by Katherine Poseidon
‘Christmas in Athens’ - what first comes to mind? Maybe a little confusion? Greece may not seem like an obvious Christmas destination, but just give us a little bit of time to convince you. The Greek islands are, of course, magical, and there are an incredible number of things to do in Greece in the summer months, but that’s really only part of the story. In addition to a wonderful autumn season that offers a variety of undiscovered opportunities to explore, the holiday season in Athens is just as rich. You may not have a white Christmas, but average temperatures are a balmy 12°C (54°F) (and if you're worried about the weather, in case it rains we promise there are still plenty of unique experiences to be had!).
We’ve gathered here for you some of the most unique things to do for a winter holiday in Athens!
Sip a Coffee Overlooking the Light Display in Syntagma Square
Giant bookstore and gift emporium Public is not only a one-stop-shop for lots of presents, but it houses a cafe on the top floor which gives wonderful views of Syntagma Square below. The square is lit up with classic lights and the traditional Greek ‘Christmas boat.’ (For an explanation of this Greek tradition, check out our collection of interesting facts about Christmas in Greece). This is a great place to meet friends to catch up or just soak in the Christmassy buzz! For a more elegant experience, the Hotel Grande Bretagne, an Athens institution, also has a wonderful terrace perfect for high tea or a coffee with a similar incredible view of the square.
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Have a Drink at a Christmas-Themed Bar
Seriously. If you’re looking for one of the best bars in Athens during this season, your top choice has to be Noel. The atmosphere here is Christmassy all year round, so at this time of the year you better believe it's extra festive. It’s also an all-day place with coffee and food, so you can pop in anytime for a stop on your Athens tour. (There are plenty of other great bars too - you can make a whole crawl out of it with our Athens' Metro Bar Map).
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Sample the Delights of Greek Cuisine
The main Greek food holiday is probably Easter, but this is still a great season for eating your way through Athens (honestly, every season is..). Right now, you have to sample the classic Greek Christmas cookies - visit 'Takis' bakery in Koukaki right behind the Acropolis. Make sure to get some 'kourambiedes' and 'melomakarona' (classic Greek Christmas cookies) and sample some of their other delights too while you're there! Another great way to celebrate is to enjoy a festive meal - for a cozy dinner on a wintery night, the traditional Café Avissinia is a classic choice for a lunch or dinner in Monastiraki, with live music a few days a week, while the lively and bright Zampanó is a great place to meet friends to banish any winter blues - they also offer brunch on Sundays, accompanied by live jazz.
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Experience Adventures for the Whole Family
Christmas in Athens offers a huge variety of family activities. You can get outside at some of the city's Christmas theme parks. The area of Gazi hosts ‘The Christmas Factory’ workshop, with free crafts, music and Christmas movies, plus a Christmas market, for the whole family. If you're going a little further afield, the quiet northern suburb of Kifissia also has a Christmas park, transformed into the land of the elves ('Froli's Christmas Park')! Another idea is to explore some other Athens' neighbourhoods slightly off the beaten path - try Kolonaki for an upscale Christmas jaunt, or Mets for a more Brooklyn-like experience. (We also have a list of local activities and great things to do in Athens with kids!)
more fun family tours and activities in Athens this season
Enjoy a Little Christmas Music
Christmas wouldn’t be complete without the music, of course, and the Athens Concert Hall ('Megaro Mousikis') has a great Christmas line-up. You can find the full programme at their website - this is one of the classic Christmas things to do in Athens. (And don't forget to check out the ice skating rink located in the courtyard while you're there!) The newest game in town, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, also has a great set of events planned this season, ranging from music to Christmas storytelling - make sure you check out their event listings!
Play Santa and Do All Your Holiday Shopping
Of course, the Christmas season has become almost synonymous with shopping, and this is definitely true in Greece as well. Many shops have extended opening hours in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and we’ve already written a full guide for those of you looking to fill up a suitcase or two. Christmas is also a great excuse to load up on Greek souvenirs - our best picks are gathered here!
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Visit Some of the Best Greek Archaeological Sites
Ancient Greece may not be totally relevant to the Christmas spirit, but if you’re looking to experience some of the best of Ancient Athens this is a great time to explore. First check out our guide to time travel to Ancient Greece, and then hit the (ancient) streets. Most of the archaeological sites are pretty empty this time of year, so take advantage of a sunny day and either head up to the Acropolis, join a tour of Classical Athens, or check out some of the other lesser-known ancient monuments. The Acropolis Museum also has a special holiday programme on, with musical evenings and other events - and the shop is great for gifts!
And there you have it - have we convinced you that Athens is a great place to be for Christmas? Let us know if we've missed your favourite things to do during winter holidays in Greece!