Athens beaches can be broadly divided into 2 categories, those that are free access and those that you have to pay to get into. We won’t get into the moral discussion of if it is right for one to pay to get into a beach, let alone the legality of it, since the Greek state supposedly guarantees free access to all beaches for everyone, suffice to say that I don’t pay to go to a beach, but the ‘private’ Athens beaches are certainly a lot cleaner and user friendly than your normal everyday public beaches. Below are a few choices for those looking to get to a beach from central Athens, both the free and paid (or ‘organised’) variety.
Free Athens Beaches
Let’s start with the public access beaches. The truth is that there are many public access beaches all the way around the Attica coast. If you have access to a car then you can just go for a drive following any road out of Athens be it south past the organised beaches of Vouliagmeni and Varkiza and on towards Cape Sounio or out to the east towards the beaches at Marathonas or Porto Rafti. Otherwise buses or taxis will get you to most of the main beaches of Attica with minimal fuss.
Schinias Beach, Marathonas
Schinias beach is a long, sandy beach on the northern edges of Marathon Bay backed by a famous strand of pine forest. About 45kms from Athens, it is free to access, but there are areas of sun beds and umbrellas for those that wish to pay the rental fee (9 euros as of summer 2009). The truth is that all of the coast along Marathon Bay is basically one long beach, and most areas have some sort of facilities available for those that want to use them.
Orange KTEL buses run from the Pedio of Areos in central Athens five times a day starting at 7:30 am and finishing at 6pm. They stop at th Ampelokipi and Ethniki Amyna metro stations on their way out to Marathonas. Last bus back leaves Marathonas at 8:30p.
Sounio Beach, Cape Sounio
A small, sandy beach just a few hundred meters from the Temple of Poseidon and 70kms from Athens, Cape Sounio can get pretty crowded in the summertime. It is in a protected cove and has a couple of decent fish tavernas on it, along with a pretty hideous looking hotel which also offers sunbeds and umbrellas for rent. If you are going to be seeing the Temple of Poseidon anyway, this is the beach to cool off at.
Orange KTEL buses run every hour on the half hour from the Pedio tou Areos in central Athens. The journey takes about an hour and a half.
Legrena Beach, Legrena
A nice, long, sandy beach about 3kms west of Cape Sounio, Legrena Beach is well protected from the northern winds and offers a more isolated feel than most Attica beaches. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t get crowded occasionally on the weekends, and there is no shade to speak of, so bring your own umbrella. There are a couple of fish tavernas in the area.
The same orange KTEL buses mentioned above that run from the Pedio tou Areos to Sounio also pass by Legrena beach.
Organised Athens Beaches
The organised beaches in Athens tend to be clustered along the western edge of Attika in the areas of Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza. This doesn’t mean you won’t find organised beaches elsewhere, just that the ones in eastern and southern Attica usually have some sort of free access also, so you can choose to pay for your sun bed and umbrella or not as you see fit. Some of the best and well known organised beaches in Athens are the Astir beach in Vouliagmeni, Yabanaki beach in Varkizi and Akti tou Iliou in Alimos, which is only a short trip from Syntagma square in central Athens.
Astir Beach, Vouliagmeni
Astir Beach is a long, sandy beach about 20kms from the center of Athens in the southern suburb of Vouliagmeni. It is an organised beach with umbrellas, sun beds, showers and other facilities and the services are generally all of high quality. The entrance fee is also ‘quality’, an eye popping 15 euros for adults and 8 euros for kids up to 12 on the weekdays, which moves to 25 euros and 13 euros respectively on the weekends. Open from 8am to 9pm Astir Beach is blue flagged and is considered one of Athens’ best beaches. If you can get your head around the entrance fees it is probably worth a shot.
Bus number 114 from Glyfada will get you there, reached by taking the E22 from central Athens or the G1 from Pireaus. A taxi ride from central Athens will set you back about 10 euros.
Yabanaki Beach, Varkiza
Another long, sandy beach on Athens’ southeast coast; fully organised with shallow waters that are suitable for all age groups. Yabanaki is about 30kms from the city center and has facilities covering everything you could need: sun beds, umbrellas, watersports and other activities, even yoga, pilates and cooking classes at the ‘Ladies Place’! Entrance is 7 euros on weekdays, 8 euros on the weekends.
Bus E22 from Athens, the G1 from Pireaus, and 115, 116 and 149 from Glyfada. You can also get bus number 125 from the Ethniki Amyna metro station and orange KTEL buses leave from the Pedio tou Areos passing by Syntagma square on their way south. A taxi trip from central Athens will cost 10-15 euros.
Akti tou Iliou, Alimos
Akti to Iliou is the beach most easily accessed from the center of Athens, although the waters are not a clear as some of the beaches further south towards Vouliagmeni. There are three canteens serving drinks and snacks, a kiosk and optional (extra cost) sun beds. Entrance is 6 euros weekdays, 8 euros weekends, although there is a small section on the right that has free access.
The easiest option is the Kalamaki tram stop on the line to Voula. Buses E22, A2 and B2 from Athens also pass by, as do the 101 and E1 from Pireaus. A taxi ride from the center of town should be closer to 5 euros than 10.