Greece in December is a popular European winter getaway, especially with the Christmas celebrations in every city, village, or island. But if you are expecting warm weather and endless hours chilling at the beach, you will be very disappointed (and get really cold if you try it!).
In December, Greeks have taken out all their woolen wintry clothes, go about their usual businesses and decorate everything in a festive Christmasy way.
If you consider yourself a traveler, then you will find a wealth of exciting and interesting things to do in Greece in December. Here’s a guide to visiting Greece in winter, an extensive list of things to do in December, what to wear, as well as information about the weather and day trips you can take.
Some of the best things to do while visiting Greece in December are:
- Enjoy Greek traditional Christmas celebrations in Athens or Thessaloniki
- Discover Prespes Lakes in northern Greece
- Explore Greece’s gorgeous mountainous villages of Zagorochoria
- Go on a 3-Day trip to Delphi, Meteora, Thermopylae
- Venture on Argosaronic island hopping (Hydra, Poros, Aegina)
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Weather in Greece in December
Generally speaking, December will be cold with rainy and dark grey days. The northern you go to Greece the colder it will be, with some snow on the highest mountains and villages. Northern Greece is significantly colder, requiring gloves and maybe even a woolen hat.
But not every day will be like that. We also get crisp sunny days that can be crystal clear, with blue skies, and delightfully mild temperatures. The temperatures in Athens reach an average high of 15 C while in Thessaloniki will be around 12C.
If you’re looking for deeper information, check out my in-depth when is best to go to Greece for a ton of details on traveling to Greece.
Athens Quick Reference
- Where to stay in Athens: Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens (Doubles from €629 Β&Β) & Ancient Agora Apartments (Doubles from €95 Β&Β), Attalos Hotel (Doubles from €62 Β&Β)
- Heading to the Greek Islands from Athens? Book your ferry tickets in advance with no-hidden-fees FerryScanner or FerryHopper
- Essential Things to Have for Athens Metro: An anti-theft design Backpack
- Private transfer with English-speaking driver from Athens International Airport to Piraeus Ferries. Check availability and prices on Viator here
- Map of Athens Metro
6 awesome things to do in Greece in Winter!
1. Explore Athens, the Ancient Capital
I love Athens because I can find everything I need in a modern city plus wherever I go, there is some historical monument with centuries or millennia of history behind it. And if this is not your first post of mine you are reading, then you already know what a history buff I am 😀
During Christmas, Athens is in its ‘most wonderful time of the year!’ transformed into a gigantic Christmas Park. The public spaces have impressive decorations, songs, and Greek Christmas cookies available at every bakery and cafe (I always get a couple of extra kilos on Christmas).
This is the best time to see Athens at its liveliest with sidewalk cafes full of people, restaurants with live music, and a club life that rivals any city in Europe and beyond. And of course, visit the numerous archaeological sites (half-price tickets until late March) and museums. This is a great time to take a private full-day tour of Athens’ most important sites and enjoy your day without the summer crowds.
Other great tours that I recommend while you are in Athens:
- Gourmet Food Walking Tour in Athens
- Cape Sounion and Temple of Poseidon Half-Day
- Private Biblical Tour of Ancient Corinth
- Nemea Wine Tour with Oenologists
Where to Stay in Athens
Athens has great public transit so you can stay in just about any central area and be well-connected. I personally recommend, the centrally located but also in a quiet spot Tripodon Plaka In the shade of Acropolis by GHH (Self-catering from €259). This is ideal for a group of people up to 6, in the heart of old Athens, Plaka.
I wouldn’t procrastinate booking your Athens accommodation in the last 10 days of December, no matter where you decide to stay. Athens is a popular place to be for the holiday season, and you’ll soon see why!
Would you like more information on Athens sites and hotels? Check out my dedicated posts:
- How Best to Spend Christmas in Athens
- 16 Things to Know before you Visit Acropolis
- Where to Stay in Plaka Athens (Hotels and Apartments)
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2. Discover Northern Greece’s Largest City
I would be lying if I said that Thessaloniki isn’t among my top three favorite cities in Greece. This stunning ancient city, built around the Thermaikos gulf, is undoubtedly even more beautiful in December and during Christmas.
Landmarks will be covered in Christmas lights, or have lights projected on them. There will be art, music, and dance performances during December that will cheer you up and put you into the festive mood of Thessaloniki.
Some of the best things to do in Thessaloniki are:
- Indulge in probably the best food tasting in Greece. Go to the Thessaloniki port, find one of many tsipouradika, taverns offering traditional food with tsipouro or ouzo, and have one of the best meals of your life. If you would like to combine sightseeing with food, book this 6-hour food and culture tour
- Walk by the beautiful long promenade by the sea, stop at the umbrellas site and the 15th century White Tower
- Go to Ladadika area, a bustling and trendy part of town, close to the port, with gorgeous bars and clubs overlooking the water
- While you’re in Thessaloniki, you can’t miss the famous Rotonda one of the oldest and most important buildings of the Roman period (late 3rd and early 4th century AD)
Where to Stay in Thessaloniki
Electra Palace is the best hotel in Thessaloniki. It is a beautiful waterfront location overlooking Aristotelous Square and surrounded by trendy bars and restaurants. Doubles from €154
Amazing Day Trips from Thessaloniki are:
- Travel to Chalkidiki, to Ouranoupoli, and take a cruise around the Holy Mount Athos
- Visit Vergina, the site of ancient Aigai the first capital of Macedon
3. Get Amazed at Prespes Lakes
248 km west of Thessaloniki, in the mountainous northwestern Macedonia part of Greece, is located the National Park of the spectacular 2 Prespes lakes. The Large Prespa Lake, the largest lake in the Balkans, is divided between Greece, Albania, and North Macedonia.
Prespes lakes is a virgin natural paradise, a beautiful wetland with snow-covered mountain peaks in December and beech forests. There is a wild abundance of fauna with 260 species of birds and 23 species of fish. Moreover, the coast of the lakes is dotted with gorgeous small settlements and historical monuments of archaeological interest.
Some of the best points of interest in Prespes Lake are:
- Vidronissi island, with one of the largest cormorant colonies in Greece. Access is prohibited, as is any kind of sound. Even the chapel of Agios Georgios remains closed to avoid any disturbance to the cormorants and the silver pelicans
- Walk across the 650-meter footbridge to the tiny inhabited islet in Small Prespa. Visit the Basilica of Agios Achilleios, of the 10th century
- Walk around the village of Psarades. Here people will tell you that they were born on boats. Fishing and the lake are their life. When I was last in Psarades, it was crispy cold but there was no wind and that made walking around pleasant. I wandered around the pier and looked into the crystal clear lake where huge fish were swimming. I so look forward to going back to this incredible place!
- Go to Florina town for its nightlife
- Drive to Pisoderi ski resort, drink hot chocolate, and ski on its great slopes. Pisoderi is of the 19 organized ski resorts in Greece
- Discover traditional Nymfaio village and visit the Arcturos bear sanctuary
Where Best to stay in Prespes Lakes:
Dora’s House at Agios Germanos (from €54), is a beautiful traditional mansion in Prespes Lakes.
White Mountain is a traditional chalet in Pisoderi, close to the ski center (from €120 self-catering breakfast materials provided, great for a group of people).
How to reach Prespes Lakes
You can fly to Kastoria airport, which is 65 km far from Prespes. Or you can fly to Thessaloniki, and rent a car, using RentalCars, which is where we always book my rental cars for road trips. Drive from Thessaloniki to Prespes and explore all the beautiful villages in between. Buses connect every corner of Greece and trains from Athens to Thessaloniki. Check at the end of this post about buses and trains in Greece.
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4. Discover the Magical Zagorochoria
Zagorochoria or Zagori may sound like it is one place but actually, it is a cluster of 46 lovely villages! It is located in the northwestern region of Greece amidst the mountains of Pindus in Epirus. Zagorochoria is one of the most favorite winter destinations among Greeks and gets busy in December and especially during Christmas.
There is definitely something magical about spending the Christmas season here. Not only are there things you can only do in Winter in Zagorochoria, such as tasting the local Christmas pies, but the landscape looks absolutely gorgeous once fresh snow has fallen.
Zagori is surrounded by Mount Mitsikeli, the Aoos river, and Mount Tymfi on all four sides making hiking one of the best things to do in the area. Honestly, I can’t imagine myself going to the stunning place and not hiking!
Must-do Experiences in Zagorochoria
- Walk the cobblestone villages full of traditional stone mansions. The most popular villages are Mikro and Megalo Papigko
- Hiking at Aoos National Park
- Canyoning and river rafting in Vikos Gorge (if weather permits it)
- Hike at the Dragonlake of Tymfi
- Try the local cuisine and the famous milk, cheese, pumpkin, or sweet pies
Where to Stay in Zagorochoria
This can be a difficult decision to make but with Papigko you can’t be wrong. One of the best hotels in Megalo Papigko is the Pantheon (doubles from €97 Β&Β) with stunning views of Mount Astraka.
Aristi village is another gorgeous option to choose as your base and one of the most developed villages in Zagorochoria. It offers everything the visitor will need and has perhaps the best accommodation for someone who is looking for luxury on their trip! One good example of luxury with stunning views is Aberratio Boutique Hotel (doubles from €100).
How To Reach Zagorochoria: The closest airport to Zagori is that of Ioannina which is located at a distance of about 64 kilometers and takes 1 hour to cover the whole distance. From Ioannina, you should definitely rent a car, and drive to Zagori through a picturesque and impressive landscape.
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5. Go to Famous Delphi, Meteora & Thermopylae
If you are planning to visit Greece in December then you must visit the UNESCO sites of Delphi and Meteora, so beautiful in winter, especially if you happen to see them covered in snow. Delphi and Meteora involve uphill walking and stair climbing with no trees or shade, so it is much easier to do so in the cold weather rather than at 35 C during summer.
If you will be traveling from Athens with a rental car then you can make this a fantastic road trip with stops along the way:
Some of the must-sees in your road trip are:
- Livadia town and the area with the small waterfalls (Krya Nera) for a morning coffee
- The UNESCO Monastery of Osios Loukas near Distomo
- Arachova village, 10 km from Delphi Archaeological site
- You can go skiing to the largest and best-organized ski resort in Greece, in the Parnassos Mt (where Delphi lies)
- Stop at Thermopylae, the strategic place where in 480 BC Thermopylae was the place where the Greek army defeated the huge Persian army. Visit the Thermopylae’s Innovative Centre of Historical Information
- Drive all the way to Kalambaka and Meteora Monasteries
For more in-depth posts about what to do and see in Delphi and Meteora click on those related articles:
6. Indulge in Argosaronic Island-Hopping
Winter is the best time to really discover the Greek islands, experiencing the true magic behind the hustle and bustle of summer. The Argosaronic islands are perfect for a getaway from wintry Athens are they are so close and lively, especially on weekends. There are seven islands in the Argosaronic group but the most lively ones will be Hydra, Poros, and Aegina.
Tip: Book your ferries at the last minute, to be sure of good weather while going to the islands
Hydra island in winter will have a rough sea, impressive winter landscapes, and few inhabitants who retreat to their homes as time passes. But you should not be discouraged. This is your chance to stroll through its magnificent alleys in peace, take photos of the many stray cats (mostly neutered by the local group), enter a traditional cafe (Kafenio) and socialize with the locals drinking Greek coffee.
I always take Greek coffee with some sugar as it is a bit strong, although I drink my filter coffee black. Go to the taverns that only the locals eat and feel like a real Greek. The ferry to Hydra will take you in about 1,5- 2 hours, depending on the boat you will book.
Want to know more about Hydra? Read here a detailed post on what to do on Hydra island.
Poros island is another favorite island of mine and will be quiet but not deserted. You can hike the route that leads to the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, to the remains of the Poseidon Sanctuary, or any of the countless paths to discover nature. Don’t miss climbing the Clock Tower in Poros town to see a panoramic view of Poros island.
Poros in winter can be toured in a day. So if you have time left, it’s worth stopping by Galatas to visit the famous Lemon Forest. It may not have the colors of spring, but the walk will certainly fascinate you. The ferry to Poros will take you in about 1- 2,5 hours, depending on the boat you will book.
Read here my detailed post on Poros Island.
Aegina is an island so close to Piraeus (ferries take you there in 40 minutes-an hour) that you can visit it even every weekend in December and it is quite lively in winter for exactly that reason. This means you have options for coffee, food, and shopping from the traditional grocery stores.
Aegina is an amazing island for hiking to areas with great archaeological interest (Temple of Athena Aphaia, site of Kolona, Paleochora), large Greek Orthodox monasteries, and centuries-old olive groves. You may also have heard that Aegina is producing quality and very tasty pistachio that you can buy from any of the shops on the island. It’s also a good idea once you get there to have a chat with the locals so that they can give you the lowdown on what to do.
Want to find more details on Aegina? Read here my detailed post on Aegina Island.
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FAQ: How to Drive in Greece in Winter
- If you are a citizen out of the EU, you will need an International Driver’s License to rent a car and over 21 years old
- Always carry chains for your tires, you never know when the next crazy blizzard will find you
- Most of the country is connected by a highway system that uses tolls – open all the year through. However, smaller roads in the mountains might be closed due to heavy snow
- Belts are mandatory and you get a huge fine if you haven’t fastened them up
- Young children should always be kept in their special seats, fastened, in the back seat. Children under 10 are not allowed in the front seat
- Driving and talking on the phone also can give you a gigantic fine, use hands-free options
- It’s illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.05%
- The middle lane of a 3 lane highway is used for overtaking – this is different from most places in the world where it is the outside lane
- The high-speed roads are in excellent condition. When you get off the main highways, the roads get significantly smaller and as all the ski resorts are on mountains, they may look a tad intimidating
- All the ski resorts in Greece have parking places and they keep the roads clear from too much snow or add some salt to make them less slippery
- Read here some regulations with regards to vehicles in Greece
FAQ: What to wear in Greece in December
- Good walking shoes for exploring ruins and walking along cobblestone streets (spike heels at historic sites are forbidden because they can damage the ancient areas)
- Appropriate thick socks
- Scarf, knit hat, and gloves
- Layers: a long-sleeved shirt, jumpers, and a medium-sized winter coat will suffice unless you go hiking in mountains with a lot of snow and ice. Then you will need a good hiking parka.
Where is your dream winter destination? Would you come to Greece in Winter?
I’d love to hear where you’re spending the holiday season this year, especially if you have any exciting Winter travel plans! Till next time ❤️
More about Traveling to Greece
Some of the Best Travel Resources for Greece
- Ferries to the Greek Islands: Book your ferry transfer with FerryScanner or FerryHopper, and get the best prices in the market with no hidden fees
- Athens Metro Website (timetables and tickets info)
- Map of Athens Metro
- Trains (OSE)
- Public Buses KTEL
- Air flights: Cheap/Fast/Best Worldwide Flights from KAYAK or SkyScanner search engine sit
- Booking.com: I use Booking.com because I can get the best deals on both hotels and apartments, free cancellations, and great prices!
- Best car rental prices – Guaranteed. RentalCars.com
- Get Your Guide: For all your day or multi-day tours and city guide needs, I use Get Your Guide
- Emergency Numbers Anywhere in Greece: AMBULANCE 166 – FIRE 199 – POLICE 100– EMERGENCY NUMBER 112