Spotlight on Fall: How to Celebrate Autumn in Greece

by Katherine Poseidon

Summer in Greece is amazing, we know - but we have a secret loyalty to fall. Hear us out - sun and sand are wonderful, and we love a little island hopping, but sometimes the heat and the crowds can be intense (though we have gathered all our heat-wave survival tips here). Most of the world may go ‘back to school’ in September, but here is still full summer - swimming, sun and adventure tours, without needing to be so vigilant about wearing your hat and carrying water all the time. October and November are also dreamy - still some warm days that are totally appropriate for swimming, mixed in with cooler crispy weather that is great for urban exploration and an Athens tour or two. You may encounter an occasional rainy day (but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there too).

Let us convince you that autumn in Greece is worth celebrating - here are some of our top tips for best things to do in Greece to celebrate the fall!

 

#1 Celebrate Greek Local Holidays 

The village of Pyrgi in Chios decked out for 28 October (Photo by Katherine Poseidon) 

October is the month of the national holiday colloquially known as ‘No’ Day. Yep. Although it would be fun to have a day to celebrate just being contrary, this holiday actually commemorates Greece’s resistance to invasion in 1940. In the early hours of 28 October 1940, an ultimatum from Benito Mussolini was delivered to the Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas, demanding that Axis forces be permitted to occupy ‘strategic locations’ in Northern Greece. Metaxas’ legendary reply ‘Ohi!’ (No) signalled the beginning of war, and a few hours later the invasion of Greece began.

Ohi Day is now celebrated across Greece with parades in almost every town - the big military parade is held in Thessaloniki, but you can catch students marching throughout the country; the kids with the best marks march in front holding the flag!

The holidays continue in November, when on 17 November Greeks commemorate the Athens Polytechnic uprising. Between 1967 and 1974, Greece was ruled by a military dictatorship (also known as the junta), and in 1973 a student protest turned violent when military tanks crashed the gates of the Athens Polytechnic and ultimately 24 civilians were killed. The dictatorship fell the next year, and schools are closed on this day to commemorate the role of students in resisting the junta. The day also marks an opportunity for current student protests though, so if you’re in Athens best to avoid the area around the Polytechnic - take advantage of the holiday to escape the city!

#2 Sample Some Seasonal Greek Treats 

Nothing better than a ripe pomegranate straight from the tree (Picture by Katherine Poseidon)

We can’t stop talking about food here, and for good reason. As if the classics of Greek cuisine weren’t enough, autumn offers a whole variety of new flavours to sample. Both walnuts and chestnuts ripen during this season, and there is nothing like cracking open a walnut and enjoying it on the spot (combine it with some Greek yoghurt and honey for an extra indulgent treat!). Plus, many local tavernas will make special dishes with these seasonal yummies - roasted chestnuts with stewed meat is a classic.

If you find yourself in a more mountainous region (like Ioannina or Zagorohoria), you can also find incredible wild mushrooms. Many tavernas even in Athens will serve them this time of year, often grilled with just a drizzle of olive oil for extra flavour.

Finally, this season’s fruits are enough to make you forget you miss summer. Ruby-red pomegranates, quince (best either candied, stewed or baked with red wine), and persimmons are the autumn ‘must-trys’. Wash everything down with a little rakomelo - a digestive spirit made from mixing raki with meli (honey). It’s perfect for taking the chill off (and also a traditional grandmother’s remedy for a cold!) So, as you're heading back home don't forget to find room in your suitcase for some of these Greek goodies (and some more we've hand-picked here!)

#3 Discover Greece Off the Beaten Path

Autumn in Zagorohoria, Northern Greece (Picture by Katherine Poseidon) 

The two holidays we mentioned above (28 October and 17 November) are great celebrations on their own, but even better when they fall on a Friday or a Monday - voila, long weekend! Take advantage of the holiday or just set out for an adventure. Autumn may be the best time of year to explore throughout Greece.

There are a number of fantastic day trips from Athens (check out some ideas here), but if you can go farther afield visit an island (fly straight from Athens!), Crete, the mountainous villages of Zagorohoria or Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki in the north. The farther north you go the more chilly it gets, but you’ll also find incredible fall foliage in the more forested regions of the country. Perfect for getting in the autumn mood!

#4 Celebrate Halloween, Greek Style

Not a traditional Greek holiday, but -still- it's Halloween! 

Halloween is most definitely not a traditional local holiday, but every year more and more Greeks get into the spirit. You’ll find a number of themed parties at bars and clubs in Athens (like Spooktacular at Six D.O.G.S., a classic 'hidden' Athens bar), where you can try out a new costume and scare your friends. While Trick or Treating isn’t (yet) a Greek tradition, for Halloween candies and cookies, try Ipirotissa in Voula for delicacies (both packaged and homemade) in the spirit of the season.

If you’re in the mood for a really creepy Halloween escape, there are a number of apparently haunted places in Athens you should definitely check out. The First Cemetery of Athens is the eternal resting place of some of the most illustrious Athenians, and the graveyard is a great place for exploring, littered with some incredible sculpture. The surrounding neighbourhood of Mets is also quiet and mostly residential, and there’s even a little park called ‘Alsos Longinou’ which is admittedly pretty creepy at night. For more quirky things to do in Athens, the northern suburb of Kifissia (one of the coolest Athens' neighborhoods) is home to the Villa Kazouli, which was the Nazi SS headquarters during WW2 and also rather creepy. It’s now empty, and rumour has it that countless Greeks were tortured there during the war, with at least a dozen who were buried on the grounds. Though the area is very safe, I wouldn’t go there alone! 

#5 Explore Greek Wineries

Grapes ready for harvest at Ktima Kokotou near Athens (Picture by Katherine Poseidon) 

Greek wines are wonderful in all seasons (summer-y Assyrtiko in Sanotirini, anyone?) but visiting wineries during harvest seasons in September and October is a totally different experience, and well worth it. One of the most fun things to do in Greece, there are vineyards scattered around the country so no matter where you are you can sample some of Greece’s best.

Different regions are known for different grapes - if you’re in the Peloponnese, check out the Agiorgitiko in Nemea, or Xinomavro if you’re in Northern Greece. Closer to Athens, there are several wineries that offer tours and tastings, including Ktima Kokotou just north of Athens. Wandering through the vineyards, it’s easy to forget where you are and the setting is lovely and romantic - it's one great idea for things to do on a date! (For some more suggestions for the lovebirds, we gathered a list of our most romantic things to do in Athens! )

#6 Go for a Dip!

Swim in Crete's warm waters throughout fall (Picture in Balos Beach in Chania prefecture)

For most of us, autumn doesn’t necessarily bring to mind swimming and beaches, but you should still bring your bathing suit so you don't miss out on one of the best things to do in Greece in the fall. In most areas of Greece you can easily keep swimming through September and into October - and if you’re near Athens check out our list of some of the best beaches nearby!

For one of the more unique things to do in Athens, visit Vouliagmeni Lake, right on the Athenian Riviera, where you can swim in warm thermal waters all year round!

If you're looking for even warmer water, try the beaches of Crete; in fact we've hand-picked the most extraordinary pros and the best tours to take you to your dream beach destinations for the most memorable travel experience.

#7 Get Active for the Athens Marathon

Festivities at the start of the Athens Marathon 10k (Picture by Katherine Poseidon) 

November is known as the Marathon month, when the Classic Marathon closes Athens down for a day for everyone to enjoy the celebratory atmosphere of the race. The hardcore marathoners begin their race at the original Marathon, by the sea, but you can also participate in either a 10k or 5k road race, and even a fun run for kids. Making a full day of it, and watching the marathoners come in for the finish, is a truly unique experience and not to be missed if you’re in Athens mid-November! We always find this weekend inspiring, and if you also feel like getting active, we’ve put together an Athens guide to running in the city.

This time of year is great for active outdoor activities - it’s cooler than the summer so no worrying about overheating, but the sun is still out and makes a run on the Athens Riviera, for example, one of the best things to do in Athens.
 

#8 Check Out the Best Museums & Exhibits

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cutural Centre is a great family-friendly destination (Picture courtesy SNFCC)

As the weather starts to get a little cooler, it’s easier to justify museum days, and as we keep saying, Athens has some of the best museums in the world (and here are our top picks!)! Outside of the Greek capital, there are a number of other local attractions throughout Greece: the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion, Crete, just re-opened to worldwide acclaim, while Thessaloniki boasts a famous Museum of Byzantine Culture. If you’re exploring the Greek countryside, check out the Museum network of Piraeus Bank. These thematic museums are some of the best local attractions - check out the Olive and Olive Oil Museum in Sparta, or the Museum of the Environment in the mountains near Corinth.

Autumn is also a great time of year for top-notch cultural exhibitions - we gathered a list of the new exhibits in Athens you absolutely have to see this fall here, and trust us, they are all must-sees! If you're in Athens also make sure to visit one of the newest local attractions, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre - this impressive space houses incredible gardens, a variety of cultural activities, and incredible views over the sea and the city. 

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Pack a few layers in case of a breeze, and a bathing suit to take advantage of the sun, and get ready to celebrate autumn in Athens! This season has absolutely everything to offer, and hopefully we've convinced you! Don't forget to make the most of your trip by checking out some of our best tours and unique adventures, and let us know your favourite autumn traditions and activities!