24 Hours in the Athenian Riviera
Our favorite places to hang out along the southern coast, both day and night.
Alexandra Mandrakou | July 8th, 2016
09:00 | BREAKFAST AT THE CLASSIC BAKERIES
The classic pit stop for Athenians wanting to grab a snack on their way to a day at the beach, the town of Varkiza is indelibly associated with one of the most historic bakeries in Attica, the Georgiadis Bakery, which has been selling bread, sesame rings and amazing piroshki at the same spot since 1957. If you’re put off by the lines here, try the Artopolis Bakery, which also enjoys a loyal following.
INFO: Georgiadis, 98 Vas. Κonstantinou & 2 Afroditis, Tel. (+30) 210.897.5602 • Artopolis, Apollonos & 1 Areos, Tel. (+30) 210.897.3010
10:00 | TIME FOR A DIP
Urban legend has endowed this lake with a touch of the supernatural, possibly because divers have disappeared in the past while trying to explore its hidden depths, swept up in the strong current that flows at the entrance to its labyrinthine underwater cave system. Another mystery that Lake Vouliagmeni offers is that of its own depth; no one has been able to determine just how far down it goes.
Other than the sheer beauty of the spot and the balmy temperature (a steady 22-29C) of the lake’s brackish water – constantly fed both by the sea and by underground springs – the main attraction here are the Garra rufa. These tiny black fish will rush towards your feet as soon as you step into the water and, if you’re not squeamish, will start giving you the perfect natural exfoliating treatment by nibbling at your dead skin cells.
The facilities at the lake include the all-day bar-restaurant, with coffee served from 9:00, lunch from noon, and cocktails well into the night, with patrons enjoying a dazzling view of the spectacular cliff that rises from the lake. There are also changing rooms, showers and full wheelchair access.
© Perikles Merakos
THE COSMOPOLITAN BEACH
A heady blend of pine forest and sea; a central road named after Apollo, the god of music and light; a series of small, tucked-way coves for private dips and, of course, Astir Beach: this is Vouliagmeni and the Lemos peninsula. For nearly 60 years, this is where Athens’ most cosmopolitan beach has sat, gazing benevolently over the Saronic Gulf from its prime vantage point. At this well-organized beach, you can book a sun lounger or a spa appointment, avail yourself of the special amenities at the Platinum Lounge, surf on the free Wi-Fi, or take part in any number of water sports at the Astir Ski Club – including wake-boarding, ringos, paragliding, paddle boarding and much, much more. There’s also an outdoor non-smoking area.
INFO: 40 Apollonos, Vouliagmeni • Tel. (+30) 210.890.1619 • Admission costs €18 Monday-Friday, €28 on weekends and holidays.
Stretching over 10 hectares and offering more than 20 activities as well as plenty of options for coffee, food and drinks, the main beach of the seaside town of Varkiza is rightly described as a beach park. In addition to hosting wellness and beauty seminars, the beach is the site for concerts and DJ sets, windsurfing and surfing lessons and other water sports, aqua aerobics and other fitness activities.
As if that’s not enough, this summer it’s also welcoming a great new arrival: Holy Spirit, Glyfada’s most popular cocktail bar, has been given its own space in the resort and will be serving its guests right at the water’s edge.
INFO: Varkiza Resort, Varkiza coastal road • Tel. (+30) 210.451.1888 • Admission costs €5 on weekdays (with a complimentary lounger) and €6 on weekends (loungers cost an additional €5).
Balux Seaside is a great place for cocktails, food and soaking up the sun
14:00 | SNACKS AND LUNCH
DAY & NIGHT
Colonial in style, with some exotic brushstrokes, palm trees and super-comfortable sun loungers, Balux Cafe Seaside, a beautifully organized beach resort, is the main attraction in Glyfada and its environs. Here, you can laze by the sea or the pool-side and order a hearty breakfast, snack or dessert, waiting until later to go up the restaurant for a pizza or even sushi, and then top it all off with an after-dinner cocktail (the Banana-rum-a is a must). Join in the fun around you or slip into the pool and become a kid again, playing around on the floating toys. This is summer in the city at its very best.
From little-known treasures to elegant classics, the Athens Riviera has plenty of tavernas and restaurants that can bring you the sea on a plate. In the little-known category, the Hellenic Nautical Club of Egyptians, located on the Aghios Kosmas peninsula, is a gem that serves authentic Middle Eastern food at reasonable prices, right by the water. In the classic category, Ithaki at Lemos in Vouliagmeni has served its high-end cuisine to such celebrities as Athina Onassis and Leonardo DiCaprio. Another don’t-miss is Kastelorizo in Varkiza, an elegant restaurant with a beautiful view over the small harbor, and Psarou in Saronida, known for its pop esthetic and for its deliciously fresh fried whitebait and its shellfish prepared with loving care.
Glyfada, one of Athens’ most fashionable districts
© Dionysis Kouris
17:00 | SHOPPING
GLYFADA, LITTLE MIAMI
Outgoing, and with a somewhat American air (hardly surprising considering a US Army base operated out of nearby Elliniko for 40 years), Glyfada is the capital of Athens’s southern suburbs; it’s the place to go shopping, spend hours over a coffee, or soak up the sun on its beach.
Why not stroll along the marina, making a fashion statement in your designer flip-flops? The town developed in the inter-war years and was named after the brackish (“glyfo” in Greek) drinking water drawn from its wells. However, it is mainly its interaction with the American base that shaped its modern character. This is where Coca-Cola and fast food first became a Greek thing, too.
Strolling at Kavouri
© George Tsafos
Golf in Glyfada
© Dimitris Delakovias
19:00 | THE PERFECT STROLL
The promenade on the Kavouri coast (a 15-minute walk from end to end) is arguably the most romantic spot along the Athens Riviera. Generations of amorous city folk have pledged their undying love while gazing at the view of Kavouronisi (a tiny islet between the two bays that you can actually walk to through the shallow waters). Megalo Kavouri Beach is well shaded with pines and has thatch umbrellas, a well-tended playground and two beach bars.
Take the time to look for Greece’s longest surviving ancient carriage road, discovered by archaeologists last summer, or just relax with a massage at the Divani Athens Spa & Thalasso Center at Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso Hotel (10 Aghiou Nikolaou, Mikro Kavouri, tel +30 210.891.1100), equipped with the largest thalassotherapy pool in Greece.
Stavros Niarchos Cultural Foundation
© Yiorgos Yerolympos
21:00 | CATCH A SHOW
THE NEW LANDMARK
A rather unsightly stretch of the coastal road at Faliro Bay has received a facelift, thanks to renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, which will serve as the new home of both the Greek National Library and the Greek National Opera, and which will also bring the area a 21-hectare park, is scheduled to open in 2017.
The Visitors Center, however, is already open to the public and features an exhibition on this monumental construction project, highlighting its advanced technological and architectural features (such as the new water canal and the energy-efficient roof). The Center also hosts various workshops for adults and children, as well as cultural events.
23:00 | FOR NIGHTLIFE
SKIPPER’S, A LOCAL FAVORITE
The Alimos Marina was still under construction in September 1987 when Skipper’s first opened, striking a new note on the coastal strip’s nightclub scene – then dominated by neon-lit clubs thumping out Greek pop – with its yacht-inspired décor, its jazz and rock tunes, and its instantly loyal fans. Casual and unpretentious, Skipper’s initially attracted the yacht crowd, but soon became the kind of place where you go on a first date, hang out with friends while planning your summer holidays or have a chilled-out drink on a Friday after work. It is open during the day for coffee and stays open until very late.
INFO: Alimos Marina • Tel. (+30) 210.988.02.82 • Open 9:00-04:00
ISLAND: THE ESSENCE OF THE ATHENS RIVIERA
When brothers Chrysanthos and Spyros Panas took over the bar at the Vouliagmeni Sailing Club back in the early 1990s, they could not have imagined that they would be making history by laying the foundation stone of Island Club & Restaurant, the hottest spot on the Athens Riviera. What started out as a project fueled by youthful enthusiasm evolved into a signature brand. Eventually, the club moved to the location where it is today, attracting celebrities and jet-setters from Greece and around the world. Among its guests have been Meryl Streep, Hugh Jackman, designer Valentino and Bruce Willis, to name but a few.
What makes Island such a hot spot, other than its amazing location? There are many answers to that question: Thursday’s Jungle Nights, for instance, with matching music and cocktails; the delicious brunch and snacks at C-Lounge; the Island Shop concept store with its collectible Vilebrequin swim suits and the hand-painted t-shirts from American artist Patricia Field; the sushi menu; the signature cocktails; or maybe the creative Mediterranean dishes by award-winning chef Nikos Skliras. And remember, if you’re doing Athens by sea, there’s a handy floating dock where you can tie up your boat.
INFO: 27th kilometer of the Athens–Sounio road, Varkiza • Tel. (+30) 210.965.3563-4 • www.islandclubrestaurant.gr
GETTING THERE: Approximately one hour by taxi from central Athens