Santorini, Greece in the winter

What to do in Greece in December

Getting the most out of your trip but with lesser crowds has seldom been more true than in Greece! Here’s your December guide.

It’s hard to picture Greece without imagining scorching summer days, postcard-perfect islands, and stunning stretches of sandy coastline. This Mediterranean destination is undoubtedly a favorite with summer holidaymakers, but it has a whole lot to offer in the winter, too. 

If you like the idea of swapping your shorts and light shirts for cozy layers — and having the country’s most iconic historic sites almost entirely to yourself — you’ll love Greece in winter.

So, go ahead and book that discounted off-season flight, fill your bags with comfy cardigans, and start planning your Mediterranean getaway — here are the best things to do in Greece in December.

Travel to: Greece

An ancient Greek temple on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
You’ll feel like you have Athens’ most famous historic attractions all to yourself in December | © Arthur Yeti/Unsplash

Explore mainland Greece

So many visitors spend an all-too-brief day or two in Athens before moving onto the islands, but winter is a fantastic time to explore mainland Greece — especially the country’s modern capital. 

With its pleasant winter weather, alluring ancient ruins, and cosmopolitan atmosphere, Athens is a destination that wows visitors year-round, December included! You can spend your time here visiting archaeological treasures, dining at renowned restaurants, and shopping at colorful street markets and chic designer shops. And if the weather takes a turn for the worse, you’re never too far from a world-class museum. 

From Athens, you can plan day trips to historically significant destinations like Delphi or Mycenae and Epidaurus. Further north, the seaside city of Thessaloniki and the mesmerizing monasteries of Meteora are well worth a visit in winter, too.

Sunset over the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
The sunsets in Athens are just as spectacular in winter | © Stavrialena Gontzou/Unsplash

Visit iconic ancient sites (without the tourist hordes)

Want to get stellar photos of Athens’ spectacular ancient ruins without any people around? If you visit in December, that’s actually possible!

While the high season sees the city’s most popular attractions engulfed by a never-ending stream of people, visiting in winter is the complete opposite. This means you won’t have to wait in frustrating queues or fight your way through crowds of tourists and throngs of selfie sticks to get a glimpse of the Parthenon. Enjoyable sightseeing experiences and tourist-free photos are essentially a given!

Seeing the Parthenon without the crowds is one advantage of visiting Greece in December | © Spencer Davis/Unsplash

Fill up on hearty Greek winter staples

Another benefit of visiting Greece in winter? You can try a range of traditional dishes you wouldn’t usually find in the summertime. Much like the country’s most celebrated foods, Greece’s hearty winter staples are fresh, delicious, and big on flavor. 

Get your Greek comfort food fix with lahanodolmades (stuffed cabbage leaves served with an egg and lemon sauce), fasolada (bean soup), or giouvarlakia (meatball soup featuring a creamy egg-lemon sauce). Then, wash it all down with the Greek equivalent of mulled wine — AKA rakomelo, a potent drink made with a mix of raki, spices, and honey.

Person holding a container with traditional Greek sweets in Athens
Bakeries in Greece are filled with delicious sweet treats in December | © Free To Use Sounds/Unsplash

See a different side of the Greek Islands

We’ve all seen photos of the Greek Islands in the height of summer: the sun is always shining, the whitewashed villages are always swoon-worthy, and the beaches always look impossibly idyllic. That’s not quite what the Greek Islands look like in December, but they’re still spectacular nonetheless. 

Yes, it’ll be cooler, windier, and much, much quieter compared to the summer months, but if your perfect holiday involves loads of walking and hiking by day and cozying up to a good book and a glass of wine by night, you might just fall in love with the Greek Islands in winter.

Larger islands like Crete, Rhodes, and Corfu are great options for a Greece winter getaway since they’re more likely to retain some life throughout the off-season months. If you’re hoping for sunny weather and pleasant temperatures, Crete is probably your best bet; winters are warmer here due to its southerly location.

A village on the island of Rhodes, Greece
Larger islands like Rhodes and Crete are great options if you’re visiting Greece in winter | © Matthijs Waanders/Unsplash

Get into the festive spirit, Greek style

If you’re visiting Greece near the Christmas holidays, you’re in for a treat! Cities across the mainland and the islands will be decked out in dazzling decorations, but Athens is an especially festive destination during the most wonderful time of the year. 

To get into the holiday spirit in Greece’s capital, admire the giant Christmas tree in Syntagma Square, visit one of the city’s many ice skating rinks, or grab a hot chocolate at Little Kook, a cafe in Psyrri that looks like a Christmas fairy-tale come to life in December. 

All the sightseeing and festive fun will probably leave you feeling peckish, so head to the nearest bakery to fill up on traditional Greek holiday sweets. Melomakarona (biscuits flavored with honey, cinnamon, orange, and clove) and kourabiedes (buttery shortbread-type biscuits coated in powdered sugar) are two of the most popular desserts — and they’re both delightfully delicious.

Christmas tree in a square in Athens, Greece
It’s easy to get into the holiday spirit in Athens | © Wahid Raziullah/Flickr

Hit the slopes

Greece is synonymous with sun, sea, and sand, but a large portion of the country is mountainous — which means it’s also a great destination for a ski holiday. 

You’ll find top-quality ski facilities throughout Central and Northern Greece, but Parnassos Ski Resort — located two hours north of Athens and near Delphi — is a favorite among winter enthusiasts. The resort offers an impressive network of cross-country trails, 13 lifts, and more than 20 ski runs for all abilities.

Two people in a chairlift at Parnassos Ski Resort in Greece
Greece is also a great destination for a ski holiday | © Jason Blackeye/Unsplash

Visiting Greece in December: A few things to keep in mind

  • Traveling between the Greek Islands can be trickier in the winter due to reduced ferry services. To avoid any hassle or disappointment, consider sticking to one island rather than island-hopping between two or three.
  • Finding accommodations on the islands can be tricky, too. Many hotels shut down over winter, so be sure to reserve your accommodations in advance (and double-check the heating situation before booking).
  • Athens’ archaeological sites have shorter opening hours in winter. Some of the major attractions may close as early as 3 PM in the off-season, so be sure to plan your sightseeing accordingly.
  • Pack warm layers. The winter weather is typically mild in Greece, but it’s also changeable. Windy, rainy (and sometimes even snowy) conditions are possible, so remember to pack for all seasons.
  • Keep your expectations in check. If you’re hoping to sunbathe and hit all the hottest restaurants and nightlife spots in the Greek Islands in December, you’ll likely end up disappointed. If, on the other hand, you’re prepared for finicky weather, and you’re keen to get a glimpse of authentic Greek life when the tourists have dispersed, you’ll have a fabulous time.

Ashley is a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she’s not writing, travelling, or obsessively checking flight prices on Skyscanner, you can find her attempting to fine-tune her photography skills or watching a shark documentary.

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