A perfect “island” getaway just under 15 miles from the center of Athens and no ferry boat required is the seaside municipality of Vouliagmeni that itself, can provide for a badly needed weekend away from the hustle and bustle of Athens sightseeing, traffic and, well, chaos.
Vouliagmeni— meaning sunken in Greek is a posh but accessible coastal town that is the perfect “final weekend” in Greece after a holiday of island hopping or visits with family in far-flung villages. Its accommodations, food offerings and accessibility to Athens Eleftherios Venizelos Airport make it a favorite place for people to wind down their holidays before heading home— or even a great starting point.
Still other travelers make Vouliagmeni their Athens base and plan daily visits to the city center for shopping and sightseeing, while choosing to stay in the area’s peaceful and serene surroundings far away from the noise and chaos of the city.
Vouliagmeni, the anchor point of the famed ‘Athens Riviera” is a perfect “island getaway” on Greece’s mainland because everything you can experience on a Greek island is right here— just a short drive from the city-center of Greece’s largest city. From world-class sandy beaches to scuba diving, to great “village” tavernas and stunning sea views and sunsets.
Incidentally, while you may not have ventured this far south when visiting Athens, chances are you’ve seen Vouliagmeni from above if you’ve had a window seat on your arriving flight into Athens airport as the two peninsulas that comprise the municipality lie directly under a flight path onto one of the airport’s runways.
For a rejuvenating hot soak with waters naturally heated to approximately 75 degrees, head to Lake Vouliagmeni. The minerals in this natural lake are constantly being replenished by the springs below. Known among Greeks for centuries for its therapeutic properties, a swim here is the recommended cure for all kinds of ailments from sore muscles, to achey bones and even more serious skin conditions. Lake Vouliagmeni website.
Spend a lazy day on one of Greece’s most famous beaches. You have several great options from public beaches at Kavouri and on the left side of the “lemos” or neck of Vouliagmeni, where access is free and open to the public, or at the more organized Astir Beach, which has an entrance fee, top quality sunbeds and numerous facilities, water sports and enough activities to keep you busy for the day. Astir Beach website.
If you do opt for Astir Beach, consider your entrance fee a “buy one get one free” experience as you’ll not only have access to one of the best beaches on the Greek mainland, but you’ll also get the chance to explore a 6th century BC temple dedicated to Apollo right there on the beach, next to the volleyball nets and sun beds. Astir Beach also hosts a bunch of special events, parties and beach activities. See their Facebook page for regular updates.
If you prefer roughing it a bit and bathing suit optional is more your thing, have your taxi driver take you to one of the many coves along the highway to Vouliagmeni known as the “Limanakia” or small harbors. They’re well-known to locals as some of the cleanest waters along the shore but the Limanakia aren’t for the faint at heart. You’ll need to climb down rock cliffs to reach the flattened areas to park your towel and your belongings before taking a dive in the crisp waters.
Numerous small hotels dot the region but the number one destination to stay is, by far, the famed Astir Palace with various room types in its main buildings, seaside bungalow offerings for the utmost of privacy, a private beach for hotel guests, several swimming pools and world-class dining options from simple taverna fare to internationally-acclaimed sushi and gourmet dining.
The Astir is continuously rated and ranked amongst Europe’s—and the world’s best resorts not only for its 75 acres of stunning property but for its impeccable service.
Check out the Astir’s offerings:
A private bungalow is by far, the best experience at the Astir Palace but book fast because they’re usually the first rooms to go as many Athenians use them as holiday get-a-aways and book them for weeks at a time and well in advance.
Louizidis Taverna continues to be a favorite for locals and tourists alike. With traditional Greek cuisine— all that you’d expect like moussaka, pastitsio and a great selection of fresh fish, this place is always bustling with people who come from near and far for classic Greek tastes.
For a bit more modern tastes— but still purely Mediterranean in flavor, try the seaside cafe/restaurant named appropriately, Moorings. Executive Chef Andreas Shinas takes great pride in his fresh creations, as well as his extensive wine offerings containing the best Greek and international wines.
Try also Galazia Hytra which is part of the Astir Palace. Remember, you don’t need to be a hotel guest to sample any of the resort’s restaurants and cocktail bars. Galazia Hytra specializes in “modern Greek cuisine” and offers stunning views of the bay of Vouliagmeni below.
Local Expert Food Advice
We also consulted with a local expert– Chrysanthos Panas, lifelong resident of Vouliagmeni and business owner of some of the finest establishments in the country (see below) on his picks for his favorite dining spots in Vouliagmeni.
He concurs with our pick of Louizidis for great Greek traditional cuisine and also suggests Nobu Matsuhisa (at the Astir Palace) for great sushi and Malabar at the Margi Hotel, a poolside restaurant with a great Greek lunchtime menu and a more international menu at dinner time.
Chrysanthos also suggests giving Aqua Marina (15 Agiou Panteleimonos Street) a try– it’s a well known and legendary cafe but has excellent cuisine too; as well as Lutetia Restaurant which opened inside the Somewhere Hotel.
Party or Chill at
Just a bit down the road past Vouliagmeni on the way to Varkiza is Island Club Restaurant, a fabulous restaurant-club concept created by Chrysanthos Panas and known internationally as “the place to be” on a hot summer night. Island boasts a fantastic restaurant with an extensive wine and cocktail list, as well as a late night club with famous DJs spinning international tunes into the wee hours of the morning.
For those seeking a more subdued experience, C Lounge, just below the Island restaurant and club, was created especially for you. It’s the perfect place to catch an afternoon coffee or refreshing cocktail, while watching the fishing boats and yachts dance perfectly with each other in the bay below.
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So much to do and see in this fascinating place and the hard part is trying to squeeze it all into 48 hours, leaving you a lot of room to decide for yourself what makes the perfect weekend break– or turn the 48 hours into a longer stay.
When you’re in and around Athens, download and use Taxibeat, a homegrown Greek start up that puts the power of a taxi hail in your mobile phone. Taxibeat works a lot like Uber does. It tracks your location and offers you choices of taxi drivers who are nearby. You can opt to pay with cash, or plug in your credit card number so you won’t have to worry about cash transactions. At the end of your ride, you’ll get an email with the route and a receipt for your purchase.