How cold is Greece in December?
December in Greece is one of the country’s coldest months, but in my experience, it still compares really favorably with much of Europe, with temperatures above freezing for the most part.
The weather is cooler if you live further north in Greece or are at a higher elevation than the capital city, Athens. For example, weather in Thessaloniki is in the 50s Fahrenheit throughout the month, according to holiday-weather.com.
Coastal areas can also be cooler too as there is often an onshore breeze. Snow usually falls on the Pindus Mountains during December.
The temperatures on some of the Greek islands like Santorini and Crete are a few degrees milder than northern Greece, but the weather can still be rainy and blustery occasionally, while the nights are cool.
Having said all this, Greece has a lovely festive feeling this month and there are so many things to enjoy in Greece in December. One of my favorite pastimes is sitting in a cosy taverna in the evening with a roaring log fire.
- Min temperature: 3°C (37°F)
- Max temperature: 17°C (62°F)
- Average temperature: 12°C ( °F)
- Average precipitation: The rain fall varies from region to region but on average is 6 to 9 days
- Average daylight hours: 9 hours
- Sunrise around 07:30 am
- Sunset around 5:00 pm
Is December a good time to visit Greece?
- There are definitely far fewer tourists in December which can make visiting all the Athenian landmarks much more enjoyable. There is also a better choice of accommodation at lower prices too.
- Prices are much lower in many places and this is not just for accommodation but also food and transport.
- Interestingly, Greece is transformed by lush greenery everywhere in the winter. Having looked so parched and dry during the summer, the first rains bring about a huge transformation as wild plants and grasses flourish in every nook and cranny.
- Between November and March, all the historical sites are free of charge to visit on the first Sunday of every month.
- The main drawback of visiting Greece in December is that many businesses are closed for the low season. This is particularly noticeable when you visit the Greek Islands as many shops and restaurants are only open between May and October.
- However, everything stays open in Athens in December as the city is the business hub of the country and it also attracts tourists all year round.
- There is a good chance that you will get wet during your stay in Greece because December is the wettest month – but having said that the maximum number of rainy days is usually 9 days.
What to wear in Greece in December
Winters in Greece are definitely milder than in many other countries, but the days – and certainly the nights – can be chilly. It is really important to pack some warm clothes that you can easily layer.
Thermal vests, tee-shirts, light but warm shirts and a cosy waterproof coat or jacket will come in handy. Warm socks and trousers are other essentials and it is worth packing a woolly hat and gloves too – just in case.
You may want to add a swimsuit in case you are tempted to visit a hammam (spoiler alert: it’s on my list of activity recommendations).
What to do in Greece in December
1. Visit Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square, in the heart of Athens, becomes the focus of the Christmas festivities and all the streets leading to it are decorated with Christmas lights.
There is a huge Christmas tree (19 metres high) with sparkling Christmas lights, music and light displays and an ice-skating rink. A variety of Greek Christmas cookies are available in all the local bakeries and cafés too.
2. Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day
The Feast Day of Saint Nicholas Day falls on 6 December and traditionally marks the beginning of the festive season which ends on Epiphany (6 January). Besides marking the beginning of Christmas, Saint Nicholas is also the Name Day for so many Greeks that there are plenty of celebrations.
Whether you are in Athens or in one of the towns, there are special services held in the churches. On the islands there are often services held by the sea because St Nicholas was the Patron Saint of fishermen.
Decorated fishing boats – karavi – are displayed in the squares and groups of children knock on doors singing Christmas Carols in exchange for sweets. In restaurants a special dish of oven-baked cod with garlic sauce is usually served on this holiday.
3. Enjoy a Christmas show in Athens
There are a number of different shows in the city including ballets, plays and orchestral music. In the days preceding Christmas, the classic Christmas ballet The Nutcracker will be performed by The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine at the Classic Center Theatre.
The Greek Tourist Office in Dionysiou Areopagitou 18, Athens 117 42 will also have all the current information about shows. The office is open Monday – Friday 09.00-19.00 and Saturday 10.00-16.00.
4. Have festive fun at Santa Claus Kingdom
This festive amusement and theme park opens on December 3rd and offers so much family fun. There is a roller coaster and Christmas train, snow slides, children’s Christmas plays and the largest indoor skating rink in the city.
There are 30 different games for all the family and a variety of craft workshops to join at Santa Claus Kingdom. Children will love trying to spot the well-known fairytale characters walking around.
5. Discover the Christmas spirit in a great café
Little Kook is a really different cafe to visit. Every season it has a different theme and in December becomes a Christmas wonderland. There are thousands of lights, Christmas decorations and music, delicious mugs of hot chocolate and sweet and savory crepes.
The cafe is situated at Karaiskaki 17 (close to the Museum of Illusions) and it is open seven days a week 09.00 – midnight.
Best winter activities in Greece
1. Enjoy the Acropolis at your leisure
With fewer tourists, the Acropolis can be the perfect place to explore on a sunny day as there will be no queues for the various landmarks.
The Parthenon, Theatre of Dionysus and all the other world famous sites are situated within a compact area in Central Athens that is easy to walk. Wear some comfortable shoes, bring an umbrella and enjoy delving into the ancient history of Athens.
If you would prefer to take a half day private tour by car with lunch. This is the perfect solution if you want to customize your sightseeing in Athens. The tour lasts five hours.
If you would prefer a walking tour, this four hour one is a popular choice.
2. Go shopping in Monastiraki
This is a really fun place to explore as it is a huge flea market with many weird and wonderful treasures to admire and all sorts of antiques to buy.
During the week, the area is just an eclectic collection of little shops, but on a Sunday morning, numerous tables and stalls are erected and piled high with all sorts of items for sale including old lace, icons and musical instruments.
The market opens early on Sunday morning and closes at lunchtime. To reach the flea market, take Green Metro 1 or Blue Metro 3 to Monastiraki.
3. Climb Mt Lycabettus
If it is a nice sunny day and you are feeling romantic, why not climb Mt Lycabettus (277 metres) which is the highest hill in Athens. From the top, there is an amazing panoramic view of the city and a small restaurant with tables for two – or more. Although the walk up to the top is fun, if you prefer there is a funicular railway, tickets are €7.00 single, €10.00 return. The railway operates 09.30- 02.30, but it has a downside – it travels through a tunnel so there are no great views over Athens.
4. Enjoy the taste of Greece
If you are a foodie, what better way to enjoy the winter sunshine than by taking part in an award-winning four-hour walking tour of the city discovering many of its foodie treasures with an expert guide.
Participants visit the Varvakios Agora, which is the top food market in the city and learn about Greece’s rich cultural heritage – which includes olive oil production. There is the chance to visit a number of specialist shops to enjoy Greek coffee and wine as well as a selection of Greek breads, cheeses, koulóuria (sesame covered bread rings) and loukoumades (honey-drenched doughnuts). There are seven food stops with 12 tastings- kali orexi – bon appetit!
Best indoor places to visit
1. Visit the Acropolis Museum
What better time to visit the magnificent Acropolis Museum than when there are no crowds! This museum is one of the most important in the world as it contains the treasures found in the Parthenon and the other temples on the Acropolis.
The museum has been dramatically styled as it stands overlooking Athens which huge windows that give stunning panoramic views of both the ancient and modern parts of the city.
The exhibition areas are stunning and as well as learning about the exhibits, visitors are given an insight into the conservation of the artefacts too. The museum is open Monday 09.00-17.00, Tuesday – Sunday 09.00-20.00.
2. Admire Cycladic Art
My favorite place to visit in Athens in the winter is the Museum of Cycladic Art, as I truly enjoy the wealth of ancient art found in the islands of the Aegean. The Museum collection includes 3,000 Cycladic, ancient Greek, and ancient Cypriot artefacts that were created by ancient civilizations more than 1,500 years ago.
This famous collection of art is quite unlike any other and is fascinating to discover as many of the exhibits are simple everyday items that have been made in clay, bronze and marble. The museum often hosts temporary exhibitions too.
The exhibitions, Cycladic Shop and Cycladic Café are all open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10:00-17:00. The museum is closed Tuesday. Thursday 10:00- 20:00 and Sunday 11:00-17:00.
3. Family fun at the city’s Planetarium
This is the perfect indoor entertainment for all the family. The Planetarium looks impressive as it has a huge 950 square metre dome. There are 3D virtual trips to enjoy and an interactive science and technology exhibition – ideal for older children.
The exhibition contains the latest in audio and visual communication ideas and has a digital star projection system. The Planetarium is open Monday – Friday 17.30 – 20.30 (just three hours) and Saturdays and Sundays 10.30-20.30. The Planetarium is located at Syggrou Avenue, 387.
4. Relax in a traditional Hammam
If the weather is cool or rainy, you can pamper yourself in one of the city’s six traditional hammams (Turkish Baths). It certainly is one of my guilty pleasures.
The hammams offer you the chance to experience a centuries old tradition that has its roots in the Middle East. The architecture in the Hammams is amazing with a large domed circular room in the centre.
The room is hot and the heat helps to clear the skin by unclogging the pores and removing the toxins. The skin is rubbed to exfoliate it and then completely rinsed.
Afterwards, you can choose one of the many massages or facial treatments before resting awhile in a special area where cups of tea are served.
Here are some of the best Hammams in Athens:
- Polis Hammam, Alivton Street, 6-8. This Hammam is open Monday – Friday 12.00-23.00 and Saturday and Sunday, 11.00-23.00.
- Hammam Baths is situated at Melidoni 1 and is open Monday- Friday 12.30–22.00 and Saturday and Sunday 10.00- 22.00.
- Hammam Traditional Baths, Tripodon Str 16 is open Monday – Sunday 11.00-22.00. Wednesday the Hammam is exclusively for women.
Tips for visiting Greece in December
While I have focused mainly on things to do in Athens, there are many trips that go beyond Athens to discover such fascinating places as Delphi, Meteora, Cape Sounion etc.
If you are visiting one of the main Greek islands like Crete, Corfu, Rhodes or Santorini in December, you will find a selection of different ideas of things to do on this website.
There are all sorts of excursions to choose from which can be enjoyed on a sunny December day, but if you get sea sick easily, this may not be a good time of the year to take a boat. In fact, some of the boat trips do not operate at this time of the year because the water is choppy.