Vouliagmeni, Athens – A local’s guide to a nostalgic summer destination
Vouliagmeni in Athens is the place where I spent most of my childhood summers. I remember starting the day with my sister, taking swimming lessons at the Local Nautical Center. Afterwards, our grandmother would take us waterskiing at Lolo’s Ski Center, which was back then housed in the same location. The days would go by hanging around at the Nautical Center, swimming along with friends, drinking iced strawberry-lemon shakes, and then going home for lunch and the very much mandatory nap. We could not wait for time to pass, get ready and go out to the playground across our house and play with our friends till night.
I vividly remember my grandfather’s daily ritual. He would wake up early in the morning and walk towards Lake Vouliagmeni, where he used to go swimming. On his way back, strictly on foot, he would stop at the kiosk to buy his daily newspaper. He would also buy the most amazing cream parfait ice cream for us, from the traditional pastry shop of “Aqua Marina”, which is up to now unique and completely untouched by time. After his siesta, he would walk back to the same pastry shop to hang out with his friends. Everything used to be so laid back and easy going during those summers.
To this day, Vouliagmeni remains beautiful and alive in our hearts but in a much different way. Just a breath away from the city center you can always visit for a weekend getaway or as part of a daily expedition. During the winter, Vouliagmeni is a tranquil retreat. Most of the bars and restaurants are shut and only a few remain open to give a warm welcome to the locals. During the summer it transforms into a vivid oasis. The swimming destinations offered are countless. You will discover crowded posh beach bars and well-hidden private rocky bays. I have always preferred the small rocky coast of Vouliagmeni, known as “Limanakia“, where you can casually chill on the rocks and dive straight into the deep blue water.
Vouliagmeni has flourished over the years, restaurants and gelaterias have opened, and it’s now bustling with people of all ages. Although it is not as laid back as it used to be, it has managed to retain its special character. The choices offered are endless. You can have dinner in posh places enjoying fresh fish and magical sunsets while you can also enjoy a delicious traditional pastitsio or souvlaki in the long-established taverns that have safeguarded their heritage over the years.
Vouliagmeni will always be a special place for me. With every visit, I feel as if I am revisiting my childhood years. A swim at the Nautical Center, a traditional lunch at “Louizidis” tavern, an afternoon nap, a quick souvlaki at “Zahos Grill”, a movie at the open-air cinema of “Akti”, an indulging “Chicago” ice cream in my grandfather’s favorite place, “Aqua Marina”, make me feel fulfilled and happy. A day-long visit to Vouliagmeni must always be a part of a trip to Athens. Start by going to the beach of your choice and finish your day drinking a cold beer at an open-air cinema or enjoying a frozen cocktail at the all-new Tiki bar.
Written by Alexandra Diamanti
16 August 2021