A lot of times, when you picture a Greek vacation, it’s easy to conjure up images of people soaking in the sun on the Greek Islands or seeing the sunlight glint off of the startling white domed roofs of homes in Santorini. I’d say you probably don’t think if people bundled up, eating at cozy slovaki stands or wandering through a nearly empty Acropolis. But, that's how I picture time spent vacationing in Athens, Greece – when you visit it in in the winter.
While the temperature is cooler and you need to wear more layers, I can say that it’s absolutely worth it to make the trip to Athens, Greece in the off season.
Here are eight reasons why winter is the ideal time to visit Athens, Greece:
1. If you’re from Chicago (or other cooler climates), it feels like the summer! Before I left for Greece, I walked to work in my heaviest coat, desperately trying to dodge the cold, biting wind. So, the warmer temperatures – even at 40 degrees – felt almost balmy! During most of our time in Athens, we were able to spend our days in just sweatshirts and sweaters, adding a warmer layer when we ventured out to dinner in the evenings. For us Chicagoans, it was heavenly!
2. You can still get your citrus fill. No matter where we went – in Athens or throughout the Peloponnese hilltowns – we saw oranges or lemons growing on trees. We saw them on the streets of Athens and along the highways bringing us to and from the Greek capitol. Market bins were bursting with the citrus fruit. And, our meals were always served with a huge side of lemon slices to squeeze on top of our food. For us, sunshine was all around us – in the form of bright, glorious citrus fruits.
3. You’ll never be overtaken by the crowds at popular tourist sites. Before we arrived in Athens, we had heard stories of people waiting in long, snaking lines to get into the top sites – including the Acropolis. So, you can imagine our surprise when we casually walked right up to the Acropolis ticket booth on our first day in Athens – and got right in! While there were others wandering around the Pantheon, Erecthion and the Old Temple of Athena, we were able to enjoy the site without fighting off crowds for a good photo or view. We just soaked in the sites and the history in our own lazy time.
4. You won’t fry at the top of the Acropolis. The guidebooks often warned about one main thing when visiting some of the glorious, marble infused sites in Athens – bring plenty of water and be prepared for the intense sun (and lack of shade!). But, for us, we didn’t need to diligently heed that warning. The cooler temperatures enabled us to keep climbing, to keep exploring - even with the Greek sun shining bright above us.
5. You can benefit from cheaper, off-season prices. As most frequent travelers know, it’s cheaper to travel in the “off season.” By visiting in the slower months, when less people descend on the city, you can benefit from lower airfares, cheaper hotel prices and better deals across the board. It’s refreshing to visit a popular travel destination and know you’re saving money – just by being there at an off time.
6. You can get to eat hot soup without sweating. While reading through our Rick Steves guidebook, I was caught by his mention that it’s hard to be able to find some of Greece’s amazing soups on restaurant menus in the summer. But, lucky for us, it wasn’t a challenge in the winter. We had our choice of hot and cold appetizers, dishes, drinks and more. And, of course, it was very easy for us to enjoy hot Greek coffee whenever possible, too.
7. The bakeries are filled with a delectable selection of holiday cookies. Whenever I walked by a Athenian bakery, I was immediately captivated by the rows upon rows of Melomakarona, Greek honey cookies enjoyed during the holidays. You could choose to enjoy them “plain,” or with powered sugar, or dipped in chocolate – or all three ways! On Christmas, we saw Greeks order boxes upon boxes of Melomakarona at the bakeries, ready to take them to their holiday parties.
8. History is cool in all seasons. It’s true. The cool factor of historic sites never rises or diminishes based on the temperature. Seeing the lone fallen column at the Temple of Olympian Zeus or walking around the Temple of Hephaestus never gets old – in the heat or the cold. So, we knew cooler weather wouldn’t impact us at all.
When have you visited Greece? When do you like to go – or plan to go? Share your experiences and preferences in the comments below.