It may not be as astonishing as London or New York, but Athens at night during Christmas oozes with twinkling seasonal charm. Stars and other Christmas-shaped lights line the main streets, glitter through shop windows and decorate the exteriors and lobbies of luxurious hotels like the Grande Bretagne and King George.
Annually in the first week of December, the Mayor of Athens (this year in his first term, Kostas Bakoyiannis) lights the city’s Christmas tree for a cheering crowd in Syntagma Square.
Regardless of your age, this is the time of year to squeeze your feet into a pair of ice skating booties and pretend you’re Olympic champion, Nathan Chen. This winter sport has become increasingly popular in the Greek capital over the last few years, with several venues offering skating rings – some remaining open for several months.
The Athens Concert Hall has a well-sized, all-day indoor ring, as does the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC) an outdoor one, the Athens Heart Ice Arena has a large indoor space while Village Shopping & More mall is a buzzy outdoor skating venue.
Fun for Kids
Parents rejoice! There are plenty of options for making the best of your quality time with your kids this Christmas. Throughout December educational programs will run at the Onassis Foundation, the Children’s Art Museum, the SNFCC, the Cycladic Art Museum, the Theocharakis Foundation and the Koutsanas Museum of Ancient Greek Technology.
Theatres around the city present Christmassy entertainment such as the Athens Concert Hall’s Comedy Club for Kids, and local theatres transport kids to heartwarming places. Dreamy big productions such as The Nutcracker and Frozen On Ice at Faliro’s Tae Kwon Do Stadium or the Magic Flute and Peter and the Wolf at the Athens Concert Hall deliver a different kind of cultural warmth.
And then there are the various Christmas-themed play-shop-eat zones like Golden Hall and The Mall, Claus Kingdom, and the Christmas Factory. Christmassy playgrounds also pop up in many of the city’s major spots.
Christmas is a time of giving, so what better way than to visit one of the city’s many seasonal bazaars? On November 30th Christmas bazaars were hosted by the Hara Centre for People with Special Needs in Glyfada, KAZ (Shelter for Stray Animals), the Zaneio Children’s Protection Foundation in Ekali and Piraeus and the Animal Welfare of Voula.
On December 1, Nine Lives cat-society hosted its annual bazaar at Pangrati’s Archadia Centre and on December 8th the American Women’s Organisation of Greece will be at the Athens War Museum.
Forget cooking and washing dishes, Christmas is a time to relax. Every Christmas and New Year’s, Athens’ top restaurants and best hotels host elaborate and festive a la carte, set menu or buffet feasts to make you enjoy the seasonal spirit in high style with all its flavours.
Marriot Athens, Zafolia, NEW, Hilton Athens, Grande Bretagne, King George, Novotel, St George Lycabettus are all hotels offering reputably indulgent seasonal dining experiences.
We couldn’t begin to list the Christmas parties that will be taking place this year and every year! Practically every bar and club in town hosts Christmassy parties with guest DJs, special cocktails and beautiful decorations that will warm the cockles of your heart and keep you dancing till dawn, pre, during and after Christmas and New Year’s eve.
Then there are the Bouzoukia for a ‘Greeker’ experience, where you can see Greece’s most popular artists perform and catch your most boring colleague dancing on the table!
Seasonally-decorated-to-perfection cafes like Little Kook in Psyrri and Fairytale in Nea Philadelphia bring childhood fantasies to life with a huge piece of gooey chocolate cake on the side.
Meanwhile, all local bakeries sell traditional treats like honeyed Melomakarona and icing-sugar-bomb Kourabiedes. At high-end supermarkets like Thanopoulos in Kifissia, you’ll find global Christmas treats, from chocolate-filled advent calendars to Christmas pudding, mince pies and several types of Panettone.
Top bakeries like Takis in Makryianni or Lykkavitos on Deinokratous also sell foreign seasonal cakes and cookies like panettone, Stollen, and melt-in-your-mouth melomakarona.