You may have come to Athens for high drama and ancient history, but in the summer, it’s essential you also have somewhere to cool off. Join the locals by taking a dip at one of these city beaches.
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In the sweltering heat of a Greek summer, the capital, Athens, becomes a cauldron – and the beach is the best place to be. Luckily, there are a handful of sandy swathes within day trip distance of the city centre, so you can be cooling off in the Aegean breeze with an iced coffee or cocktail in hand quicker than you can say souvlaki. And we’ve rounded up the very best of them here to make it even easier for you.
A short tram ride away from the centre of Athens is pebbly Glyfada Beach. Its proximity to the city makes it one of the busier options on this list, but don’t let that put you off. It’s long, wide and there’s room for everyone, between the shaded sunloungers for hire and free-for-all areas. The water is as crystal clear as anywhere along the Aegean coast, and there’s even a guy who walks back and forth along the shore selling ice-cold beers.
With restaurants, cafes, showers, changing stations and a kids’ playground on hand, this well-equipped beach, just 7km (4mi) from the city centre, makes for an ideal family day out. A row of towering palm trees gives it that riviera feel, and there are sunloungers to rent. But none of this would matter if the quality of the sand and water were not up to scratch – but, luckily, this beach is postcard-perfect on both counts.
Cupping the calm waters of Piraeus Harbour, this small, stony beach has an authentic neighbourhood feel. It’s where locals head after work to sink a couple of cold beers, catch up with friends and watch the gleaming yachts cruise into the port. There are sunbeds available to rent from the cafe, which also serves coffee, cocktails and snacks, and if you’re feeling adventurous you can swim over to the tiny islet of Koumoundourou for a Robinson Crusoe moment.
Just a hop and skip down the shore from Riviera Beach, Votsalakia is the hands-down favourite among Piraeus locals. As well as the gorgeously soft sand (in contrast to the pebbles of its neighbour), there are tennis and basketball courts right behind the beach, and an outdoor cinema for sunset screenings. There’s a wheelchair ramp into the sea for those with mobility issues, and a cute cafe serving everything from coffee and breakfast to cocktails and dinner.
Akti tou Iliou
Yes, this private beach does charge an entry fee, but you get what you pay for: diamond-dust sand, beautiful olive tree-shaded gardens backing it and a stylish tiki-style bar and restaurant where the drinks are brought to you. The water is the blue of a Bombay Sapphire bottle, and views out towards a planted promontory of trees adds to the feeling of seclusion, despite the fact you’re less than 7km (4mi) from the city centre here.
In a sheltered corner of the Piraeus coastline, where the shore meets the harbour wall, this is a no-frills, locals-only kind of spot. It’s not that there’s any rule against visitors, but you won’t find many other tourists here. There are a couple of cafes close by for takeaway drinks, but you might want to pack a picnic in case you get peckish. The major upside, however, is plenty of space to stretch out among the pebbles and dramatic views of teetering buildings along the cliffs to the west.
On the coast of the Palio Faliro neighbourhood, Mpati is one of the easiest city beaches to get to because of its proximity to the Mouson and Edem train stations. This is where you’ll find middle-class Athenian families depressurising after work or escaping the inner-city heat at weekends. The sand is soft and clean, there’s volleyball and tennis, and it shares a playground with Edem Beach to the east.
Agios Kosmas Beach
For pint-size paddlers (and their parents), this shallow pool-like bay is perfect. Opposite the Agios Kosmas tram stop, 20 minutes south of the city centre, it’s loved by locals for this reason – and for the fact that it’s close to a go-karting track. There are no facilities to speak of, so bring plenty of water and something to eat. In the evenings, it turns into a bit of a hang-out for young Athenians, who gather there to wait for the nearby nightclub to open its doors.
Check out the best hotels in Athens, and we’ve even compiled a list of the best boutique options for your stay, available now with Culture Trip. Of course the beach is important, but you’ll want to get through as many must-visit attractions, many of them impressive historical sites, as you can fit in. Don’t forget to fill up on gyros in the most authentic Greek restaurants in Athens.
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