From mid-December, Athens is glimmering with Christmas lights and ornaments, local people get into the festive mood and smells of traditional sweets linger in the air. As Christmas day approaches several events and markets start taking place all over the city boosting up the already joyful atmosphere. Athenians start shopping for the festive table wishing Kala Hristougenna (Merry Christmas) to one another.
Here are the things that will set you in the mood if you’re spending Christmas 2019 in Athens.
Visit Syntagma square
Syntagma square is the perfect starting point to set you in the festive mood.
Every year at the beginning of December, the city’s largest Christmas tree is set at Syntagma square and the whole place brightens up with ornaments and lights decorating the square.
Mimes, street artists and street vendors roasting chestnuts and corn add their own touch to the Athens’ main square perking up the atmosphere.
Throughout the Christmas season, Syntagma square hosts several events and live concerts while every year an ice skating rink or a carousel is placed in the middle of the square.
Savour hot chocolate in one of the decorated cafés
Every neighbourhood around Athens is decorated with Christmas trees, wreaths, and illuminating lights but the city center stands out.
Dotted with cafés, scenic squares, and narrow alleys, the center of Athens is twice as charming.
And while every café-bar and restaurant is embellished with Christmas trinkets, there are some places that just look like they are straight out of a fairytale.
Little Kook in the area of Psirri is widely known for its extravagant theme decorations.
In December, star-shaped lights, Christmas mistletoes, huge red-and-white lollipops and every item that comes to mind when you think of Christmas adorn the café both outdoors and indoors.
Karaiskaiki, the street where you’ll find Little Kook (map) gleams with myriads of lights and gold Christmas knickknacks.
The bar’s name already gives you a hint that the people behind it love Christmas time, a fact proven by the place’s festive decoration all year round.
When December kicks in, they go wild with the Christmas ornaments placing fir garlands, lights, Christmas balls, you name it all over the place, creating a majestic scenery.
Explore the Christmas markets of Athens
One of the best things about Christmas in Athens is the Christmas market.
Not only because you can indulge yourself in endless shopping but also because their jolly atmosphere guarantees to get you in the Christmas spirit.
Athens features several pop-up markets that take place in cafés and cultural spaces.
The most popular is The Christmas Factory, which takes place every year in Technopolis from the end of November until the beginning of January.
Featuring Santa’s house, a toy’s factory and over 25 stalls packed with items, The Christmas Factory is every kid’s Merryland.
Another favorite market that takes place on selected dates at Christmas is the Meet Market.
This year’s dates haven’t been announced yet but keep an eye out on their Facebook page because you don’t want to miss it.
Go for Christmas Shopping
Aside from the numerous fashionable markets, Athens provides plenty of opportunities for shopping.
Ermou is the city’s most popular shopping street brimming with life all year round.
When Christmas arrives, the pedestrianized street gets jam-packed as most locals head here to buy gifts for their beloved ones.
If Ermou feels too overcrowded just walk towards Syntagma square and enter the refined Attica department store.
From here Voukourestiou street is just a short jaunt. Being Kolonaki’s most expensive shopping street, Voukourestioy features only designers’ boutiques and high-end jewelry stores.
Even if you can’t afford to buy your Christmas gifts here, take the time to take a stroll as its one of the most beautifully decorated streets in Athens.
Visit the city’s Ice skating rinks
Ice rinks are set up all around Athens throughout the winter months bringing a piece of the snowy sceneries in the sunlit Greek capital.
The 1,000 square-meters ice rink in Athens Heart Mall in Pireos street is the city’s largest indoor ice rink and operates from September until May.
Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) has its own ice rink placed every year in the cultural space’s outdoor area.
Finally, close to the metro station Eleonas you’ll find Icenskate, an ice skating rink operating all year round.
Taste the traditional Greek Christmas delicacies
Christmas in Athens has the smell of melomakarona and kourabiedes.
It’s a tradition to make the mouthwatering traditional sweets around December and they never miss from local people’s festive tables.
Melomakarona are cookies made with honey and other spices and kourabiedes are butter-cookies topped with icing sugar.
Aside from these two typical Greek sweets, you’ll find an abundance of Christmas delicacies that it’s a custom for Greeks to make only during this time of the year.
The Greek honey rolls, known as diples, the Saint Basil’s Cake (Vasilopita) that local people eat on New Year’s Day and Christ’s bread (Christopsomo) are the most known.
Watch a Christmas show
Watch a Christmas show or catch a festive event in Athens’ theatres and cultural spaces.
Christmas Theater hosts several interesting shows in winter 2019 including Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker which will be performed by The Bolshoi Ballet Academy from December 23 to December 29.
Even though Athens city doesn’t look like the typical winter destinations of Northern Europe, it won’t fall short of your expectations if you decide to spend Christmas here.
The Greek capital wears its festive costume from early December with myriads of lights and festive ornaments decorating the streets around the city center.
Even though chances are you won’t be surrounded by a snowy landscape, the Greek capital will reward you with the smells of traditional sweets, the sound of Christmas carols and the vibrant Christmas markets.