The Greek capital may not be the first place you think of when spending Christmas away from home, but it's one not to miss. With plenty on offer, including seeing the city's streets lighting up, and fewer tourists, so you’re able to catch some sightseeing, there are limited downsides to spending your time in Greece for the holiday season.
Athens ensures their decorations are up on the 6th of December and remain up until the 6th of January. You may even notice ornamental boats decorated with twinkle lights, a nod to an old national tradition of women and children making small boats to honour St. Nicholas. With festivities running high, merry cheer greeting you from the moment you land, why not Athens, should be the better question.
Not only is Athens transformed into a winter wonderland, but the Greek’s also have a wide extensive amount of events they put on allowing you to personalise your holiday, including Christmas festivals and shopping.
One place you shouldn’t skimp on visiting is the Syntagma Square, not only is the heart of Athens, but it is also where the Christmas tree is and is decorated in the colours of Greece (blue and white). You may also find fun activities around here, with an ice-skating rink being built in previous years.
For memory’s sake, you can either take your camera, or hire a professional, to take you around Athens’s many historical places, lit fountains, and Christmas decoration, allowing them to be the backdrop of memories for years to come.
Located at Technopolis, this popular market is perfect for families and is very popular amongst children and adults alike. With rides, a market, and festive treats, you may even find Santa’s house as well as puppet shows.
This indoor market is perfect for those colder days. The Santa Claus Kingdom not only has an ice-skating rink indoors, carousel and other rides, as well as a market and the chance to see Santa. It has plenty to do to keep little ones, and adults, entertained and festive.
We mentioned this previously, but not only is the huge Christmas tree something worth seeing, but all the lights the locals put up to add more festivity to the area with bushes decorated with stars, and the fountains lighting up as a beautiful backdrop.
With construction beginning in 2012 and completed in 2016, this cultural centre is a staple of Athens, but especially at Christmas. With light displays you’ll want to Instagram, a free performance and an experience once-in-a-lifetime.
In 2019, the “Large Pendulum Wave” was featured, showcasing a series of 15 illuminated pendulums suspended at the height of 12 meters.
In Athens, Little Kook in a fairy-tale inspired cafe which decorates itself and the street with tall trees, guards and snowflakes. Decorated inside and out, this cafe boasts some of the tastiest treats in Athens. When you step through the doors, it will be hard not to feel like a child at Christmas, surrounding you in disbelief over whether you've just stepped into a festive wonderland. At night, the lights outside are awe-worthy, and something all should see when they visit over December.
The shopping in Athens has something for all, with a handful of different districts offering the chance for everyone to find something they’ll love and treasure. Plus, the decorations on the buildings and in the shop windows is something to experience, getting you in the festive season as you finish your gift buying.
We mentioned briefly above, but Athens has some wonderful Christmas markets, where artisans bring their home-made crafts for you to buy, adding that personal festival touch to an otherwise special trip.
With a tour taking you through different Christmas Greek eateries, lasting three hours, there is a wide choice of various things you can eat and see while staying in Athens. Some major hotel restaurants even open on Christmas Day and promise nothing short of a feast. Make sure to book early in advance to avoid disappointment.
While in Athens, it would be rude not to see Ancient Greece. Travelling at such a busy time of year actually means you’ll be able to experience the sights without as many tourists as there are in other peak months.
If given a chance, you should also visit the parliament building in Syntagma where you can witness the change in guard. The elite presidential guards, also known as Evzones, change at every hour with them even doing this on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, with no admission cost. On Sundays at 11am, they have a special ‘Grand Change’.
If you’re after wintery weather and the chance of snow, you will struggle to find this in Athens. While it isn’t warm weather, and you will need a jumper, the possibility of snow is less likely as Athens tends to experience more sunnier days than wintery ones in the month of December.
Compared to other European countries, Athens has been known to lack in their festivities compared to them. If Christmas is your favourite time of the year, this may be something to keep in mind.
While tourism footfall is considerably less, especially compared to the Spring and Summer months, there will still be tourists. If you're aiming to get away from the hustle and bustle of home, this is something to keep in mind. This isn't exclusive to just the Greek landmarks, but the light displays, markets and the Christmas events, and it is worth booking in advance where possible.
While it isn’t impossible to get a Christmas dinner, Greek or otherwise, you will mainly find these at major hotel restaurants over typical Greek restaurants. This is something to take into consideration when booking your trip as these will book up quickly, as most of Athens will close for Christmas Day, very much like it is in the UK or US.
With the city of Athens lighting up for the month, Christmas delight on many corners and cafe’s bursting with baked goods and warm drinks, there is much to do when travelling for the festive season. While carols are being sung, and smiles are shared, you can be safe knowing the Greeks will help make lasting memories that’ll stay with you forever.