The Coast Road: the downtown of Athenian summer
It is an old habit. Summer comes, temperatures rise and the whole city looks towards the coast. Not that it lies lifeless in winter; there are plenty of lively spots in Faliro, Alimos, Kalamaki and Glyfada year round.
In summer, however, it takes on a different attitude and becomes the central point of reference. When talking about the coastal road, we mean the road along the shoreline of the southern suburbs of Athens known as Poseidonos Avenue.
It stretches from the traditional refugee area of Faliro (many refugees from Constantinople settled here) to the up and coming Varkiza area. Poseidonos Avenue connects to the centre through Syngrou and Vouliagmenis avenues, as well as through Pireos Street. The recent addition of the tram (Syntagma-Faliro, Syntagma- Glyfada, Faliro-Glyfada) has made it easier for the public to reach the coast using an alternative mode of transport.
The coastal road literally never sleeps. Day follows night without a break: from the beaches to the shopping districts, then to the cafes, followed by dinner in the evening and a night of entertainment, and back to the beach in the morning. Faliro retains the nobility of an older Athens, or even an older Greece.
The ladies from Poli (Constantinople) take their swim in the morning in Flisvos wearing colourful caps and can then be seen walking along the promenade in the afternoons. The Faliro area is one of the most quickly developing areas. A giant mall with a multiplex cinema and many stores has also opened there.
The new Greek National Opera House and new National Library will be built in the former hippodrome. The Olympic venues there are used mainly for summer concerts, visual arts exhibits, such Art Athina and the Athens Biennale, and for conferences.
The most representative area of the coastal region is undoubtedly Glyfada. Its shopping district is one of the three best in the city. Its 48 coffee shops (City, Egomio, etc.) draw young people from all of the southern suburbs. It is the only place in Athens with a golf course and its main square functions as a focal point for the surrounding area.
It is worth taking a stroll along the waterfront or playing a game at the picturesque fun park. It would also be a crime not to visit its galleries and the famous "Chocolat" chocolaterie. At night, Glyfada turns into an expansive centre of entertainment with its numerous bars and clubs. We will get to that later.
There are not a lot of sights along the coastal road. Buildings of architectural interest include post-modern structures designed by great Greek architects Nikolaos Valsamakis and Aris Konstandinidis that house many of the night clubs. The Faliro Common State Cemetery, where many foreign soldiers from World War II are buried, is also of interest. It is very pleasant to walk anywhere along the sea front, from Faliro to Glyfada, to see the giant chess board and pieces at Edem; the old airport at Ellinikon, slated to become a metropolitan park; to take a ride on the tram; or to see the Olympic venues and sports centre in Agios Kosmas. If you are athletic by nature, Agios Kosmas has it all: from small football pitches, tennis courts, track and basketball courts to a go-cart track.
Nevertheless, there are two things that distinguish the coastal road: the organised beaches and the night clubs. This is where the sound of beach racket balls melds in with the pulse of one of the liveliest nightlife scenes in Europe. Organised beaches, such as Alimos, Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Voula and Varkiza draw the majority of Athenian swimmers.
After washing off the sea salt, they head for the coffee shops. Not just one or two, but hundreds of them: all-day bars, such as Balux Café in Glyfada and Kitchen Bar in Alimos, with coffee, food and drinks; for food at Dekko South and the Pacific Room in Voula; the big clubs like the ethnic and alegro El Pecado Isla in Voula, the Hall of Mad in Glyfada, the Delano and the expansive Akrotiri Boutique in Ellinikon and Shisha in Neo Faliro.
There is also Ammos Beach in Alimos near the shore and if you like disco, dress appropriately and head for Vinylio in Varkiza or Boom Boom in Kalithea. Extreme décor, dance shows and large bars with a view of the sea give it all more of a Hawaiian atmosphere than an Athenian one.
The music is generally mainstream and there are numerous R'n'B parties during the week. If you want to get a taste of real Athenian seaside nightlife, visit one of the famous clubs where bouzouki music set locals and non-locals on fire. If you see a large marquee and want to experience it all, do not hesitate to enter.
The Athens coast is full of contradictions. It is a living organism, ready to take up the city's pulse every summer. It is ready to welcome the millions of residents and tourists who visit every week. You do not have to tour it all to discover its virtues. Even a tram ride is sufficient.