Athens is spectacular at any time of year, but in summer it can get crowded! If you want to escape the throngs of other tourists, visiting Athens in the winter is the perfect way to explore a quieter side of the city.
Yes, there’s a chance Athens will be covered in a delightful layer of snow, but it’s not like this all winter long. Instead, Athens winter weather fluctuates between enjoyably chilly and downright winter wonderland. Always check the weather right before you leave to make sure you pack the right clothes. We have packing recommendations at the bottom of the post to help.
Here are our favorite Athens winter activities, from the best things to do to escape the cold, how to see Athen’s best archeological sites in winter, our favorite museums, and the best Athens winter day trips.
Can’t read now? Pin for later!
The Best Things to Do in Athens in Winter
In no particular order…
See the Best Athens Sites from Inside a Cozy Bus
Athens is a fabulously walkable city (though it’s BIG, so you still need to know where you want to be). However, when the temperatures start to cool down, you might find you’d rather see the city from inside a cozy bus than outside with the wind in your face. If so, check out the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour. There are multiple options for itineraries including museum stops.
See the Acropolis – Without the Crowds
The Acropolis is one of those places that’s probably on your Athens Bucket List – it certainly was on mine! However, having seen it in person at different times of year, I can say that a windy day with fewer people is much better than a boiling hot day full of crowds!
Make sure you don’t make these mistakes when planning your Acropolis visit, and bundle up! Expect it to feel windier and colder at the top than you down below in the city.
You can prebook your tickets and entry so that your time there is even easier, or you can opt to attend a small group tour of the Acropolis so that you learn about what you’re seeing during your visit.
Experience Greek Shade for Yourself at the Acropolis Museum
Yes, you’ll see the important sites on the Acropolis itself, but you really need to go to the museum to learn the bigger picture (especially if you don’t go on an Acropolis tour). The artifacts found on the Acropolis are housed here, and they have some amazing multimedia presentations to help you understand even more.
And of course, a museum makes a great place to duck out of the cold for a few hours, making it an ideal Athens winter activity. You can prepurchase your ticket ahead of time and avoid any lines with a combination of Acropolis and Acropolis Museum Skip-The-Line ticket.
One tip – get lunch at the museum cafe. The views are stunning, and it’s one of my favorite museum restaurants anywhere in the world!
Learn about Modern Greek Art on an Athens Street Art Tour
Athens is an amazing street art city (seriously, it rivals cities much more well known for their street art scenes). While you’ll see some during your visit (its inevitable), if you want to know what it is that you’re looking at, it helps to go with a guide.
The Athens Original Street Art Tour will show you three great street art neighborhoods, explaining the artwork and the personalities behind them. Wear layers so you can enjoy the tour, but the walking will keep you warm!
See Ancient and Modern Religion Meet at Kerameikos Cemetary
Everyone in the world (or so it seems) has heard of the Acropolis, but far fewer have heard of the city’s other amazing historic sites. One place that I really fell in love with is the Karameikos Cemetery, which sat on the edge of the city during the Golden Age of Athens. Today it’s just a pleasant walk away from the main sites.
The cemetery is home to some seriously impressive Athenian history:
“Within the site is the ancient walls of Athens and the Sacred Gate which was only used by pilgrims from Eleusus using the sacred road to and from that site during the annual procession. Nearby is the Dipylon gate which was the main entrance to the city, where the Panathenaic procession began and where the prostitutes congregated so they could make themselves available to weary travelers. It was from this spot that Pericles gave what was probably his most well-known speech honoring those who had died in the first year of the Peloponnesian war.”
Wander Vibrant Monastiraki
Monastiraki is touristy, but it’s also one of my favorite areas of the city. Yes, this is partially due to the fact that it’s home to Mama Roux, one of the best Tex-Mex spots in all of Europe, but it’s also just fun and full of life.
Some of the city’s important historic sites are located here, like Hadrian’s Library and the Church of the Pantanassa. There’s Monastiraki Square, which has some amazing views, and no visit to the city is complete without a shopping trip to the Monastiraki Flea Market for some Greek souvenirs.
When you’re here, just watch out for pickpockets. We have some general Athens safety tips here. It’s a very safe city, but tourists get targeted wherever they go in the world!
Stare at the Face of Agamemnon at the National Archeological Museum
The National Archeological Museum is one of my favorite things to do in the city any time of year, but when it’s the perfect activity when it’s cold outside! You can explore room after room of ancient Greek history, treasure, sculpture, artwork, and jewelry. I found one visit wasn’t enough and even went back to explore a second time!
The museum’s most famous artifact is the Gold Mask of Agamemnon, which is conveniently located near the beginning of the museum if you are short on time.
Visit the Festive Athens Christmas Market
There are many great Christmas markets in Greece, like the ones held every year in Thessaloniki, Drama, and Heraklion. However, the most famous one is the Christmas Market in Athens which is located in Syntagma Square.
Learn about Greek Cuisine on a Food & Wine Tour
A great way to appreciate the city is to learn about it’s culinary history and traditions, and you can do that on a small food tour where you also get to enjoy a taste of the city as you go. You can enjoy a small walking food tour of Athens, which gives you a chance to walk around the city but also duck out of the cold when it’s time to learn (…an eat)!
Or Learn How to Cook Greek Dishes Yourself!
If you’d rather try your hand at making Greek food than just learning about it, you can stay warm in the kitchen at a Greek cooking class! You start out exploring the market before heading indoors to cook up a Greek meal, which of course, you get to enjoy afterward!
Enjoy the Air at the Ancient Agora – Both the Greek and the Roman!
If it’s warm enough to be outside (with some layers, of course), then make sure you stroll through the ancient Athenian Agora and the ancient Roman Agora. Both are located at the bottom of the Acropolis and not too far away from each other.
For me, the Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora was one of my highlights from my first trip to Athens. You can explore the area by yourself, or you can book a guided tour of the Agora and its museum so that you learn more about what you’re seeing.
Ponder the Philosophical Underpinnings of the Universe at the Lyceum
If you’ve ever wanted to stand where the philosopher Artistotle stood, then head to the Lyceum, which was the home of his Peripatetic school of philosophy in the 300’s BC.
The remains of the school were only discovered about twenty-five years ago, and there’s not too much to look at. However, it’s worth a stop for a few minutes just to sit and think about how the minds that gathered here changed the course of world history.
Sip a thick Greek Coffee (Just Don’t Call it Turkish!)
Have you even been to Greece if you haven’t tried Greek coffee? While my preferred cup of Joe in Athens is an icy Freddo cappuccino from Coffee Island, in winter you need the real stuff: a thinker-than-thick cup of Greek coffee. They’re practically guaranteed to warm you right up!
See Fireworks Over the Acropolis on New Year’s Eve!
Umm…can you even imagine a better spot to appreciate fireworks? There’s also a big party held every year in Syntagma Square. Athens in a great nightlife city and New Year’s Eve is no exception!
Watch the Changing of the Guard – But Don’t Try to Take a Selfie!
The photo on the left is me taking a selfie with the guard. The photo on the right is my face after he slammed his rifle down and told me no selfies allowed. So yes, you can pose and get pictures with the guards and enjoy the Changing of the Guard ceremony…but don’t take a selfie!
Personally, this seems like a tax on anyone traveling solo, but I kind of love the picture on the right regardless.
Take in the Sunset on Mount Lycabettus
There are many great spots from which to appreciate a winter sunset in the city, but my favorite is part of the way up Mount Lycabettus.
I took this photo at the beginning of November, so not quite winter yet, but you can see how vibrant the colors are. The view from the hill over the Acropolis all the way out to the Saronic Gulf is just dreamy.
Learn about the Greek Deities on a Greek Mythology Tour
I love ancient Greek history, but I also love learning about Greek mythology! If you want to learn more about what the ancients Greek believed and the fascinating tales they have about their pantheon, then head out on a Greek mythology tour! You’ll see the city’s most important sites with a guide who will tell you all the myths and legends behind them.
Get a Deeper Appreciation for Athens Beauty on an Instant Photo Walk
Athens is a truly gorgeous city (you can check out our favorite photo spots on our Athens Instagram Guide here). We’ve had the benefit of spending months exploring the city to find our favorites. However, if your trip is shorter than that, you might want to have someone help show you the city’s best photo spots!
This Athens Instagram Tour will take you to some of the city’s best photo spots while teaching you about the culture and history behind them! It’s perfect for the budding photographer or anyone who wants to leave with some stunning travel photos.
Shop til You Drop at the Avissinias Flea Market
The Monastiraki Flea Market is more famous, but don’t skip this little corner of vintage paradise! It’s a great spot to shop for authentic Greek souvenirs … you know, the kind that aren’t manufactured in China.
See Athen’s Most Notorious Neighborhood – Exarchea!
While its reputation for mischief far outstrips its actual present-day danger levels, a trip to Exarchia always feels a bit edgy (even if you’re just sipping nice cocktails). It’s one of my favorite areas to enjoy street art, bars, and take in the general urban-ness that makes Athens one of my favorite cities. Yes, there’s the Acropolis and the city’s amazing museums, but there’s also a living, breathing city here, too.
If you’re worried about safety, check out our Athens safety tips. But really, unless there’s some kind of political protest happening in the neighborhood you’re more likely to get pickpocketed on the Acropolis than mugged in Exarchia.
Enjoy Dinner in a Taverna in Plaka
The Plaka is one of the best neighborhoods in Athens for enjoying traditional Greek architecture, but it’s also a great neighborhood to enjoy traditional Greek food!
During the warmer months, I love strolling the neighborhood and taking in a dinner or lunch outside but head indoors in winter to stay warm and soak up the local culture.
Escape the Cold in the Hammam
While Athens doesn’t like to remind you about its Ottoman past, you may wonder if a city that was controlled by the Turks for so long has any remaining Turkish baths. Well, the answer is yes and no.
You can schedule a relaxing bath directly with Hammam Baths, which highlights how this bathing tradition was also a huge part of Greek culture predating the Turks’ arrival. You can even schedule the “Ancient Greek Massage” if you want to experience Athenian massage traditions on a deeper level.
I love going to a Hammam regardless of the weather, but the steam will feel extra relaxing when you come in from the cold!
See if You Have What it Takes to Be an Ancient Athlete
The Panathenaic Stadium in Athens is a great place to let off some steam while also learning about ancient Greek sporting traditions and the revival of the modern Olympic games.
Want to take the experience up a level? Book an Athens Olympic Games Workout with a personal trainer so you can actually work out in this ancient stadium! This workout combines history and athleticism in a totally unique way.
Appreciate Ancient Byzantium at the Byzantine and Christian Museum
I adore an icon museum (seriously, I’ve been to A LOT of them), The icons in the Byzantine and Christian museum in the Byzantine and Christian Museum are truly special. If you haven’t seen Orthodox icons and artwork before, don’t skip this little museum! It’s worth setting aside an hour to ninety minutes to go through. And, of course, it’s a great way to escape the Athens winter!
The Best Athens Winter Day Trips
Almost no one who visits Athens spends their entire trip in Athens – there’s simply too much to see and do nearby! Here are our favorite Athens winter day trips!
Visit a Nearby Island for the Day
While I visited these islands at the beginning of November, you can go on a three-island cruise from Athens all the way through the winter! Stopping at Poros, Hydra, and Aegina, it’s a great way to get a taste of the Greek islands if you only have one day to explore.
If you want to know more, I’ve written an entire guide covering my experiences on this cruise here: The 3 Best Greek Islands Near Athens & How to See Them in One Day.
Take a Day Trip Out to a Snowcapped Meteora
If you don’t have a few days to visit the area on its own, go on a guided Meteora tour that helps you arrange your train travel and picks you up at the train station to take you directly to the monasteries. While I found the train ride there and back to be a bit grueling (five hours each way!) I’m so glad I didn’t miss seeing these gorgeous cultural gems!
See Spiritual Delphi
Delphi is one of the most important ancient Greek religious sites, and it just so happens to be located near one of the country’s most famous ski resorts. However, if you want to pop up from Athens for the day, you can make it there and back as a day trip.
The easiest way to accomplish this in one day is to go on a guided Delphi tour that picks up from your Athens hotel. This is how I chose to visit Delphi because public transit options can be a nightmare for this route.
Delphi and Meteora are two of the most beautiful spots in all of mainland Greece. If you’re trying to decide between the two of them, check out our overview: Delphi or Meteora: Which Historic Greek Site is Right for You?
Take in the Magical Winter Sea Views at the Temple of Cape Sounion
This Greek temple perched on the edge of the sea is gorgeous year-round, but I loved seeing its moody tones as the weather was turning cold. You can visit via public transit, but I opted to take this guided bus tour to avoid having to deal with mainland Greece’s sometimes chaotic public transportation system.
While here, make sure to look for the graffiti Lord Byron carved into the temple during the nineteenth century!
Get Inspired by Greek Literature at Epidaurus and Mycenae
There are so many seriously amazing day trips from Athens to choose from, but I have to say that visiting Epidaurus and Mycenae was so much more inspiring than I anticipated! Both sites are UNESCO World Heritage Sites located a few hours from Athens, and I was able to see them in one day on an organized tour that also included a stops in Nafplio and the Corinthian Canal.
Mycenae is famous as the historic home of the Mycenaeans, who featured prominently in the works of Homer, while Epidaurus was a health and wellness sanctuary that features a stunning intact ancient Greek theater. If you love ancient literature, you really can’t skip these two important sites.
Fly South for the Day to Crete, Rhodes, or Santorini
If you have a very short amount of time but are set on seeing Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, or another of the country’s islands that are further south, check to see if you can visit as a day trip by plane. While it’s always better if you have a few days, I understand that travel time can be precious!
I was able to organize a day trip to Santorini from Athens by buying the earliest flight out on Ryanair and the latest flight back that same day. Sadly, I was too sick (read: terribly hungover) to make the journey, but this is always an option for someone without more time to devote.
(Luckily I live just one country over so I can go back to Greece often. If you’re coming from North America or Asia, that may not be the case).
What to Pack for Athens in Winter
We have an entire Greece packing list that includes exactly what to bring to dress for winter in Athens, but here are some essentials you don’t want to miss!
A Guidebook – While travel blogs are great, we also definitely see the benefit of having a good paper guidebook in hand to refer to in your on-the-ground travel. We own and recommend the Lonely Planet Greece book.
An ultra-light down jacket: You can wear this on its own or pair it with a warmer jacket for colder days. This rolls up and packs easily in your day bag so it’s good to bring along – I have one really similar to this (women’s) but there’s a men’s version as well. If you really want to be warm, I recommend a winter jacket like this North Face parka which I’ve owned for years and years.
Motion sickness pills: Great for bus rides especially on mountain roads such as if you’re going to Meteora – I buy these non-drowsy ones. You can also try these natural motion sickness bands which use acupressure to reduce nausea – they actually work pretty well.
Where to Stay in Athens in Winter
We have a complete guide to where to stay in Athens, plus a separate post for those looking for the best hotels with Acropolis views. If you are looking for our overall top picks, here are the best places to stay in Athens for each budget category:
Budget: If you’re looking for a budget hotel in lively Monastiraki, book a stay at Fivos Hotel. Located right by Monastiraki Station, the hotel has free wifi and ensuite bathrooms. Most rooms include continental breakfast. You’ll be just minutes from Ermou Street, Monastiraki Flea Market, and the Cathedral.
Mid-Range: For my most recent trip to Athens, we stayed in a couple of different places, but my favorite was the Ares Athens Hotel off of Omonia Square. I loved it’s location, close to Omonia station, across the street from a Coffee Island (my personal version of Heaven), and with views of Mount Lycabettus. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and each room has a private terrace.
Luxury: To enjoy a bit of luxury in the middle of Monastiraki, check into the four-star Emporikon Athens Hotel. The rooms are sophisticated and swanky, with a mid of modern textures and colors with a traditional take on comfort. Located in Agia Irini Square, the building dates back to the nineteenth century. This is a true Athens boutique hotel in one of my favorite parts of the city.
More Greece Travel Resources
First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more.
Next, you’ll want to read our all-season Greece packing list.
We also have Athens safety tips so your trip can be hassle-free. We are currently working on our mega-post of things to do in Athens as well as our itineraries, so stay tuned!
We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.
Finally, Make Sure You Come to Greece with Travel Insurance!
I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world!
Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While Athens is safe, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel,” and we think it’s true!
Pin this Guide to the Best Things to Do in Athens in Winter & the Best Athens Winter Day Trips for Your Trip to Greece!
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.