Have you ever heard about a place called Vouliagmeni in Greece? A lot of people have no idea about this small town located just 40 minutes away from the center of Athens. Most of the travellers are more familiar with the Greek islands like Crete or Mykonos. That’s quite understandable because these areas have a large number of major hotel chains built along the coastline and capable to accumulate heavy flows of seasonal tourist traffic.
There is no way Vouliagmeni can be considered a popular tourist destination. You won’t find any major hotel chains offering all inclusive packages at discount rates here.
You won’t see numerous buses rushing to deliver large groups of tourists to their hotels before check in time.
Instead I would describe it as a small upscale coastal town with just several boutique hotels and the most expensive private beach in the area charging 40 Euros as an entrance fee during high season.
During his last visit to Athens Barak Obama and his delegation stayed at Astir hotel in Vouliagmeni. Mr. Putin stayed at another hotel located on the opposite side of Vouliagmeni called Divani Apollon during his presidential trip to Greece.
Vouliagmeni has several restaurants ranked among the most expensive in the whole Athens area. In addition to that this seaside town has some of the most expensive land in Europe and a small marina hidden behind the pine trees and filled with high class yachts.
During high season months all of the local restaurants spread along the coastline are packed every single evening.
Local waters get visited by the most expensive yachts from around the world. The vessels range from the 85.5 meters Sunrays yacht owned by the Indian billionaire Ravi Ruia to the 147 meters Topaz mega yacht worth almost Eur500mln and owned by the Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour. The below photo has been actually taken in the waters of the neighboring town called Varkiza.
So generally speaking, this is a wealthy area with expensive real estate that lacks any signs of economic crisis widely talked about in the media.
2 Interesting Facts About Vouliagmeni
- Bilderberg Group Meetings
Vouliagmeni hosted 2 annual Bilderberg Group meetings in 1993 and 2009 at the premises of Astir Palace Hotel.
These meetings are used by some of the most powerful figures of the world to coordinate their global strategy of economic and financial globalization. Starting 1954 their discussion topics ranged from the Rise of Communism to Migration Situation in Europe as well as Cybersecurity.
There is little known what they really talk about behind the closed doors as they don’t publish their agendas. Some of the well-known names that attended these meetings in Vouliagmeni include Tony Blair in 1993 and Mario Draghi in 2009.
- American military divers disappeared
3 American military divers disappeared while exploring underwater tunnels of Vouliagmeni Lake in 1978. Their remains have been found only 30 years later by several local divers. The DNA tests of discovered bones have confirmed their identities. In addition to that one person has died in 1990 while trying to conduct the search of the disappeared US divers.
Today Vouliagmeni Lake is one of the main attractions in the area. What’s remarkable about it is its water enriched with minerals that preserves the same temperature throughout the year. You can see people swimming here even during winter months. There is a nice deck area with plenty of sunbeds and showers. The lake has its own café that serves all kinds of drinks and snacks.
Life in Vouliagmeni
This old-money quiet neighborhood looks very cozy and green. You won’t find too many new construction developments here. Most of the apartment buildings were built several decades ago. Some of them have been renovated some not.
Newer developments are scarce and typically priced in the higher budget segment (starting at about usd 1mln) depending on the size and distance to the sea.
In general, the real estate prices range from several hundred euros for some older and smaller apartments to the multi million euro price tags on new and renovated developments.
1. Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens
Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens covers a major plot area of Vouliagmeni peninsula. It has a large adjacent area covered with pine trees.
There are several high class restaurants located at the premises of Four Seasons Astir Palace including extension of the world famous Nobu (excellent Japanese cuisine).
The neighboring Astir beach belongs to the hotel group as well. The original Astir Palace (before becoming part of Four Seasons) was opened in 1958 and since then served as one of the attraction points for the worlds rich and famous. Its guests included Brigitte Bardot, Mikhail Gorbachev, Frank Sinatra, Lady Gaga and lots of others. That’s how it looked in the late 50s after it was opened.
The hotel has been acquired by the Jermyn Street Real Estate Fund and Apollo Investment in 2015. Astir Palace has been fully reconstructed and opened its doors in 2019 as a new Four Seasons Hotel.
2. Divani Apollon
Divani Apollon has a more modern construction built slightly away from the central part of Vouliagmeni. That’s the biggest hotel in the area that has 330 rooms. The hotel looks new and renovated. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the central Vouliagmeni coastline with all the restaurants and beaches. Nevertheless the coastline in front of the hotel is very nice and has several good restaurants. One of the restaurants I visit here is called Garbi that serves seafood dishes made with creative approach.
It has an excellent verandah that gets packed in the evenings during high season.
3. The Margi
The Margi Hotel is located slightly away from the beach, but really close to all the main beaches and restaurants of Vouliagmeni. It has a beautiful pool lounge area and a restaurant called The Patio that was recently mentioned by CNN with a very positive review.
4. Vouliagmeni Suites
Another hotel worth mentioning is called Vouliagmeni Suites that was reopened in 2018 after reconstruction. It’s very new, has a great location close to the beach and it’s summer veranda has some great panoramic sea views.
|Restaurant||Cuisine||Top Dish||Price *|
|Zachos||Casual Greek||Turkey pita with tzatziki||20 Eur|
|ITAHKI||High class international||Grilled fish of the day||250 Eur|
|Labros||Seafood||Fresh fish on the charcoal||100 Eur|
|Waffle House||Desserts||Ice Cream||10 Eur|
* – Avgerage dinner Price for 2 guests
There are many restaurants in the area I’ll just highlight some of the places I like visiting from time to time. This section will be updated with new places, so make sure to add it to your bookmarks.
- Zachos on Ermou 1, Vouliagmeni 166 71. This place is packed every single day by the locals for lunch and dinner. Zachos is focused on Greek cuisine, so it’s a good place for things like Pitas and Greek salad. It’s really inexpensive and good quality. I love their Turkey Pitas with traditional tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and fries.
- ITAHKI on Apollonos 28, Vouliagmeni 166 71. That’s one of the most expensive restaurants in Vouliagmeni with some excellent views of the peninsula. Its hidden from the general public up on the hill behind the pine trees. During weekend evenings the restaurant’s parking lot gets packed by high class German autos.
Inside you’ll see Itahki’s main clientele wearing Chanel bags and flashing their Rolex watches. The menu is mixed and includes dishes like catch of the day and sushi. The service is neither perfect nor bad. Prices are way above average, but that’s just one of the top places in the top location.
- Labros Restaurant on Posidonos 20, Vouliagmeni 166 71. Its located on the opposite side of the Vouliagmeni Lake entrance. This is a seafood restaurant with a large summer verandah that has some nice views of the sea. What’s remarkable about Labros is that it was originally opened in 1939.
- Waffle House on Agiou Panteleimonos, Vouliagmeni 166 71. That’s a casual café that has plenty of deserts and a nice sitting area. I usually stop here to get my latte to go for 1.9 Eur. I know it’s still overpriced comparing to other areas around Athens, but this place is located along the first line of the Vouliagmeni coastline.
Talking about beaches, Vouliagmeni has both paid and free options. The first one to mention is called Astir beach which is considered to be the top seaside destination for those Athenians that can afford it.
During high season you’ll discover that all of the beaches are packed. Paid beaches allow to reserve your sunbed in advance for some extra cost. Astir has an online application that actually allows to pick and reserve your sunbed using an interactive map. This costs 50 Euroes on weekends during the most “expensive” month which is August.
Astir gets less crowded comparing to other paid and free beaches and has a more quiet atmosphere. Here you won’t see crowds of teenagers running around, making noise and listening to loud music.
Another thing to mention about Astir beach is that its good for families with kids because its shallow waters near the coastline are safer for the kids to swim and play.
That’s actually the main beach of Vouliagmeni that has excellent sports area where the visitors can play tennis, beach volleyball and basketball. It’s a lot bigger and less expensive (costs about 8 Euros to enter during high season months) than the neighboring Astir. The water is clean and the beach has some nice sand.
Of course there are free beaches spread along the coastline of Vouliagmeni as well. There is one right on the opposite side of Astir and more options closer to the Divani resort. The only two major things that make them less desirable options during high season is the number of people and lack of sunbeds. Otherwise the sea is the same.
Athens to Vouliagmeni: Public Transport vs Car
During high season it can actually take you over 1 one hour to get from Athens to Vouliagmeni due to congested traffic. Thats because in summer a lot of Athenians rush outside the city to spend a day at one of the beaches. Starting September it gets a lot easier, though.
Getting to Vouliagmeni by public transport is easy. Use local subway to get from the Syntagma Square to the final Elliniko Station which will take you about 20 minutes. There is a bus station right near the subway station exit. The bus number 122 will take you directly to Vouliagmeni. This will take you another half an hour. Subway tickets are also used for bus trips. The tickets are active for 70 minutes after you stamp them.