Athens has the good fortune to have the Saronic Gulf at its feet: think marinas, seaside promenades with palm trees and cycle paths, developed beaches with Blue Flags (an impressive 13 in 2015) and lesser known free beaches, where you simply park and swim – a good indication of the best spots is a line of parked cars at the roadside.
So, how do you get there? Take the Syntagma-Voula tram from the city center and in 30-40 minutes you might just as well be on an island. The landscape is markedly different, the scenery becomes more pleasant, the air is more refreshing, your mood improves and the pace of life slows down. Residents of the suburbs alongside the Poseidonos coast road – Glyfada, Voula, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza – are right to feel privileged; it’s no small thing to be able to swim five months a year or go to the bank wearing only a bathing suit and sandals. It has something for everyone, from beach bars and clubs, with house music blaring, to their more Greek-style counterparts, where the intoxicating sounds of the bouzouki work their magic – these are an experience in their own right, though perhaps not for the faint-hearted.
“ Every summer, this stretch of coastline draws young and old like a magnet, day and night. This so-called Athenian Riviera has something for everyone. ”
This so-called Athenian Riviera, more of a notion than an official title, is an entertainment strip neither strictly delineated nor continuous. In the broadest sense, it begins at Neo Faliro and ends at Cape Sounio, a distance of about 62 km.
After Varkiza, as you make your way along the coastal road, the landscape becomes even more dramatic, a Greek version of California’s Big Sur Coastal Highway or Australia’s Great Ocean Road. At the end of the road, the ancient Temple of Poseidon stands on a rocky promontory that affords one of the most spectacular sunset views you will ever see.
A stop-off at revamped Flisvos Marina, with shops, restaurants, trendy cafes, open-air cinemas, yachts that are the stuff of dreams, plenty of space for kids to cycle or play and the decommissioned cruiser Georgios Averof, which distinguished herself a century ago during the Balkan Wars (Paleo Faliro, www.flisvosmarina.com).
Sunbathing and swimming at cosmopolitan Blue-Flagged Astir Beach, Vouliagmeni (astir-beach.com), which boasts world class facilities, sand and water sports, a spa, beautiful people and… pricey admission (€15 on weekdays; €25 on weekends). Coveted Blue Flags have also been awarded to Voula A, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza, Lagonissi (Kochylia, Mediterraneo, Grand Beach) and Mavro Lithari / Eden Beach.
Close by, the natural spa waters of Vouliagmeni Lake, a protected wetland of outstanding natural beauty (Natura 2000, Ramsar), with warm, brackish, emerald-green water, imposing rocks, lush vegetation, labyrinthine underwater tunnels and a quality all-day bar-restaurant (www.limnivouliagmenis.gr).
Entertainment at the acclaimed Island club-restaurant (27th km on the Athens-Sounion road • www.islandclubrestaurant.gr); the all-day multi-purpose Balux (58 Poseidonos Ave, Asteras Glyfadas Complex • www.baluxcafe.com); the Nãlu hotspot, for coffee, drinks and good food, right next to the sea (Poseidonos Ave, Akti Iliou, Alimos • Tel.: (+30) 210-988.0990); or the Bolivar beach bar, which holds dance events with famous DJs (Poseidonos Ave., Alimos Beach A • Tel.: (+30) 697-0367.684).