Athens is on the rise as a city break destination, and while the trend is mainly driven by attractions of the city center, there are some suburbs that should be on every traveler’s radar. Those who visit every year know that while areas like Syntagma and Thiseio are great, the Athens Riviera is where to get the seaside fun and vibe more associated with the islands.
And fear not, many of the neighborhoods by the sea are just as cosmopolitan and happening as the areas around the Acropolis. In fact, this can be a great place to socialize.
One of the glossiest parts of the Athens Riviera is the neighborhood of Glyfada. Located right on the seafront (and only about a half-hour drive or 45-minute tram ride from the city center), with lovely beaches, big restaurants, and rows and rows of high-end stores, this is where many locals dream of moving in order to combine the best of city-living with all that the coast has to offer.
One thing you’ll notice is that the people you’ll see on the streets here tend to be well-dressed even for doing non-glamorous things, like going to the gym. However, the locals know that in Glyfada, every outing is an opportunity for seeing and being seen.
When in Athens, why not work on your handicap?
While the large hotels along the seaside offer excellent spa and gym facilities, there are better places to connect while you get active in Glyfada. How about that most classic of ways of merging recreation and socializing – a round of golf?
Surprising as it may sound, Athens actually has a golf course only a short drive away from the city center. The Konstantinos Karamanlis Golf Course in Glyfada is the only one in Attica, meaning that anyone who wants to work on their backswing comes here. The 18-hole course covers about 530 acres, right near the sea and the green and calm is a pleasant break from the busy city. After your game, you can enjoy a great lunch at the T-square restaurant.
If you prefer to work up more of a sweat, Gym Tonic and Habitus are popular gyms, though not as glamorous as the highly-respected Holmes Place health club, which features great gym facilities, a pool and relaxation area, and spa treatments.
If you’re not into workouts and sports, you can still join in the shopping game – probably the most popular activity in Glyfada. Leaving the neighborhood without a new purchase or two is almost impossible to avoid here, as unique and tempting designer boutiques are everywhere, and frankly it’s just what everyone does.
The central streets double as unofficial catwalks, and even just a stroll and some window shopping can be very pleasant. If you prefer to splurge however, we like Soho-Soho, where you’ll find Greek and international designer clothes, accessories, and even books, all in one place. A La Mode is another good option, while at the Ensayar stores, you’ll find brands like Philipp Plein and Mykita sunglasses.
In the warmer months, of course, the main reason to stay somewhere along the Athenian coast is the beach access. In central Glyfada, we prefer Balux Pool Seaside, where you can choose to swim in the sea or cool off in the pool, surrounded by hedges and palm trees, and have a nice meal at the colonial-style restaurant.
What’s even better is that Glyfada is the perfect starting point for excursions to other, less central beaches in the areas of Voula, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza and all the way down the coast towards Sounio.
Balux Pool Seaside:58 Leoforos Poseidonos, Tel. 211.800.8395.
For cool, clean, and deep waters head to Kape in Sounio, for example, or for an alternative and peaceful experience closer to home, choose Vouliagmeni Lake. The waters of the latter (which are a fresh and saltwater mix) are warmer than the sea, so it’s perfect if you’re visiting early in the season.
Astir Vouliagmeni is one of the pricier organized beaches, but the facilities are excellent and it’s the best place to people watch. To disappear into the crowd, there are many more options near Glyfada.
Where to Wine and Dine
For brunch, there is no hipper place right now than Oh Mama. This is where the young people of Glyfada meet dressed in their best “relaxed” clothing on Sundays to take pictures of their plates and their strategically placed expensive sunglasses. The food is good too (chicken and waffles have never looked so pretty).
If you prefer to keep hanging out with your health-conscious friends from the gym, you should take them to Yi, a fancy looking but surprisingly affordable raw food restaurant above Glyfada’s center. Lunch here is fresh and tasty, and, if you’re feeling indulgent, the desserts are fantastic. Trust us. The chocolate pastry with hazelnut praline is a treat to bond over. On the other end of the spectrum, for those craving quality street food, Burger Joint is an excellent choice.
For fish, the old-school Nikolas tis Schinousas is one of the most famous options, where the catch of the day is perfectly prepared and the mageirefta (slow-cooked) dishes are always satisfying. It is on the pricier side, but a popular choice for special occasions and family gatherings.
After dinner, fantastic ice cream can be found at the always popular Bufala Gelato (try the black coconut flavor), though the trendiest spot right now might be Ice Roll, which offers Thai “stir-fried” ice cream made to order on a freezing steel plate.
Yi: 69 Gr. Lampraki, Tel. 210.964.8512 & 210.964.8514.
Burger Joint: 1 Pl. Nimfon, Tel. 210.894.0260.
Nicholas tis Schinousas: 48 Diadochou Pavlou, Tel. 210.894.9550.
Bufala Gelato: 1 Artemidos, Tel. 210.894.6000.
Ice Roll: 2 Giannitsopoulou, Tel. 210.894.5009.
For drinks, there are quite a few good options. Vinarte is a wine bar stocked with over 300 Greek wines, of which 45 are sold by the glass – in other words a great place to get to know the country’s vineyards. If you can’t decide between wine and cocktails however, the hottest place to visit right now is the brand new Feedel Asador.
Pere Ubu is not new – it’s quite mainstream in fact, but always a respected choice among the Glyfada locals. Divided into two spaces, Pere is a relaxed American-style bar, and Ubu serves modern organic food. The place is typical for Glyfada; people come dressed well, and know how to order.
If you prefer a more relaxed downtown Athens feel, go to Mosaiko, and for a perfect beach location ARK is a stylish place for an early drink or a late coffee.
Younger crowds gather at Holy Spirit, to enjoy Xavier Misailidis’ excellent cocktails, whereas at Blends, you have the best chance of bumping into a Greek celebrity.