Although the Greek countryside is undoubtedly the best place to celebrate a traditional Greek Easter, Athens also provides ample opportunities for a fun-filled holiday weekend.
Touring the town
Luckily for you, the city won’t be too crowded in the Easter holidays, so you’ll have the perfect opportunity to tour its archaeological sites. Start from the Korean market and make your way from Kerameikos to the Ancient Agora and the imposing Temple of Hephaestus. Then head towards the Roman Agora, stop at the Bath House of the Winds in Plaka.
Next mosey to the foot of the ever-impressive Parthenon or take a romantic stroll around the walls of the Acropolis. Conclude your walk in Athens at Dionysios Areopagitou pedestrian street. From there you can visit the Olympieion (the Columns of Zeus and the Gate of Hadrian) and of course the Acropolis Museum, located at 15 Dionisiou Areopagitou Street, Athens (for more information, please call 210 900 0900 or visit the website, www.acropolismuseum.gr).
The view from above
Make sure you set aside time for a visit to Lycabettus Hill by cable car (located on Ploutarchou Street in Kolonaki) or by private vehicle. The chapel of Agios Georgios, at the top of the Lycabettus Hill, is ideal for the Holy Saturday mass. Afterwards, have a coffee and relax as you soak up the sun and take in the sites of Athens.
Filopappos Hill, in the centre of Athens, presents the perfect place for an afternoon stroll. The verdant hill gives you a spectacular view of the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill.
You can also visit the Zappeion Estate and National Garden, right in the heart of Athens.
Easter weekend is the perfect time for a leisurely stroll through one of Athens’ idyllic parks. Get out and enjoy the sun at the Antonis Tritsis Environmental Awareness Park, Pedion tou Areos, Grove of Kaisariani and many more.
Or arrange a short getaway to Mount Parnitha, where you can enjoy nature’s beauty along with the delicious food served in the taverns that lie at the foot of the mountain.
By the waves...
If you prefer to be beside the seaside, head to Piraeus for a walk along the water and then to Mikrolimano, Pasalimani, Freatida or Piraïki for some fresh fish and seafood.
You can also take the Coastal Highway to Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Kavouri, Varkiza, Lagonisi and Sounio (where you can visit the spectacular Temple of Poseidon).
North-east of Athens you’ll find even more delightful destinations, like the seaside settlements of Rafina, Nea Makri and Marathon.
Attend the procession of the Epitaph and follow with post-procession festivities
If you are looking for a unique Easter celebration in Athens, check out the following churches:
• Metropolitan Cathedral in Monastiraki
• Church of Jesus Christ the Saviour in Plaka
• Agia Aikaterini in Plaka
• St. Demetrius the Bombardier
• Church of the Archangels
• Kapnikarea Chapel
• Kaisariani Monastery
• Penteli Monastery, where you can see the re-enactment of the Descent from the Cross on Holy Friday
• Syntagma Square, where all the Epitaphs from the surrounding churches meet for a communal liturgy at around 9.30pm on Good Friday
After the procession of the Epitaph
After mass on Good Friday, Athens’ ouzo and tsipouro bars quickly become crowded (we recommend making a reservation), as people come together to enjoy delicious snacks and fresh seafood. Join in the festivities at one of the traditional bars and taverns in Plaka, Monastiraki, Thiseio, Psyrri, Kaisariani, Piraeus, Piraïki and Mikrolimano.
Attend the Holy Saturday liturgy
Easter is the biggest event of the year in the Orthodox church. Celebrate Holy Saturday at one of the following churches:
• The Metochion of the Holy Sepulchre in Plaka (on Erechtheos and Prytaneiou streets)
• Kapnikarea Chapel on Ermou Street in the heart of Athens
• Agia Aikaterini and Agia Grigoroussa in Plaka
• Agia Eirini on Aiolou Street, features an exceptional choir
• Church of Jesus Christ the Saviour in Plaka on Kydathineon and Sotiros streets
• Agia Sofia Acropoleos on Areopagitou Street, with a view to the Acropolis
• Agios Georgios and Agios Isidoros on Lycabettus
• Agios Georgios Karytsis on Karytsi Square
• Agia Marina in Thiseio
• St. Demetrius the Bombardier on Filopappos Hill
• Agios Filippos in Monastiraki
• Agios Georgios Makrigiannis
Or consider trying a different kind of Holy Saturday liturgy at:
• The Anglican Church of Saint Paul on Filellinon Street
• The Russian church on Filellinon Street
• The Ethiopian church in the Pentagono neighbourhood, on 12 Mpochali Street
• The Armenian Christian Orthodox church at 10 Kriezi Street on Koumoundouros Square
The Pascal Feast
As with most Greek celebrations, no Easter is complete without a feast! On Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, all the major hotels in Athens organise delicious dinners and hearty buffet lunches, combining traditional and gourmet Easter flavours. In the traditional taverns of the historic centre, Plaka, Psyrri, Monastiraki and Thiseio, you can enjoy mageiritsa, lamb or goat in the oven with potatoes, and many other delectable Easter dishes.
Orthodox Easter and the Holy Light
The lighting of the candle with the Holy Light from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a time-honoured tradition in the Orthodox church.
From Jerusalem to the Metochion of the Holy Sepulchre
The miracle of the descent of the Holy Light begins at noon in the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday. Everyone awaits the descent of the Holy Spirit, which spreads from the Church of the Resurrection to the Holy Tomb of the Patriarch, which holds 33 candles lit with the Holy Light. Then, the ambassadors of the Orthodox Churches light their vigil lamps and the transfer of the Holy Light around the world begins.
The Holy Light arrives in Athens by air in the afternoon of Holy Saturday. It is immediately transferred in the Metochion of the Holy Sepulchre, where worshippers anxiously await its arrival. From there, the Light is transferred to all the churches of Athens and then by air to the rest of the country.
The Red Eggs of Easter
In one of Greece’s most famous Easter traditions, the women of the house prepare and decorate red eggs, said to symbolise the blood of Jesus Christ, on Holy Thursday. After the Resurrection liturgy on Holy Saturday, friends and family enjoy Easter soup and then crack their red eggs.