12 Christmas Destinations in Greece

Greece at Christmas is a unique blend of cultural immersion, culinary delights, and festive ambiance. Here’s our pick of the country’s top destinations.


Christmas in Greece might not be a concept advertised by your go-to travel site, but it’s actually an excellent time to visit. Far fewer tourists crowd the streets than during the summer, yet everywhere you go (stores, restaurants, bars – in the villages and in the cities) people are on top of their game. The cities light up, metaphorically and literally.

You’ll notice ornamental boats decorated with twinkle lights – the modern incarnation of the old national tradition of women and children making small boats at this time of year in honor of St. Nicholas. From the bakeries comes the smell of clove and cinnamon-infused cookies and cakes, and everywhere you go, people greet you with a happy “Hronia Polla” (many years), “Kala Hristougenna” (Merry Christmas), or “Kali Hronia” (Happy New Year).

 

The mild winter climate also adds to the appeal for many visitors, allowing for comfortable exploration of the country’s iconic landmarks. But up in the mountains, where the weather is brisk, Christmas is a great time to try the traditional seasonal cuisine, including hearty, slow-cooked stews, and enjoy a warm “rakomelo” (raki with honey) by the fireplace.

Below we’ve put together a list of Greece’s top Christmas destinations. It is by no means exhaustive, but a selection of great entry points to Greece’s winter wonderlands:

Arachova, Mount Parnassos, Viotia

Described by some as the “Mykonos of Winter” (although this comparison is a tad unfair), the trendy mountain town of Arachova in Viotia, central Greece, a mere two and a half hour-drive from Athens, is brimming with character and cosmopolitan charm. Its proximity to both the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Delphi (8km) and the Parnassos Ski Center have made it a hugely popular wintertime destination, especially for Athenians on weekend breaks, but things have quietened down in recent years, as local entrepreneurs strive to establish a more down-to-earth, authentic vibe.

Built amphitheatrically on the southern slopes of Mount Parnassos, overlooking the Kirfi mountain range, the town is especially beautiful at Christmas, as festive lights decorate the streets and houses. The main artery of Delfon Street is home to an extraordinary variety of shops and eateries to suit all tastes.

 

Click here for our latest guide to Arachova.

Also, for foodies, click here for our 10-stop guide to Arachova’s burgeoning culinary scene.

Zagorohoria, Epirus

When it comes to Zagori in northwest Greece, superlatives fail. Across 1000 square kilometers of densely forested, mountainous landscape punctuated by deep gorges, pristine rivers, waterfalls, caves and more, 46 stone-and-slate built villages (the “Zagorohoria”) – recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage cultural landscape – complete what can only be called a mountain paradise.

Each of the villages is prettier than the last – the legacy of master masons considered to be the greatest in the country – and the accommodation options are many and of exceptional quality. The area is especially beautiful at Christmas, with buildings and village squares decked in festive lights and the surrounding mountain peaks covered in snow. The food is excellent, too. Check out the wide range of pies, organic vegetables, and dairy and meat products from local farmers.

 

And when you feel you need to dip back into civilization, the cultured city of Ioannina is a short drive away and a destination in its own right.

Click here for our latest guide to this magical Christmas wonderland.

Florina-Nymfaio, Macedonia

Famed for its beautiful lakes, the Florina region of northern Greece is enveloped by scenic landscapes and charming, stone-built villages. The town of Florina itself, nestled amidst snow-capped mountains, is captivating at Christmas time, adorned with festive lights and decorations. Two and a half hours by train from the city of Thessaloniki, this enchanting destination is built along the banks of the Sakoulevas River. Its bucolic atmosphere has inspired numerous artists, poets, and film directors over the years. Be sure to check out the Contemporary Art Museum and the Florina Art Gallery, which hosts numerous exhibitions throughout the year.

Explore the town’s historic architecture, including the Byzantine-era churches and Ottoman monuments, and chat with friendly locals in the traditional cafés and tavernas. Woodpiles are a common sight outside the homes in Florina; the smell of woodsmoke dominates the town’s streets, adding an extra special Christmas-y charm. Visitors can also relish local winter delicacies, such as hearty stews and sweet pastries. Be sure to wrap up warm, as the temperatures in December can drop below freezing. Locals will tell you about the “punch” they drink on cold winter mornings (made from tsipouro and a little honey or sugar).

 

To learn more about Florina, click here.

Staying in the Florina region, the picturesque village of Nymfaio is the ideal Christmastime destination for those who love the great outdoors. Surrounded by thick birch forests, the village sits at an altitude of 1,350m on Mount Vitsi, commanding spectacular views over the Florina valley. The village is also renowned for its biodiversity, serving as a haven for critically endangered bears, wolves, and Eurasian lynxes. Just outside the village is the famous Arcturos Brown Bear Sanctuary, which has been operating in the area for 30 years.

Christmas is a special time in Nymfaio, as the traditional stone houses and cobbled streets twinkle with festive lights. The local cuisine is great, too, as tavernas and eateries serve up a variety of seasonal winter dishes – hearty stews and roasted meat dishes, and, of course, stuffed Florina peppers – washed down with some of the best wines in Greece.

For more on this enchanting village, click here.

Metsovo, the Jewel of Epirus

Heading west again, back to the wilds of Epirus, we venture to the charming stone-built town of Metsova, deep in the heart of the Pindus Mountains. This Vlach village, which was once an important military and trading post in 18th and 19th centuries, is renowned for its rich history, cobblestoned streets, rustic cuisine, and wide range of local handicrafts, including textiles and traditional embroidery. The main square still echoes Metsovo’s age-old history, where elderly men sit chatting in Vlach, a language with Balkan roots.

Boasting accommodation to suit all tastes and activities for all ages – from religious tourism to foraging in the forests and skiing in the winter – Metsovo is a feast for the senses at Christmas, as church bells ring and the smell of woodsmoke fills the air. Be sure to tuck into some local dishes and wines at the Katogi Averoff Hotel and Winery and visit the well-put-together folk museum and art gallery.

 

For cheese lovers, Metsovo is home to the distinctively nutty, smoked metsovone cheese, which was recently touted by the CNN Travel website as one of Europe’s best

For more information on this beautiful corner of northwest Greece, click here.

Lake Plastira, Western Thessaly

Located half an hour from the city of Karditsa, in the heart of Greece, Lake Plastira is a destination that attracts visitors all year round. Surrounded by fir trees and wild mountain terrain, it’s especially beautiful in the winter and at Christmas, offering plenty of low-key activities and relaxing things to do.

Around the lake and beyond the paths that lead to the various peaks of the imposing Agrafa mountains, there’s a dense network of paths that are ideal for moderate hikes through the forest. The area is especially popular for yoga retreats, the still waters of the lake and spectacular views providing the ideal environment for relaxation and wellbeing. Other activities include cycling, canoeing/kayaking, and horseback riding. The 15th century Monastery of Pelekiti is also well worth a visit, perched on a steep slope above the village of Karista.  

 

For foodies, a traditional dish here is “spetzofai,” made with sausages and peppers cooked in tomato sauce, perfect for those long winter evenings.

Click here for our top tips on what to see and do at Lake Plastira.

Megalo Horio, Evrytania, Western Thessaly

We remain in the wild natural beauty of Western Thessaly and explore Megalo Chorio (literally “Big Village”) in the region of Evrytania, a picturesque stone-built village on the banks of the Karpenistiotis River. Despite its name, Megalo Chorio is not actually that big. It has a central road with tourist shops, and you can easily walk from one end to the other in 15 minutes. It is, however, certainly picturesque and characteristic of the proud grandeur of Greece’s mountainous regions, with its eye-catching Church of St. Gerasimos, its large square dominated by a tall clock tower. The village hosts an interesting Folklore Museum, housed in an old mansion.

The great advantage of Megalo Horio – which lies just 13km from Karpenisi – is that it provides the perfect base for discovering the surrounding villages and many natural attractions of the regional unit of Evrytania. Just after the village of Dipotama, you’ll come across the Proussos Monastery, a major pilgrimage site in Greece, nestled amid stunning countryside. The monastery has a small museum, packed with historical and religious artifacts. Another popular draw here is the local cuisine, especially cold-cut meats (be sure to try the sausage-like “boubari,” a Christmas delicacy), cheeses and handmade pasta dishes.

 

Click here for our latest guide to Megalo Horio.

Aghios Athanasios, Mount Kaimaktsalan, Western Macedonia

If you’re looking for an excursion this Christmas that offers something for everyone, you can’t go wrong with Mount Kaimaktsalan, or “Voras” as it is officially known. The mountain’s slopes are home to the famous Kaimaktsalan Ski Center, the highest ski resort in Greece; a great place for athletic types to hit the powder, relax with some hot chocolate or just take in the stunning scenery.

There are several picturesque villages in the area. The main village, Aghios Athanasios, is divided into the “old” village, which is home to the ski center, and the “new” village, where the residents have their shops and businesses. Charming, cobbled streets featuring a gutter for rainwater and melting snow fill with visitors at Christmastime, enjoying a stroll and admiring the local attractions and beautiful stone architecture. The bars on the main square play music to entice customers, and warm fires blaze inside the taverns. Bean stews, soups, casseroles, and pies are the local specialties worth trying. Local products like pickles, herbs, frumenty, spoon sweets, spices, and pasta – all made by the ladies at the Arnissa Women’s Cooperative – are sold at the kiosks in the square.

 

For more on this winter wonderland in the heart of Western Macedonia, click here.

Athens

The Greek capital might not have the natural Christmas-y vibe that some of Europe’s snow-covered medieval cities do, but the Athenians do their best to make up for it with decorations and events all around town.

For the ultimate yuletide experience, head to Little KooK, in Psyrri; the central Athenian masters of decoration. This Alice in Wonderland-themed café goes all out every holiday, and for Christmas, as you might imagine, entering it is like stepping into what Christmas morning felt like as a child. Outside of the city center at Fairytale in Nea Filadelphia and at CapCap in Aegaleo, the cafés’ lavish, holiday decor match their assortments of decadent sweet treats.

 

The outdoor Christmas Factory at Technopolis (open from November 30 to the beginning of January) has attractions for the whole family, from a themed playground, an ice rink, and rides, to shops selling holiday trinkets, traditional food and beverages.

Also, it’s well worth checking out the museum websites at this time of year, for organized special programs for families with little ones to enjoy.

Click here for more tips on how to get in the festive mood in Athens.

Thessaloniki

A destination for all seasons, the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki is buzzing during the Christmas holiday season with enchanting festivities. Head to Aristotelous Square, adorned with dazzling lights and a festive market where you can shop for local crafts and treats. Stroll through the illuminated streets, leading to the White Tower, offering panoramic views of the city. Embrace the festive spirit at Modiano and Kapani markets, where seasonal delights and gifts abound, and check out the schedule for Christmas concerts and events hosted at iconic venues like the Thessaloniki Concert Hall.

Like Athens, the “co-capital” Thessaloniki is like a giant walk-in museum, packed with UNESCO World Heritage monuments. Delight in the city’s rich religious heritage by visiting historical churches like Agios Dimitrios and the Rotunda, beautifully decorated for the season.

 

Thessaloniki is also a burgeoning culinary destination, home to some of the country’s top restaurants. Savor traditional Christmas cuisine and experience the warmth of Greek hospitality.

Pilio, Southeast Thessaly

In Pilio (aka “Pelion”), nature offers a smorgasbord of atmospheric surroundings at Christmastime.

Rising between two bodies of water – the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea – the peninsula is covered by densely wooded, almost jungle-like, mountain slopes. Driving through it, every now and again there’s a clearing where the sun breaks through, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by apple groves.

 

The villages are rustic, picturesque and tourist friendly, with cobblestoned streets and large paved central squares. Gigantic, age-old plane trees create a natural fairytale-like roof over your head. Shops sell homemade jams and spoon sweets, and the tavernas serve surprisingly contemporary versions of traditional Greek food. Local specialties include stewed rabbit, baked goat and handmade pasta with rich sauces.

Great for all seasons, click here for our comprehensive guide to this enchanting corner of Greece. 

Stemnitsa and Dimitsana, Central Peloponnese

Even in a land with as much natural beauty as Greece, the region of Arcadia has stood out since antiquity, with its name becoming a poet’s byword for paradise. Today, while, this region in the central Peloponnese continues to be under the radar of many international travelers, Greek tourists have long been visiting the villages around the gorgeous and naturally rich mountain of Mainalos, and for good reason.

The most famous of the villages is the grand dame of Dimitsana: attractive, stone-built, with great eateries and cafes at every turn. Nearby is Stemnitsa, another picturesque village famed for its gold- and silversmiths.

 

Throughout the year, both villages are a popular draw for hikers. If the weather permits, you can take the approximately 12-km route that connects the two. It’s a moderately difficult 5-hour hike that begins in Stemnitsa and passes through the historic Zoodochos Pigi Monastery, the Lousios River gorge (named after the Maenalides Nymphs who bathed Zeus as a child), the Monastery of Prodromos, and the Old and New Filosofou Monasteries. The route ends at the watermills and gunpowder mills that made Dimitsana famous throughout Greece. In fact, it once produced enough gunpowder to cover the needs all over Greece. Walking past the stone-built towers and old mansion houses through the narrow streets is a unique experience, while history is present on every corner.

For tips on what to see and do in this rugged part of the Peloponnese, click here.

Xanthi, Western Thrace

Nestled in the northeast corner of Greece, Xanthi is a captivating Christmas destination that where east meets west. The town’s picturesque Old Town transforms into a winter wonderland with enchanting decorations, creating a magical atmosphere for visitors. Immerse yourself in the local Christmas markets where artisans showcase their crafts, and the aroma of seasonal delights fills the air.

Birthplace of legendary Greek composer Manos Hatzidaki (1925-1994), Xanthi was a thriving cultural and economic hub in the mid- to late-19th century until about the 1930s, and home to a thriving tobacco industry. The different ethnic groups (Turks, Bulgarians, Greeks, Armenians, people from Epirus, Halkidiki, Eastern Rumelia, Asia Minor, and the Pontus region) lived and worked side-by-side, contributing to the social and cultural melting pot of Xanthi.

 

The city’s unique cultural heritage is showcased in its diverse architecture, including ornate mansions, influenced by Ottoman, Byzantine, and neoclassical styles, adding to its allure during the holiday season. Wander through the decorated streets, indulge in traditional Greek cuisine at cozy tavernas, and feel the warmth of local hospitality.

For more on this intriguing corner of Greece, click here



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