After two very active days in the center of Athens, it’s time to slow down and catch your breath. There’s no better location to relax and soak up the impressions of your first two days in Athens than the coast in the southern suburbs. From Flisvos to Cape Sounio on the southernmost tip of Attica, the views and fresh breeze of the Saronic Gulf will be etched into your memories — regardless of the time of year you visit.
Take the bus to Cape Sounio from the KTEL bus stop on Filellinon Street, below Syntagma Square. The buses run almost every hour and a half, depending on the day of the week and the season. Cape Sounio is about 40 miles away from Athens, so it’s highly recommended to leave the city early in the morning. The cape is renowned for the Temple of Poseidon, an ancient monument on a point overlooking the Aegean Sea. You probably saw some of the sculptures that embellished the temple the day before at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
Note that to make the most of this itinerary along the coastal suburbs, it’s advisable to rent a car or use a reliable taxi service, such as taxi Beat, Athens’ version of Uber.
On the coastal ride back to Athens, stop at Varkiza, halfway between Cape Sounio and Athens. On Varkiza’s harbor, Kastelorizo seafood restaurant brings the fresh catch of the day to your table. The rustic setting, the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea, and the burning fireplace in the winter make Kastelorizo ideal for any time of the year.
Prices are reasonable. Just keep in mind that, besides some highly recommended starters such as the wild greens patties and the Pleurotus mushrooms with thyme and parmesan, there aren’t vegetarian main dishes. If you are indecisive, the spaghetti with fresh lobster and the risotto with shrimp and white grouper fillet won’t disappoint you.
Head to Vouliagmeni Lake, a short drive from Varkiza, for a holistic self-care experience. Vouliagmeni Lake is a preserved natural thermal spring, with high concentrations of salts and minerals, such as potassium, calcium, and iron. In addition to the lake’s healing qualities, the water temperature is warm (between 72 and 84 Fahrenheit) all year round.
From swimming and snorkeling to spa treatments and hiking up the Faskomilia Hill overlooking Attica’s coastline and the lake, Vouliagmeni entertains, relaxes, and rejuvenates. If you don’t feel like undertaking physical activity, you can refresh yourself with a cocktail at the all-day bar and restaurant on the deck.
If you have time to squeeze one last cultural experience into your itinerary, let it be a visit to the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center. Besides being the new home to the National Opera and the National Library, the SNFCC has a green open space whose paths are lined with pine and olive trees. Spring and summer nights at the center are filled with music events and festivals. Ninety-minute free tours of this state-of-the-art building are available for those who want to familiarize themselves with its lovely sustainable and modern architecture.
Bid farewell to Attica’s coast and head northwest to the Petralona neighborhood for your last stop of the day. Petralona is set side by side with excellent yet affordable traditional Greek cuisine, prepared in family-run restaurants.
Ikonomou taverna has been in the neighborhood since 1930, and among its regular customers are politicians, artists, and journalists. The kitchen doesn’t have a frying pan — everything is slow-cooked in the pot — and the only baked dishes are the beef and pork steaks. In the summer, tables are also brought outside on the pavement, under the olive trees. For original recipes from the island of Crete, go to Aster on Troon street. As on every Cretan table, there will be plenty of raki (a strong, grape-based alcoholic drink) to accompany your meal.