On the southern edge of the Greek capital lies the alluring Apollo Coast, also known as the Athens Riviera (Athenian Riviera). Still defined as greater Athens, its palm tree–lined esplanades and idyllic beaches dominate a unique slice of Mediterranean coastline – urban shore brimming with laid-back elegance, a history of jet-set glamour and the feeling of spending quality time on a Greek island.
Whether you’re in the mood to hit the beaches and nightclubs, or to explore historic sights and set sail to nearby islands, the Athens Riviera offers plenty of attractions. Here are our top suggestions for escaping the bustle of downtown Athens.
Apollo Coast beaches
Both public and private beaches line the Riviera’s 48km stretch of coastline, many of which have met the stringent quality standards to earn Blue Flag accreditation. The privately operated, stylish beachside venues feature luxury sunbeds, volleyball courts and gourmet dining options. Astir Beach has one of the highest admission fees on the coast; regulars pre-book their lounge chairs. The well-appointed Balux is the choice for all-day relaxation thanks to the plush beach loungers set on the sand. At the Yabanaki VIP section, guests enjoy special attention at a private lounge complete with cocktail and sushi bar service.
The public, state-run beaches are just as beautiful without admission fees to worry about. Amenities like umbrellas or loungers – if available – cost a few euros. Limanakia is perfect for those seeking to dive off the rocks into the crystal-clear water. Mikro Kavouri is a picturesque rocky beach with a great lookout point to enjoy views of the Saronic Gulf. Thymari beach is a local favourite known for its shallow turquoise sea.
Athens head to the Riviera beach town of Anavissos for two things: windsurfing and great seafood. Beaches here are less crowded, the water is extra clean and the scenery beautiful. Anavissos is home to a variety of simple fish taverns with dining areas overlooking the sea.
Therapeutic waters of Lake Vouliagmeni
Almost hidden off the main beach road, Lake Vouliagmeni’s (limnivouliagmenis.gr) entrance is easy to miss but that would be a mistake. It’s named after a Greek word for ‘sunken’, and legend has it that a lost city fell into the deep lake which is bordered by a huge limestone cave. Managed as a stylish resort, its 24°C therapeutic waters boast mineral properties proven to heal various skin problems, rheumatism and arthritis.
Shopping in Glyfada
The US airbase may have closed years ago, but the businesses that once catered to American families in the upmarket seaside neighbourhood of Glyfada are still thriving (it helps that some of the remaining residents include millionaires and celebrities). Glyfada’s downtown area is an energetic shopping hub where boutique stores are sprinkled between cafes, eateries and bars.
Sailing the Riviera
The Athens Riviera is the Greek capital’s hub for sailing, and the several harbours along the coast are the starting point to explore fantastic coves and islets or go on a day trip to nearby Saronic Gulf islands such as Aegina, Poros or Hydra. The most popular harbours to set off from include Flisvos, Agios Kosmas, Alimos and Glyfada. For day cruises and boat hire, try yachts-sailing.com in Paleio Faliro.
Open-air cinema at Flisvos Marina
Some of the most impressive yachts in the Mediterranean dock at Flisvos Marina (flisvosmarina.com), whose pedestrian promenade is the destination for a relaxing stroll, a fancy cocktail or a great meal with a perfect sea view. Also nearby is the Cine Flisvos (cineflisvos.gr), one of Athens’ classic open-air cinemas which operates under the moonlight by the sea every summer.
Cape Sounion’s Temple of Poseidon
Cape Sounion is the southernmost tip of greater Athens, where the ancient Greeks built the inspiring Temple of Poseidon in honour of the god of the sea. Perched high on the rocky headland jutting out over the Saronic Gulf, the gleaming marble columns once welcomed the ancient Athenians home as they sailed back into the Aegean Sea. Today, Cape Sounion is one of the most coveted spots on the Riviera to admire the sunset.
Fine dining on the Riviera
In addition to their gastronomic delights, the finest restaurants on the Riviera feature incredible sea vistas. President Bill Clinton and Hollywood celebrities Sean Connery and Leonardo Di Caprio have all enjoyed the seafood specialties at Ithaki (ithakirestaurantbar.gr). World-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa brings magnificent flavours from Japan to the Riviera at Matsuhisa, set on a prime spot on the Astir Palace Resort complex.
For a bit of Greek naval history head to the retired Battleship Averof, a floating landmark permanently docked in the Paleio Faliro Marina. Named after Georgios Averoff, the benefactor who paid for it, the armored cruiser was launched in 1910 and served the Royal Hellenic Navy in the Balkan wars and both world wars; it became a museum in 1984.
Athens is considered one of Europe’s liveliest nightlife capitals, and the Riviera has contributed to that reputation. The best-dressed Athenians from all points north of the Riviera complete a long after-midnight commute to take in the glamour, soak in the views and dance the night away at Island. Stylish cocktail bars like Malabar at the Margi luxury boutique hotel remains a Riviera hotspot all year long.