Athens is a fast-paced city, but you’ll find plenty to soothe your senses too. Bathe in a thermal lake, enjoy spa treatments based on ancient Greek remedies, and dine on healthy Mediterranean food. Follow our Athens wellness and fitness itinerary to experience the ancient Greek ideal of “healthy body, healthy mind”.
Mindful workouts and free exercise classes
Want to keep up your workout routine on holiday? NYSY Studios, a studio for yoga, Zen meditation and Pilates, was founded by a former filmmaker from San Francisco. Drop in on a wealth of different yoga classes, from aerial to pre-natal, at their new Aiolou street premises, or sign up for a Pilates class at their Nikis street headquarters. English sessions are available at both locations.
Soma Yoga hosts regular yoga classes in the National Garden. But if you’re in town for more than a couple of nights, you might want to consider a special class at the foothills of the Acropolis or the Temple of Poseidon. You can’t get more spiritual than that.
The Zen Centre Athens, on Agia Irini Square, offers yoga, Zen meditation and Pilates sessions, suitable for English-speaking participants (as well as regular meditation weekends). The calming space is on the first floor of The Perianth, a design hotel in a Bauhaus landmark, and classes are free for guests.
If you’d rather work out in the Athenian sunshine, head to Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, a beacon of green design. Outdoor fitness classes are held throughout the year. Join the locals at a free morning yoga or mat Pilates class in the park. Breathe deeply: the scent of oregano, thyme, lavender and rosemary from the Mediterranean garden will boost your wellbeing. Early birds can catch the sunrise (and Olympian views of both city and sea) from the solar-powered Lighthouse.
Get your vitamin kick at a juice bar
Juice bars are popping up everywhere in Athens. Join the digital nomads at Join Juice Bar on pedestrianised Romvis street. It has the feel of a campus club with a funky soundtrack. Their Rambo smoothie (pear, spinach, organic matcha and pollen) will put pep in your step. Or pop to Pura Vida, a perky sit-down space on nearby Perikleous street, run by a friendly brother and sister. Sip on a detox juice (celery, cucumber, green apple and lemon) from a glass pineapple.
Let off steam at a day spa
Athens has plenty of pampering day spas. The Apivita Experience Store in Kolonaki is part beauty emporium, part spa, part juice bar. Book a Mediterranean skin food facial or deep tissue massage at the Beehive Spa (built from upcycled beehives). Then shop for cosmetics made with Greek plant extracts and bee products, create your own bespoke beauty products, or tend to holiday tresses at the chemical-free hair salon (there’s a barber for gentlemen’s grooming, too).
For a luxury spa experience, treat yourself at the GB Spa at the landmark Grand Bretagne Hotel. Take an herbal steam bath, laze by the indoor pool, enjoy a prickly pear facial or personalised massage, or refresh your senses in the ice fountain. These are just some of your options at this opulent holistic oasis.
Surrender to the healing properties of extreme steam at Hammam Baths, an elegant bathhouse in Plaka, at Al Hammam (located in one of Europe’s oldest streets) also in Plaka, or Polis Hammam in Psyrri. The ancient Greeks embraced this oriental practice as the “silent healer of daily life”.
Go locavore with Greek superfoods
Healthy eating is a cinch in Athens. The Mediterranean diet is proven to help prevent everything from heart disease to depression. Just about every taverna serves Greek superfoods like horta (wild greens) that come in nearly 30 varieties: from dandelion and beet greens to black mustard leaves. And yes, Greeks love their meat; but there are lots of great places for vegan and vegetarian food in Athens, too.
To sample more local ingredients, graze your way along Evripidou Street, gateway to the Athens Central Market. There’s much to arouse healthy appetites here: heaps of fresh fruit and seasonal vegetables, nourishing nuts and seeds, colourful spices, barrels of olives, dried herbs and teas foraged from the Greek mountains.
For a light lunch, people watch from a pavement perch at Avocado while you relish vegan soups and novel Mediterranean salads. Or sit down to a feel-good feast at Rakor in Keramikos with a lively crowd of local foodies (and perhaps some live jazz). Tuck into vegan dishes like fava with sea fennel and herb oil, or smashed eggplant salad. If you want to fall off the wellness wagon, there are craft beers aplenty.
Take a break from sightseeing
The shaded paths of Philopappou Hill make a peaceful backdrop for a nature walk. Head to the pinnacle of this pine-clad hill for what might be Athens’ most ravishing view. This is where the locals come to walk their dogs and jog among the ruins. Afterwards, take time out with a good book, a pot of tea, or a home-made lemonade at Little Tree Books & Coffee. This cosy bookshop café is just around the corner from the Acropolis Museum.
If you’re in the Kolonaki area, make for To Tsai, a Japanese-style shrine to tea with Zen design, classical music and local and Asian infusions. Or take a mindful moment in the lovely gardens of the Byzantine Museum, surrounded by aromatic herbs, cooling fountains and archaeological finds.
Seaside sports and spas
Who doesn’t feel healthier by the sea? Athens’ brilliant climate means swimming and watersports are on the menu for most of the year. From May to late September, ignite your adrenaline with a waterskiing or stand-up paddleboard session at one of the many water-sports clubs in Athens or take a few days to learn windsurfing or kitesurfing.
At Vouliagmeni Lake, you can take the plunge in the healing waters of a flooded limestone cave fed by underground mineral currents that hover at a welcoming 22-24C, even in winter. Or ramp it up and experience the rush of winter swimming with the aquaholics of the Poseidon Winter Swimmers Club.
Prefer a less energetic wellness fix? Harness the therapeutic power of the Aegean at the Divani Apollon SPA & Thalassotherapy Centre in Kavouri and let their invigorating massage jets do the work for you. This coastal spa also offers body contouring, reshaping and weight loss treatments.
For the ultimate luxury, cocoon yourself in the Four Seasons Astir Palace hotel’s all-white spa on the Vouliagmeni peninsula. It’s where Jacqueline Onassis and Melina Mercouri came to unwind. Rejuvenate with a tension-relieving massage using organic herbs grown in the resort’s grounds, an anti-ageing green caviar facial, or a purifying dip in the adults-only hydrotherapy zone — an instantly relaxing space with soothing sea views.