So you’re in Athens sightseeing or on business but are yearning wistfully for those blue seas you see on seemingly every advert, wall calendar or restaurant menu cover. Fear not – a refreshing salty dip is closer than you think. All around the coast of Attica are dozens upon dozens of beaches and swimming spots to cater to every taste, from organized, luxury options, to empty stretches of sand that will make you feel that the thrum of the city is a million miles away.
Below are some of our favourites, grouped roughly according to their distance from the city. But feel free to explore: there are plenty of mini-paradises to discover along each coast and all of the swimming spots around Athens have excellent water quality according to the latest annual report by the European Environmental Agency.
And even just a quick afternoon swim as the sun sets is always worth it. Just one word to the wise: on weekends (particularly in June and July before Athenians depart the city en masse for their holidays) things can get pretty crowded, so for best results if possible head to the sea during the week to avoid the crush and the traffic.
The ultimate luxury beach experience, Astir Vouliagmeni is considered one of the top spots for a summer swim in Athens. Located – as it’s name would suggest – in the chic southern suburb of Vouliagmeni, Astir offers a full range of high-quality services, from free WiFi across the beach, to the ability to pre-book one of the large and comfortable sun-loungers. And of course, a wide selection of coffees, ice creams, food and drink are all available.
All of this of course comes at a price – Astir is one of the relatively few beaches with an entrance fee which is 18 euros during the week and 28 euros on the weekends per adult. But if what you are after is some pampering (as well as some fascinating people watching) then it’s worth the fee. Even despite the high price weekends can still get very busy so head there early to guarantee getting an umbrella (or prebook). The beach is open from 08:00-21:00, although you can visit the restaurant until midnight.
Also located in the suburb of Vouliagmeni, Kavouri is actually a pine-tree covered peninsula studded with expensive villas. There are several sandy stretches where one can swim although the most popular is Megalo Kavouri towards the tip of the western coast which is organized with sunbeds for rent as well as free areas. As on many beaches, here you will also find many people playing ‘raketes’ or beach paddle ball (a national sport in Greece) in the open space behind the beach.
The beach is sandy and the water shallow for quite a distance and there are a number of places to buy refreshments. The beach is also relatively easy to get to via public transport: take the metro to Elliniko station and from there the 122 bus.
Not quite a beach but a rare geological formation located next to the sea. The waters of the lake are fed up by saltwater via underground currents, through the mountain (although there is still some mystery about how this occurs). Near the sun-beds the water is quite shallow although at the opposite end they sink to unknown depths. In the lake the waters are often slightly warmer than in the sea, so it is particularly popular earlier in the season. Generally peaceful and quiet, it is a good option if you want easy access to plenty of amenities without the thump of a nearby beach-bar.
The facilities of the lake include the all-day bar, restaurant, changing rooms, showers and full wheelchair access. It is also worth staying for a drink in the evening when the rock walls are lit up and soft music floats out over the still waters.
One of the most popular spots to swim in Athens itself located in the southern suburb of Voula. The sandy beach offers a range of services and has high-quality sunbeds at reasonable prices. During the summer, beach parties are also often organized with performances by well-known Greek singers.
Entrance during weekdays is 4 euros per head and 5 euros over the weekend. The beach is also easily accessible via public transport: either take the metro to Elliniko station and then the 122 bus or take the tram to the terminal stop of Asklipio Voulas.
YABANAKI – VARKIZA
Not just a beach but a beach park with a full suite of services and amusements, located in the southern suburb of Varkiza. Here you will find a range of options for coffee, refreshments, fast food or seafood meze and ouzo. A full range of water sports is also available from waterskiing and banana boats to stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing lessons. In the afternoons a fully supervised play area with numerous large bouncy castles also operates for children.
During the weekdays the entrance fee is 5 euros per head including an umbrella and sun loungers. On the weekends the entrance fee is 6 euros and you have to pay an additional 5 for an umbrella (although if you want just a late swim however entrance after 7pm is free). To get there via public transport take the metro to the Elliniko station and then the 171 bus or the 122 bus.
The closest beach to the city center of Athens is Edem, a long sandy beach located near the boundary between the districts of Palio Faliro and Alimos. It is organized although as would be expected by its central location it also frequently gets busy. Aside from swimmers the area is also popular with people walking along the long seafront promenade that will take you to another two smaller beaches. Along the way you will also find a large chessboard built into the pavement where locals battle it out as they enjoy the warm weather and sea-breeze. From downtown the beach is easy to reach via tram (Edem stop).
The Southeast beaches near Sounio
After you leave Athens proper (arguably the outermost suburb of the city on the south coast is Varkiza) a roughly 35km stretch of coastal road takes you to Sounio, the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula and site of the Temple of Poseidon. All along the coast are multiple beaches although you need access to a car to easily reach them.
BEACH OF SOUNIO
An organized beach with umbrellas and all kinds of amenities, what really sets this swimming spot apart is its fantastic view of the Temple of Poseidon that makes you feel like you are soaking up ancient Greek culture even as you sun yourself on a comfortable sun lounger. Some parts are organized while others are still free for the public. The crystal clear waters make it up for the 1 hour long drive. Keep in mind that in August, there is little parking space. The tavernas near the beach make great seafood meze dishes.
KAPE (CRES) BEACH
Named after the acronym for the nearby Center for Renewable Energy Sources, the KAPE (or CRES) beach is one that can really give you that island feel only an hour’s drive from Athens; the minute you set foot on the beach, you’ll be taken aback by the view of the Aegean.
With seafloor that is covered with small pebbles and crisp clean waters that get abruptly deep, you can have some truly magical swims here. However the once ‘secret spot’ has now become widely known, and given that it is not expansive it does get crowded on weekends. From the road you also need to walk down a short but steepish path. If you’re lucky a canteen may be open offering cold drinks and simple snacks but don’t rely on it and bring you’re own water.
A little further down another smaller, more secluded beach is known as a nudist beach.
One of the lesser-known beaches near the temple of Poseidon in Sounio is Asimakis, a good choice if you want to explore the temple but avoid the beaches nearest to it, as these get quite crowded. The beach is located on the way from Sounio to Lavrio and consists of a very clean sandy expanse. There are no beach umbrellas but there is a restaurant and cafe nearby for refreshments. About a 1 hour drive from Athens.
Kokkino Limanaki is a solid favorite of those who want to keep things simple and forgo rented sunbeds. Located on the eastern coast of Attica 1.5km from Rafina, the beach is surrounded by trees, a facet that also makes it popular among campers. It is primarily made up of sand with some pebbles and is located about a 40 min drive from central Athens.
One of the ‘hidden gems’ of Attica, this sandy expanse is located 2km away from the center of Nea Makri, a small town on the northeastern coast of Attica. The pretty beach is quiet, surrounded by trees, has shallow water close to the shore and is devoid of sunbeds and noisy beach bars making it a good option for families and others looking for a more relaxed ‘natural’ experience. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from central Athens without traffic.
This impressive long sandy beach is located at the edge of a protected wetland and dense pine forest only 3km from the tomb of Marathon. It is a great choice for a nice swim followed by a good meal at one of the nearby tavernas. The more organized parts of the beach do get quite busy although it is big enough that you can still get away from it all and enjoy the natural beauty of the area. It is not easily accessible by public transport and takes about 50 minutes by car from the city center.