Easter in Athens & Nafplio | Best Things to Do with the Family
There’s no better time to visit Greece than at Easter if you want to soak up authentic traditions and culture. Athens is a wonderful destination at any time of the year but during Easter, it takes on a whole new meaning. Many Athenians leave the city and return to their village homes to celebrate with their kinsfolk so the city is also much quieter than usual.
Easter is when Greeks really return to their roots, no matter where they are, enjoying a wide range of colorful celebrations that you can experience from the beginning of Holy Week and over the long holiday weekend.
When you have indulged in the Athenian vibes, you can take a day trip to Nafplio and enjoy all the sights and sounds of this historic coastal town, just a 2-hour car journey away.
Whether you are religious or not, you will discover that there is something truly magical about the way Greeks celebrate their Orthodox Easter. The preparations begin in earnest during Holy Week, culminating in cherished traditions that take place from Good Friday up to Easter Monday.
Your authentic Greek Easter visit will be marked by centuries-old traditions, culinary delights, and even egg-painting. There’ll be dazzling firework displays, plenty of dancing, and a chance to join in the fun as the locals celebrate the most important festival on the Orthodox Christian calendar.
Holy Week in Athens
- If you arrive in Athens in the week leading up to Easter Sunday, you should definitely check out some of the beautiful churches in the city center. The Byzantine churches of the area are wonderful testaments to the city’s history, with sacred icons and frescoes creating a sacred aura. Services take place throughout the week so even the smallest churches can get quite busy.
- Visit the 11th-century Kapnikarea Church in the middle of the busy shopping street of Ermou. Built over the ruins of another ancient Church in 1050, it is a wonderful reminder of the city’s spiritual legacy. You can also stop off at the church of Agia Irini (downtown Athens), Agios Dimitrios (Filopappou Hill), and Agia Marina & the Church of the Holy Apostles (Thission).
- Holy Thursday is a chance to join a cookery class, where you will learn how to make the traditional ‘tsoureki’ (a plaited sweet bread flavored with mahleb, mastic, and coriander), bake some tasty ‘koulourakia’ butter cookies, and learn why eggs are dyed red throughout the land at this special time.
- Watch as the Epitaph (a flower-adorned bier) is taken from the magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral on Mitropoleos Street around 9 pm and carried through the neighborhood in a solemn, candlelit procession. The ceremony continues in Syntagma Square before state dignitaries and the Archbishop of Athens return to the Metropolitan Cathedral.
- Visit the Kaisariani and the Asteriou Monasteries on Mount Imettos earlier in the day to enjoy the Epitafio service at 14.00 and follow the procession as it meanders through the forested mountain paths.
- Take the cable car to Lycabettus Hill near Kolonaki, where you will find the tiny church of Agioi Isidoroi church on its western side, and Agios Georgios church at the top. You can witness multiple candlelit ceremonies taking place throughout the city from this great vantage point.
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Easter Saturday in Athens
Witness the Holy Flame arriving from Jerusalem.
- The church ceremonies on Saturday evening celebrate the victory of light over darkness as Jesus Christ is resurrected. Wear your finest and buy an ornate Easter candle known as a ‘lambada’ from one of the many outlets in the city. Make your way to the Metropolitan Cathedral around 11 pm to enjoy the atmosphere, where crowds excitedly gather to await the moment when the priest announces that ‘Christ has risen!’
- As midnight approaches, the mysterious holy flame that has been flown in from the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem will then be shared amongst the faithful. You will hear joyous calls of “Christos Anesti” (Christ is risen!). The jubilant chiming of bells is accompanied by fireworks bursting into the night sky over the Acropolis, creating a truly spectacular atmosphere as the Anastasi (resurrection) reaches its peak!
Enjoy a traditional Easter meal to break the fast
- Book a table at the Hotel Grande Bretagne Roof Garden restaurant to enjoy a traditional Easter dish eaten by Greeks once the Anastasi is over. Most people fast in the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, only to enjoy a feast when Lent is over. You can try the traditional dish known as Magiritsa, which is a thick soup made from lamb innards flavored with lemon and dill. Not to everyone’s liking, vegan options will also be available on request.
- If you are looking for something more rustic, book a table at the famous Klimataria restaurant on Theatrou Square, where you can enjoy the traditional Easter dinner accompanied by live music. After a tasty meal, grab a red Easter egg and challenge the person sitting next to you to an ‘egg-cracking’ duel. A custom enjoyed by young and old alike, if your egg remains uncracked, you can expect good luck for the rest of the year!
- Let your chosen restaurant know in advance of any special dietary restrictions or preferences.
Easter Sunday in Nafplio
- Leave the city and enjoy a 2-hour car journey to the historic town of Nafplio on the eastern side of the Peloponnese. Take a walk around the seaside town and discover its Venetian and Byzantine past. Climb up the 999 steps to explore the impressive Palamidi Fortress. It was built by the Venetians to protect their army before being used as a prison during the Greek Revolution. Enjoy sweeping vistas across the gulf when you reach the top!
- Join the Easter revelers at one of the traditional taverns to enjoy an authentic Easter feast for lunch. Slow-roasted lamb and kokoretsi (lamb intestine), as well as other meats cooked on charcoal, are on every menu on this special day. You will also find firm family favorites such as Greek salad and oven-roasted potatoes. There is sure to be plenty of music and dancing too as the Greeks celebrate this important day.
- Book a table at the Stavlos Restaurant in the center of town for some delicious Greek cuisine in a family-friendly environment. Menta is another popular restaurant where you can savor a homemade Easter lunch and vegetarian options are also available. Please be sure to make a reservation well before you arrive as all restaurants will be very busy during the Easter weekend.
- As you wander through the town, you will see locals cooking lamb on the spit in their gardens. Greeks are very hospitable and love to invite visitors to their festivities so don’t be surprised if you are invited to join them!
Take a walk around Nafplio
- After a generous lunch, you can walk off the calories by following the path from Arvanitia Square that leads to a coastal promenade. This follows the shoreline for about 1 kilometer or just under a mile and is dominated by the rock of the Acronafplia, the base of the fortress above. Lovely sea views across the Argolic Bay will accompany you on your way as you pass by a small chapel known as the ‘Virgin Of The Cave’ built into the cliffs.
- Before you leave Nafplio, arrange to go on a tailor-made wine tour if you have time. An experienced and certified wine master will take you on a journey for the taste buds as you enjoy some of the region’s wines, as well as try out the local ouzo and tsipouro.
- You can also visit a working honey farm and be a beekeeper for a day in Kranidi, just a few miles away from Nafplio. Don a beekeeping suit and see the bees in their natural environment, visit the apiarist’s workshop, learn the secrets to traditional honey-making, and taste some of the sweetest Greek honey you have ever tried.
Easter Monday at Sounion
- On your return to Athens, take a guided excursion to the ancient Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. Your guide will enchant the kids with stories from Greek mythology about the heroes and legends of the past. Learn how King Aegeus of Athens fell into the sea after waiting for his son Theseus to return from killing the Minotaur in Crete. The drive lasts for just over an hour and on the way there, you will be able to enjoy the stunning Riviera coastline. Easter is a time when wildflowers and herbs are in abundance, offering a beautiful coastal jaunt that you won’t forget.
- On your return to Athens, stop off at the small port town of Lavrio, known for its old silver mines that date back to ancient times. Take a stroll along the waterfront and savor some of the best fresh fish in the area at Pezodromos restaurant or Psarou taverna while gazing out over the bustling little harbor.
Easter in Greece is a magical experience that the whole family will love. Celebrate the spirit of Easter in Athens and Nafplio with authentic cultural events, unique customs, and world-renowned cuisine.
Kalo Pascha (Happy Easter)!
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