Spend Christmas in Athens 2023 | Christmas Carnivals, Light Displays, Winter Wonderlands, and More!
Athens is the place to be at if you wish to celebrate a traditional White Christmas. With snowfall, brightly decorated streets, festive delicacies, and the sound of carols in the air – it paints the perfect picture of Christmas right out of a fairytale. Here are 12 festive things to do in Athens this Christmas season.
Why Spend Christmas in Athens?
- Christmas celebrations in Athens begin with Saint Nicholas Day on the 6th of December and go on up to Epiphany on the 6th of January.
- A Greek Christmas is very traditional with festive lights decorating the streets, little stalls and cafes serving holiday delicacies, and children singing Christmas carols.
- The holiday season in Athens is spent pursuing winter activities such as snow sliding, ice skating, and skiing.
- Most public squares, halls, and parks in Athens turn into winter wonderlands with Christmas markets, carnivals, ice rinks, and more.
- December is off-peak tourist season in Athens, which lets you get great discounts on airfare, accommodation, and even entry tickets to certain landmarks.
Top 12 Things To Do During Christmas In Athens
1. Check Out the Festive Light Displays
Christmas in Athens is marked by brilliantly lit-up squares, streets, and cafes, with the sound of traditional carols wafting in the air. More than Christmas trees, you will find decorated boat-shaped light displays called Karavaki adorning these streets.
The best Christmas lights in Athens are seen at:
- The neighborhood of Psyrri | Find on map
- Little Kook | Find on map
- Korai Square | Find on map
- Monastiraki Square | Find on map
2. Visit the Winter Wonderland at Syntagma Square
Join the Christmas festivities at Syntagma Square where a winter wonderland awaits you. The city’s central square and the streets leading to it are illuminated, decorated, and set to welcome the holiday season with a variety of displays and activities.
Christmas festivities at Syntagma Square include:
- The lighting of a 19-meter high, heavily ornamented fir tree to welcome the festive season
- Massive and marvelous light displays including a giant teddy bear, a Christmas train, and hot air balloons
- Choreographed music and light show
- An ice skating rink
3. Attend a Show at the Christmas Theatre
Many Christmas special shows such as plays, concerts, ballet performances, etc. take place at various indoor and outdoor venues across Athens. While some of these events may be free, others require you to buy your ticket before seats run out.
Some of the most popular Christmas shows in Athens are:
- Swinging Christmas With Ella And Frank! Featuring Steve Romanos & Jenny Kapadai, Olympia Munipicial Music Theatre “Maria Callas” | Find on map
- Kritikopoula - the swan song of Spyros Samaras Opera, Olympia Munipicial Music Theatre “Maria Callas” | Find on map
- Once Upon A Time Concert - a tribute to the ‘Archangel of Crete’ by Stavros Xarchakos, Christmas Theatre at Galatsi Olympic Hall | Find on map
- The Twelve Days of Christmas Choir, Olympia Munipicial Music Theatre “Maria Callas” | Find on map
4. Tour the Christmas Factory
The Christmas Factory at the Technopolis City of Athens is where all the festive magic is made! With a range of festivities for people of all ages, this is surely the most popular family holiday destination in Athens.
Here is what awaits you at the Christmas Factory:
- 8 different festive workshops with Santa and his elves
- A theatrical performance of Elafontaine, Aesop in Another Way
- A Christmas market for festive ornaments, gifts, holiday delicacies, and drinks
- An ice rink, a dance floor, the elf band, and more!
5. Celebrate Christmas at Santa Claus Kingdom
Where better to celebrate Christmas in Athens than at the Santa Claus Kingdom? A festive special amusement and theme park, open only during the holidays to give you and your kids, a memorable and magical Christmas.
The Santa Claus Kingdom features:
- A dream of a carnival complete with a roller coaster and a Christmas train
- Life-size figures of festive movie and fairy tale characters
- Children’s Christmas plays
- Largest indoor ice rink in Athens along with snow slides
6. Experience SNFCC’s Christmas World
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) sets up a Christmas World every year where the holiday season is celebrated with decorated fir trees, dancing fountains, cultural shows, and a variety of festive activities.
Here’s what’s lined up for you at SNFCC’s Christmas World:
- Light Installations at the Stavros Niarchos Park
- Music concerts every Sunday until Christmas at the Lighthouse
- Enactment of the play The Suitcase of Ourania Celeste
- A revamped ice skating rink
7. Indulge in Greek Festive Food
Streets in Athens are fragrant around the festive season with the mouth-watering scents of Greek festive food, consisting of different kinds of bread, biscuits, and sweets. The distinct taste of each of these delicacies would surely make you want to try them all.
Some of the must-try Greek festive food are:
- Melomakarona – soft cookies dipped in honey syrup and covered with chopped walnuts
- Kourabiedes – vanilla almond cookies covered in powdered sugar
- Diples – a fried snack made from folded dough, drizzled with honey syrup, cinnamon, and chopped nuts
- Christopsomo (Bread of the Christ) – a special bread decorated with a cross on top, made on Christmas Day
8. Try Skating on Ice
Athens is home to plenty of indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks, most of which stay decorated and host special events throughout the holidays. Visitors are sure to have fun at these rinks irrespective of their ages and experience levels.
Find the best ice skating rinks in Athens at:
- Village Shopping & More | Find on map
- Athens Heart Mall | Find on map
- Megaron Athens International Conference Centre and Music Hall | Find on map
- Kotzia Square | Find on map
9. Go Skiing on the Mountains
Skiing is one of the best things to do during a snowy Christmas season in Athens. As the mountains get covered in sheets of white, locals and tourists alike, head to the ski resorts to have a memorable holiday experience.
Book your slot for skiing at these popular centers:
- Parnassos Ski Resort | Find on map
- Kalavrita Ski Center | Find on map
- Velouchi Ski Centre | Find on map
- Ziria Athletic Ski Resort | Find on map
10. Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day
Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on the 6th of December every year, marking the beginning of the holiday season in Greece. All major Christmas festivities start on this day and go on till the Day of Epiphany, observed on the 6th of January.
Here’s how Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated in Athens:
- Decorated boats (Karavaki) are kept on display at all main squares.
- Special ceremonies and prayers are held in churches.
- Children go around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols in exchange for treats.
- People eat a traditional dish of fried cod with garlic sauce.
11. Visit Archaeological Sites
The holiday season is the best time to visit historic monuments and archaeological sites in Athens owing to the fewer crowds. Moreover, the entry tickets to these tourist attractions are reduced to half during this time of the year.
The must-visit archaeological sites in Athens are:
- Acropolis and Parthenon
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Hadrian’s Library
- Temple of Poseidon & Cape Sounion
12. Explore the Museums in Athens
This festive season, visit any of the museums in Athens amidst half the usual crowds, at half the usual ticket price! Take your own time exploring the various exhibits and artifacts with a free downloadable audioguide.
Here are some of the important museums to visit in Athens:
- National Archaeological Museum
- Acropolis Museum
- National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens | Find on map
- Goulandris Museum | Find on map
Frequently Asked Questions About Celebrating Christmas in Athens
Christmas is a great time to visit Athens since festive celebrations here go on for a month from Saint Nicholas Day on the 6th of December to Epiphany on the 6th of January. Moreover, December is off-peak tourist season in Athens, which lets you get great discounts on airfare, accommodation, and even entry tickets to certain landmarks.
Christmas in Athens is a traditional affair. People decorate Christmas trees, light up boat-shaped displays called Karavaki, go ice skating or skiing, enjoy Greek festive food, and share a hearty dinner with their families. On Christmas Eve, kids go door to door singing Christmas carols in exchange for candy and treats.
You can spend Christmas in Athens admiring the many light displays and decorated Karavaki, enjoying a day out at any of the winter wonderlands, ice skating, skiing, tasting Greek festive food, or attending a Christmas-themed play, concert, or other performance.
Some of the best hotels to stay in Athens at during Christmas are Athens Grand Suite, Hotel Grande Bretagne, Athens Ikon, Ava Hotel & Suites, Electra Metropolis Hotel, NJV Athens Plaza Hotel, Polis Grand Hotel, and A77 Suites by Andronis.
It is the winter season in Athens during Christmas. The average temperature in the city ranges from 6°C to 16°C in December with expected winds, rainfall, and snow.
Athens is comparatively less crowded around Christmas time as December is part of the low tourist season in Greece.
Although most tourist attractions such as historic monuments and museums remain closed on the 25th and 26th of December, most cafes, restaurants, and pubs remain open, especially in the city center.
Most restaurants, cafes, and pubs remain open on Christmas Day in Athens. They serve festive delicacies, have Christmas special menus, and host traditional Christmas dinners around the festival time.
Varsos Pasteries, Cycladic Cafe, Winter Garde City Lounge, The Brunch Factory, ERGON House, Hard Rock Cafe, and Noel are some of the popular restaurants that serve festive breakfasts and brunches on Christmas.
Little Kook, Petite Fleur, Little Tree Books & Coffee, and Fairytale are some of the popular and best-decorated cafes open on Christmas in Athens.
Popular bars and pubs open on Christmas in Athens include Bar 56, Alexander’s Bar, GB Roof Bar, Half Note Jazz Club, Passepartout, The Clumsies, CV Distiller, and Barreldier.
Athens Grand Suite, Hotel Grande Bretagne, Athens Ikon, Ava Hotel & Suites, Electra Metropolis Hotel, NJV Athens Plaza Hotel, Polis Grand Hotel, and A77 Suites by Andronis are some of the best places to stay in Athens on Christmas.
A must-try is Christopsomo (Bread of the Christ), which is a special type of fluffy bread decorated with a cross on top, made typically on Christmas Day in Athens. Melomakarona, Kourabiedes, Diples, and Tsoureki are some other festive delicacies you must try while in Athens during the holiday season. If you fancy a drink, do try out the whiskeys, beers, and wines at Athenian bars.
Varoulko Seaside Restaurant, Orizontes Lycabettus, Dionysos Zonars, Lycabettus Hill Restaurant, Tudor Hall Restaurant, Mayor, Electra Roof Garden, Hytra, TGI Fridays, Kuzina Greekooking, and nice n easy are some of the best restaurants in Athens that are open for Christmas, serving holiday special lunches, dinners, and buffets.
The best Christmas lighting displays in Athens can be seen around theneighborhood of Psyrri, Little Kook in Karaiskaki, Korai Square in Piraeus, and Monastiraki Square in Apollonos.
The oldest and most popular Christmas tradition in Athens is decorating boats and boat-shaped displays called Karavaki. Another tradition is for children to go door to door in their neighborhoods, singing carols in exchange for candy, on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas Factory, Syntagma Square, Santa Clause Kingdom, and Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC)’s Christmas World are some of the most popular winter wonderlands in Athens this year.