Grittier, punkier, and altogether more edgy than most European capitals, Athens is not necessarily the type of place that you associate with luxury travel.
Most visitors to Athens follow the same itinerary as they cross the most important historical sites off their Greek travel bucket list. The Acropolis? Check. The Roman Agora? Check. The Temple of Zeus? Check.
Falling in Love with the Greek Capital
In Athens, travelers can follow in the footsteps of Socrates and Plato, as they stroll beneath the shadow of sunbleached ruins. As the birthplace of modern civilization, a visit to the Greek capital ranks high on most avid travelers’ bucket lists. However, Athens is far more than just crumbling ruins and historical sites.
There is a side to Athens that the vast majority of travelers do not even know about. For Athenians, it is not the archaeological sites that make Athens wonderful, but the various neighborhoods of the city – each with their own distinct personalities. One of Southern Greece’s best-kept secrets is the upscale coastal region that sits to the south of the center – Greece’s very own Cote d’Azur.
The Athenian Riviera
Venture 14km south of Athens and the scenery changes dramatically. The hilly streets and ramshackle apartment buildings of central Athens are replaced with sprawling palm-tree lined boulevards and grand neoclassical mansions. This is one of the most exclusive areas in Greece: an upscale region that is affectionately referred to as the “Hellenic Hamptons”.
The Hellenic Hamptons is a pine-clad peninsula that is comprised of several small beach towns: Voula, Vouliagmeni, Vari, and Glyfada. The region is characterized by dramatic cliffs, idyllic beaches, secluded coves, and private beach clubs that attract a well-heeled crowd.
Up until the ’60s, this area was nothing more than an expanse of pristine coastline that overlooked the Saronic Gulf islands. Local entrepreneurs envisaged the space as the perfect area to grow Greece’s luxury tourism industry. Resorts and fine dining restaurants sprouted up in the region, and the likes of Frank Sinatra and Brigitte Bardot are the types of people who vacationed here.
Those wanting to experience Athens without the chaos of staying in a congested capital can consider basing themselves on the Riviera. Public transportation (trams and buses) run frequently between the city center and the Riviera beach towns. This way, you can easily combine central Athens’ archaeological sites and museums, with swimming in the cerulean waters of private beaches.
Vouliagmeni Lake is a must-visit while in the area – this mysterious brackish lake sits on top of natural thermal spring waters that are rumored to have healing properties. The adjacent spa is a great place to treat yourself to a hot stone massage, a facial, or a fish pedicure.
Private and public beaches line the coastline of the Athenian Riviera – each more breathtaking than the last. Among the Athenian jetset though, there is only one place to see and be seen in the Athenian Riviera: Astir Beach Club.
Astir is a favorite among both the Athenian elite and international celebrities. Complimentary beverages are included in the price of admission and sunbed rental. The beach club also boasts an Italian fine dining restaurant. Stop by for absolute indulgence and a chance to spy a rockstar in your midst.
Luxury in the Heart of Central Athens
While the Riviera exudes luxury at every angle, that is not to say that Athens city center is without its upscale charm. Indeed, nestled within the city’s labyrinth-like network of narrow streets and graffiti-laden buildings, there are exquisite fine-dining restaurants, chic bars, and glamorous boutique stores.
Kifissia and Kolonaki are the two most exclusive districts in town – both often likened to Beverly Hills. As far as fine dining goes, Athens is home to five different Michelin star restaurants, each owned and operated by well-regarded Greek chefs.
Spondi offers an interesting fusion between Mediterranean and French cuisine, combining flavors that appear to be obscure pairings, yet somehow just work. For seafood lovers, Varoulko is a local favorite. The day’s latest catches are served fresh in a beautiful seafront setting.
The Sense Restaurant that sits atop the AthensWas hotel is a newcomer on the Athens fine dining scene that is quickly making a name for itself. The rooftop location means that Sense customers have magnificent views of the Acropolis – a sight that is particularly magical as the sun sets and the Parthenon is illuminated by hundreds of twinkling lights.
Sense’s menu serves up traditional Greek classic dishes with a modern twist – think pastitsio served cannelloni style with oxtail. For the perfect tipple to accompany your meal, ask the wait staff to recommend one of their excellent, locally sourced Greek wines.
Where to Stay for a Luxury Break in Athens
Accommodation options in Athens and its surroundings are plentiful. However, there are always those places that stand out above the crowd.
Where: Litous 11, Vouliagmeni 166 71, Greece
The Margi Hotel is a well-known name in Greek luxury travel. The hotel’s founder Yiangos Stavridis is recognized for envisaging the entire concept of the Hellenic Hamptons. The premises exude an air of effortless, old-fashioned elegance. Rooms are decorated in light beige tones and decorated with plush furnishings and tasteful art pieces sourced from across the world.
The hotel’s outdoor pool and cocktail bar is one of the best rendezvous points in the area. It is worth stopping by for an evening tipple or two, even if you do not opt to stay here. Seasonal offers such as weekend wellness breaks, and combine hotel and tour packages are available throughout the year.
Azur Boutique Hotel
Where: 10 Dekeleias, Danes &, Vari Voula Vouliagmeni 166 71, Greece
The Azur Boutique Hotel has one of the most exclusive postcodes in town. Set in the heart of upscale Vouliagmeni, opting to base yourself in this new luxury hotel bases you just a few hundred meters away from the cerulean waters of Astir, Okeanida, and Vouliagmeni beaches.
The spacious rooms are decorated in with chic contemporary furnishings. Book a suite with a private plunge pool for the ultimate luxury experience.
Where: Dionysiou Areopagitou 5, Athina 117 42, Greece
AthensWas Hotel is a five-star design hotel that sits on the pedestrianized boulevard of Dionysiou Areopagitou. Here, you are just a five-minute walk away from the Acropolis, Plaka, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. If you want a luxury hotel that bases you in the heart of the city, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The hotel offers a magnificent juxtaposition of ancient tradition meets modern contemporary living. The spacious rooms each boast their own private balconies that overlook the Acropolis, or the quaint bouzoukis and street performers of Dionysiou Areopagitou.
Tel Aviv to Athens
Flights from Tel Aviv to Athens come without the luxury price tag. Ticket prices start from just 120 shekels in the offseason, and around 280 shekels in the height of summer.