Athens Unveiled: Winter's Sunny Surprises and Snowy Adventures

Changeable weather in the Greek capital makes life tolerable and somewhat interesting
Athens Greece winter Philopappos Hill Λόφος Φιλοπάππου

Greece might be known for its sun-drenched summers, but I decided to trade the beach for a winter adventure. What I found was a city with a surprisingly diverse winter experience. Athens’ winter weather between very chilly, wet days and surprisingly warmish, sunny stretches. On several occasions, I even enjoyed basking in the midday sun, a welcome change from my usual Southeast Asian routine of avoiding the scorching heat. On a few occasions, the city even surprised everyone with a rare snowfall, turning the Acropolis into an ethereal, winter wonderland.

Apartment Adventures and Challenges in Athens

For personal reasons and a desire for a milder winter, I spent two months (December 2021 – February 2022) exploring Athens. Compared to other European capitals, Athens boasted a noticeably more temperate climate. My exploration involved staying at two apartments – one near Victoria Square and another by the Acropolis. The first, while spacious, lacked proper heating. This became a significant drawback on colder nights, highlighting the importance of researching heating options when choosing winter accommodations. Thankfully, my second apartment came equipped with central heating, proving essential in February when temperatures dipped significantly.

Athens in winter offers a mix of outdoor adventures and cozy escapes. Sunny days were perfect for long walks and tram rides, soaking in the crisp air and vibrant city atmosphere. Rainy days were challenging, however, but provided an excuse to indulge in delicious mezedes (Greek tapas) at home sourced from the excellent supermarkets all over the city or escape the elements with a latte at my refuge, the “Heart of Athens” mall. My monthly travel card became my saving grace, allowing for these budget-friendly escapes. Unfortunately, there are only a limited number of malls or other options in Athens during these miserable periods although museums can be an alternative.

Acropolis Greece Athens
Snowman in front of the Acropolis

Snowy treats

The snow flurry that lasted a few days transformed Athens into a winter wonderland. The city effectively came to a standstill and the government even announced a two-day public holiday with overhead transport grounding to a halt. This offered a unique opportunity to explore the Acropolis dusted with virgin snow. The sight was magical, and with most Athenians lacking proper winter gear, I practically had the place to myself. It was a refreshing novelty, considering my years spent in Asia. According to the locals, snow is a rare occurrence but had happened for two years in a row. As expected, after the crisp, clean snow came slippery streets and finally the ugly grey slush. It was difficult keeping balance especially walking around the hilly area where my second apartment was located.

Panepistimio winter Athens Greece
Panepistimio business district shut down

Sunshine and Tram rides: Athens Awakens

The depressing weather spells are thankfully short-lived, normally lasting a few days. Not enough time to dampen your spirits too much. The sun often emerges, transforming the city into a bright tapestry. These days are perfect for long walks and tram rides, soaking in the city’s atmosphere. Weekends find locals and a sprinkle of tourists enjoying coffee at the countless cozy cafes. However, remember, it’s still winter. A sudden cloud can cool things down, and sunsets arrive early. Layering clothes and having a handy jacket is key to navigating the ever-changing weather.

On these crisp, sunny days, I particularly enjoyed riding the coastal tram. Hopping off at stops allowed me to explore the surroundings and witness the resilience of the locals, mostly elderly folks, taking a dip in the chilly Aegean Sea. While Athenian winters might not be perfect, they do offer pockets of sunshine and activity. And in February, with spring just around the corner, that light at the end of the tunnel becomes a beacon of hope. For those willing to embrace the unexpected and navigate the challenges alongside the charms, Athens offers a distinctive winter experience, showcasing a different side of this historic city.

Paralia Glyfadas beach Athens Greece
Paralia Glyfadas beach during a sunny winter day
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