Christmas in Athens, Greece

Cover: Syntagma Square in Athens at Christmas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


After visiting so many wonderful places over the last year on the road, we wanted to return to one of our very favorites for the holidays – Athens.

Greece in December? Yes! It is lovely. We were in Athens the entire month of December and most of the days were sunny and in the mid 60°s F (16C). On a few days the cruise ship tourists descended on Plaka for a few hours (usually on Tuesdays), but soon they would be on their way and the quiet December life in Athens would return.

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation on a sunny December day, Athens, Greece
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation on a sunny December day. Also, known as the “Mētrópolis,” it is the cathedral church of the Archbishopric of Athens and all Greece. Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

98% of the Greek population is Christian Orthodox, so Christmas and Easter are the two big holidays in Greece. We were fortunate to be in Athens for both in 2017.

What is the Christmas season like in Athens? It’s much like celebrating in other locations with eating, shopping, gift giving, decorating, events, festivities and gathering with others. However, as with all cultures, the Greeks have some of their own traditions and customs and learning those makes celebrating the holidays abroad an even more special experience.

Greek Christmas traditions and decorations

Christmas tree at Syntagma Square, AthensWhile Christmas trees can be spotted around Athens, including in the giant one at Syntagma Square near Parliament (there’s really no tree, it’s constructed of poles and lights), Greeks also decorate small boats with lights and place them over the fireplace,  on a shelf, or in a store window.

Decorated Greek Christmas boat
Decorated Greek Christmas boat in a store window. Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A nod to the significant role sailing, the sea, and the islands play in Greek life, decorating small boats in Greece during the holiday season is an old tradition that has been revived in recent years. About mid-December, decorated Greek Christmas boats began to appear throughout Athens. We saw them in shop windows, in bars, in restaurants, and in homes.

Greek Christmas boat
Traditional Greek Christmas boat. Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For a bit of Christmas in Athens any time of the year, Noel the holiday bar is a spot in central Athens with creative cocktails that will put you in a merry spirit. Over-the-top festive, it’s always Christmas at Noel. We popped over on the 23rd of December to get into the holiday mood and it was beyond crowded, lively and quite beautiful.

Noel the holiday bar, Athens, Greece
Noel the holiday bar, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Christmas shopping in Athens

Shop windows decorated for the holidays in Kolonaki, Athens, Greece
Shop windows decorated for the holidays in Kolonaki, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I decided I wanted to send my great niece a collection of made-in-Greece items for Christmas, so we hit the ground shopping the first week of December in order to get her package in the mail with hopes it would arrive before Christmas. (It did, yay!)

Athens has a wide selection of shopping options ranging from worldwide-known labels to local Greek brands to specialty stores. Along Ermou Street between Monastiraki and Syntagma, you can find American Eagle, Sephora, Marks and Spencers, and H&M and countless other large stores. In Kolonaki, high-end, luxury labels, such as Baccarat, Dior, Prada and Louis Vuitton, and Greek designer boutiques are in abundance.

The Monastiraki markets and the tourist shops in Plaka are both fun areas for a stroll and also a good spot for finding an eclectic item or two. Both areas also have countless places to stop for a coffee, a meal or a wine and, if one is craving soy chai or a holiday beverage, a Starbucks can be found in Monastiraki at Mitropoleos 80.

Monastiraki Starbucks in the holiday spirit
Monastiraki Starbucks in the holiday spirit. Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

December dining and Christmas treats in Athens

Greece is a paradise for food lovers any time of the year, but in December, Athens restaurants are quiet during the week, making dining especially pleasurable at the slower pace. Feasting on multiple courses and lingering over coffee and conversation amidst the holiday decorations is an absolute delight.

Santa Claus and Christmas decorations in Athens, Greece
Santa Claus and Christmas decorations at a Plaka restaurant in Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While quiet during the week, Athen’s restaurants and bars come alive in December on the weekend as Athenians gather with family and friends for pre-holiday parties and gatherings.

On the Sunday before Christmas weekend, we happened upon a large party at one of our favorite restaurants in Plaka, Stamatopoulos Tavern. We arrived just as the group was finishing dessert and had turned their attention to dancing. Different groups danced to each song – it was a priceless experience!

In addition to the fabulous food found in restaurants, the bakeries begin to add Christmas delicacies to their offerings.

Kourabiedes, which are also called kourabiethes, (shortbread sugar cookies with almonds covered in powdered sugar) and melomakarona (spiced, honey cookies) are two traditional Greek Christmas cookies – we’ve had way too many of both and they are delicious!

Christmas baked goods at Takis Bakery, Athens, Greece
Christmas baked goods at Takis Bakery, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Christopsomo is a Christmas bread with a cross on top that is traditionally made on Christmas Eve and shared by the family on Christmas Day. We headed to our favorite bakery in Athens, Takis Bakery (Misaraliotou 14 near the Acropolis Museum), on Christmas Eve to purchase a Christopsomo for our Christmas table.

Christopsomo Christmas bread from Takis Bakery in Athens, Greece
Christopsomo Christmas bread from Takis Bakery in Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Christmas events and festivities

Christmas tree reflected in balloon at concert by Greek Air Force Band, Athens, Greece
Syntagma Square Christmas tree reflected in balloon at concert by Greek Air Force Band in Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Greek holiday season continues through Epiphany on the 6th of January with Christmas events and festivities occurring all around Athens. Finding events is easy as the City of Athens publishes a pdf calendar of Athens holiday events (English is in the back half beginning on page 32).

We enjoyed multiple free concerts at Syntagma Square including performances by the Greek Air Force Band and the City of Athens Philharmonic Orchestra. Combined with the glow of the Syntagma Square Christmas tree and the bustling holiday crowd, the Christmas music created a joyous spirit in Athens.

Greek Air Force Band Christmas Concert at Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece
Greek Air Force Band Christmas Concert at Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Spending December and celebrating Christmas in Athens has been a wonderful experience! καλά Χριστούγεννα / Kalá Christoúgenna! (Merry Christmas!) and καλές γιορτές / Kalés giortés (Happy holidays!) to everyone!

Plaka decorated with Christmas lights. Athens, Greece
Plaka decorated with Christmas lights. Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Eating our way through Athens

Eating our way through Athens

Cover: Dining in Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


I really don’t know how Athenians don’t weigh 1000 pounds. After spending three months in the gym following our month-long visit to Greece in April, we were determined that during our return in December, we’d avoid gaining weight. Our determination lasted about as long as our Uber ride from the airport. You see, the apartment where we stay in Athens is above a gelato shop.

Gelato at Davinci Gelato, Plaka, Athens, Greece
Gelato at Davinci Gelato, Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I thought maybe they would be closed for the winter. Nope. Oh, my – well, best-laid plans and all…

Eating our way through Athens

Having already seen the sights, visited the monuments, and toured the museums during our April visit, we planned on a month of simply living in Athens enjoying the culture, the people, and the food.

The food in Greece is simply delicious. I could exist on Greek salads alone and, as my Greek-American friend Paula says, “Everything’s betta with feta!” But there is so much more. From tzatziki to souvlaki to the seafood, the Greeks have mastered the craft of cooking. And, we in turn, did quite a bit of sampling and eating in Athen’s restaurants – and here are some of our favorite finds…

Stamatopoulos Tavern

Greek salad, or Horiatiki, at Stamatopoulos Tavern, Athens, Greece
Greek salad, or Horiatiki, at Stamatopoulos Tavern, Athens, Greece. Tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, red onion, capers, feta cheese, olives, bell peppers, oregano, and olive oil. Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our first stop upon arrival was dinner to celebrate our anniversary and we chose one of our favorite restaurants in Plaka, Stamatopoulos Tavern. Located at the foot of Lisiou Street (the stairs in Plaka with the restaurants and bars), in the summer the restaurant has a large, lovely outdoor dining patio and in the winter, the indoor restaurant is full of charm and warmth. With music and good food, we visit Stamatopoulos Tavern once a week when we are in Athens. Yes, it’s a bit touristy, but yes, it is enjoyable. Our go-to menu selection: octopus and a Greek salad. νόστιμο! (Delicious!)

Stamatopoulos Tavern is located in Plaka at Lisiou 26, Athina.

Octopus at Stamatopoulos Tavern at the foot of Lisiou Street in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Octopus at Stamatopoulos Tavern at the foot of Lisiou Street in Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mama Roux

Meza Sampler with Moutabal at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Meza Sampler with Moutabal at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Eclectic and relaxed with a wide range of cuisine options, we visited Mama Roux multiple times during the month. We highly recommend the Meza Sampler – the Moutabal (smoked aubergine purée, we had it vegetarian) is amazing. We also always get the quesadillas, which are tasty and the pico actually has a kick.

Quesadillas at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Quesadillas at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mama Roux is located near Monastiraki at Aiolou 48, Athina. From the Starbucks, walk up the street with the home goods and cloth stores.

Eat at Milton’s

Prosecco at Eat at Milton's in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Prosecco at Eat at Milton’s in Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d dined at Eat at Milton’s when we were in Athens in April and it was definitely on our must return list for our December visit. A lovely, upscale restaurant in Plaka, Eat at Milton’s is the place to go for a little bit of luxury. On this visit, we began with a bottle of Prosecco, which we leisurely enjoyed as we watched the frantic holiday crowds bustling about outside.

Greek salad at Eat at Milton's in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Greek salad at Eat at Milton’s in Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next up, the Bio Greek salad which is an art form at Eat at Milton’s – so pretty, you almost don’t want to eat it – almost. The salad was fresh and tasty with an innovative spin on a Greek classic. For our main courses, we had the shrimp ravioli and the fettuccine vognole. Both were fabulous and the shrimp sauce on the shrimp ravioli is amazing.

Shrimp ravioli in shrimp sauce at Eat at Miltons in Plaka Athens, Greece
Shrimp ravioli in shrimp sauce at Eat at Milton’s in Plaka Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While one of the pricer restaurants in Plaka, a lunch or dinner at Eat at Milton’s is definitely a luxurious treat. Eat at Milton’s is located at the corner of Adrianou and Nikodimou Streets in Plaka at Adrianou 91, Athina.

The Greco’s Project

Vegetable Souvlaki in a pita at The Greco's Project. Athens, Greece
Vegetable Souvlaki in a pita at The Greco’s Project, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A very busy spot near Syntagma Square, The Greco’s Project delivers true value, serving super tasty fare for very reasonable prices. As we don’t eat meat, souvlaki is normally out of the question for us, but The Greco’s Project does a vegetable souvlaki in a pita with the yogurt sauce that is fabulous. As far as the other items we sampled… skip the pasta – not enough sauce. The Greek salad is interesting, using caper leaves instead of capers. The Greco’s Project salad is quite good and the bean soup is really tasty. The pitas are divine.

The Greco’s Project is located at Mitropoleos 5, Athina.

Cherchez La Femme

Small plates at Cherche La Femme
Small plates at Cherchez La Femme, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We must have walked by this restaurant 100 times before a friend recommended we give it a try and he was so correct. Located on Mitropoleos across from the cathedral, Cherchez La Femme is the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon of wine and small plates. We had the smoked mackerel, portabellos, octopus and a few other delicious dishes. Well worth a visit!

Cherchez La Femme is located at Mitropoleos 46, Athina across from Mētrópolis, the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation.

Mani Mani

Mani Mani dining room, Athens, Greece
Dining room at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mani Mani, or Manh Manh, came highly recommended by an Athenian friend (yep, the same one that recommended Cherchez La Femme – the guy knows food) and Mani Mani did not disappoint. Serving creative food in a charming atmosphere with stellar service, we loved Mani Mani. We began with the Mani Mani salad, greens in a sun-dried tomato dressing and topped with grilled goat cheese. Spectacular.

Mani Mani salad, Athens, Greece
Mani Mani salad with lettuce, rocket sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese at Manh Manh in Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next up, balsamic glazed octopus on a bed of fava bean purée (yeah, we rarely pass up the octopus in Greece). The octopus was tender and flavorful and the fava bean purée serves as an amazing dipping sauce for the delicious bread.

Octopus on fava bean purée at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Balsamic octopus on fava bean purée at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the main course, we opted for the special, a seafood orzo in a sauce accented with fennel. It was superb. The presentation was excellent, the atmosphere is lovely with great music and, for the price, Mani Mani is a must visit. It’s just a couple of streets over from the Acropolis Museum at Falirou 10, Athina.

Seafood Orzo at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Seafood Orzo at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Psaras in Plaka

Happy hour in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Our perfect perch for happy hour in beautiful Plaka.
Plaka, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When we were in Athens for the month of April, we spent many afternoons on our perch on Lisiou on “the stairs” sipping vodka at Psaras. This December, we moved inside for dinners, still amazed by the view, but enjoying the good food in the warmth of the glass-enclosed patio. We typically partake of the octopus or the sea bass. Both are excellent choices and enjoyed with a stunning view overlooking Athens.

Psaras Traditional Restaurants in Plaka are located at the top of the Lisiou Street stairs at Erotokritou ke Erechtheos 16, Athina.

Dining at Psaras Traditional Restaurant in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Dining at Psaras Traditional Restaurant in Plaka, Athens, Greece in December
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bel Paese Pasta al Momento

Rigatoni al Tonno at Bel Paese Pasta al Momento, Athens, Greece
Rigatoni al Tonno at Bel Paese Pasta al Momento, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We first saw this restaurant when headed to the market/grocery located next door. Beautifully decorated, Bel Paese Pasta al Momento is one of those restaurants that hits on all points without appearing to try too hard. The decor is upscale comfortable, the music selection relaxing, the service friendly and thoughtful, and the food spot on. The Bel Paese salad is splendid – fresh, crisp lettuce, dried cranberries, onion, avocado, orange, almonds with orange-honey-mustard dressing. Both Rigatoni al Tonno and the Tagliatelle Alla Puttanesca were tasty and, on another visit, we had Capricciosa pizza, which was delicious.

Bel Paese Pasta al Momento is located near the Acropolis Museum subway station at Athanasiou Diakou 6, Athina.

Harvest

Eggs Benedict with salmon at Harvest Coffee & Wine
Eggs Benedict with salmon at Harvest Coffee & Wine, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d passed this spot several times on the weekend and it was always crowded, so we decided to pay a visit on a weekday afternoon and managed to grab a table. We opted for the eggs benedict with salmon and the avocado toast with poached eggs and jalapeño sauce. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the coffee was aromatic.

Harvest Coffee & Wine is located on Evripidou, Athina. From the Starbucks, walk up the street with the home goods and cloth stores. It’s on the corner of Evripidou and Aiolou.

The Pasta Shop

Pasta at The Pasta Shop in Athens
Pasta at The Pasta Shop, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you are looking for some homemade pasta and sauce at very reasonable prices, this is the place. Everything is made on site from fresh ingredients. We loved the rosa and the Arrabiata sauces. Inexpensive (6-7€ each) and cooked to order.

The Pasta Shop is located just a couple blocks around the corner from the Starbucks in Monastiraki at Kalamiotou 9A, Athina.

Αιόλου 68

Caesar salad with smoked haddock at Αιόλου 68, Athens, Greece
Caesar salad with smoked haddock at Αιόλου 68, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At Αιόλου 68 in central Athens is a great spot with a large seafood selection, very tasty food, great service, and a wonderful atmosphere that makes for an excellent dining experience. We sampled multiple dishes including the Santorini fava bean purée, the octopus, and the fish soup – all which were quite good. Our favorite though was the Caesar salad with smoked haddock – absolutely delicious!

Αιόλου 68 is appropriately located at Aiolou 68, Athina.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.