New Year and Christmas in Thessaloniki and Athens
Celebrate Christmas in Greece?
We wrote that New Year’s Eve in Greece is not that important, and Greeks traditionally spent New Year’s Eve in their homes with their families.
However, the big cities in Greece like Athens and Thessaloniki are full of tourists and are definitely a good choice to visit during New Year and Christmas.
If you are planning to visit Thessaloniki and Athens during the New Year and Christmas holidays, here are some tips.
Greeks celebrate Christmas 25.12.
On December 25. and 26. neither shops nor shopping centers are open;
Day before Christmas , 24.12. shops are open from 10am until 6 p.m.
Although Sunday is a non-working day in Greece, and all shops are closed then, the exception is two weeks before Christmas, 12.12. and 19.12. when will the shops will be open but from 11 am to 6 pm.
Some restaurants and cafes are open on Christmas Day and the following day, but not all, especially not on Christmas Day 25.12.
The ideal time to visit Thessaloniki and Athens is the period before Christmas, because ten days before Christmas, the cities are full of tourists, as well as restaurants, cafes, squares - everything is buzzing with liveliness and a good atmosphere.
On the day of the holiday itself, everything calms down, there are not so many people on the streets, because the shops are closed, and you can spend those two days just walking along the sea, which is not so bad, but it certainly lacks that liveliness in the city that Thessaloniki and Athens are famous for.
In Greek families, the New Year is celebrated within the family and with some traditional customs that we wrote about, New Year and Vasilopita Only after midnight, Greeks go out to cafes and the city.
In recent years, cities like Thessaloniki and Athens have been visited by a large number of tourists, so the streets and squares are full even on New Year’s Eve.
Usually fireworks (not too spectacular) and some concerts are organized in the main squares, and then you can go to a cafe or club.
It is generally not necessary to reserve seats in cafes and restaurants in advance, but it is recommended to settle in one of them before midnight while there are still fewer people.
There are winter/ski centers near Thessaloniki and Athens that you can visit. Read more about them in our text Winter time in Greece – where to go?
New Year and Christmas in Thessaloniki
In Thessaloniki, as always, a big fireworks will be organized at Aristotle’s Square at midnight, and throughout the day visitors can take part in various workshops in the houses set up on the square. There is also Santa’s house where the youngest can take pictures. During the day, music is played on the speakers on the square, and from 8 p.m. a mini-concert usually starts by a local Greek group, and later by some more famous ones. So far, it has not been announced which groups will perform.
There are no big New Year’s and Christmas markets in Thessaloniki like in Western Europe. Several stalls with Christmas treats and gifts and mulled wine and tea can be found in Aristotle Square.
The central event for children is Asterokosmos, Christmas theme amusement park, which takes place at HELEXPO every year. This is a place where children can have fun with rides and games, on the ice rink in shows performed by acrobats and puppets. There is also a Santa’s house as well as a cute elf village.
The ticket to this park will cost 8e, and it will include:
-15 free rides at Luna Park;
-Ice skating on two different grounds;
-Performance by the famous magician Gray Amp;
-Performance of the famous puppet character Karagiorgis performed by Agapios Agapiu;
-Many more organized events such as music concerts and various performances, as well as other surprises.
It is important to note that parking will be free for Asterokosmos visitors within the Helexpo - Emporio entrance from Egnatia Street.
Saturday-Sunday (10.12 - 11.12) 11h - 23h
Monday-Friday (12.12 - 16.12) 17h - 23h
Saturday-Sunday (17.12 - 18.12) 11h - 23h
Monday-Friday (19.12 - 23.12) 17h - 23h
Saturday 24.12 11h - 22h
Saturday 31.12 11h - 22h
Sunday 25.12 11h - 23h
Sunday 8.1 11h - 23h
New Year Firework
One minute before midnight near the square, a large firework will be launched from the sea which will reach a height of 250m at the opening, and 120m later.
Spectacular fireworks will last 10 minutes and will consist of 5,000 explosions.
This rain of fireworks should light up the entire sky above Thessaloniki, so the fireworks will be visible from all parts of the city.
The city authorities expect that the announced spectacle will attract a large number of Thessaloniki residents, as well as foreigners.
What will make these holidays different is the announced low energy consumption. Electricity consumption for lighting will be 58 percent lower compared to last year, and the festive lighting will be switched on only on December 7. The lighting will consist of LED lamps and will be turned off one hour after midnight.
The central tree will be placed in the square itself, surrounded by smaller Christmas trees.
The so-called blue sky, the blue lights above the street, will be installed in the pedestrian area of Agia Sofia this year as well.The decoration of Tsimiski Street will be changed after several years, and the central element this year will be a 3D Christmas ball. Leoforos Nikis (street by the sea) will be decorated with illuminated Christmas trees…
After a break of several years, the decorations will also be placed in Egnatia Street.
What you can visit in Thessaloniki and other useful information you can find in our Guide ,which we recommend you to look at.
New Year and Christmas in Athens
The Municipality of Athens organizes various musical events during December. Jazz and classical tunes will be heard around every corner and quarter of the city. Syntagma Square, in the center of Athens, is the center of the Christmas atmosphere and every year the city’s largest Christmas tree is placed there. In addition, there is a merry-go-round on the square that children enjoy while parents enjoy a Greek coffee in one of the decorated cafes around the square. The National Garden is one of the best tourist attractions for both children and adults. It is located next to the square, in the center of Athens, so you can easily walk to it. Here, Santa Claus and his elves organize activities and workshops for children all day and teach them Christmas traditions from around the world. Meanwhile, parents can test their skating skills on the rink.
Santa Claus Village in Drama
Beside Athens and Thessaloniki, there is a big Christmas wonderland organized in Drama every year. Click HERE to read how the New Year is celebrated in Drama and why many families from all over Greece choose Drama to spend the holidays.
Entertainment and nightlife
If you want to enjoy the night life during the New Year and Christmas holidays, you can reserve a table in one of the Greek clubs in advance.
The most popular type of party in Greece is the so-called “bouzouki”. We wrote more about this in this text Buzuki in Greece
It is an expensive pastime, but it should be experienced, and perhaps the New Year and Christmas holidays are the right opportunity for that.
See the program and prices here.
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