Greece isn’t just a beach destination. It’s also an upcoming winter destination. If you are looking for a place where you want to spend Christmas, you should consider going to Greece (in 2021). There are some great Christmas destinations in Greece – so many unique traditions to observe and festive food to be had, the winter snow transforms mountain villages into Christmas card postcard scenes, and the mild winter in Greece still offers some sunshine. Spending Christmas in Greece deserves to be on our travel wishlist.
Christmas is a holiday that people celebrate all over the world. not just Christians. If you want to enjoy Christmas differently, you might want to try spending it in a different country. In the past we have spent Christmas browsing Christmas markets in Italy, enjoying the colorful LED lights in Japan, mesmerized by the melancholic Fado performance in Lisbon.
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Christmas traditions in Greece
Christmas celebrations in Greece have gotten glamorous over the years and the Christmas holiday period lasts 12 days in Greece and includes Christmas, New Year, and Epiphany.
From decorating their boats and trees, the Greeks follow many Christmas traditions. This dates back to a time when Greek wives and children would decorate wooden boats to welcome their husbands and sons back from the sea, safe from harm. Today, the tradition is still followed.
On Christmas and New Year’s Eve, many neighborhoods in Greece are filled with happy voices of children singing carols, heralding the happy news of Christ’s birth.
A fun Greek folk tradition has it that little mischievous kallikantzari, (much like goblins), would rise from underground to wreak havoc during the 12 days of Christmas. To make them disappear, priests would travel to homes on the day of the Epiphany, which is on January 6, and bless them with holy water. How fun would that be to watch the kallikantzari in action!
In Greek homes, a flurry of baking takes place during the Christmas season. The Christopsomo, blessed bread, is prepared during the holiday season. Vasilopita (pronounced vah-see-LO-pee-tah) is another special pie with a lucky coin hidden inside, that is made for New Year’s Day to bring luck. And no holiday table would be complete without a bowl of sugar-dusted kourambies and honey and orange scented melomakarona biscuits, which traditional treats made in Greece for Christmas.
You might also like: 10 Greek foods you MUST try in Greece
While many Greek islands shut down in late October or early November, Crete, Corfu, and Rhodes operate year-round, offering cultural and culinary experiences and festivities in the winter months. Early winter would still be a nice time to visit.
The Greek Islands can be cold, windy and wet during Christmas holidays but still can be quiet and beautiful but there are few other top Christmas destinations in Greece. To help you find out where to go in Greece, here are the ten best places to spend Christmas in Greece.
10 Best Places to Spend Christmas in Greece
There are plenty of things to do for Christmas if you visit Athens during the holiday season. It’s becoming a more popular holiday destination if you’re looking for a Christmas getaway. It might not be the first place you’d think to go to when you’re looking for a Christmas vacation, but there’s so much that you can do there during the Christmas season.
The city enjoys a mild winter and you can still all the sights and ancient temples in Athens. You can visit the National Archaeological Musuem that houses the world’s finest collection of Greek antiquities. Don’t miss the dazzling Acropolis museum situated at the foot of the Acropolis. The museum’s crowning glory, Parthenon Gallery, located on the top floor, it has a glass atrium housing the temple’s 160m-long frieze as it once was.
A popular destination to feel the Christmas spirit in Athens is Noel, a popular venue in downtown Athens. There are decorations everywhere to help you get into that festive spirit. This place is the best area to dine in and enjoy an equally festive meal to get you in the warm mood of Christmas. However, since it can get quite crowded, make sure you have reservations.
Where to stay: You have the best view at this Palace Hotel which sits just below the Acropolis, moments away from Plaka, the new archaeological museum and the Herodian theatre.
Thessaloniki is another Christmas wonderland in Greece that you can plan a trip for the holidays. There are several areas and activities that you can indulge in while in the city. When it comes to any festivities in Thessaloniki, Aristotelous Square is the place to check out. During the Christmas season, the Aristotelous Square will be decorated with a huge Christmas tree. There will be an official lighting ceremony with music, sparkles, and sounds of the Symphony.
Aside from the Square itself, you can enjoy the Christmas market and get some baked goods and other knick-knacks. Then hop on the Christmas Train and ride the carousel with the kids!
Where to stay: Stay at the stylish Excelsior, an elegant property with a chic, modern interior located in the heart of Thessaloniki, close to Aristotelous Square and the seafront promenade,
When you think of going to Mykonos island, you think of the beach and the bright blue waters. However, you can also enjoy a quaint but still lively Christmas when you’re on Mykonos island.
Aside from enjoying the gorgeous views around you, you can also admire the Christmas decorations. You can even take part or observe the Christmas caroling tradition that’s still present on the island.
You can also enjoy a feast on the 27th of December in the Agios Stefanos church where everyone gathers. The feast itself happens in the night and goes deep until the early mornings.
Where to stay: Built into an impressive natural cliffside, Cavo Tagoo is a unique luxury hotel near Mykonos town known for its luxurious barefoot chic aesthetic.
Patras is not the most touristy destination in Greece, but it’s still a wonderful place to enjoy a quiet Christmas. If you are visiting Greece with kids, they will certainly enjoy Patras during the Christmas season. That’s because this area transforms itself into a fairytale village during the season of Christmas. They will enjoy all the Christmas magic at the port.
Although it’s not as booming and busy as the other places on this list of Christmas-y places in Greece, you can still enjoy feeling the holiday season. The streets are decorated with Christmas lights and there is always good shopping.
Where to stay: Vacation rentals are your best bet in Patras.
Kalavryta looks like a Christmas postcard, which is why you should consider this a must-visit spot when celebrating the holiday season in Greece. On the mountain resort, you can try out snow activities, like skiing and even riding snowmobiles for a modern version of a Christmas sleigh.
You can go on a gorgeous train ride through a nearby canyon on the famous rack-and-pinion railway. You can enjoy the views while still being warm and cozy on the train. You can visit the Monastery of Agia Lavra.
Or stay cozy in your chalet and just admire the snow while drinking a mug of hot chocolate to make you feel warm and comfortable.
Where to stay: Stay in one of the chalets in town for a unique Greek Christmas holiday.
6. Agios Athanasios
Another mountain resort area you can enjoy is Agios Athanasios, located around the north of Greece, near Mount Vorras. The village has traditional architecture, making it feel more quaint and inviting. Aside from that, you can enjoy skiing at Kaimaktsalan if you want a more active Greek Holiday.
You can also enjoy the many bars and restaurants open during this time of the year in Agios Athanasios. There are even spas in the area so that you can relax and stay warm while you’re there. Check out DaNala Beach if it’s something that interests you despite the cold weather.
If you want to get away from everything, you should stop by Elatochori and spend some time around nature. It is located 105km away from Thessaloniki and 460km from Athens. Elatochori is a village located inside the forest. The snow resting atop the trees in the woods undoubtedly gives the perfect atmosphere for a Christmas getaway.
The Kremaston Waterfalls situated at an altitude of 1000m., offer a spectacular view. At the ski center of Elatochori you can enjoy doing some winter sport activities. They have ski schools, 3 lifts and 5 tracks. You should try some local delicacies. Their traditional marmalade is excellent, especially when you get some warm chocolate drinks to go with it.
Volos is a popular Christmas destination in Greece, so you can’t go wrong by staying here for your short Christmas holiday. One thing special about Volos is the incredible festive lighting that spans a good part of the city. The festive lighting is blue in Volos and it feels like you are walking under a sparkling blue sky.
When in Volos, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Volos seafront. In the center of the beach looms the mythical Argo, the ship-symbol of the city. Dimitriados Street, Iasonos Street, Eirinis Avenue, vertical and parallel to the main beach roads are the ones usually covered by blue lights. Then walk around the city to enjoy the many Christmas offerings available, like roasted chestnuts, special Christmas treats, and all the Christmas decorations.
It is a beautiful combination of urban life and traditional living in Larisa, which is half an hour away from Volos when you go by car. During the Christmas season, a popular spot in Larisa is the Alcazar Natural Park, which they turn into a park of Christmas wishes. The Fun Park will have a North Pole-Train, the House of Santa Claus, the Workshop of the elves, the Sugar House, the Fairy tale Land, the Palace of the Queen of the Ice, and more.
Aside from that, you can also admire the lake of Christmas. Near the lake, you can go skating in the 600-sq. Ft. skating rink.
If Pelion sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s the setting for Centaurus’s exciting legend. Centaurs are thought of in many Greek myths as untamed horses, half-man, half-animal, that were said to have inhabited Mount Pelion. Legends aside, Pelion transforms into a wonderland during Christmas, which makes it a great place in Greece to visiting during the Christmas holidays.
From gorgeous villages blanketed in snow to traditional home-baked goodies, you can enjoy cocooning yourself in Pelion for the holidays.
There are plenty of Christmas destinations in Greece where you can enjoy the season’s festivities. Greece might not be your first choice for a Christmas holiday destination, but once you visit, you’re going to love it, so try some of these places out for your next Christmas getaway.
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