Greece is a destination synonymous with summer holidays. It’s extensive coastline (apparently the largest in the Mediterranean basin) and countless islands, makes it a perfect country for those seeking their yearly dose of sun, sand, and sea. However, Greece should not be overlooked by travellers during the winter months, as its capital city Athens provides a perfect winter city break, and here’s five reasons why…
- Mild winter weather
Athens is notorious for excruciatingly hot summers that can make sightseeing around the city center an uncomfortable and sticky experience. With so much to see and do, travellers should avoid getting slowed down by intense heat and instead take advantage of the city’s mild winter climate. With highs of 15 degrees throughout December-February and temperatures reaching 20 degrees as early as April, the weather in Athens can be surprisingly pleasant during winter. I recently visited Athens for a long weekend at the beginning of January and despite arriving during an unusually cold snap, I still got to enjoy bright blue skies and some warmer days where I only needed a light jacket. Rain is, unfortunately, a factor to consider, as Athens does experience its share of wet days during the winter, but should you find yourself with a rainy day, fear not! As there are plenty of indoor museums and quirky cafes where you can enjoy taking cover.
- Off season prices
From your flights and accommodation to your souvenirs and acropolis entry tickets- pretty much everything is discounted during the winter months! Not only can you save money getting to Athens by snapping up a cheap plane fare, it’s also possible to find great accommodation that has been discounted during the low season. I also found during my trip that many of the shops in central Athens had sales on, and tourist shops were keen to discount items to drive sales. On top of this, some of Athen’s most famous historical sites such as the Acropolis have reduced ticket prices during the winter (1st November- 31st March).
- Experience a more authentic Greece
With 75% of all visitors going to Greece between May and September, Athens can become a frenzy of tourism during the summer. Visit during the winter and you get to see a more authentic, laid back Athens. Cafes and taverns have more locals in them, making it easier to spot the best places to eat, and people, in general, seem to have more time to chat. I found most of the Athenians I encountered to be really friendly and helpful, and I’m sure the quieter winter vibe of the city helped with this.
- Avoid the crowds
Athens is a popular stop for cruise ships during the summer and this leads to thousands of extra people descending upon the city eager to visit all the top attractions. Busloads of tourists are dropped outside sites such as the Acropolis and the Panathenaic Stadium, leading to large queues to just get into the sites! Visit in the winter and not only will ticket queues be almost non-existent, once inside the attractions you will be rewarded with minimal crowds to block your view. When I visited the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis during my January visit, there were only a few small groups of tourists (I visited early morning) and I was able to get photos of the incredible temple in all its glory without a single soul in front of it! Something that would be near impossible during the summer!
- Plenty to keep you busy
Rain or shine, you won’t be stuck for something to do in Athens. The historical sites alone will easily fill a few days, then there are museums, amazing restaurants, cafes, and shops. The popular Plaka neighbourhood, with its scenic cobbled streets, makes for a great afternoon of window shopping and there’s also plenty of places to stop for a bite to eat. A trip to Mont Lycabettus will give you panoramic views of the city. If you’re feeling energetic you can hike to the top (all 277 meters!), or if you would rather save your energy for Athens vibrant nightlife, you can also get the cable car to the top! Speaking of nightlife, restaurants stay open late as dinner is traditionally served around 9-10pm. After stuffing yourself with delicious Greek food, head to the Psyri neighbourhood where you can find bars bursting with character. With many bars having DJs or live music, you may even find yourself dancing into the wee hours of the morning!