Big, bold and incredibly warm; if you were to describe the personalities of Greek people, these three words would be sure to come up. Greeks are always up for a celebration which is why it comes as no surprise that the country’s calendar is bursting with cultural festivals and events.
With a history stretching back several millennia, Greece is a cultural treasure chest where very few dates in history go uncelebrated, and there’s an occasion for almost everything that matters to locals – the top three being food, arts and religion!
In a country where you celebrate your birthday twice a year, and each and every small town has its own annual celebration, you are never far from a party in Greece. With an endless list to choose from, deciding which cultural festival to coincide your tour of Greece with is not an easy task.
Take a peek at these five cultural festivals in Greece that you could experience to help you choose!
#1 Catch an Iconic Movie at Athens Open-Air Film Festival
For the past nine years, the historical city of Athens has transformed itself into a giant outdoor cinema. Iconic locations become backdrops for projected screens playing some of the greatest, most iconic movies in film history. Masterpieces by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Mike Lee and Michelangelo Antonioni are but a few of the big names that appear.
From June to September on dedicated evenings, archaeological parks, ancient theatres, museums and other unexpected locations around the city welcome guests to free screenings of film classics, concerts and other events. Not only is this a fantastic event to be a part of; it’s a unique chance to see the city of Athens from a different perspective to an ordinary Athens tour.
#2 Indulge in Delightful Gastronomy at the Cretan Diet Festival
It’s no secret that Greek cuisine is one of the best in the world. While you’ll find the core staples of Greek fare in your own cupboards, each region’s unique produce and cooking style makes travelling to Greece a magnificent culinary experience.
The Cretan diet, in particular, has long been hailed as a healthy yet delicious diet based on its abundance of high-fibre fresh vegetables, fruit and pulses, combined with a good dose of dairy and fish. The Cretan Diet Festival takes place every July. During this week-long festival, you can expect a celebration of time-honoured recipes, trade fares of unique Cretan products, wine seminars delivered by expert sommeliers, special menus in restaurants and more!
If you’re looking to experience the best of Greek cuisine, this is the festival to attend!
#3 Join International Artists to Break the Borders of Art at the Mykonos Biennale
On an island known for its eclectic parties, revelry and hedonism, the Mykonos Biennale is the perfect antidote. Taking place every other year at the beginning of Summer, the Mykonos Biennale brings together cult artists from all over the world in a series of multicultural events that perfectly interact with the essence of the island.
Together these local and international artists use social spaces and play on the traditions of this cosmopolitan island to create exciting exhibitions and dynamic installations as well as musical, theatre and dance performances. Throughout Mykonos, museums, old houses, monasteries and more are transformed into the perfect exhibition space.
#4 Celebrate Easter, the Most Important Religious Festival of the Year in Greece
Of the many Greek festivals, Easter is one of the most sacred and significant and is by far, one of the biggest cultural events of the Greek calendar.
Every year, Easter week is marked by a parade of different events each day; processions by candlelight, fireworks, lamb dinners and holy services form the backbone of the festival. The week begins with a door-to-door procession of children singing the hymn of Lazaros and collecting money and eggs, and finishes with the midnight Resurrection Mass on the following Saturday which is one of the most important religious events of the year. Easter is something rather special to witness in Greece.
#5 Celebrate the Sea During Navy Week
With much of the country spread out over islands and deep history with the sea embedded in the local culture, it is only natural that Greece would dedicate a week of its calendar to honouring the islands’ maritime traditions.
Typically held in late June, throughout the country historical re-enactments and parties take place to honour the soldiers and their contribution to the War of Independence. Navy Week on the island of Hydra, near Crete, is particularly unique and climaxes in a sound-and-light show followed by the burning of a boat which historically represents a Turkish warship.
In a country as vibrant as Greece, the list of possible cultural festivals to attend could amount to a small novel. From the Kalamata Dance Festival and big Name Days where Greeks celebrate the patron saint they were named after to the Hellenic Festival in Athens, there are endless opportunities to witness a fabulous cultural festival on your tour of Greece.