Travelling Greece in Winter
Winter is the perfect season to visit Greece is you’re looking for fewer crowds, glorious weather, and relaxing vibes. Enjoy the ancient sites all to yourself as the summer crowd disappears and the local life is at its peak. Outside the tourist season, rates are much lower and you’ll find cheaper accommodation. A lot of the tourist operations close for the season, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to check out the local scene and find the best restaurants and cafes the Greeks love.
A few days in Athens, followed by a 2-3 days in Heraklion is the perfect way to banish those winter blues.
What to do in Athens
Athens is the capital city of Greece and one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. Due to its fascinating and turbulent history, incredible architecture and delicious cuisine.
Most people visit in the summer, so winter brings a personable charm and a chance to experience the sites in a different light.
Ancient Greek History
Greece is the perfect place to wander. As one of the New 7 wonders of the world, the Acropolis is a must-see. Including the Ancient theatre of Irodio. Walking around is pleasant in winter when the air is cool and the summer crowds are gone.
Take a stroll through picturesque parks like the National Garden next to Parliament Square. It’s very peaceful in the offseason and the symmetry of the gardens tunnels, monuments and trees are mesmerizing. Don’t forget to see the Zappeion (Zapeio Megaro) before taking a peaceful coffee at “Aegli”. A popular café restaurant in the heart of the garden.
The next stop on the list should be the historical Panathinaiko Stadium. Host to the Zappas Olympics in 1870 and 1875, as well as the first modern Olympics in 1896. Made entirely of marble, it’s a true feat of architecture.
If the weather is good, enjoy a coffee in pure tranquillity in the garden of the Monetary Museum of Athens. Before heading inside the museum to admire the largest collection of ancient and modern coins in the world.
The Byzantine Museum is another popular choice. Situated at Vassilissis Sofias Avenue. It was founded in 1914, and houses more than 25,000 exhibits with rare collections of pictures, scriptures, frescoes, pottery, fabrics, manuscripts, and copies of artifacts from the 3rd century AD to the Late Middle Ages.
● Top tip – Free entrance to museums & ancient sites on the 1st Sunday of each month from November to March
Enjoy some of Greece’s incredible nature and take advantage of the weather. Fancy a hike?
The pleasant weather from November to March is a fantastic time for a stroll in the outdoors to the fir forest of Parnitha. The shelter of Bafi serves delectable handmade pies and homemade traditional food for the best outdoor lunch. The city has numerous short walk and sites.
A wander by the Athenian Riviera coastline before dinner is a romantic salute to the fresh sea air.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation in Palaio Faliro area is Ideal for a short walk. You can take a tour of the park or even take a yoga class or partake in a game of mini volley.
Families will love a walk along the coastline with a visit to the Floisvos Marina where you can chill out with an ice-cream while the kids play in the park and playground.
Spending an afternoon shopping around Athens can fill your bags with treasures and is an excuse to shop for some exquisite leather. The shoe shops in Ermou Street & Kolonaki area are shoe heaven. If you don’t have room in your suitcase for fancy footwear, the jewelry shops in Voukourestiou are also worth a stop.
● Top tip – Take advantage of great offers for the shops during winter: from 13/11 –29/2, Black Friday 29/11, and Cyber Monday 2/12.
Antique lovers, take a walk to Monastiraki (Ifaistou Street) to get among the bustle of the largest daily flea market in Athens. Once a week the square is taken over by the Plateia Avissinias. An antique market with a plethora of historical treasures at great prices that attract professional hunters. Find the perfect souvenir from Greek leather, to intricate pieces of jewelry, delicately made instruments and even local herbs and spices.
Athenian Cafe Culture
A winter break in Athens means the weather is cooler, so it’s the perfect excuse for a cup of delicious hot chocolate at “kafe tis Melinas“.
The quaint little coffee shop in Lisiou Street, Plaka is named after the Greek actress, singer, and politician, Melina Mercouri.
Benaki Museum‘s lounge in Vassilissis Sofias Street is a coffee favorite. They also have fabulous hot chocolate.
Tucked away down a quiet and charming side street is café “Yiasemi“. On a beautiful winter day, the stepped terrace is perfect for a coffee break. If it gets chilly, pop inside and warm up by the open fireplace.
Athens has a plethora of wine bars, speakeasies and rooftop bars with rewarding views of the city. Our top picks are:
● Stoa Spiromiliou: “Pasaji” restaurant & bar in Voukourestiou Street.
● “Mai Tai” bar & “M8” bar in the Kolonaki area.
● Hilton Hotel rooftop bar “Galaxy”. Providing stunning panoramic views of Athens.
● “Stinking Bishop” Wine bar, and “Farma Bralou – Steak house” near the National Garden.
From the City to the Islands
Even in the winter, you can easily hop over to the fabulous islands. After a whirlwind couple of days in Athens, fly or sail to the beautiful city of Heraklion, the capital of Crete.
Flights are much cheaper in offseason starting from as little as 30 EUR return.
If you prefer, the ferry jets off from Piraeus multiple times a day with ferry companies Minoan Lines and Anek Superfast.
What to do in Heraklion
Heraklion is a diverse city backed by the striking Cretan mountains and surrounded by a glorious coast. There are few places in the world where you can stomp through snow peaks in the morning and bask on the beach in the afternoon. Wondrous nature and stunning beaches are only some of the things Heraklion has to offer. There’s also a plethora of fascinating ancient archaeological sites and some of the best food and drink in Greece.
Heraklion is best seen on foot. You can spend a perfect afternoon wandering through the open market.
Or spotting the sailing boats along the Old Venetian Harbour with artwork gracing its walls. You can’t miss the striking 16th century Venetian Fortress (Koules Fortress) rising against
the blue seascape at the entrance to the Old Port.
Cretan History & Museums
Winter is an ideal time to discover the history of ancient Minoan Civilization. The Palace of Knossos is the largest excavation site of it’s kind and extremely popular in summer. Meaning you can you skip the lines and wonder in awe at the astounding construction from the Bronze
Age. Combine a visit with the Archeological Museum of Heraklion for a half-day foray into the fascinating secrets of the Minoans.
● Take the Blue bus No 2 / approximate duration of trip: 25min from the Lato Hotel.
● Opening times are Monday to Sunday 08:00-20:00 Ticket 15€
● Special ticket package: €16 (Valid for 3 days) for Heraklion Archaeological Museum & Knossos
In the village of Myrtia is the Nikos Kazantzakis Museum. Dedicated to the work of celebrated writer and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis, author of the award winning Zorba the Greek.
A step out of the center is one for kids of all ages. The Museum of Natural History is packed with interactive and educational exhibits. Including a ground-shaking earthquake simulator.
No trip to Crete is complete without sampling some of the delicious cuisines synonymous with the coastal city. Cretan cheese is practically an institution, wine too. Some of the most famous dishes are snails with rosemary, antikristo meat, kreatotourta, ‘gida kokkinisti’, pita sfakiani. Some of the best restaurants to try are:
● “626 All day Lounge & City Garden” – An all-day lounge offering Greek and international cuisine, great signature cocktails & fingerfood and amazing pancakes
● “Likastos” Tavern – A cozy atmosphere serving authentic Cretan cuisine in Archanes village.
Legendary Cretan Wines
Taking a trip out to wine country is one of the best ways to discover the spirit of Heraklion. Dafni village is famous for its dafniano wine; perfected by the Douloufakis family since the 1930s.
Cretan wines are distinctive and often use extremely rare ingredients. Vilana, Vidiano, Dafni, Thrapsathiri, and Malvazia di Candia are just some of the legendary blends from the area.
A visit to Lyrarakis Winery will send your taste-buds on a quest to the hills in search of legendary ingredients such as the dafni. An extremely rare breed of white grape cultivated here by the Lyrarakis family.
Swimming in Heraklion is still possible in winter as sea temps hover at a comfortable 14 degrees. Spend a relaxing afternoon at Ammoudara which is only 1km out of Heraklion center.
This ancient coastline has sand for days and a rocky area that meets the coastline. If you want a little extra privacy, the dunes of Xeropotamos at the East end are a private paradise in the cooler months. Find more of the best beaches in Heraklion here.
● You can reach Amoudara with the blue bus N.6, the trip lasts about 25 minutes and the bus stop is in Platia Eleftherias.
Where to stay in Heraklion
Our Top pick for accommodation in Heraklion is the Lato Boutique Hotel. Located on the coast with dramatic views of the Venetian fortress and the Cretan sea.
What to pack for Athens/Heraklion in winter.
The best way to tackle the crisp winter weather in Greece is to pack plenty of layers. A lightweight down jacket is the perfect choice for cool, windy days, and can be rolled up and packed away easily. Pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes to tackle the cobbled streets and leave your feet feeling fresh and free.
Have you visited Greece in the winter? Tell us about your visit.