Athens in winter may sound like a somewhat unusual suggestion. After all, the sheer mention of the Greek capital probably conjures up images of al fresco dining beneath the Mediterranean sun, and of evenings spent sitting beneath the hill of the Acropolis sipping ouzo.
In reality, the gritty European city makes for a perfect weekend break all year round. There are plenty of things to do in Athens in winter to make your time in Greece during the festive season a magical experience.
Athens in Winter Weather
Winter in Athens runs from November to February. But Greece’s Southern European location means that temperatures are never quite as cold here as in other parts of Europe.
Greece sees 250 days of sunshine per year so even on colder days in the winter, you can expect clear blue skies and sunny days. Athens in winter does not mean grey, dull and dreary conditions.
On average, you can expect daytime temperatures between 7 and 15° Celsius, with things getting colder at night. November is usually the mildest month, with daily averages between 12 and 18° Celsius.
January is the coldest month and sees temperatures between 7 and 13° Celsius. On average, you can expect about 5 days of rainfall during winter in Athens. However, showers are usually brief, and the skies quickly clear up.
Things to Do in Athens in Winter
There are several wonderful seasonal festivities that you can enjoy during Athens in winter. Of course, there are also the classic Athenian historical and cultural sites that make an essential part of any Athens trip, whatever time of year you choose to visit. Some suggestions of the best things to do in Athens in winter are detailed below for your consideration.
Go on a treasure hunt for Athens street art
The walls and storefronts of Athens city centre are laden with vibrant graffiti and street art. Some of the pieces are simply aesthetic. Others are politically motivated and thought-provoking.
The most notable Athenian street art is to be found in the districts of Psiri, Metaxourgio, and Exarchia. Exarchia is a district that has become synonymous with riots and anti-anarchist groups. However, it may well be one of the most interesting neighbourhoods in Athens.
Stroll down Themistokleous street until you reach Exarchia square. You will pass a range of quirky vinyl record stores, rock bars, and Bohemian coffee shops. The controversial and political graffiti here also includes the works of INO and Borondo.
Warm up with a traditional hammam experience
When it’s cold outside, you can warm up by visiting a hammam – a traditional Ottoman bathhouse. During the days of Ottoman rule in Greece, people paid for regular trips to hammams for both social and hygiene reasons.
A hammam is a little like a sauna. First, you sit in a steamy room which helps you to relax, reduce stress, and open up your pores.
A full-body exfoliation is usually the second stage of visiting a hammam. During this process, your entire body is scrubbed with a kese mitt to remove dead skin cells and ensure your skin is baby-soft. Finally, an indulgent oil massage helps you to relax and loosen up any tense muscles.
Centuries ago, the Ottomans in Athens would visit the Ancient bathhouse of the winds. Sadly, this is no longer in operation. However, there are a number of modern hammams across the city that still offer traditional treatment methods.
Once you’re feeling rejuvenated, unwind with some sweet loukoumi (the Greek answer to Turkish delight) and spiced tea. What could be a better way to unwind after a long day in Athens sightseeing and walking around?
Watch the Christmas lights get turned on in Syntagma
Christmas celebrations in Athens for 2022 will be kick-started on the 10th of December when the Christmas lights around the city are turned on in Syntagma Square. This year, Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis will switch the lights on, and his speech will be followed by performances by Greek musicians, live bands, and DJs.
See a movie in an open-air theatre
An open-air film festival will run this December in Athens between the 27th and the 29th of the month. Several classic family movies, such as the Nightmare before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands, will be played at various open-air theatres around the city.
For the best experience, head to the Thision open-air cinema at Apostolou Pavlou 7. Wrap up warm with a coat, hat, and scarf, and buy some freshly made popcorn from the concession stand.
You can also pick up some light snacks and street food eats from the vendors around Thissio. So, you can tuck into sumptuous gyros, mouthwatering souvlaki, or hot roasted chestnuts as you see the show.
See the sound and light show at Kotzia Square
If you happen to find yourself in Athens on Christmas eve, you can head to Kotzia Square, by the Athens City Hall. Here, a sound and light show will be projected onto the city hall building.
Indulge in hearty, wintry taverna classics
Sumptuous Greek foods are the perfect thing to eat during the cold winter months in Greece. The marinated meats that are prepared in quintessential local dishes like gyros and souvlakis are hearty and filling.
Meanwhile, beloved hotpot dishes like moussaka and pastitsio feel almost as though they have been invented for the cold weather. Moussaka is widely regarded as being the “national dish” of Greece and is worth sampling at least once while you’re here.
If you find yourself in Athens in winter, you should certainly experiment with as many taverna classics as you can. Don’t worry about the ensuing muffin top! Aside from all of the classic dishes though, there are numerous winter dishes that you should try.
Many Athenian restaurants boast seasonal menus. This provides a perfect opportunity to sample foods that the summer tourists miss.
Look out for Fakes (pronounced Fah-kes). This is a warming, flavourful Greek lentil soup that is popular from October onwards. Alternatively, sink your spoon into a steaming bowl of Fasolada – a scrumptious Greek bean stew.
Go ice skating in the shadow of the Acropolis
One lovely addition to Athens that the winter season brings is the introduction of a number of ice-skating rinks that pop up across the city. What could be more magical than whizzing around on the ice, doing pirouettes (or trying to) while looking across to the Acropolis?
There are numerous skating rinks that appear in Athens in the winter. Some are permanent, and some are temporary. Travellers of all ages and abilities can don their snuggliest winter clothes, and rent skates for an alternative evening of entertainment.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre in Kallithea offers a great outdoor skating rink. The rink in Kotzia Square beside the City Hall is also a local favourite.
Sip hot cocoa at Christmas-themed cafes
Athens boasts several cute-themed cafes that can really help you get into the Christmas spirit. In particular, you should check out Noel (Kolokotroni 59B).
This is a Christmas-themed bar and coffee shop that keeps its decorations up 365 days a year. Nothing puts you in the Christmas mood quite like sipping a cup of hot cocoa infused with a shot of Irish liquor or treating yourself to a warm rakomelo (raki mixed with Greek honey).
Little Kook, Athens
Another alternative is Little Kook (Karaiskaki 17). This is a coffee shop that is decorated with elaborate decorations and follows various different eccentric themes throughout the year.
During winter in Athens, Little Kook is themed like a winter wonderland. It boasts giant nutcracker statues and eccentric decor that are sure to capture the hearts of all the family.
The ambience is great but the snack and brunch menu is not to be missed. This is a great place to sample Greek desserts or treat yourself to a sinful, indulgent slab of moist chocolate cake.
Explore offbeat Greek neighbourhoods
Ask any Athenian what the highlight of their city is, and chances are it will not be the city centre. One of the most charming things about Athens is the city’s various neighbourhoods.
Each district essentially has its own personality. You don’t have to venture into the city centre to shop, have dinner, or enjoy a night out. The various Athenian neighbourhoods all boast their own central squares and a wealth of places to eat and drink.
Winter in Athens is a perfect time to don your comfiest walking boots and embark on a self-guided walking tour of the city’s various districts. Hop on the subway to Kifissia – a chic district filled with tree-lined promenades, upscale boutiques, and neoclassical mansions.
You can think of the Mets as Athens’s answer to New York’s Greenwich village. However, the Mets is so small and off the beaten path, you would never find it unless you specifically knew where it was.
There are some wonderful coffee shops, independent boutique clothing stores, and jazz bars here. Kain (Anapáfseos 1) and Metz (Mark. Mousourou 63) are two charming cafes in the area to add to your radar. The latter hosts live jazz musicians throughout the week and on Sunday afternoons.
Spend an afternoon in Piraeus
Tourists think of Piraeus as the place they have to pass through in order to get a ferry to the islands close to Athens. Athenians. A necessary evil if you will. However, there is plenty to see and do in Piraeus.
The ports of Mikrolimano and Marina Zea are nice, alternative places to stop for a coffee or a cocktail by the sea. Marina Zea places you in a luxurious setting where the Athenian elite moors their yachts.
A popular cocktail bar here is “Piscina” (Akti Themistokleous 25). It is an elegant place to be when the sunsets and offers spectacular views over the water and out to the Saronic islands.
The peaceful Piraeus neighbourhood of Kastella is a nice place for a stroll. It is filled with colourful neoclassical houses and quaint churches. For excellent panoramas over Piraeus and wider Athens, hike the hill to the Profitis Ilias church.
Enjoy a coastal walk by the Athenian Riviera
The Athens Riviera, and the coastal towns of Voula, Vouliagmeni, Vari, and Glyfada, are some of the most exclusive destinations in Greece. The weather in winter is admittedly too cold for swimming. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy a stroll along the coastline.
One of the best urban hikes in Athens is to walk from the port at Alimos onto Glyfada. You can also take a tram from Athens city centre to Vouliagmeni, and walk by the sea.
Stop for a Greek coffee or a cappuccino at the chic Del Posto coffee house (Leof. Posidonos 4). Watch through the windows as the waves lap ferociously against the rocks.
Eat delicious Greek Christmas desserts
Trying various Greek foods should be a highlight of any Athenian vacation as is. However, travelling to Athens in winter comes with the added benefit of being able to try decadent Greek festive desserts.
Venture into one of the millions of bakeries dotted throughout the city and order a batch of soft, warm melomakarona. These are festive cookies that are only available during the Christmas period. The crumbly delicious biscuits are spiced with cinnamon and covered in sweet syrup and honey.
Another treat to look out for is Kourabiethes. These are almond shortbread biscuits made in a circular shape and generously dusted with icing sugar.
Drink warm rakomelo at traditional tavernas
For a taster of authentic Athens, head to a traditional local taverna or mezedopoleío.
For a taster of authentic Athens, head to one of the traditional local tavernas. No, not those touristic-looking places where men are smashing plates near the Acropolis, but a real gritty local taverna in a non-touristic neighbourhood like Pagrati or Kallithea.
You won’t find many tourists here, just Greek locals eating, drinking ouzo, and playing backgammon. Eat with the locals and then wash it all down with a glass of warm, homemade Rakomelo – Cretan raki prepared with honey.
Go Christmas shopping in Athens
Visiting Greece during the winter months gives you a great opportunity to go Christmas shopping in Athens. There are lots of quintessentially Greek souvenirs and gifts that you can pick up here for the Grecophiles in your life.
Greek agro products such as cured meats, unique Greek cheese, flavoured olive oils, delightful jams, condiments and marinades are a nice choice. You can purchase several and make your own bespoke hampers.
Head to Evripidou street in Psiri for the best delicatessens, spice shops and food stores that sell these types of items. Miran (45 Evripidou street) is a local favourite.
So too is Karamanladika (Sokratous 1). In both places, you can sample the various products before you buy them to help you purchase the perfect gift.
Take day trips to cosy winter locations
Athens’ location in Southern Greece is perfect for taking adventures around mainland Greece. The Saronic, and some of the Cycladic islands are conveniently close to the capital and can be reached in less than two hours.
Some of these destinations are certainly seasonal and many of their businesses close their doors in late October. However, there are many other beautiful places in Greece which can be visited all year round.
Charming mountain villages like Karpenisi and Arachova or romantic cities such as Nafplio are perfect day trips from Athens during the winter months. Arachova, for instance, is a cosmopolitan mountain location that is often referred to as the “Mykonos of the winter”.
Opt to spend one night in your own cosy stone house in the mountains, roasting marshmallows by the fireplace. Consider trying your hand at skiing at one of the beloved Greek mountain resorts. Doing so is the perfect accompaniment to winter in Athens.
See a Christmas ballet or opera Performance
Many cities gear up for the festive period with inspired ballets, plays, and operas and Athens is no different. You may not expect it, but Athens has a growing arts and culture scene.
Christmas ballets and classics like The Nutcracker can be watched at various theatres around the centre. You can check Why Athens to see what shows and events are taking place during your trip.
Visit the Christmas factory in Technopolis
If you have a little extra time to spare during your trip to Athens in Winter, or you are looking for an alternative form of evening entertainment, consider going along to the Christmas Factory. This Christmas market can be found in Technopolis, in Athens’ Gazi neighbourhood.
This outdoor market and funfair have a little something for people of all ages and interests. Think of it as a Greekified version of the European Christmas markets that you see in cities like Berlin and Vienna.
Here, you can Sip warm glasses of oinomelo (Greek honey wine) as you watch festive musical performances and carol singers.
Snack on some warming Greek street food eats from the various vendors that set up shop around the fair. If you are travelling with kids or as a family, you will love having a go on some of the Christmas-themed rides.
See archaeological sites under a blanket of snow
Snow in Athens is certainly not guaranteed or ultra-common. However, in the winters of 2018, 2020, and 2021, we were treated to this phenomenon so you may just get lucky.
Seeing the Acropolis and other ancient ruins as they are covered beneath a blanket of snow is a majestic site. Most of Athens’ historical sites are concentrated around old Plaka and the city centre. Be sure to incorporate the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, the bathhouse of the winds, the Acropolis, and Anafiotika into your winter Athens itinerary.
It is important to consider that many Athens attractions operate on a reduced schedule during the winter months. The winter season runs from November through to March.
During this time, most attractions are open from 8.00-15.00 or 8.00-17.00. This differs from the 8.00 am – 20:00 pm schedule that you see in the summer.
Climb Mount Lycabettus without the crowds
Mount Lycabettus boasts some of the most breathtaking panoramas in Athens. From here, you can see out to Piraeus port on a clear day.
The Acropolis sits on a parallel hill, as does Filappapou hill, with its namesake Philopappos monument. If you find yourself in Athens in winter, there will be very few tourists clambering up Lycabettus.
The park is free to enter and provides a tranquil green oasis in the heart of a bustling capital. The little whitewashed 19th-century church of Agios Georgios sits at the top of the hill and its interiors are so tiny that stepping inside is like stepping into someones living room.
Its walls are adorned with a number of interesting Orthodox icons and paintings, and for a couple of euro cents, you can light a candle here in honour of a deceased relative. The hike to the top of Lycabettus takes you along a steadily inclining path that is manageable for people of all ages and hiking abilities.
You can reach the peak in around 30 minutes. However, if you prefer not to walk, you can also take the funicular train from the street entrance in Kolonaki.
See the Christmas tree at Syntagma Square
Greeks are generally pretty religious people. As you can imagine, Christmas here is kind of a big deal.
During the festive period, the entire city is illuminated with beautiful fairy lights. No Christmas displays are more impressive than the spectacular tree that is set up at Athens’ main Syntagma Square. Throughout the month, there are several free concerts and musical performances that take place beneath the Syntagma Christmas tree.
Sip mulled wine and hot toddies at chic bars
The Athenian neighbourhoods of Kolonaki, Hilton, and Monastiraki are filled with chic, stylish cocktail lounges and rooftop bars. These make the perfect spots for passing cold winter nights. The best bars implement a menu change in line with the change of the season.
Expect mulled wines and hot toddies at Athenian bars throughout the winter months to help get into the festive spirit. Six Dogs, Baba Au Rum, Drunk Sinatra, and Minnie the Moocher are local favourite bars that should not be missed.
Participate in a Greek cooking class
Opting to participate in a Greek cooking class is a great way to escape the harsh, wintry weather that accompanies travelling to Athens during the winter months. Not to mention, it’s a wonderful cultural experience.
Following on from your lesson, you will be able to impress your friends and family at home by cooking Greek classics for them at home. Forget drab western recipes, you will recreate a moussaka for them just like an Athenian yia yia used to make.
Many organisations across Athens offer the chance to learn some Greek home cooking. Just like restaurants, cooking schools will often alter their schedules depending on the season.
Learn how to make the much-loved Greek Sunday dish of lamb kleftiko with wonderful lemony potatoes, or opt for a more wintry Greek dish like fasolada. Many Athenian cooking classes like this one pair the experience with the opportunity to explore local food markets and buy your own fresh ingredients for cooking with.
Visit the most important Athenian landmarks
Many main tourist attractions across Athens have cheaper entrance fees during the winter months. This includes the Athens sightseeing pass which offers admission to multiple attractions across the city. Visiting Greece during this time is easier on your wallet.
Have a Christmas dinner at a luxury hotel
‘Tis the season to be jolly… and gain around 14 pounds in the process! Restaurants and taverns in the Greek capital are bustling during the festive period.
Special themed menus and lavish dining events are also hosted at various restaurants and hotels across the city. One example is at the fabulous Grande Bretagne Hotel in Syntagma.
The Grande Bretagne is without a doubt, one of Athens’ most lavish hotels. The hotel plays host to a chic “Opera Night” throughout November and December.
This glamorous event sees champagne dinners served to patrons to the backing music of opera and live piano. Check the events calendar in Athens for more similar occurrences that coincide with your trip dates.
Treat yourself to an indulgent tasting menu
There are few better ways to sample a variety of dishes from across Greece than by treating yourself to a tasting menu served up at one of Athens’ best restaurants. Several restaurants in the Greek capital offer you the opportunity to do just this.
Eleas Gi is a gourmet restaurant in Kifissia. Patrons can treat themselves to a 14 or 24-course tasting menu with local ingredients sourced from across the country and paired with local wines. Two Michelin Star owners Spondi also offers a similar tasting menu.
Take a history lesson at Athens’ Museums
It should come as no surprise that there are close to 100 museums in Athens – especially when you take into account the city’s long and varied history. Athens’ history and culture museums make an interesting addition to your itinerary anyway.
However, in winter, they give you a nice excuse to escape the cold. The “New” Acropolis museum is a must-visit after exploring the Acropolis.
Meanwhile, the National Archaeological Museum is also very worthy of your time. This is the largest museum in the country and contains more than 11,000 exhibits from the Neolithic era up to the Roman age.
Welcome in the New Year with Greek friends
It is customary to party and welcome in the turn of the New Year in Greece – just like anywhere else in the world! For Greeks, the first half of the evening is typically spent with family members.
Athenians will typically indulge in a big fat Greek feast with their relatives as they commence the countdown to midnight. An important Greek New Year’s Eve tradition is cutting the vasilopita.
This is a specific type of cake that is eaten during the New Year. The vasilopita is a sponge cake that is typically flavoured with vanilla and orange extracts.
A coin is wrapped and placed inside the cake before it is cooked. It is customary to cut the cake at the turn of the New Year. Whoever finds the piece ought to have good luck for the new year ahead!
After midnight, the city of Athens comes alive. New Year’s Eve is arguably the best time to experience Athens nightlife in its finest hours.
Bars and clubs from Gazi to Koukaki are open until the wee hours of the morning. For an authentic Greek experience, consider watching live music at a bouzoukia. This is a Greek live music spot and you are highly likely to be the only tourist in attendance.
Celebrate the Greek carnival (Apokries)
If you happen to travel to Athens in February, you can participate in the festivities of Apokries: the Greek carnival. This is one of the largest and most popular festivals in Greece.
Apokries translates to meaning “no more meat” and this festival is celebrated as a countdown to Easter. In some ways, Apokries is the Greek answer to Halloween.
During this period, many bars across Athens organise themed costume parties and events. If you want to participate, you can easily find many costume stores across Athens that offer some pretty impressive costumes for rent.
Take a Greek folk dancing class
Did you know that there are more than 10,000 different dances that originated in Greece? The most well-known is probably the dance from Zorbas the Greek. However, the reality is that every village, island, and district in Greece has its own local dances!
On a rainy winter’s day, you could consider escaping the elements and booking yourself a place in a Greek dance class. Classes take place in a private or group setting (depending on your preference). Many classes, like this one often include a sumptuous Greek dinner.
What to Wear in Athens in Winter
If you are travelling to Athens between November and February, make like an onion and layer up! As mentioned above, it can get pretty cold during this time of year. However, at the same time, warm, sunny days where freak temperatures soar up to around 15-16 degrees Celsius are also not unheard of.
Be sure to incorporate a good winter coat, some thick sweaters, some thermal underwear, and some outdoor gear into your Greece packing list. It can also get very rainy during this period so don’t forget your umbrella!
Make sure that you pack some comfortable, closed shoes for walking around – whether they are sneakers, ankle boots, or dedicated walking boots. As most of the main attractions in Athens are located within the city centre, you can expect to be on your feet for hours of the day.
It should also be noted that a lot of the pavements in Greece are not well-maintained. Sidewalks are often uneven and there are pot-holes a-plenty!
Athens is also incredibly hilly. Try to avoid heeled shoes. The old cobbled paths and steps around Acropolis hill and Plaka will become pretty treacherous during this time.
FAQs about spending winter in Athens
There are several benefits to be enjoyed as a result of visiting Athens in winter. These are in addition to all of the magnificent seasonal events and festivities that take place across the city.
Since this is the off-season, you can enjoy reductions on most things – crowds, prices, and so on! A few of the highlights of travelling during this time are detailed below.
How cold does Athens get in winter?
While winter in Athens sees cooler temperatures than during the popular summer months, it never gets quite as cold here as it does in other European cities. Expect temperatures between 7 and 15° Celsius during the day, with slightly colder conditions at night.
What is Athens like in winter?
Athens in winter is a magical time. Christmas is a big deal in Greece.
(It is one of the largest festivities of the year along with Orthodox Easter). So, from late October onwards, you will see elaborate Christmas displays set up in storefronts along Ermou street and Syntagma.
From mid-November, you will find festive events take place almost every week – from quaint local markets to musical performances. The temperature, though colder than in July and August, is much milder than in other parts of Europe so spending time outside exploring archeological sites and ruins is still pleasant.
Is Athens a good place to visit in winter?
Athens is a great and underrated place to visit in the winter. There are so many benefits to travelling to the Greek capital during this time.
For starters, there are far fewer crowds than during the summer so you can get a feel for what life in Athens is truly like. With fewer tourists, the prices of accommodation, car rentals, flights, and local excursions drop.
You can secure some great travel deals during this time. The weather is still pleasant, if chilly, so you can follow the same itinerary as you would at any other time of the year.
Is there winter in Athens?
Contrary to popular belief, Greece does not see hot Mediterranean temperatures all year round and the country does have defined seasons. Athens sees mild winters with daytime temperatures between 7 and 15° Celsius.
Most days are still clear and dry with occasional showers. Snow is not common, but it is not completely unheard of either, and has happened in recent years.
What is the coldest month in Athens?
January is the coldest month in Athens, Greece. It sees average daily temperatures of 10°C and colder conditions at night.
Does Athens Greece get a lot of snow?
It does not snow often in Athens. However, there have been occasional snowfall in January/February in recent years. Seeing the Acropolis in a blanket of snow is a magical sight to behold.
Fewer crowds during winter in Athens
Hiking to the top of Mount Lycabettus in the height of summer means sharing the view with hundreds of other travellers. Some may say that it ruins the background of your photos when there is a tour bus full of approximately 5,637 other people in the background!
During winter in Athens, there are far fewer crowds. You will often find that you have beautiful spots like Anafiotika virtually all to yourself.
Free entry to museums on certain days
Reduced ticket and attraction pass prices are one benefit of travelling to Athens in winter. Another perk is that some of the museums and sites can be visited for absolutely free!
On the first Sunday of every month from November to March, Athens museums and historical/cultural sites are free to enter. This is perfect if you are visiting Greece on a budget! Admission is also free on certain Greek public holidays.
Flights and accommodation are often cheaper
There really are very few tourists that travel to Athens in winter. As such, you can secure excellent deals on flights and accommodation. Entire Airbnb apartments can be found in central Athens for as little as £15/$18 per night.
Flights to Athens from other European cities (including London) are often less than £20 a night. With all of that considered, you can enjoy a fabulous weekend break in Athens and really not spend very much at all!
It’s business as usual for some establishments
Even if you find yourself in Athens on Christmas Day and you are worried that everything is going to be closed, you can feel assured that countless bars and restaurants are open as normal. In fact, you almost forget that it is Christmas day at all!
Have any questions about visiting Athens in Winter or about planning a trip to Greece in general? I live here in Athens and I’m happy to help.
For more winter travel inspiration, take a peek at some suggested winter Europe itineraries. Safe travels!
Geia sou! Melissa xo