Athens in December – A Complete Guide


If you’re hankering for a winter city break, Athens may not be the first place that springs to mind.

The cities of Prague, Krakow, and Budapest are all considered Christmassy destinations (and let’s not forget Germany’s world famous Christmas Markets!), but visiting Athens in December is less of an obvious choice.

However, having just returned from a winter weekend in Athens with Jet2CityBreaks, I can honestly say that December is a great time to visit Athens, and I actually preferred visiting Athens in December than in May, which was when I’d previously visited.


In this post, I’ll go into detail about why December is a great time to visit Athens, as well as what kind of weather to expect, the best things to do in Athens in winter, where to stay, and much more.

Is Athens worth visiting in December?

Let’s get into it.


Athens in December – A Complete Guide


Why visit Athens in December?


Capital of Greece and the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, and the Olympic Games, Athens sure has a long list of accolades.

When you factor in the Acropolis, crowned by the majestic Parthenon, the ancient Agora and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, it’s safe to say that Athens has a lot to offer in terms of history, culture, and touristic attractions.

However, this can be both a blessing and a curse, and if you visit Athens during the summer months, you may find it buckling from the effects of overtourism.

In May 2023 (which was when I initially visited), more than 14,000 people visited the Acropolis every single day, a 70% increase on 2022 numbers.

In that same month, the average hotel occupancy was 88.5%, and let’s remember that this is in May, which brings in far less tourism than the months of July and August.

monastiraki flea market athens
Monastiraki flea market


What is Athens like in December?


As I strolled around the touristic neighbourhoods of Plaka and Monastiraki, I encountered only a handful of other tourists, and even then, this was only when I ventured into souvenir shops or touristy restaurants.

As well as the crowds being noticeably thinner, many things were cheaper (souvenirs, museum tickets etc.), and while it was certainly a little chilly, the sun shined every day during my visit.

It was brilliant.

Winter in Athens allowed me to feel as though I was experiencing Athens through an Athenian perspective rather than being trapped in a tourist bubble, and that authenticity can be hard to find at busier times of the year.

The best bit? There are some super affordable flights to Athens with Jet2!

monastiraki square athens
Monastiraki Square in December, with hardly any crowds


Weather in Athens in December


Is Athens cold in December?

Well, yes and no.

Athens weather in December certainly isn’t tanning weather, but Athens enjoys a much milder climate in December than much of Europe.

The average temperature in Athens in December is between 9°C and 15°C (48°F – 59°F), with the sun often breaking through the clouds making it feel even warmer.

Early mornings and evenings are the coldest times, and there are around 11 days of rain in Athens in December (usually in the form of scattered showers). Snow is rare, but it can happen.

Restaurants always have the heating cranked up inside, as well as using outdoor heaters – you will still see people sitting outside to eat their evening meal, although they’ll usually have their coats on!


What to wear in Athens in December


While the temperatures outside will be crisp, indoor venues will always be heated, and so the key to dressing for the weather in Athens in December is layering.

Generally, a t-shirt with a cardigan/jumper over the top, followed by your coat, will be enough to keep you warm.

On my lower half, I wore skirts with boots and tights, and never felt cold, although long trousers would be a good choice as well.

You won’t need a hat, scarf, and gloves.


Things to do in Athens in December


While the main Athens attractions remain the same throughout the year, there are definitely activities that are better suited to the cooler months (I won’t be suggesting a trip to the Athenian Riviera in this post!), which I have rounded up for you below.

If you are only visiting Athens for a day or two, you might want to check out my article about how to spend one day in Athens, where I cover the absolute must-sees.

However, if you’re wondering what to do in Athens in December, here are my best recommendations.


Explore the Acropolis without the crowds


As long as it isn’t raining (the area around the Acropolis gets very slippery when wet), December is one of the best times to visit the Acropolis.

First, you won’t have to battle through the cruise ship crowds, or arrive at the crack of dawn to try and beat them.

Second, entrance to the Acropolis in low season is cheaper – much cheaper, in fact!

Between November 1 and March 30, tickets for the Acropolis are just 10 EUR, less than half of what they’ll cost you in the busier months (22 EUR)!

Not only that, but you’ll have a much more comfortable experience visiting in the cooler temperatures than you would in the oppressive summer heat.

Get your Acropolis tickets here, or alternatively, pay a little bit extra and enjoy a guided tour of the Acropolis and Parthenon.

You can also buy a combined ticket and enjoy access to the Acropolis and six other famous archaeological sites in Athens.


Enjoy discounted museum tickets


It isn’t just the Acropolis that is cheaper to visit in the off season – many of Athens’ best museums are also cheaper to visit!

Visiting a museum is one of the best things to do in Athens when it rains, or when the weather is a bit chillier.

The best museums in Athens include:

Museum of Cycladic Art – Discover an extensive collection of art and artifacts from the ancient cultures of the Aegean and Cyprus.

National Archaeological Museum – The largest archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important museums in the world devoted to ancient Greek art.

Museum of Illusions – Discover 60 visual and interactive illusions including the infinity room, inverted room, chair illusion, holograms, and many more.

Acropolis Museum – World-famous for its stunning ancient Greek statues (including the celebrated Acropolis Caryatids), and the Parthenon Marbles.


Souvenir shopping in Plaka


Plaka is the oldest part of Athens, as well as one of the most touristy areas, but in December, the streets will be lovely and quiet.

Plaka has been inhabited since Ancient Greek times, and its picturesque cobbled streets, neoclassical architecture, and friendly street cats make it the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

Plaka is a great place to go souvenir shopping, and here you’ll find a multitude of boutiques selling olive oil cosmetics, leather sandals, evil eye talismans, spice mixes, and much more.

The best bit?

You’ll find that things are cheaper at this time of year – a tzatziki mix I paid 2.50 EUR for in May was just 1.50 EUR in December!

Christmas shopping anyone?


The most Christmassy café in Athens


Little Kook is one of the most famous dessert shops in Athens, and as soon as you see it, you’ll understand why.

This incredibly OTT place completely redecorates three times a year (Halloween, Christmas, and spring), and trust me when I say that they really go all out!

When I visited Athens in May, Little Kook had an Alice in Kookland theme, but of course, in December, it was Christmas-themed.

With a festive menu (ever wanted to eat Ferrero mousse out of Santa’s boot or wondered what Prancer’s salted caramel hot chocolate tastes like?), servers dressed as elves, and the best décor in town, you can’t visit Athens and not visit Little Kook.

Good to know: Little Kook isn’t cheap. A cake will set you back about 12 EUR, and even a coffee costs around 5 EUR. IMO, it’s worth it because you’re paying for the experience.


Enjoy hearty winter food


You may associate Greece with warm weather foods like grilled fish and crunchy salads, but if you visit Greece in winter, you’ll find a whole host of hearty comfort foods waiting for you.

The best Greek foods to eat in winter include:

Moussaka – A layered aubergine (eggplant) casserole made with a tomato meat sauce, topped with béchamel and seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, and oregano.

Saganaki – A thick slab of cheese, tossed in flour and fried. The end result is crispy on the outside, and melty on the inside.

Pastitsio – A baked pasta dish with layered pasta and ground beef seasoned with cinnamon and cloves, held together in a tomato sauce, and topped with a generous portion of béchamel sauce.

Yogurtlu –  Toasted pita bread, topped with grilled lamb kofta, a big dollop of Greek yogurt, and a sprinkling of paprika. This is technically a Turkish dish, but is still very popular in Greece.


Ancient ruins


As I mentioned earlier, visiting Athens in low season means that you’ll be able to experience all of the main tourist attractions relatively undisturbed.

The Roman Agora, Temple of Hephaestus, Hadrian’s Library, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus are some of the most popular ruins in Athens, but you’ll find ruins around every corner in this city.

Get your combined ticket to 7 of Athens’ most famous ruins here.


Embrace Greek coffee culture


Athens has a really strong café culture, and it’s not unusual for Greeks to make their freddo espresso or Greek coffee (like Turkish coffee) last for hours as they watch the world go by and enjoy the local ambience.

Greek coffee culture is similar to Albanian coffee culture in this way, and one of the best things to do in Athens if you want to live like a local is to spend as much time as you can discovering the hundreds of coffee shops in Athens.

Even if the weather is cool, most coffee shops have outdoor heaters, and it’s common for people to sit outside in their winter woollies drinking coffee!


Drink Rakomelo


Rakomelo is a strong alcoholic drink that is perfect for wintertime.

Made from raki, honey, cinnamon, and cloves, rakomelo is served hot (just like mulled wine).

However, while mulled wine is often around 5% proof, rakomelo is around 40%, so don’t drink it too quickly!


Enjoy a hammam or massage


Athens is home to many hammams and spas, and one of the best things to do in Athens in winter is to indulge in one of the many wellness treatments on offer.

From olive soap massages to chocolate body wraps, and body scrubs with gold flakes, self-care is easy in Athens.

I had an incredible Thai massage at Salon de Massage (and I lived in Asia, so I know what I’m talking about!), which was also much cheaper than other spas and hammams in Athens.


Experience Athenian fine dining


As well as plenty of cosy tavernas, Athens has an incredible fine dining scene, with many Michelin Star restaurants, degustation menus, and fantastic local and international chefs.

I enjoyed a 7-course degustation menu at Merceri (which doesn’t have a Michelin Star, but is featured on the Michelin guide to Athens), and it was absolutely delectable.

From John Dory ceviche to parsnip velouté soup with lobster, trout eggs, and truffle butter, each course was exquisite, and the friendly staff made the experience even better.

The degustation menu I ordered was 65 EUR, and you can add a Greek wine pairing for 35 EUR, although I preferred to choose my wine from the menu.

For more information, head to their website.


Cosy up in a rooftop bar


Athens is home to countless rooftop bars, all of which boast stunning views of the Acropolis.

Some of the most popular Athens rooftop bars are Thea Terrace (I visited Thea Terrace and really liked it) and A for Athens, but I also loved the rooftop bar at my hotel, Electra Roof Garden.

Cosy mood lighting, comfortable chairs, and a sophisticated atmosphere make this the perfect place to unwind at the end of the night, and their drinks menu is impeccable.

When I visited Athens, I would end my night by ordering a glass of wine and reading my book up here.

Good to know: All the bars mentioned have large terraces for the summer months, but indoor seating areas for winter that are very warm and don’t ruin the view whatsoever. In my opinion, visiting a rooftop bar is one of the best things to do in Athens in December.

athens rooftop bars
The view from Thea Terrace


Athens at Christmas


Athens might not have markets to rival the German Christmas Markets, but it isn’t without its festive cheer.

Head to Syntagma Square to admire the large (19 metre!) Christmas tree and simple Christmas market.

You’ll also find live carol singing (especially on Christmas Eve) and musical performances in the evening.

In terms of Greek Christmas food, two traditional Christmas biscuits that you can try are sugar-dusted kourabiedes and honey-soaked melamakarona.

You can also try a vasilopita, a cake dedicated to Saint Basil (the Greek version of Santa Claus), which is traditionally cut on New Year’s Eve. You can buy this cake at pretty much every bakery in Athens in December.

Lastly, be sure to sample some of the festive tasting menus at hotel restaurants. Many luxury hotels in Athens will offer traditional Christmas dinners on Christmas Day (if you book in advance).


Tips for visiting Athens in December

  • Almost all major attractions in Athens offer free entry to visitors on the first Sunday of December, so plan your trip around then if you can!
  • Make the most of cold days by visiting museums and café-hopping.
  • Wear shoes with good grip when visiting the Acropolis as the area is extremely slippery when it rains.
  • Make sure to check the visiting times for tourist attractions as they vary during summer and winter months. Many museums and attractions are closed on the 25th and 26th of December.


Where to stay in Athens in winter


So, you want to visit Athens in December.

Great!

Now you need to find somewhere to stay.

Winter city breaks require cosy and comfortable accommodation, and you also want to be close enough to the action that you’re not walking for miles in the cold.

I stayed at the 5-star Electra Palace Athens hotel in Plaka, and while my room was on the small side, I’d still recommend this hotel (although I’d probably go for a double room rather than a single one next time).

The location was great for exploring, the rooftop bar was wonderful (and super cosy at night!), the breakfast was to die for, and the staff were great as well.

My favourite thing about this hotel was the fact that the rooftop bar and restaurant boasted stunning views of the Acropolis, making breakfast (smoked salmon and scrambled eggs) taste even better.


Is Athens safe?


One of the most common questions I get asked about Athens is whether or not Athens is safe.

Some tourists, especially solo female travellers, say that they felt unsafe in Athens, and while I’m never going to discount somebody’s experiences, what I will say is that the numbers show that Athens is a very safe city, and I prefer to go by the numbers rather than people’s self-reported feelings.

On the whole, Athens is a very safe city (you can read my post about safety in Athens for more detailed information).

Athens in December is especially safe because there are far fewer tourists, meaning fewer pickpockets.

It’s also much easier for pickpockets to operate when it’s very crowded, and Athens in December is not crowded.

lots of pigeons in athens
Athens isn’t crowded – unless you’re a pigeon


In terms of areas to avoid, Omonia has a bad reputation, and can feel a little sketchy. I would advise against walking around Omonia at night, especially if you’re a single female.

If you do have to walk through Omonia at night, stick to the the main streets and avoid the narrow alleys that intersect through the main roads.

There is a lot of poverty in Omonia, and although you will often find cheap guesthouses there, it’s probably better paying a couple of extra bucks to stay in a more touristy part of town, especially as hotel rates in December will be much less than in the summer.

Other areas to avoid in Athens are Vathi Square and Viktoria Square, but they are not in the centre of town and therefore not places you would accidentally stumble upon.


Exarchia – A word of caution


Exarchia is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Athens, known for its alternative vibes, record stores, street art, and anti-establishment crowd.

However, if you’re visiting Athens in December, you should avoid Exarchia on December 6.

December 6 is the day that a 15-year-old Greek student named Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed by a police officer in Exarchia.

This tragic murder of an innocent child sparked uproar and led to what have become known as the 2008 Greek Riots, and each year, on December 6, there are vigils for him in Exarchia, which can sometimes lead to violent clashes between attendees and the police.

Alexandros Grigoropoulos
Alexandros Grigoropoulos


Athens in December | Final Thoughts


Is December a good time to visit Athens?

Athens is one of the featured European city breaks by Jet2Holidays for winter, and I can really understand why.

Athens has everything you need for a perfect winter weekend – tonnes of attractions, reasonable prices, great food, and friendly locals.

Add in a luxe hotel, direct flights, and a glass of Greek wine (or three), and you’re all set for a fabulous December in Athens!

That’s all I’ve got for today, but if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below!

Until next time,

XOXO


Disclaimer: My flights, hotel, and certain activities were paid for by Jet2.com. The GetYourGuide links are affiliate links, meaning that I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you if you buy something through those links.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.