Chances are most travelers aren’t coming to Athens for its beaches. As capital of a country with world-famous islands, Athens is more known for its resplendent ancient ruins and busy cultural life rather than its sandy glories. But this is Greece after all! And the coast as well as several major ferry ports are just minutes away.

If you are looking for a quick swim or a bit of rest and relaxation, there are plenty of beaches to choose from on the Athens Riviera, aka the Apollo Coast – the coastline running south of Athens from Piraeus to Cape Sounion. Do you have a whole day to spare? Then consider hopping a boat to an island in the morning and returning in the twilight glow. Either way, despair not, the water awaits you.

An overhead view of parasols and loungers on Varkiza Beach
Varkiza Beach is the perfect place to stretch out and relax away from the city © Sven Hansche / Shutterstock

Varkiza Beach

One of the southernmost beaches on the Athens Riviera, Varkiza is a favorite for its relative peace and quiet. Small sandy sweeps alternate with rock formations where you can hang out independently. Or pay for a chaise at the popular resort Varkiza Resort – Yabanaki Beach and join the fray of seaside umbrellas and restaurants.

The clear blue sea lapping the curve of Astir Beach
Astir beach is a hot favorite with the fashionable crowds in Athens © Sven Hansche / Shutterstock

Astir Beach

Silky sands and softly lapping seas are only the start of what Astir Beach is known for. It’s one of the most beloved of the see-and-be-seen organized beaches on the Athens Riviera. Astir is a land of high fashion, seafront chaises and cabanas, and luxury like Nobu Matsuhisa’s Athens outpost and the Four Seasons Astir Palace.

Schinias sandy beach, Marathon, Greece
The pristine sand of Shinias beach with seafood restaurants waiting to welcome you © znm / Getty Images

Shinias Beach

Repeatedly recognized for its crystal-clear waters with Blue Flag ratings, Shinias Beach, 45km (about 28 miles) northeast of Athens, offers a grand stretch of pristine white sand backed by pine trees. The shimmering waters near the town of Marathon are a favorite for swimming and windsurfing followed by lunch at one of the nearby seafood tavernas.

Legrena Beach

Care to get (wonderfully) lost on the coast near Athens? Explore the coves and inlets along the Legrena area, about 3km (2 miles) west of the Temple of Poseidon at Sounio. Devoid of the organized umbrellas and thumping sounds of the grand resorts of the rest of this coastline, this place is for the explorers. The currents keep these waters crisp and clean, and nearby tavernas dot the coast. It’s also the place to go if you care to sunbathe in the buff.

A view of the Temple of Poseidon
The Temple of Poseidon is on the cape overlooking Sounio Beach © rfave / Budget Travel

Sounio Beach

Undoubtedly the claim to fame of this small beach at the farthest reaches of the Athens Riviera is the Temple of Poseidon on the cape overlooking the beach. The gleaming marble columns 65m (about 213 feet) above the sea are one of the county’s most inspiring coastal sights, and sunset here is also eye-catching.

Sea beach with rows of straw parasols at sunset
Escape the city heat on Aegina Island, just a short journey from Athens © zoom-zoom / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Aegina and Angistri Islands

One of the beauties of Athens is that it is surrounded by ports. If you have an entire day, it’s short work to go to Piraeus and catch a ferry to one of the Saronic Gulf islands. Aegina and Angistri are the closest, a mere 30 minutes, and both will give you an instant sense of island life, replete with beaches. Aegina is the larger, with ancient ruins and nightlife to boot, while Angistri is more remote and peaceful.

Mother with her newborn son
The Grand Beach Lagonissi is the perfect option for families with young kids © Thanasis Zovoilis / Getty Images

Grand Beach Lagonissi

The rocky Lagonissi promontory on the road to Cape Sounion is home to the Grand Beach Lagonissi, a smooth crescent of family-friendly sand on a calm, clear bay. Beautifully maintained and packed with amenities, it makes for an easy day out. Kids can scamper from the sea, and water sports like flyboards or towed rings, to the swimming pool and air-conditioned changing rooms with showers.

Vouliagmeni Lake and Beach

Vouliagmeni, 23km (about 14 miles) southwest of Athens, is an evergreen favorite of Athenians. People visit year round for the saltwater natural lake just inland, backed by cliffs. It stays warmer (at 21°C or about 71°F) than the open sea and is served by an understated restaurant complex. Or you can brave the weekend crowds at the busy seafront, which arcs around a deep bay and is lined with lounge chairs and umbrellas.

An empty Vravrona Beach in Athens
Vravrona Beach is just a short trip from Athens International Airport  © Shutterstock / Dimitris Koskinas

Vravrona Beach

A mere 11km (about 7 miles) east of Athens International Airport, this small, pebbled beach rewards you if you have a few hours to kill between flights. Better yet, pair a swim with a visit to the nearby 420 BC Temple of Artemis (goddess of the hunt) to combine relaxation and culture.

Marathon Beach

Stone and sand combine to form the thin scrim of Marathon Beach, near the town of Marathon, made famous by the 490 BC battle and its 42km (26 mile) runner. This beach is best for a quick dip after visiting the local sites, from the battlefield and tomb and the town’s archaeological museum to the famed 435 BC Doric sanctuary of Nemesis at Ramnous. You can also raft up for a long, lazy afternoon at the organized beach Galazia Akti.

Three people sitting on a bench at the seaside of Glyfada Beach, Athens.
Glyfada Beach is popular because it's accessible to everyone © palliki / Getty Images

Glyfada Beach

Packed during the summer, Glyfada Beach is perfect for those who want to avoid the high price tags of the private resort chaises. Bring a towel, stake out a square of sand on this beach alongside the busy Athenian beachfront suburb of Glyfada, and wade right in.

You might also like:
How to get around in Greece
One-of-a-kind adventures in Greece
Everything you need to know about island-hopping in Greece

Buy Ultimate Travel List 2nd Edition

The second edition of Lonely Planet’s bestseller presents an all-new ranking of the greatest places to visit on Earth.

Buy the Ultimate Travel List

Explore related stories