Attica is synonymous with Athens, one of the world’s most historically significant cities and a modern metropolis, buzzing with life. But its magic extends far beyond the centre, all the way down the Attica peninsula as far as Cape Sounion. Its coastline is filled with beaches, marinas, five-star resorts and smaller hotels, and dozens of restaurants and bars overlooking the sea. And let’s not forget the islands near Athens and Kythira, just south of the Peloponnese
The historical and cultural wealth of Athens, combined with the modern and youthful vibe, make it an ideal city break destination. On the one hand, you have the iconic Acropolis and its world-famous museum, the Ancient Agora, Plaka and the historic centre. And on the other, the high-end restaurants, sidewalk cafes, shops, picturesque markets, galleries with contemporary exhibitions, and art and antique shops
So whether part of a city break or an add-on to a longer holiday, your stay in Attica will have everything.
The beautiful beaches of Attica and the Saronic Gulf
The Athens Riviera stretches along the southern coastline of Attica, from Paleo Faliro (north of Piraeus) to Sounion on the southeastern peninsula. Many are organised, with sunbeds and umbrellas and lively beach bars and restaurants on the water. And there are dozens of dining options, including seaside tavernas serving fresh seafood. Life here moves to the rhythms of summer all year long.
At Sounion, you will stand awe-struck before the imposing Temple of Poseidon, especially during an energising sunset. And the easy-to-reach island gems of the Saronic Gulf, with their sandy beaches, are perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway. From the port of Piraeus, take the hydrofoil or ferry to Aegina, Poros, Hydra or Spetses. Kythira, on the other hand, will claim a few more days of your itinerary, as it requires you to travel towards the south of the Peloponnese to reach it. But this unique island (which administratively belongs to Attica) is worth discovering. It has castles, sacred caves, picturesque coves, villages and beaches for all.
Culture springs eternal
Athens is an open-air museum. Must-sees are the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum, one of the finest in the world. Strolling along the pedestrian walkway of Dionysiou Areopagitou, and through the districts of Anafiotika and Monastiraki in the shadow of the Acropolis, you’ll admire archaeological sites, ancient and Byzantine monuments, churches and neoclassical buildings steeped in history.
Museums such as the National Archaeological Museum on Patission Avenue, the Museums of Greek Folk Art and Musical Instruments, the War Museum, the new Benaki Museum on Pireos Street and the original Benaki Museum in Kolonaki, the Numismatic Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art will enrich your knowledge of Athens and its history. As will the National Gallery, the Planetarium, the Foundation of the Hellenic World and the dozens of art galleries in the city centre.
Head to the coast
The best way to get to know the Athens Riviera and the islands of the Saronic Gulf is by boat. You’ll find marinas to dock your yacht in Zea, Flisvos (with shades of Monaco), Faliro, Alimos, Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and all of the nearby islands. For all sorts of water sports, make your way to Vouliagmeni, as well as the organised beaches of Varkiza and Anavysos, often ideal for wind- and kite-surfing. The warm water in Lake Vouliagmeni is known for its therapeutic properties. And the coast also boasts paved paths that are perfect for walking and biking.
A thousand-and-one gourmet options
Your choices for dining in Athens are infinite and vary according to neighbourhood. In Athens and the suburbs, you’ll find ouzeries and mezedopolia serving delectable small dishes, and of course tavernas and local restaurants offering traditional Greek cuisine, often accompanied by live music. The city also has several beer halls and wine bars, and all-day cafe-restaurants.
The city offers an international array of cuisines – French, Italian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and tapas, as well as restaurants specialising in vegetarian and vegan food. You’ll find cellars stocked with wines from all over Greece and the world. And if you head towards the southern suburbs, you’ll find tavernas on the water serving freshly-caught seafood with ouzo and fine wine. On the islands of the Saronic Gulf, seafood is the speciality. Ιn Aegina, the food at the picturesque port of Perdika is particularly noteworthy. And in Spetses, head to the restaurants that line the Old Port.
The most popular sights
- The Acropolis: The cornerstone of European civilisation, the Acropolis is a reminder of what mankind is capable. You’ll learn about the timeless creations of Athens’ Golden Age, including some of the most famous monuments in the world: the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheum with its famous Caryatids. For a fuller picture, you’ll also want to visit other important Athenian monuments: the Theatres of Dionysos and Herodes Atticus, the Areopagus, Pnyx, Ancient Cemetery of Kerameikos, Ancient Agora, Roman Forum… The list goes on.
- The historic centre: From Syntagma Square, stroll down the famous shopping street of Ermou until you reach Monastiraki, and from there you’ll enter the old markets with souvenir and antique shops. Avissinias Square, with its flea market, is particularly picturesque. And head Stadiou and Panepistimiou avenues, with their iconic buildings, historic cafes and all manner of restaurants and stores.
- Kolonaki: This aristocratic neighbourhood of central Athens offers a wide array of choices, with chic cafes, high-end restaurants and cool boutiques.
- Plaka: The walk from Adrianou Street, through the shaded squares and streets of Plaka, to Anafiotika with its Cycladic architecture, is one of a kind.
- Psyrri & Gazi: The neighbourhoods of Psyrri and Gazi are hip hangouts emitting a youthful energy, full of restaurants, cafes and bars.
- The coastline: Walk along Attica’s coast, especially around Glyfada, the stylish southern suburb with its trendy bars, excellent restaurants and vibrant shopping scene. You’ll find it towards the end of the tram line that starts at Syntagma and follows a scenic route along the sea.
- Saronic Gulf islands: On these islands close to Athens, you’ll be greeted by an entirely different atmosphere. You’ll visit Hydra with its grand mansions and 18th-century captains’ homes, cosmopolitan Spetses with its picturesque Old Port, Aegina with its Capodistrian buildings and floating grocers, stately Poros and tiny, pine-studded Agistri.
- Kythira: Further afield is Kythira, where an imposing Venetian castle rises above the Hora, overlooking the pretty seaside village of Kapsali, with its twin bays. Worth visiting are the smaller Venetian castle at Mylopotamos and the cave-chapel of Agia Sophia with its frescoes among the stalactites.