by Katherine Poseidon
[Last update: December 2018 by Katia Mavrikou]
‘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 in Athens over the winter holidays!
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 christmas tree (although Greek tradition has it to decorate a boat! For an explanation of this Greek tradition, check out our collection of interesting facts about Christmas in Greece). Public is a great place to meet friends to catch up or just soak in the Christmassy buzz; but 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. Beyond Syntagma square, stroll around the Monastiraki square, Charitos Street in Kolonaki or Thission where the City of Athens will welcome 2019 over an audio-visual Christmas spectacle!
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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 choices have to be Noel and Little Kook. The atmosphere here is Christmassy all year round, so at this time of the year you better believe it's extra festive. They are both all-day places with coffee and food (Noel has a noteworthy dinner menu and special seating section), 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). Last but not least, opera lovers will enjoy the Opera Nights inside the whimsical café-style restaurant Winter Garden of the Hotel Grande Bretagne.
join the best tours and activities in athens this season
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. For something more fresh, visit the new hot spots Senios for delicious Greek-inspired cocktails and food. Other festive restaurants for the season are Zonars, Balthazar, the colourful Artisanal in the neighborhood of Kifissia and the more upscale options of CTC, Funky Gourmet and Spondi.
Spoil Yourself and Be Romantic in Athens: Our Top Picks
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. For the past few years, the area of Gazi hosts succesfully ‘The Christmas Factory’ workshop, with free crafts, music and events, plus a Christmas market, for the whole family. The Stavros Niarcos Foundation Cultural Centre in Faliro (SNFCC) also has a great set of events planned this season, ranging from music to Christmas storytelling - make sure you check out their full program here. 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. What’s more, this year the historic Olympia Municipal Maria Callas Theatre on Akadimias street will reopen to the public, revamped, with events lined up throughout December and January.
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. A visit at the elegant Golden Hall, Athens’ premium shopping mall, is a treat for the whole family this season. 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 and Athens Landmarks
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 and the Benaki Museum also have a special holiday programme on, with a variety of evenings. Tip: the museum shops are great for gifts! Last but not least, one of the best things to do in Athens this season is a visit at the National Observatory of Athens. A series of events is lined up for the coming days (and evenings) from music to treasure hunts, a treat for all ages!
Unique things to do in Athens over the holidays
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!