In Athens you’ll want to visit everything: its ancient history carries you away but its beaches will not disappoint either. After an archaeological tour and making your way through the city maze, it will be time for a regenerating seaside break in the shadow of the Parthenon. Who said that there’s nowhere for a swim in Athens? The Athens Riviera combines stylish beach clubs and wild views, night life temples with loud music at all times and sheltered beaches to take a breather on. You might not be aware of the fact that the coast boasts some of Greece’s most beautiful beaches, in the midst of craggy cliffs, verdant peninsulas and bays mirrored in crystal clear waters. Without forgetting resorts just a stone’s throw from the centre with record breaking tourism levels in summer. The holiday making density should not be a surprise - it’s just a short car - or tram - journey to all the fun.
From Piraeus port to Cape Sounion - one of the most beautiful places in Athens – the Gulf of Aegina offers thousands of opportunities for seaview relaxation and sunsets to the tune of music. Even without moving too far away from the city you can swim in clean waters and stretch out on golden sands, observing the sea from your sunbed, at a safe distance from your favourite beach bar. It is wilder further south where there are great places for diving: the Athens coast boasts clear waters and a fascinating underwater world. The closer you get to Cape Sounion the purer the landscape with mini islands and hidden bays with enchanting seabeds: all you need is a snorkelling mask and the magic is yours. From nights clubbing to moonlit walks, from high adrenalin sports to sunbathing, the Athens coast has something for everyone.
You can also have fun with a sea kayak or a relaxing sea view yoga class. Or perhaps a massage comfortably stretched out on your sunbed. Without missing out, obviously, on the joys of Greek cuisine: fish restaurants and characteristic taverns welcome you in, seduce you with Mediterranean delights and a happy Greek atmosphere. As you’ll soon find out, those historic legends will follow you everywhere: even while stretched out on your towel you’ll hear it calling and perhaps explore one of the area’s most interesting archaeological sites. So there are plenty of reasons to explore Athens and its seaside soul. Here are Athens’s 9 most beautiful beaches, at arm’s reach for those choosing a Costa Cruises holiday in Greece:
The Attica coast is a sequence of bays, mini islands, cliffs and beaches with something for everyone: those looking for sea without tearing themselves away from Athens and those preferring to relax at a distance from its busiest quarters.
The beaches closest to the centre share an electrifying atmosphere and unbridled fun at all times of day: if you’re looking to let go you’ll be swept along with the atmosphere. Just a handful of kilometres away from the centre, Paleo Falirou is one of Athens’s most popular beaches and it couldn’t be otherwise, given its position.
We are in the city’s southern suburbs, at the foot of the metropolis: here the coast is crowded with buildings and very busy, all of which is good for its nightlife. At dinner time you can choose between modern restaurants and characteristic taverns, trying out Greek specialities before diving head first into the nightlife. There are a great many things to do in Falirou but the simplest are a great satisfaction, too - a stroll along the shore, a stop off at a pastry shop for a sweet snack. Paleo Falirou, the city’s historic port, is surrounded by shallow waters for a totally safe swim, one of its claims to fame.
Another very popular destination is Alimos. This is where the Athenians like to escape to for relaxation a stone’s throw from the Parthenon. Those choosing it for sunbathing will not be alone: as soon as temperatures get milder the beach is literally besieged by visitors. In any case, space is not lacking: Alimos offers a wide expanse of pebble beach and a large quay with a hundreds of boats capacity.
If, as well as a suntan, you want to try your hand at water sports, you’re in the right place: from water skiing to windsurfing, there’s no lack of ideas to get the day moving. Alternatively you can challenge your friends to a game of tennis or organise a volleyball match. Beach Club Alimos is one of Athens’s most famous: its proximity to the city, shallow waters and many services make it a top seaside fun destination. If you’re looking for a lively and well-equipped place to soak up the sun in, you’ll find what you’re looking for here, including a play area for the kids.
Nearby Ellinikò is also a good way to escape the heat and have a relaxing swim, for a moment of relaxation after the cultural marathon. Just like Alimos, Ellinikò has lots of free beach but also beach facilities if you feel like treating yourself. And the fun continues after dusk with bars and nightclubs which are very popular with the young. All around, luxury residences, apartments with swimming pools and patios take in swarms of holidaymakers choosing a summer holiday right next to the city.
The Ellinikò area is just within the area affected by the great urban development project recently launched along the Athens coast with hotels, shops and restaurants, and a casino, proliferating. On the occasion of the 2004 Olympics, the area to the north of the old airport was converted into a large sports complex, Hellinkon Olympic Complex, now the subject of dispute. The beach - and a frenetic holiday environment - is just a tram ride away from Athens: dive head first into the fun.
Glyfada, too, is known for its large portions of free beach supplemented by less crowded private beach resorts for a little peace. Just fifteen kilometres from Athens, Glyfada is famous for its nightlife. It is called the Greek Beverly Hills for a reason and the celebrities come here. The Athenian nights are replete with energy and rhythm here, with thousands of bars to dance or listen to typical Greek music in.
The beach is sandy and the seas shallow, ideal for those who don’t want to be submerged or looking for a place for the children to play in. The sunbed spaces are snapped up quickly but once you’ve found your space, relaxation is not lacking: the water is clean and the beach very large. If you feel like a cocktail there are plenty of beach bars with background music and the carefree atmosphere will draw you in. After dusk dancing to DJ sets is the rule, from one cocktail to the next, letting the night slip by easily.
If you feel a touch guilty when you wake up, the solution is at arm’s reach: a little water sports to keep in shape and add a touch of adrenalin to your holiday. You could also allow yourself be tempted by a boat trip, with excursions including fresh, just fished lunches, a great way to enjoy the sea and its delicacies in the most authentic way.
One of the most famous seaside resorts around Athens, Glyfada is also well-known for its chic atmosphere, something which is reflected in its not always low prices. On closer inspection, however, this cosmopolitan town is very wide ranging, covering both exclusive venues and more affordable places. From a restaurant perspective, too, the choice is wide ranging from Greek food to international ethnic cuisine, including Italian food.
A classic option is restaurants with nightclubs equipped with swimming pools where you can feel like a VIP for the evening. There are plenty of gay friendly venues in the area, too: in Glyfada the nights go on for ever and the same goes for partying opportunities. If you’re a nature lover, there’s a treat in store for you in Glyfada: a sea turtle (caretta caretta) rescue centre managed by the Archelon association.
Vouliagmeni is definitely a different story: here nature reigns supreme and greenery still takes prevalence over buildings. Considering the proximity of the city - we’re just twenty kilometres or so away - Vouliagmeni is a truly strategic destination for a relaxing holiday and its landscape is truly wonderful. It also has a sort of glamour to it. A glimpse at the yachts moored in the area is enough to make that clear: the location is much appreciated by the jet set.
And it’s not surprising: with its white beaches and luxuriant peninsulas, Vouliagmeni is a true gem. Its facilities are top notch - from hotels to sports facilities, thanks to investments at the time of the 2004 Olympics. Its nautical clubs are very famous and it couldn’t be any other way, given its clientele type.
With its cosmopolitan and stylish atmosphere, Vouliagmeni is truly a picture postcard location: its Lemos and Kavouri beaches trace out arabesques on the sea, rimmed with white sand. There are ruins here and there, hidden by rocky bays. Vouliagmeni’s beaches range from the most exclusive corners to the free bays, in quiet locations. Lunch in the area’s sophisticated restaurants is a good option - its fish restaurants are well-known - or an unpretentious souvlaki instead.
Lake Vouliagmeni adds to the paradise feel - a natural wonder set in an ancient limestone grotto with warm waters and thermal springs. Its tunnels are mysterious and partially unexplored. An attractive hill flanks the lake, a great place for a stroll with views over the bay. There are fascinating ruins here, too: Asteras beach, a handful of kms away, featuring the ruins of the Apollo Zoster temple, discovered by children from the orphanage playing on the sand.
The Athens Riviera extends to Varkiza, too: just a short distance from Vouliagmeni it, too, offers a pleasant green backdrop for a relaxing seaside holiday. Its tourist centre develops around an ancient fishing village, well equipped to welcome in visitors with all comforts. Varkiza beach stands out for its size: the beach stretches away as far as the eye can see. You can choose to lay out your beach towel in the beach facility areas or those with a more informal air. Varkiza has something for everyone. Lazing on the beach is just one option and the resort is much appreciated by more dynamic holidaymakers, too.
The temptation to stretch out on the white sand and just let time go by is difficult to fight. But in Varkiza you can’t help wanting to try your hand at the water sports, perhaps with the help of an instructor to improve your technique or try out something new safely. Alternatively you can simply watch the progress of the windsurfers: Varkiza is a favourite with windsurfers and has a great deal to offer. To keep fit there are tennis and volleyball courts where you can burn a few calories before jumping back into the sea. And if all this exercise gets your appetite up, there is a wide variety of characteristic restaurants to eat in. And plenty of shops for a bit of retail relaxation.
The Poseidon coast ends perfectly with Cape Sounion, undoubtedly one of the most spectacular places around Athens. Situated on a promontory, this temple was devoted to the god of the sea, overlooking the Aegean Sea.
A dreamy crystal clear, golden sand bay opens up at its feet, a unique experience, given the appeal of this natural setting. Swimming in its shallow seas the views range over to the Poseidon Temple, a majestic sight, and doubly evocative at sunset: it would be difficult to find a more attractive place to watch the sun set in.
The building is one of the most interesting Ancient Greek sites and its position one of the most dazzling, crowning the southern point of the Athens coast. You may well notice an interesting detail: one of its Doric columns bears the signature of Lord Byron, an untiring traveller, attracted by the temple’s beauty, which he cited in one of his poems. You, too, will probably fall victim to its attractions, before this marble giant surrounded by sea water.
Now it’s time to set off again for the Cape Sounion beaches along wide and well equipped beaches. To end the day in style we recommend a stop off at a tavern for a taste of fish and a carefree ouzo tasting.
Let’s change sides and move to the east coast with Schinias. Its beach facilities are one of Athens’s best loved, especially by the young: the credit for this goes to its liveliness and thousand occasions for fun in a fantastic scenario. Schinias beach is a sandy one stretching for over one hundred metres: an immense belvedere looking out over crystal clear waters and a verdant backdrop, a perfect place for lengthy sunbathing.
If you don’t want to spend all your time under a beach umbrella you can take your place on the beach volley court or have a go at water sports, taking advantage of its windsurf school. Alternatively you can simply relax at the beach bar, sipping a panoramic drink or take a seat at a sea view restaurant, passing from one delicacy to the next.
Marathon, theatre of the famous battle which saw the Greek and Persian armies pitted against one another in 490 BC, is not too far away. At the end of the battle, a messenger ran the distance between Marathon and Athens in one go and died of fatigue: this is where the name of the marathon race came from.
South-east of Athens is Rafti Port, another location combining appeal and fun. All around it there are bars and nightclubs: if you feel like a dance, the choice is yours. Even without getting down onto the dance floor you can enjoy the sea, perhaps opting for a boat tour to explore the coast. Rafti Port is a sort of large resort made up of a variety of beaches, with Avlaki and Erotospilia beach being the best known, a gem washed by transparent waters in an appealing rocky setting and unexpected peace and quiet. The coast is well sheltered from wind thanks to the islands in front of it and the hills which stretch out all around it.
There are plenty of beach bars, too, meeting places for the young, a great place for a good cocktail and a tranquil chat. If you are looking for a more substantial snack, you can choose from a great many taverns and ethnic restaurants ranging from trendy to more traditional, there’s something for everyone. Just a stone’s throw from Rafti Port is Hamolia, a free beach whose peace and quiet is much appreciated and a favourite with nudists, to consider, if you’re looking for a surplus of freedom.
Rafti Port is not only a famous entertainment destination for the Athenians - many of whom have second homes here - but also an interesting historic site with interesting vestiges of the past. Site of an important port in antiquity, the town’s origins are lost in the mists of time, as local finds confirm. One of the area’s most interesting attractions is the Artemis Temple whose origins are mysterious. The site’s attraction is bound up with the name Iphigenia, protagonist of the Euripides tragedy.
Having fled to Tauris to escape sacrifice, Agamemnon’s daughter returned to Vravrona with a simulacrum of Artemis, thus laying the sanctuary’s foundations. Its bas reliefs and votive offerings tell of young dancing girls, treasure troves used for jewellery and ancient propitiatory rites. In addition to the ruins of the temple and stoà, the Vravrona archaeological site also contains the remains of an ancient stone bridge, the only surviving trace of this type of Classical Greek structure having survived.
Set sail for Athens with Costa Cruises
Can you already smell the relaxation in the air? The Athens beaches will win you over with their energy and secret corners far away from the crowds, perfect to recharge your batteries after a night of no-holds-barred fun. Whether you’re looking for a free beach or a beach club with all facilities, the sun is waiting for you.
As you will have guessed, this corner of the Mediterranean is more attractive than you might have imagined: perfect for an escape into the blue without missing out on its archaeological wonders and a tour around the beauties of the Acropolis. The summer is sacred for the Athenians: to live it to the full set off on a Costa Cruises ship to the coast’s most beautiful resorts.