It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! As days get ever shorter and the temperatures dip, Athens is gearing up for the holiday season. Christmas decorations and lights adorn city streets and squares, and seasonal attractions and events are opening their doors to the public.
December is a great time to visit Athens, as the usual summer crowds are gone, and Christmas holiday magic is in the air, transforming the city and promising a fantastic holiday experience.
Read on for some ideas on top things to see and do in Athens this Christmas!
Explore the City
Winters in Athens are mild, with the average temperature during December through February hovering around 10°C. The sun continues to shine and, with the exception of those rare stormy days, the skies are bright and blue. Put simply: ideal conditions to explore the city!
Why not walk up Lycabettus Hill—a much better experience in the crisp winter air than under the scorching summer sun—or wander through the picture-perfect alleyways of Anafiotika on the slopes of the Acropolis? This is also a great time of year to visit the city’s green areas like Filopappou Hill and the National Garden or to just go on a bit of an urban adventure to explore the side streets and neighborhoods of the bustling city center.
Our half-day Neoclassical Athens and full-day Getting to Know the City of Athens walking tours combine guided tours of the National Garden with visits to some of the city center’s top modern history attractions, introducing you the fascinating world of 19th and early-20th century Athens.
Give the Kids a Taste of Christmas Magic
The holiday season brings out the child in us all, and it’s the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time together making wonderful memories for the whole family. Children—of all ages!—will love a visit to The Christmas Factory at Technopolis in Gazi. Open 10:00-22:00 from December 1 to January 7, the Christmas Factory sparkles with lights and decorations and features various craft and activity workshops, face painting, a fun park, a school of magic, and a Christmas market—and younger kids can meet Santa too!
For a break from elves and reindeer, you can take advantage of the holiday season to enjoy a fantastic day out discovering Greek culture with one of our fantastic family-friendly tours. Our Young Explorer Tours are designed with younger guests in mind and use fun games, activities and expert storytelling to create fun and engaging experiences for the whole family!
Discover Greek Culture and Heritage
Now that the summer crowds are gone, it’s a perfect time to visit those world-class attractions, iconic monuments and top museums without the queues and hassle of the peak summer season. Experience the Acropolis and the Parthenon and make sure to visit the renowned Acropolis Museum.
To make the most of your time—and to complement the experience with best anecdotes and insider scoop about these magnificent monuments—book our top-selling Classical Athens, Classically Greek or Greek Essentials itineraries, which include private guided tours of the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum. And why not get away from the hustle and bustle for a few hours, with a day trip to Cape Sounio and the Aegean coast to discover the ancient grand temples and breathtaking nature beyond the Greek capital?
Sneak in Some Christmas Shopping
Certainly not as famous as London or Paris, Athens is nonetheless a great shopping destination that offers everything from top luxury brands to local craftsmen and artisans. The best Christmas shopping is to be had in the city center, with the area between Ermou Street and Kolonaki brimming with retailers, international and local. Other key shopping areas are Glyfada and Kifissia, and there are also a handful or large shopping centers and malls on Kifissias Avenue.
Looking for a truly special present? Our Bespoke Tour Experiences offer exclusive access to artifacts, private locations and unique collections, allowing behind the scenes access at some of the country’s foremost museums. These exclusive cultural experiences are the perfect gift for a special occasion.
One of the city’s foremost cultural venues, Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall, is a hub of art and creativity and a great place to catch performances and exhibitions.
Ilias Karellas creates and performs Karagiozis shadow plays, bringing this traditional art form to life for modern audiences.
Our top pick: See Karagiozis’ Christmas at the Moon by Ilias Karellas Theatre Company to witness the wonderful art of shadow theater and meet Karagiozis, its most famous character. The play is a modern twist on the traditional stories. “The Grand Vizier wishes to spend Christmas at the moon along with his daughter and the entire palace. While making preparations for the Vizier’s moon stay, a group of astronauts led by Karagiozis face a group of uncanny, alien creatures…” [Dec 16-30]
Other exciting performances during the holiday season include:
- The Athens State Orchestra: A Different Nutcracker I – Dec 16, 17
- The Nutcracker by Yuri Grigorovich, a dazzling show by Bolshoi legend Yuri Grigorovich featuring the Grigorovich Ballet Theatre of Russia and Bolshoi principal dancers that promises to be the most spectacular performance of Christmas Athens – 20-30 Dec
- Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, performed by Les Musiciens du Louvre on period instruments – Dec 20
- Yiannis Markopoulos: The Greek Christmas Carols – Dec 21, 22
Chase the Snow
Greece might be famous for its fabulous beaches and seaside resorts, but with 24 ski centers of varying sizes and a total of 197 km of slopes, it’s also an undiscovered gem for snowsport lovers. Weather permitting, you can enjoy one of the two options near Athens: Parnassos Ski Center on Mount Parnassus and Kalavrita Ski Center in the Peloponnese. Both are just under a three hour drive from the capital, and Athenians often make a day of it, leaving in the morning and returning in the evening after a day on the slopes. Don’t want to drive the distance? No problem! A number of Athens-based providers operate special “snow shuttle” services that depart the city in the early morning and bring you back in the evening. You can generally arrange gear rental through them too.
Parnassos and Kalavrita are also great for short getaways and sightseeing. Parnassos is a stone’s throw from the world-class archaeological site of Delphi and the picturesque winter resort town of Arachova, while Kalavrita is ideally combined with a couple of days exploring the Peloponnese. Still, if you’re not quite up for an adventure to the Greek countryside, Mount Parnitha in the north of Athens, can make for a fantastic day out with the family and often gets a sprinkling of snow during the colder months.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry!
Greece is known for its unique sort of Mediterranean cuisine, and holiday dishes just up the ante. From turkey and stuffing to traditional pork roasts or creative fusion dishes to please the most adventurous of palates, festive menus in restaurants across the capital promise a feast of culinary delights. Even the humble Christmas cookies—the beloved kourambiedes (butter cookies coated in fine powdered sugar) and melomakarona (olive oil cookies flavored with a honey and cinnamon syrup and sprinkled with chopped walnuts)—are so good that Greeks up and down the country look forward to December when these make their appearance in the shops.
But there’s more to the season than the Christmas feast! Foodies can enjoy a number of gastro-tours of the city or even take a day trip to discover wine and history in the Peloponnese, complete with glorious ancient monuments and a winery tour. For a unique culinary experience of Athens, why not try dining like Athenian aristocracy with a period-themed private dinner at the Museum of the City of Athens or treat yourself to a private Christmas feast in a unique Athenian setting?