Chances are most travelers aren’t coming to Athens for its beaches. As capital of a country with world-famous islands, Athens is better known for its resplendent ancient ruins and busy cultural life than for 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

1. Varkiza Beach

Best for relaxation

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. The beach is free to visit and is surrounded by restaurants and cafes. If you want a daybed, you can pay for a chaise at the popular resort Varkiza Resort – Yabanaki Beach and join the fray of seaside umbrellas and restaurants.

Local tip: After a day of seaside fun, satisfy your hunger with a visit to Aperanto Galazio, an excellent seafood taverna offering fresh fish directly on the beach.

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

2. Astir Beach

Best for glamour

Silky sands and softly lapping seas are only the start of what makes Astir Beach great. It feels more like Mykonos than Athens, and it’s one of the most beloved of the see-and-be-seen organized beaches on the Athens Riviera. Entrance fees vary by season and the location of your sunbed. 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.

Planning tip: If you want to go all out bougie, daybeds can be rented at Astir Beach Club, but they don't come cheap, with parasol rentals starting from €160 per two people per day.

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

3. Schinias Beach

Best for swimming

Repeatedly recognized for its crystal-clear waters with Blue Flag ratings, Schinias Beach, 45km (about 28 miles) northeast of Athens, offers a grand stretch of pristine white sand backed by pine trees. Shinias is free to access but you can also rent sunloungers for the day. 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.

Planning tip: There are sunloungers and a taverna, but no other major developments around. It gets busy at the weekend with locals so arrive early to secure a spot.

4. Legrena Beach

Best for nudists

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 Sounion. Devoid of the organized umbrellas and thumping sounds of the grand resorts of the rest of this coastline and with no cover charge, 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

5. Sounion Beach

Best for sightseeing

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 country’s most inspiring coastal sights, and the sunset here is also eye-catching. On a clear day, you can enjoy views of Kea, Kythnos and Serifos to the southeast, as well as Aegina and the Peloponnese to the west.

Planning tip: The beach is well-serviced with beach bars, tavernas and shower facilities. There's a small entry fee at weekends.

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

6. Aegina and Angistri Islands

Best for island-hopping

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 away, 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.

Planning tip: There are daily ferry services from Athens to Aegina and Angistri during peak season. The route can be popular with overheated Athenians, especially at weekends so book tickets in advance.

7. Vouliagmeni Lake and Beach

Best for families

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.

Planning tip: Vouliagmeni offers a wide range of facilities suitable for all ages, including amenities such as racquetball, tennis, volleyball and changing rooms. Like most beaches on the Athenian Riviera, Vouliagmeni is privately-owned and charges an entry fee.

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

8. Vravrona Beach

Best for a quick dip

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. There's a small entry fee that increases at weekends.

9. Marathon Beach

Best for history buffs

Stone and sand combine to form the thin scrim of Marathon Beach, near the town of Marathon, made famous by the 490 BCE 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 BCE Doric sanctuary of Nemesis at Ramnous. You can also raft up for a long, lazy afternoon at the organized beach Galazia Akti.

Local tip: Feeling peckish? Head to Isidora, right on the beach, a restaurant serving seasonal fresh fish and seafood.

Aerial view to the beach of Glyfada, part of the south Athens riviera with yacht marinas and turquoise sea, Greece
Aerial view to the beach of Glyfada, a partly-organized beach in Athens that's easily accessible by bus or trolley © Getty Images/iStockphoto

10. Glyfada Beach

Best for budget travelers

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.

Planning tip: Glyfada is on the Apollo Coast and is easily accessible from the center of Athens by bus. It's popular with Athenians during the summer months and renowned for its nightlife and seafront clubs.

This article was first published Sep 28, 2021 and updated Jul 22, 2024.

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