A well-to-do resort on the Athens Riviera, Glyfada is where Greek tycoons, politicians and foreign oligarchs go for sun, sea and sand a short drive of the capital.
To the uninitiated it’s a kind of Greek Marbella, with luxury boutiques, snazzy cocktail bars, a golf course and a string of private beaches.
There’s enough nightlife, restaurants and shops in Glyfada that you’d only ever need to travel to Athens for sightseeing.
But you could also take a look around and see what the neighbouring towns have in store.
Vari close by is known for its gigantic grilled meat restaurants, while Vouliagmeni has a lovely natural lake that has become a spa resort.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Glyfada:
1. Sea Turtle Rescue Centre
Every year some 300 sea turtles are stranded on Greece’s beaches, and if they’re hurt, many will find their way here at this volunteer-run rescue centre on Glyfada Beach.
Their injuries are normally caused by collisions with boats, fishing equipment like hooks and nets, as well as being caught in plastic bags and other refuse.
The centre welcomes visitors for free tours on weekends, when you can meet the turtles recovering in tanks and visit the offices in converted railway carriages to find out about the extent of the charity’s operation.
There are more than 50 turtles here at any time, and if you’re lucky you can participate by handling turtles and weighing, preparing and serving their food.
At the end you’ll feel compelled to make a donation or buy something from the gift shop.
2. Saints Constantine and Helen Cathedral
This church in Glyfada is small but a joy to behold inside and out.
Completed in 1934, it has the Byzantine tetraconch design (four apses). Over the last decade the interior has been entirely overhauled and the church’s old frescoes have been replaced by brilliant mosaics.
These were composed by the artist Vlasios Tsotsonis who has produced Byzantine-style art for dozens of churches not just in Greece but also North America.
A special time to be here is on 21 May, when people come to venerate the relics of St Helena, the Empress of the Roman Empire in the 4th century and mother of Constantine.
The cradle of civilisation and democracy is near enough that you could visit on a half-day and come back to Glyfada to laze on the beach in the afternoon.
There’s nothing you can say about Athens’ ancient marvels that hasn’t been said many times over the last 2,400 years.
There are a few sightseeing priorities, and the first of those is the Acropolis, the ancient citadel festooned with temples and crested by the Parthenon.
Since 2009 most of the friezes and sculpture from the Acropolis has been revealed to the world at the eye-popping Acropolis Museum.
If you can help it, try not to leave without going to the National Archaeological Museum, the Ancient Agora, the Theatre of Dionysus, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Benaki Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum.
For more modern delights there’s the Plaka, Gazi and Psyri neighbourhoods, all worth investigating, and each with their own character.
Glyfada’s streets have been planned like a pedestrian mall: They curve around the bay in concentric semi-circles, while the buildings have multiple levels that can be accessed from the outside on foot and are broken up by passages lined with yet more shops.
And if there’s something special you need, or you just want to see what turns up Glyfada has a serious choice of stores for what is a small-ish resort.
Gap, H&M, Boss Menswear, Tommy Hilfiger, Zara, Mango, Sephora, Marks & Spencer, Claire’s and Pull and Bear are all here, in between locally owned boutiques and design shops.
5. Astir Beach
If you don’t mind paying, Astir Beach in Vouliagmeni is probably the best place to laze by the sea near Glyfada.
Belonging to the Astir Palace resort where President Obama stayed in 2016, this is one of the few 100% sandy beaches in the Athens area.
The beach is on the west side of a narrow isthmus and is contained within rugged, pine-covered headlands.
The sea is shallow, calm and child-friendly and there’s a wooden walkway to get about between the grid of sun loungers.
Astir Beach is limited to 1,000 guests a day, and has a full service restaurant at each end, one of which is a TGI Fridays.
6. Asteras Beach
Also operated by a resort, Asteras Beach a breeze from the centre of Glyfada with entry fees that fluctuate according to the time of the season.
At the transitional times in May and September you could pay as little as €5, rising to €25 in July and August.
But with the price you do get a taste of luxury, with full service from the air-conditioned bar and restaurant, and comfortable sun loungers.
It can be hard to resist the temptation to spend the whole day sipping cocktails without having to get up.
But the sea is very welcoming here too, and there’s a designated space for beach volleyball and racket games.
7. Glyfada Beach
The public beach in Glyfada is towards the north of the resort, and is actually two beaches interrupted by a headland with a nightclub and restaurant.
Both beaches are long and pebbly, with none of the facilities of the private beaches, but still a stone’s throw from Glyfada’s shops, cafes and restaurants.
The water is crystal clear at Glyfada Beach and even if the surface is a little gravelly the shore is kept clean.
Back from the water’s edge there are softer patches of coarse sand on both beaches where you can lay your towel and put a parasol.
8. Voula Beach
Around Aliki Point from Glyfada, Voula Beach is an inexpensive private beach with sun loungers and parasols included in the entrance fee.
Voula Beach is beside the last station on Athens’ tram system and has a broad sweep of golden sand and pebbles.
Seaweed can accumulate over the winter but is cleaned in time for the summer season.
For swimmers, the water is calm and shallow most days and currents are blocked by the long headland to the north.
There’s a beach volleyball and tennis court to the rear, and a bar “Oxyzen” for drinks and snacks.
About half-way from Glyfada to the centre of Athens you’ll be at Faliron, which has the swankiest marina in Greece.
Drop by at the Flisvos Marina to see scores of super-yachts owned by magnates and visiting sheikhs and oligarchs.
On the marina is a grassy park and a clutch of bars and restaurants.
Close by is one of the locations for the Benaki Museum, which opened in the Kouloura Mansion in 2017 and could easily be mistaken for a castle.
In the water next to the marina is a museum of a floating kind, aboard the Georgios Averof cruiser, which saw action in four wars.
And just to the north is where the city’s waterfront was revamped for the 2004 Olympics, at the enormous Water Plaza and the Sports Pavilion, built for the handball and taekwondo events.
10. Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre
For an edifying day out without going all the way into Athens, you could plan a trip to this brand new cultural centre just in from the Faliro Bay in Kallithea.
Funded by the foundation of the shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos and then donated to the Greek state in 2016, this centre is an amazing new cultural destination for Athens.
Designed by Renzo Piano the complex is wreathed in a park that merges with the new venues for the Greek National Opera and the Greek National Library.
The opera house is under a green hill, which you can scale for views of the Acropolis on a terrace beneath a photovoltaic canopy that powers the whole site.
If you’re in town in June, the Summer Nostos Festival schedules a diversity of talks by luminaries, live music, dj sets, dance performances, by both Greek and International artists.
In the same way Mikrolimeno in Piraeus has a reputation for its seafood, Vari, five kilometres southeast of Glyfada is all about meat.
The scent of charcoal wafts on the breeze in Vari, emanating from the many psistarias, or grill houses.
At these establishments kid goat, beef steaks, chicken, lamb and suckling pig are roasted on a spit over charcoal and are brought to your table with enticing scorch marks and French fried on the side.
Psistarias can be giant, hall-like eateries (often specialising in a certain cut of meat) and have touts out on the road in front dressed like klephts (Greek independence fighters from the 19th century).
12. Panagia Faneromeni, Vouliagmeni
Close by in Vouliagmeni this church from 2005 was ordered by a shipping magnate in memory of his daughter and designed by architect Voula Didoni.
On the outside Panagia Faneromeni has clean, curving taking cues from Cycladic art.
After passing through the doors you’ll be dazzled by Byzantine-style frescoes by the painter George Kordis.
These portray biblical scenes, apostles, the typical Christ Pantocrator at the summit of the dome, and the Panagia in the apse depicting the Madonna and Child.
In front of this last image is the iconostasis, which was composed by artists who came all the way to Vouliagmeni from St Petersburg.
13. Vouliagmeni Lake
On the peninsula in the south of Vouliagmeni is something you would never expect to find in this parched landscape: A freshwater lake.
This is fed by a subterranean spring filtered through Mount Hymettus, which a looming presence on the skyline to the east.
The water is slightly brackish and comes to the surface at 24°C. Vouliagmeni Lake is a spa and a paying attraction, but is good value for the entrance, for the shallow glimmering waters, the pine-covered grassy areas for lounging in the sun and the caves and cliffs over the lake.
With a young, affluent and cosmopolitan crowd, it’s no shock that Glyfada has glamorous and pulsating nightlife.
On summer evenings people come down from other Athens neighbourhoods.
There are trendy cocktail bars like Holy Spirit and MoMix, and elegant wine bars like Vein and Vinarte, which both put on tasting evenings and live music.
BeeRock meanwhile is a bit more down to earth, with a winning combination of beer and rock music.
And if you don’t want the night to end early, you can dance ’til dawn at thumping nightclubs like Vinilio Club and Esco.Bar.
15. Glyfada Golf Club
No self-respecting luxury resort would be without a golf club, and Glyfada’s is the oldest in Greece, founded in a coastal landscape of dunes, pines and a natural creek in 1962. This 18-hole course was landscaped by the feted architect David Harradine, and it was later remodelled by another famous designer Robert Trent Jones in 1978. Green fees are pretty reasonable considering this heritage, with 18 holes costing €50.00, and nine holes at half that price.
The fairways are fringed by fig, olive, cypress and pine trees and your round will be accompanied by vistas of the sea, Mount Hymettus and the little church of St Dimitrios at the 10th.