3 Days in Athens for Christmas: Where to Go, What to See

Christmas in Athens holds countless hidden gems. These insider tips will help you immerse yourself in the holiday spirit, with or without children.


It may not have the most inventive shop windows or the tallest Christmas tree in Europe, but Athens becomes the best version of itself during Christmas. With a notably mild climate that favors strolls even in the heart of winter, it combines classic sightseeing with art, gastronomy and entertainment. Illuminated and decorated, with many new spaces, the capital welcomes visitors with traditional street performers, including men on stilts and jugglers, as well as carol singing, festive lanterns, and countless cultural events for both young and old. If you’re wondering where the heart of the city beats this Christmas, here is a program highlighting this year’s festivities for an enjoyable three-day stay in Athens

Day 1

To get into the spirit, start your day at Syntagma Square where the city’s Christmas tree is located—a 17-meter fir tree from Karpenisi adorned with 24,000 LED lights and hundreds of ornaments. At the central stage set up in the square, from December 20 until Christmas Day, the first concert of the day begins at midday. George Zervos and his band will kick off the show with rock ‘n’ roll sounds, and over the course of the following days, performances continue with Hermaphrodite’s Child, saxophonist Dimitris Tsakas and his quintet, and Gumbo Ya Ya ft. Sugahspank! & Emily Mesko.

 

If music isn’t your thing, take a stroll around Stadiou, Voukourestiou, and Kolonaki to admire some of the most beautiful shop windows in the city center. The area around Syntagma Square is not only suitable for shopping, but also for its eateries. It’s worth exploring the triangle formed between Syntagma Square, Plaka, and Monastiraki to taste exotic flavors at some of Athens’ best ethnic food restaurants and street food spots.

Next, head down to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center; in addition to the amazing New Year’s Eve party it hosts, featuring live music, DJs, fireworks, and the first running race of the new year, an entire Christmas world is set up here throughout the month of December. Initially, take a walk around the 400-meter-long Canal to enjoy the impressive choreographies of the Dancing Fountains, or put on ice skates to enjoy the show while skating at the SNFCC Ice Rink on the northern part of the canal. Alternatively, this year you can interact with the lighting installations from Belgium and the Netherlands set up in the Lighthouse, the Tholos, the Mediterranean Garden and the park’s Southern Walks.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Greek National Opera (@greeknationalopera)

 

In the afternoon, you can choose between the musical performance “Santa’s Postal Workers” by the Burger Project and the En Dynamei Ensemble at the Lighthouse (from December 23, for 12 shows), and Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” at the National Opera, choreographed by Konstantinos Rigos (from December 23 until January 5). After the show, you can have a drink at the Pop-Up Bar on the Lighthouse Terrace, the highest point of the SNFCC (32m above sea level), to admire the spectacular views, both of the park’s lighting installations and of the entire city stretching out before your eyes. Alternatively, if you want to treat yourselves to another special experience, book a table at Delta, the restaurant at the Cultural Center serving Greek cuisine, the only one in the country with two Michelin stars.

Day 2

Start the second day by visiting the Christmas Village of your neighborhood. This year, 10 neighborhoods in Athens, from Neos Kosmos to Lamprini, and from Kato Petralona to Ellinoroson, have their own village. Enjoy a range of activities, such as puppet shows, magicians, face painting, and many more, every day from 11:00 onwards. Then, visit the brand-new Maria Callas Museum that houses objects, photographs, videos and rare audio clips from the life and career of one of the greatest opera voices of all time. Depending on the day of your visit, you might catch a concert or a creative workshop for children.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Christmas Factory (@christmasfactory)

Alternatively, you can visit the Benaki Museum on Pireos Street, which, in addition to the exhibition featuring works by visual artist Giorgos Hatzimichalis, organizes an origami paper-folding workshop, children’s book readings and guided tours. Additionally, at the museum’s restaurant, mixologist Aris Hatziantoniou will be preparing Christmas mocktails and cocktails, while the Athens 98.4 FM van will be playing music in the courtyard. Christmas events can also be found at the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation Museum in Pangrati, which hosts family movie screenings, concerts, storytelling sessions, and interactive activities for parents and children. If you wish to dine at the B&E Goulandris Café-Restaurant, the menu is curated by chef Dimitris Skarmoutsos, with wine selections by sommelier Aris Sklavenitis.

In the afternoon, as soon as it gets dark, a stroll in Gazi or Psiri is a must, especially if you’re traveling with children. The Christmas Factory at the City of Athens Technopolis celebrates its tenth year by decorating a large cake at the Sweet Workshop and hosting numerous activities at the Toy Workshop, Fun Park, and Elf House. Elves are also honored at the Technopolis Amphitheater in Gerasimos Evangelatos’ play “Christmas Upside Down,” performed twice daily. You’ll also encounter elves in Psiri, especially if you pass through Karaiskaki Street where Little Kook is located, the café that has transformed the neighborhood into the most fairy-tale-like spot in Athens.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Embassy Theater Athens (@embassytheater)

 

In the evening you can choose between attending a performance of “Karagiozis’ Christmas in New York,” a musical Christmas shadow puppet adventure by Ilias Karellas at the Athens Concert Hall (from December 22 to January 5), or “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the well-known musical making its debut appearance in Greece, directed by George Valaris and starring Alexandros Bourdoumis, at the Embassy Theater in Kolonaki (also from December 22).

If, however, you prefer something less traditional, you can experience the ‘acoustic-tropical’ hybrid spectacle “Nekyia,” by Giannis Aggelakas and Christos Papadopoulos, at the Onassis Stegi. To end the night with fantastic views of the city from above, reserve a table at Hytra Restaurant & Bar on the 6th & 7th floors of the Onassis Stegi building.

Day 3

In the morning, take a walk to the Athens Book Space within the renewed Eleftherias Park, run by the City of Athens. During the festive period it hosts numerous activities for both kids and adults, ranging from interactive bubble shows to readings of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Check the schedule for the musical theater performance of “The Unseen City and the Goblins,” based on the homonymous fairy tale by Haris and Panos Katsimihas. Also, explore the program of the Kypseli Municipal Market, which, before Christmas, will host the Athens Beer Weekend Xmas Edition as well as musical performances, bazaars and parties. Combine your visit to the market with a stroll or coffee on Fokionos Negri pedestrian street, in the most multicultural neighborhood of Athens.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Δημοτική Αγορά Κυψέλης (@kypseli.municipal.market)

Next, head downtown for an otherworldly yet fun experience at the Museum of Illusions in Monastiraki. Alternatively, visit the “Life in Space” exhibition at the Goudi Olympic Complex to experience man’s exploration of space and briefly experience life as an astronaut. If you’re seeking something more Christmas-themed, head to the Eleonas Metro station to listen to Wham’s “Last Christmas” while ice skating at Ice n Skate, a permanent ice rink in Athens.

When the clock strikes six, the Wedding Singers, Vasilis Kazoulis, Polkar, Nefeli Fasouli, Panos Vlahos, and other artists and groups will be waiting for you at the central stage of Syntagma Square, as 15 live performances are scheduled here for the holiday season. On Christmas Eve there are more options to choose from, with the highlight being the Night of Wishes in Kotzia Square, which fills the city’s sky with traditional biodegradable lanterns.

If you prefer to avoid the crowds, you can head to the top of Lycabettus Hill to witness the spectacle of the illuminated city from above. Alternatively, head towards Elliniko to experience the extraordinary view created by the unique, solar-powered lighting installation at the Zen Garden of The Hellinikon Experience Park.



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