Article by Valia Papadopoulou
Greece is known around the world for its sunny summers, white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, but there is another equally magical and exciting side to the country. There are many winter destinations that will make anyone drop what they’re doing and book a flight to Greece.
The capital of Greece is not the most conventional destination for winter, but it is the perfect place to celebrate Christmas. The municipality of Athens organizes a variety of music events and happenings during December, which introduce tourists to the Christmas atmosphere. Jazz and classical melodies sound around every corner and neighborhood of the city.
Syntagma square, in central Athens, constitutes the core of the Christmas atmosphere and hosts the city’s Christmas tree. In addition, it offers a carousel which is there to entertain children, while their parents enjoy a Greek coffee in one of the Christmas decorated cafes around the square.
The National Garden is one of the best tourist attractions for both children and adults. Santa Claus and his elves organize activities and workshops for children all day long and teach them Christmas traditions from all around the world. In the meantime, parents can test their ice skating skills on the ice rink.
For shopping lovers who want to buy last minute presents, Athens offers a variety of shopping malls, where they can also enjoy a traditional Greek meal after shopping.
The village is located near the three ski centers of mount Parnassos. Tourists who will opt for Arachova will have the opportunity to combine exercise with pleasure and relaxation. Those who don’t find ski interesting can enjoy the spa and sauna facilities that the wooden chalets of Arachova provide.
Like every Greek cosmopolitan destination, Arachova promises unforgettable nights to tourists. Local bars stay open until the first morning hours, ready to offer fresh cocktails to night lovers.
Provided the weather is good, visitors can go sightseeing and discover the village’s traditional beauty, since locals have tried their best to preserve the region’s traditional style.
Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and also an ideal destination for Christmas. Aristotelous square represents the heart of Christmas celebrations around the city. Instead of a tree, the municipality of Thessaloniki decorates a ship every year, as part of the Greek Christmas tradition. The ship is placed in the center of the square.
A big stage is also set up in the square in order to host Christmas carols and traditional Christmas music events every day of December.
The Elves and Santa Claus are there to offer presents to children every year, while Christmas carols sound in every corner of the city as Christmas approaches.
Kapani Street calls tourists to visit and taste a unique Christmas experience, especially on the 31st of December during day time. People defy the cold and dance on the street, accompanied by traditional Greek music and red wine.
Furthermore, the city offers numerous coffee stores to its visitors, where they can catch a breath after the exhausting shopping in Thessaloniki’s numerous stores, which are mostly located in the city center.
Anyone who chooses Thessaloniki as their Christmas destination should not neglect to taste Terkenlis’ famous chocolate “tsoureki.”
Kastoria is one of the most romantic cities of Greece and doubtless among the most popular destinations for winter. The city is built on the edge of the lake of Kastoria offering a majestic view. Tourists can wander around the city and admire the combination traditional and modern elements.
During Christmas days visitors can sing traditional local carols with locals. Those who choose to travel to Kastoria during the winter should make sure that they are there between January 6 and 8. Locals celebrate the famous Ragoutsaria, which is a revival of the ceremonies of God Dionysus. People dress up and celebrate until the wee morning hours.
As Kastoria is the biggest producer of products related to furs, tourists are encouraged to pay a visit to the local stores and buy a pair of warm slippers for the winter.
Drama hosts the most famous Greek Santa Claus villages, Oneiroupoli. It is a theme park which offers a variety of activities for both children and parents. It is the absolute experience for children, as well as a place where the Christmas spirit overcomes any language or age barriers.
Tourists will have the opportunity to become children again and enter the Christmas world from another perspective. The colorful village transfers its visitors into a magical fairytale and offers them the ultimate Christmas atmosphere.
Besides the Oneiroupoli, tourists who will visit Drama, can also organize daily excursions to the ski resort of Drama, Falakros. Drama also offers a variety of traditional mansions, where anyone can find a warm and friendly shelter during the night.
Trikala is a beautiful city located in northern Greece. Visitors will have the opportunity to visit many historical sites such as the Byzantine Castle, built by Justinian or the Old City of Trikala, which consists of two districts, Varousi and Manavika. The Old city also hosts some of Trikala’s best restaurants and coffee bars, where tourists can taste local delicacies.
Meanwhile, the municipality of Trikala organizes one of the greatest Christmas festivals in Greece. The “Mill of Elves” is a unique and magical journey for children as well as adults and it takes place between November 28, 2014 and January 4, 2015.
There are many activities to keep visitors busy within the city, but there are also many significant places nearby that can be part of a tourist’s itinerary. For example, Meteora, the most important monastery complex in Greece after Mount Athos, or Pertouli Ski Center for an enjoyable day in the snow.
The small village of Agios Athanasios which only has 184 permanent residents, is located in northern Greece, on Kaimaktsalan Mountain. In 1992, it was declared as a traditional settlement and has remained unchanged ever since.
The village was built in the late 16th century by farmers and builders from Epirus and it now serves as a tourist resort. It has many beautifully and traditionally built hotels and B&Bs where families can enjoy their winter vacation.
Agios Athanasios is located near the Kaimaktsalan Ski Center where skiers will have the opportunity to visit some of Greece’s largest ski slopes. Meanwhile, the small village is also an ideal starting point for many excursions since it is located at a driving distance from major Greek cities such as Edessa and Thessaloniki and Xanthe.