There is an organized sandy beach with vibrant bars and water-sports, charming coves with crystal-clear waters and an early-morning fish market that will delight seafood aficionados. Varkiza is an ideal home-base from where you can explore the exquisite Athenian riviera, all the way to cape Sounio -perhaps the most awe-inspiring sunset gazing spot Athens has to offer.
Just 45 minutes south of Athens lies the coastal area of Lagonisi, a low-key destination for savvy travelers and once a weekend favorite for Jackie and Aristotelis Onassis. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, Lagonisi boasts a couple of gorgeous sandy beaches where you can mingle with the Athenian weekenders, as well as a fabulous beach resort that offers fine dining, spa facilities and an array of water sports that will keep your little ones joyfully busy. Lagonisi is also just a 20min drive from the coastal area of Varkiza where you can find a well-organized beach and a variety of places where you can eat and drink, and a 30min drive from Glyfada with its high-end market and endless array of restaurants and cafes.