Greek ramblings
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christmas


xmas in athens

Christmas is a good time to be in Athens. It's not full of tourists, the sites are relatively quiet, and you get to eat Greek christmas biscuits and listen to children singing carols!

The weather, while variable, can be good. We've had clear, bright sunny days where you can sit outside cafes in shirt sleeves.

This is perfect weather for exploring the sites - much better than hot and busy summer days, and you may well have some of them pretty much to yourselves. On the other hand, it can be wet and cold - we've even had snow on one occasion. It gets dark around 5pm, and the evenings and nights are often chilly.

On just one occasion in many winter visits to Greece it has been warm enough to swim in the sheltered town bay in Nafplio.

xmas

You need to bring some warm clothes and check out that there is heating where you are staying.

Christmas isn't nearly as big a deal as Easter for the Greeks, but it has become increasingly westernised in the way it is celebrated over the years since we started coming.

You'll see lights and decorations and lots of snowmen and Father Christmas's (the Greek version often wears glasses...not sure why). The more traditional Greek christmas decoration is a sailing ship, and these have been coming back into fashion in recent years.


This page has got some bits and pieces of useful information about Athens at Christmas.

Sites

All of the sites and museums will be closed on December 25th and 26th and on New Years Day. Everything is open as usual on Christmas Eve.

Things to do

xmas tree

There is still plenty to do. You'll get some of the best views of the Acropolis from Philopappous Hill and the Pynx, and there is lots of scope for pleasant walks along the pathways of Philopapous. Another option is a climb up Lykavetos where you'll get another set of spectacular city vistas.

The cafes along Adrianou and and Apostolos Pavlos will be buzzing, especially if it is a sunny day.

These are also good days to just wander round and do some general exploring of Athens - with the additional benefit that there will be much less traffic.

The centre of any public Christmas festivities and christmas lights is Syndagma Square and Ermou. Once the shops close on Ermou it gets taken over by buskers and street stalls, pony rides and candy floss stalls. There are throngs of people walking up and down taking it in.

Transport

The metro, trams and buses all run a Sunday (and therefore less frequent) service on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. They also tend to finish earlier in the day.

There are usually signs up in the metro station telling you when the last trains go.

It's more difficult to find out exactly what the buses and trams are doing. While these are fine during the day, it's best not to rely on them in the evening.

Shops

Shops will be closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day. Many are also closed on the 2nd January.

Most bakers close for the same period, although there are variations to this.

In Pagrati in 2013 our local baker was closed on the 25th and 26th, but we spotted a couple of other bakers open - and selling bread, not just christmas cakes - on both days.

Mainly they are closed, though, so it's best to check this out, or plan for a couple of days without fresh bread.

Cafes and Restaurants

Christmas Eve is a quiet night, with a lot of places open during the day but closing early. This is particularly true of neighbourhood places.

It's the same on Christmas Day, though by the 26th more places are back in operation.

You'll always find somewhere open in Plaka - the Byzantino and the Bairaktares never close and both are good bets - but the options are more limited than at other times. For example, of our two favourite cafes on Adrianou, the Dia Tafta had firmly shut up shop by 6pm on Christmas Eve, while the Diados was open and doing a good trade.

If you are eating outside of Plaka, check with the restaurant for their Xmas opening hours. In Pagrati 2013 places were open on Xmas Eve and Boxing day, but were all pretty quiet. Some local places had notices up saying they were open Xmas day.

Our favourite cafe in the Pagrati area, the Kafenion Ellas on Plateia Plastira, was very quiet on Christmas Eve and looked as if it was about to close down. It was open on Boxing Day, and indeed was showing the Manchester City - Liverpool game, to not much interest from Greeks, and rather more interest from us.