Tour Guide and Writer @ Crete Urban Adventures. Avid traveller. Passionate photographer. Cultural adventurer. Experience seeker.
With abundant sunshine, fertile land and a stunning extended coastline, it’s no wonder Greece is considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Picturesque landscapes and a mild, Mediterranean climate make capital city Athens an idyllic place to take time out from the daily grind!
The Greeks have reaped the rewards of traditional healing practices, bathing routines and exercise for years – the importance of wellness following a long journey (or exhausting battle!) goes all the way back to Homer’s legendary 8th century poem ‘The Odyssey.’ Ancient Greek women pioneered the use of extra virgin olive oil as part of their beauty regime – and they certainly were onto something good, as most Greek beauty brands today use olive oil in their soaps, body butters and hair masks!
Legendary Greek philosophers and scientists (Hippocrates, Pythagoras and Plato to name a few!) believed in the therapeutic benefits of mineral waters and the importance of harmony between the body and the environment. While things may have evolved just a little over the (thousands of!) years, you’ll find a wide range of wellness options here, from ancient mineral water springs to contemporary spa and wellness centres.
KEEPING FIT IN ATHENS
The Athens Authentic Marathon is an epic sporting event – a showcase of human determination and an incredibly tough challenge for anyone taking part! Each year, thousands of runners join the route which starts close to the ancient battleground by the coast, climbs the base of Mount Pendeli and finishes in the centre of Athens – at the old marble stadium which was built for the first modern Olympics in 1896! In 2019, the race takes place on 10 November (basic registration costs €30) and there will be road races, fun runs and power walking alongside the main event.
The 10k Athens Fast Run Race offers a unique route with scenic views of Athens’ attractive coastline. With its flat, asphalt course, this fast race is one of the most popular running events in the city, attracting more than 2500 participants each year! In 2019, the race takes place on 24 November (basic registration costs €30) and there’s a shorter 2km race for the kids too!
Gyms & Health Clubs
Keen to stay on top of your fitness regime in Athens? No sweat! Take advantage of the special packages available at Planet Fitness and More which boasts more than 13 fitness clubs across the city, with state-of-the-art fitness equipment, trained instructors and a super cool environment! A daily pass will set you back just €10 and if you plan to go more than once, a weekly pass is €25. As well as use of the gym facilities, you’ll also be able to join in a workout with the locals in a fitness class!
Frinis 1, Athens 116 34. Tel: +30 21 6900 1887
Holmes Place Club provides a range of tourist-friendly services to help you achieve health, balance and enjoyment during your time in Athens. There’s plenty of modern facilities here, including a fully equipped gym, large pool, fitness studios and free weights.
Boukourestiou 4 & Stadiou, Athens 105 64. Tel: +30 21 0325 9400
PAMPERING IN ATHENS
Spa & Beauty Services
Awarded the 2017 Greek Best Luxury Hotel Spa at the Luxury Spa Awards, I-Spa at the Athenaeum InterContinental Hotel is a sanctuary for relaxation in the heart of Athens. End a busy day of exploring with a massage, facial or body treatment, or chill out in the hammam, sauna or outdoor pool. If you’ve still got energy to burn, there’s a fully-equipped fitness centre too!
89-93 Leoforos Andrea Siggrou, Athens 117 45. Tel: +30 21 0920 6000
Discover one-of-a-kind wellness at the Holmes Place Spa Athens. Only the purest organic products are used, so sit back, relax and enjoy a soothing massage or beauty treatment. Boukourestiou 4 & Stadiou , Athens 105 64. Tel: +30 21 0325 9400
Sink into an oriental bath or indulge in a luxurious treatment at Hammam Baths, the only authentic hammam in the city. Set in a building which blends traditional architecture with modern interiors, you’re bound to feel rejuvenated after spending time here. The basic hammam experience costs €25 and when you’re done relaxing you can retreat to the lounge for tea and Turkish delights until you’re ready to venture back into the real world!
17 Agion Asomaton & 1 Melidoni, Thissio, Athens. +30 21 0323 1073
Still need a little (more!) pampering? Unwind in the hands of an experienced therapist at Tips to Toes Beauty Center on Syngrou Avenue. Treat your toes to a pedicure (from €20) or renew and refresh with a face or body treatment (list of services and prices available on request).
66 Syngrou Avenue, Athens 117 42 – (near Syngrou-Fix Metro Station). Tel: +30 21 0922 3362
You won’t have to venture far to check out the benefits of Greece’s healing mineral spring waters – you’ll find the crystal-clear Lake Vouliagmeni right by the ocean, just on the outskirts of Athens! With healing properties for eczema, arthritis and sciatica, this natural lake is surrounded by beach loungers and parasols, plus there’s a café-bar-restaurant nearby too. Why not try a hot-spring bath, physiotherapy or hydrotherapy treatment to ease your aches and pains? Entry fee: €12 weekdays/€15 weekends (discounts available for children and students). Free parking, lockers, beach loungers and parasols, but bring your own towel!
EO91 9, Vouliagmeni, Attica 166 71. Tel: +30 21 0896 2237
EATING WELL IN ATHENS
Greece arguably boasts one of the best cuisines in the world – and you’ll be spoilt for choice in Athens, with its abundance of fresh local produce and healthy eateries. Contrary to popular belief, Greek food is not all about the meat – colourful dishes filled with a rainbow of vegetables, grains and pulses mean there’s still plenty of choice if you’re vegan or vegetarian!
Small sharing plates (mezes) are the order of the day here – after all, variety is the spice of life – so pick a selection to share a delicious and sociable meal in true Greek style. Gemista (meaning ‘filled with’ in Greek) is a traditional recipe available all over Greece. Peppers, tomatoes or other vegetables are stuffed with a tasty mixture of rice and herbs before being baked. Stuffed zucchini flowers are worth a try (yes, really!) – these rice-and-herb filled blossoms make for a mouth-watering taste sensation!
More and more locals are choosing to follow in the footsteps of their ancient Greek ancestors with many rediscovering the importance of a healthy diet in their quest for wellness. Here’s our pick of the best healthy places for a bite to eat in Athens.
Restaurants & Cafés
For unique Greek and oriental tastes, try Athens’ original vegetarian/vegan restaurant, Avocado. This restaurant encourages living well, and with a menu of appetising, wholesome meals which don’t cause harm to the earth or its creatures, you’ll find the feel-good factor here too! Lunch will set you back around €20, with Indian soups, Greek salads, falafel, vegetarian paella and vegan burgers to choose from.
St. Nikis 30, Athens 105 57
Looking for a 100% vegan space? Make a beeline for Lime Bistrot in the Gazi neighbourhood to try sweet and savoury dishes, freshly prepared by people who truly care about humans, animals and the environment. For a lunch budget of €15-20, try the Truffle Burger or Hot But Not Dog, followed by strawberry vegan-cheesecake or the ‘Snickers’ dessert!
St. Dekeleon 23, Athens 118 54
Thirsty? Sip on a super juice at Nova Gea, located in the city centre. The vast menu includes the Nurturing Juice Blend, which claims to provide all the essential nutrients, fats and proteins you need to maintain a healthy body and mind! If you’re peckish, choose from a delicious selection of energy bowls, salads and sandwiches.
Vakchou 2, Athens 105 58
Try Mystic Vegan if you’re pining for something a little less traditional. This Italian restaurant in the Exarcheia neighbourhood serves vegan pastas, salads and pizzas.
St. Emmanuel Benaki 76, Athens 106 81
Mingle with the locals at I Stoa Ouzeri, a popular family-run traditional taverna offering fresh fish and seafood in a home-from-home setting. This is the place to go if you want a simple yet tasty meal in an authentic Greek setting.
Themistokleous 11, Athens 106 77
4 Seasons Bio Shop is a health store packed with vegan products including meat and cheese substitutes, organic wines and other organic food.
St. Nikis 30, Athens 105 57
You’ll find Bamboo Vegan in Exarcheia Neighbourhood. This grocery and health store sells vegetarian and vegan products including vegan cheese, superfoods and dry fruits. You can also pick up vegan sandwiches, pies and cakes if you’re looking for food on-the-go.
St. Solonos 102, Athens 106 78
Each city in Greece hosts a ‘Laiki’ Street Market, where farmers and vendors from the villages come together to sell seasonal vegetables, fresh fruits, organic honey and local spirits. And in large cities like Athens, there’s usually more than one market on offer!
Take a deep dive into the history of Athens and get a taste of Athenian life as you explore the markets on the Urban Adventures Markets, Ruins & Ancient Athens tour! Check out the markets and legendary traditions within, step back in time to get inside knowledge of the city’s famous landmarks, before wandering through the famous neighbourhood of Plaka, where you’ll stop for coffee at a local’s favourite joint.
Athens’ main city market, Varvakeios, is a bustling, colourful affair which you’ll find on busy St. Athinas. With meat, seafood and fish along one side and fruits and vegetables on the other, this market awakens all the senses! Experience the sights, sounds and aromas here from early morning until late afternoon, Monday to Saturday.
The laiki agora (organic farmer’s market) is open on Friday mornings on Sq. Dexamenis, Kolonaki. Here you’ll find fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs direct from the nearby countryside as well as locally produced honey and olive oil.
On Saturday, you can pick up produce from the Ecxarcheia laiki on St. Kalidromiou, Exarcheia.
For more tips on how to eat healthy in Athens, check out our Ultimate Guide to Being Vegan in Athens
MIND, BODY & SOUL
Yoga & Pilates
Join in with a tourist-friendly hatha yoga or pilates class at Yoga Tara’s Home, a cosy and colourful yoga studio in Koukaki.
Kavalloti, Atens 117 42. Tel: +30 697 676 6389.
Practitioners at Evergreen Yoga Studios in Exarcheia specialise in Vinyasa Krama yoga; a modern expression of traditional hatha yoga which brings breath and movement together to purify the body and mind. A one-off drop in class will cost €15; if you plan on going more than once you can buy a 4-class subscription for €40.
Valtetsiou 50-52, Athens 106 81. Tel: +30 698 088 2888.
Take a 30-minute train ride from downtown Athens to the Goulandris Natural History Museum, located in the leafy Kifissia neighbourhood. Devoted to the study, conservation and protection of the natural environment, there’s a host of permanent exhibitions to feed your mind here, including botany, zoology, marine biology and palaeontology. Reflect on what you’ve learned over a cuppa in the amazing café-restaurant, set in the museum’s tranquil gardens.
13, Levidou, Kifisia, 145 62. Tel: +302108015870
Find the Numismatic Museum inside a neoclassical building once owned by legendary archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. There’s an exceptional collection of coins to admire here, with examples from as early as the 14th century! The building itself is magnificent (both inside and out!) and there’s a superb ‘hidden’ garden café where you can enjoy a moment of calm, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Eleftheriou Venizelou 12, Athens 106 71. Tel: +30 21 0363 2057
Located a stone’s throw from the Acropolis, the Ilias Lalaounis Jewellery Museum is dedicated to contemporary jewellery and decorative art. Lalaounis’ beautiful micro sculptures and jewellery were inspired by biology, nature and astronomy, and you’ll get to see over 4,500 of his pieces here. If you’re feeling creative, the museum offers jewellery workshops too!
Kallisperi 12 & Karyatidon Str., Acropolis, Athens 117 42. Tel: +30 21 0922 1044
ADVENTURE IN ATHENS
Join our friendly, professional shutterbug on a photography journey with the Athens in a Click Tour from Urban Adventures! This is a fantastic way to experience the city through the eyes of a local and uncover areas of the city you may otherwise have missed! Your guide will help you capture awesome photographs of the famous landmarks, imaginative modern graffiti and colourful street scenes you’ll see along the way.
Green spaces, parks and beaches
Catch the Athens Coastal Tram from Syntagma Square and head to the waterfront promenade, one of the safest running routes in Athens, and an ideal spot for cycling too – with the added bonus of an energising sea breeze to accompany your workout!
It’s not often you find a casino at the peak of a mountain, but you will in Athens! Leave your car at the foot of Mount Parnitha and take the funicular railway (cable car!) to the top for panoramic city views, tons of interesting wildlife and more than 75 hiking trails to pick from!
Explore your surroundings and breathe in the invigorating mountain air before trying your luck on the slot machines at Mont Parnes Casino!
Seek out the National Garden of Athens, a calm oasis located only a few steps away from the hustle and bustle of Syntagma Square. Wander through the scenic flora and fauna-lined walkways and spot the monuments and statues commemorating Greek culture and history. This is a great place to be at one with nature, and it’s fit for a queen too – it was created by order of Queen Amalia of Oldenburg (the first queen of Greece) in the 19th century!
Renowned as a favourite hang-out of the Muses and Nymphs in the sixth century BC, Philopappos Hill is a lush green ‘islet’, close to the buzzing city centre. Follow the trail to see the marble statue of Philopappos, the15th century Church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris and the monument of Pnyx, which was visited by ancient Athenian nobles and legendary orators including Pericles and Themistocles. Perfect for a romantic evening stroll, visit the hill at sunset to capture a magical photograph of the Acropolis.
Calling all adrenaline junkies! Freedom Paragliding specialises in tandem flights – this is your opportunity to ‘fly’ through the Greek skies! A unique way to escape the ordinary – get in touch with nature, feel the wind in your hair and enjoy the thrill of total freedom during this experience of a lifetime!
Plataea 322 00. Tel: +30 22 6209 7100
Be extra healthy in Athens by checking out our Ultimate Guide to Being Vegan in Athens
Discover our favourite dishes to try in Athens with our Beginner’s Guide to the Athens Diet
Not sure what else to do? Check out our Complete Guide to Athens