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There is a beautiful place near Athens where you can escape the overheated Syntagma Square to swim in the blue sea and breath fresh salty air.
I’ll tell you about my recent vacation that took place in Varkiza, a small Greek coastal town located 30 minutes away from the Athens International Airport and about 40 minutes from the center of Athens.
There are several other seaside towns located south of the Greek capital and referred to as Athenian Riviera. The most notable ones are Varkiza, Vouliagmeni and Glyfada. Many wealthy Athenians own their summer apartments here that they typically use from May till October. A good thing is that these towns don’t get empty during low season, because a big portion of people lives here permanently.
Athens to Varkiza: Use Public Transportation
Public transport is the most simple, reliable and inexpensive way to get from the central part of Athens to Varkiza. All you have to do is buy a 90-minute ticket that will allow you to use metro and bus transportation. The ticket costs 1.40 Eur and is available at the ticket booths located on every metro station.
Download our Athens metro map and plan your trip in advance!
Getting to Varkiza will require you to exit metro at the Elliniko station (below) and use a bus to get to the coastal area.
Here is my simple guide:
- First you need to take subway to the final station called Elliniko located on the Red line. It’s just 10 stations away from Syntagma. This will take you about 25 minutes.
- After exiting Elliniko just proceed to the adjacent bus station. You’ll see all the locals walking there.
- The bus number 171 (ΣΤ. ΜΕΤΡΟ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟ – ΒΑΡΚΙΖΑ) will take you directly to the Varkiza beach area. This option is the fastest and will take you approximately another 25 minutes.
- You can also use the bus number 122 ΣΤ. (ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟ – ΣΑΡΩΝΙΔΑ). This route runs through another nice coastal town called Vouliagmeni. This option will take about 10 minutes longer.
Another route that I use more rarely is from Syntagma Square to the seaside town called Glyfada using tram service. It may be quite interesting because it passes through a number of Athenian suburbs before it turns towards the coast to continue its ride along the sea. On the other side this tram service is slower and makes more stops than the bus options.
One important thing I’d like to undermine is that the whole Athenian Riviera is much less tourist oriented compared to some extremely touristic islands such as Crete, Rhodes and Mikonos.
So what that means?
Less tourist oriented means that their hotel infrastructure is incomparable to what you’ll find for example in Crete that has a large number of hotel chains built along the coastline. Instead you’ll find just several medium size hotels here that in many cases are used by Athenians for their short term getaways.
I consider that as an advantage because you won’t see overcrowded streets with large amount of tourists here. Everything is small and quiet even though a lot of Greeks do visit local beaches on weekends especially in summer. Varkiza has some of the cleanest beaches in close proximity to the capital.
Where to stay?
Varkiza has just 2 hotels both of which are very simple and relatively old. One is called Stefanakis and the other one is called Apollonia Hotel Apartments. My advice is to rent an apartment using Airbnb instead. There are many apartments listed for rent so you’ll have a better choice in terms of location, apartment size and quality.
During my last stay in Varkiza I fell in love with its quiet streets, fresh sea air mixed with the scent of local pine trees and of course the sea.
One of the advantages of Athenian Riviera is that the local swimming season starts earlier comparing to other beach resorts in Europe.
I usually start swimming here in May and finish the season in mid-November thanks to the subtropical Mediterranean climate.
September is actually a hot summer month here and I typically use air conditioning at night till the beginning of October. I love October because it usually gets some rainy days that make the grass green, air fresh and finally ease the heat.
Varkiza Yabanaki Resort vs Free Beaches
Talking about swimming options, there is a large private beach here called Yabanaki Resort. It has a good selection of standard beach amenities that include restaurants, wakeboard station and beach volleyball courts.
It also has these small sea front condos with kitchens and living rooms that you can rent and stay on the beach throughout the whole day.
During high season they will charge you 6 Euros for the entrance and 6 Euros for the sunbed.
Large sandy beaches are not for me though. I personally prefer small and less crowded beaches spread along the coastline.
I think they are much better for swimming.
The fishing port is located near the central square. It has a small fish market that is open daily in the mornings.
It gets busier during weekends and you can buy some freshly caught fish right from the fishing boats.
Talking about food options, there are a number of restaurants near the main square with descent quality food. Then there is one interesting place that attracts people from all over the Athens area. You can find it on the far East side of the town’s coastline, right after the Varkiza Resort (Yabanaki).
This is a simple Greek tavern with some of the tables placed right on the beach. Grilled octopus, fried calamari, traditional Greek salad, Fried anchovies along with the catch of the day and a glass of Ouzo will leave you satisfied.
If you want something more upcale then there are two seaside restaurants located on both sides of the fishing port. One is called Latini that is actually owned by the brother of the above tavern owner.
The other one is called Kastelorizo.
Both of them are more expensive than other restaurants in the area, but the food is good and people come to eat here from neighboring towns.
So, next time you are in Athens remember that Acropolis, Kolonaki and Plaka are not the only things you can explore there! There is no need to go to the islands to have a nice swim in the excellent blue sea!