Visitors often ask when is the best time to go to Athens. While the vibrant Greek capital is a year-round destination, some months are better than others. Read on to find out more!
Best time of the year in Athens Greece
Our city never sleeps! Daily life starts pretty early, and nightlife goes on until the wee hours of the morning.
Any time is a great time to visit Athens! With that said, the weather varies a lot throughout the year. During the summer months, temperatures can be unbearably hot. In winter, we have rain, wind, and maybe even snow.
It’s also worth taking into account the numerous festivals, key events and seasonal celebrations happening in our city. In fact, some visitors plan their trip around them.
In this article, I will break down the weather in Athens by season, and also give you an overview of the most important events in the city. This will help you plan your visit, and enjoy your time more!
Athens weather in summer: June, July and August
The period June – August is high season in Athens and Greece. This is when most tourists visit, and often combine Athens with one or more of the Greek islands.
During the peak season, average high temperatures in Athens during the day are usually around 30-35 C (85-95 F). Sometimes, you may get extremely warm weather – over 40C (104F)! People visiting Athens in summer are very unlikely to see any rain.
With that in mind, you might prefer to avoid visiting Athens in July and August, which are the two warmest months. Most people feel uncomfortable with our blazing hot temperatures. Early June is a much better choice overall, plus it has very long daylight hours.
If you can only visit Athens in summer, have a look at my tips for staying cool in the summer in Athens.
Athens weather in autumn: September, October and November
Autumn is an interesting time of year to visit Athens. The summer crowds are mostly gone, but the weather is still nice and sunny.
Average temperatures in September are around 25C (77F) during the day, so sightseeing is very pleasant. This is also one of the best months to extend your trip and visit a few of the Greek islands, as the average sea temperature is at its warmest.
October and November are colder, and you will generally need something more than T shirts and a light jacket. While some days can be nice and sunny, expect some cloudy days and rain.
Athens weather in winter: December, January and February
The winter months are the low season for Athens. Compared to other European capitals, winters in Athens are mild. The average day temperature is generally between 5-15 C (40-60 F), and it drops during the evening.
You will typically get a few rainy days, and sometimes thunderstorms. Try to avoid getting caught out on the streets then. Our drainage systems are not the greatest, so you will end up trying to run around while avoiding water puddles.
Snow is rare, but it’s possible – in fact, during heavy snowstorms, everything in Athens stops running.
This is me in February 2021 – January 2022 was even whiter!
Interestingly, January usually has a few beautiful, sunny days, which are called the halcyon days. With global warming though, you can never be sure!
Athens weather in spring: March, April and May
Generally speaking, late spring is a lovely time of the year to visit Athens. While March can be fairly unpredictable in terms of weather, April and May are mostly warm and dry, with pleasant temperatures.
The average daily temperature in May is around 20–25 C (68–77 F), and we have long daylight hours, making one of the best months to visit Athens. Many Athenians head out to the beaches – myself included!
Bonus: the hills around the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora are blooming with flowers, and there are far fewer tourists than in summer.
The best time to go to Athens for the ancient sites
Visiting the archaeological spaces on a hot summer day can be exhausting for some people, especially anyone with health issues, seniors and toddlers. It’s best to see the ancient sites either first thing in the morning, or in the evening, when it’s cooler.
Similarly, wandering around the sites on a rainy winter day can be unpleasant, or even dangerous. The Acropolis marbles in particular can get quite slippery.
The best time to visit the ancient monuments in Athens is actually spring or autumn, when the temperatures are more pleasant and there are fewer people visiting.
Note: From November to March, entry fees to the ancient sites are reduced to half price, and the sites have shorter opening hours.
The best time to visit Athens for museums
If you are mostly interested in visiting the numerous museums in Athens, the best time to go to Athens is probably the off season. Apart from school visits, the museums are much quieter than in summer.
With that said, the two museums likely to be more crowded in summer, are the Acropolis Museum and certain rooms in the National Archaeological Museum. Most of the other museums are relatively quiet.
Note: From November to March, the public museums in Athens have a reduced entry fee, and operate at limited hours.
The best time to go to Athens Greece for celebrations and festivals
There is always something happening in Athens. It could be a religious and traditional festival, or a special music, theatre or cultural event.
Some of the most important happenings in Athens are
- February / March: the Carnival and Clean Monday
- 25 March: Independence Day
- Mid April / Early May: Greek Orthodox Easter
- May: Jazz festival
- Summer: Several festivals, including the Athens and Epidaurus festival
- 28 October: Oxi Day
- November: Athens Marathon
- December: Christmas season
Let’s break down all the key events, month by month.
Athens in January – A quiet month
Overall, January in Athens is a quiet month. Due to the grim weather, there are few tourists around. On the positive side, it’s a great time of the year to visit in terms of crowds and accommodation prices.
New Year’s Day is a public holiday. If you like wandering around quiet cities, you will love it.
On the 6th January, the Epiphany is celebrated at coastal areas around Athens, like Piraeus. A priest throws a cross in the sea, and several men – and sometimes women – compete to retrieve it.
This event symbolizes the Baptism of Christ by St John the Baptist. A bit chilly, if you ask me!
Here is an article with some of the best things to do in Greece in January.
Athens in February – The Carnival
Along with January, February is the rainiest and coldest month in Athens. It’s also the beginning of the Carnival season all around Greece. The carnival period begins ten Sundays before Orthodox Easter Sunday, and lasts for three weeks.
The carnival in Greece is like any other carnival in the world. People dress up, parades happen and there’s lots of confetti all around.
While you will see celebrations in Athens, the best places in Greece for the carnival are Patras, in the Peloponnese, and Xanthi, in northern Greece.
Right in the middle of the carnival period, we celebrate Tsiknopempti. This could be roughly translated as Grilled Meat Thursday. The concept is simple – people get together to eat meat!
This day is often an unofficial half-day off. You will see large groups of Athenians sitting around restaurants and having souvlaki, gyros, and other popular types of grilled meat dishes.
Athens in March – Clean Monday and Independence Day
Usually, the last few days of the carnival fall in early March, and are followed by Clean Monday. This is the beginning of the Lent period, and it’s seven weeks before Easter Sunday.
According to the Greek Orthodox Religion, Lent is a time to fast. On Clean Monday, Athenians celebrate by flying kites and feasting on a selection of specially cooked fasting dishes.
The Athens food market remains open throughout the night before Clean Monday, and it’s actually packed! Most restaurants will have a special menu, and this is a great time to taste dishes like taramosalata, fava, dolmadakia, octopus and calamari.
Another special day is the Independence Day, on the 25th March. This is when we celebrate the 1821 Revolution against the Ottoman Empire, after which modern Greece was established.
There are many parades throughout the city, and the biggest one is at Syntagma Square, right in front of the Parliament. Many of the tourist attractions are closed due to the national holiday, but you can benefit from free entrance to the Acropolis Museum.
Athens in April – Experience Greek Easter
Visiting Athens in April can be a very rewarding cultural experience. This is because the Greek Orthodox Easter is usually in April – though on some years it can be in early May. It is normally on different dates than the Catholic or Protestant Easter.
Greeks celebrate Easter in very unique ways. If you are interested in a true local experience, visit Athens during Easter week, and follow the candlelit processions and other Greek Easter traditions.
Note that the sites and museums will have irregular opening hours on Good Friday and Good Saturday, and will be closed on Easter Sunday.
Also, if you are visiting Athens on the 18th April, take advantage from the free entrance to sites and museums, due to the World Heritage Day.
Athens in May – Beware of the Labour Day strikes in Greece
If someone asked me what is the best month to visit Athens, I would vote for May. In my opinion, spring is the best time of year here, as we get good weather, relatively few visitors, and tons of flowers.
Note that the 1st of May, or International Workers Day, is a public holiday / strike day in Greece. Do not plan on travelling, especially by ferry, as your journey is likely to be cancelled.
All sites and museums are closed, so you can take a day off sightseeing. Here are a few ideas about what to do in Athens on May Day.
If you happen to be in Athens on the 18th May, you are lucky. All museums and archaeological sites are free to enter due to the International Museums Day. Start your day early, and visit as many as you can!
Finally, if you are in Athens towards the end of May, check out the week-long Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival. The festival has free entrance and it’s a great way to spend one or more of your evenings, along with many locals.
Athens in June – Festivals in Athens Greece
June is one of the best months to visit Athens, as there are several festivals and cultural events. Arguably the most significant event is the Athens and Epidaurus Festival, which continues until September / October.
Tickets go on sale a few weeks or months before each performance, and you can check out the schedule on the official website. If you are in Athens, try to see a performance in the ancient Herodion theatre.
A special day in June is Holy Spirit Day, Agiou Pnevmatos. This always falls on the Monday six weeks after Easter, marking the first long weekend of the summer.
If you are catching a ferry back to Athens from the islands get your tickets in advance, as many Athenians will have escaped the city.
If you are planning to visit one of the islands close to Athens, June is a fantastic choice. Accommodation prices are lower than in peak season, and there is an overall more relaxed atmosphere.
Athens in July – Festivals, crowds and extreme temperatures
July is high season in Athens, and many tourists visit from all around the world. Be prepared for crowds at the ancient monuments.
At the same time, July is a fantastic month for events in Athens. The Athens and Epidaurus Festival continues, alongside several music festivals in Athens, like the Rockwave Festival, the Ejekt Festival and the Release Festival.
Additionally, some of the Athens museums host various gigs and other events out on their gardens. Check out what’s on at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaro Mousikis), the Numismatic Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum.
Athens in August – Athenians go on holiday
August is an interesting time to be in Athens. Several smaller businesses close, as many locals take a much needed break to go on vacation. The tourist attractions, bigger chain stores, shops and many restaurants are open as normal.
There are few key events in Athens in August, as most of the festivals happen on the islands. On the August full moon night, some museums organize special celebrations for the August moon festival. As an example, the Acropolis museum typically remains open until midnight.
Another important day in August is Assumption day, 15th of August. This is one of the most important religious days in Greece, and an excuse for a day off. The city empties on that day!
August is a great month if you want to experience the traditional Greek fiestas called panigiria. While some of the best panigiria in Greece are on islands like Crete and Ikaria, Athens is home to a few of them.
The most easily accessible panigiria in Athens in August are near the church of Faneromeni (Cholargos metro station, 22-23 August) and near the church of Agios Ioannis (Agios Ioannis metro station, 28-29 August). Expect several busy market stalls, street food, traditional music and an overall merry atmosphere.
Athens in September – Back to school
September is one of my favourite months in Athens and Greece. While the tourist season extends well into September, there are fewer crowds than in July and August.
September welcomes numerous performances in Herodion theatre, plus many other Athens experiences and events. As an example, look out for the popular Athens International Film Festival.
On the last weekend of September, take advantage of the European Heritage Days. You can visit all the archaeological sites and many of the museums for free.
For anyone living in Athens, September is a month when many gyms, yoga schools and other similar places offer free trial days. Ask around!
Athens in October – The beginning of the off-season
October, especially the first half of the month, is a fantastic time to take a trip to Athens. Flight prices are usually much lower than on other months, and the summer crowds are gone.
A special day in October in Athens is the 28th October, when we celebrate the OXI day, or Ohi Day. This is the day that Greece’s Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas declined Benito Mussolini’s request to allow Italian military forces in Greece, in 1940.
The word “OXI” is pronounced “Ohi”, and means “No” in Greek. There are parades in the city, and entrance to the ancient sites and public museums is free.
While Halloween is not part of the Greek tradition, you will find some celebrations. Swing by the Little Kook cafe in Psiri to have a trick-or-treat, or just to take photos of the decorations.
Athens in November – The Athens Marathon
Few people choose to visit Athens in November. However, some visitors book their flights and accommodation well in advance. This is because they participate in the Athens Classic Marathon.
This event takes place on an annual basis, on the second Sunday of November. In 2019, over 60,000 entries had been submitted for the various races. There was some rain on the day, but people made it nevertheless!
If you are travelling to the Athens airport on that day, it’s best to take the metro. If you are planning to use a taxi, leave your hotel earlier than planned, as traffic regulations will affect your route.
Another date you should watch out for is the 17th November. From 1967 until 1974 Greece was under a military regime, and on the 17th November 1973 the Polytechnic Uprising took place. In memory of the uprising, people march towards the US Embassy.
The demonstration normally starts peacefully, but usually ends up in riots and clashes with the police. You might prefer to avoid certain areas of the centre, from Omonoia metro to Megaro Moussikis metro.
Some metro stations in central Athens will be closed from the afternoon onwards, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
Athens in December – Christmas time
The most important event in December is Christmas. While Athens doesn’t have the glitz of other European cities, it is ideal if you want to escape the cold Northern European weather.
The period leading to Christmas and New Year’s is pretty festive, with many events taking place around the city. You will find some Christmas markets in the center, though they are not as big or special as in Central European countries.
Athens is generally very quiet on Christmas Day, as most people spend time with family and friends. Our celebrations are a lot less picturesque than our Easter customs. They normally involve lots of food, and many late nights during that week.
On New Year’s Eve, there are always events on Apostolou Pavlou street, close to the Acropolis, and around Syntagma Square. Some of the best known Greek musicians are usually invited to participate.
Another important day to watch out for is the 6th December. In 2008, the 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot by a policeman in the Exarchia area, and died. In memory of this sad incident, there are always riots and demonstrations in the areas close to Omonoia and Panepistimio metro.
Conclusion – When is the best time to visit Athens Greece?
The best time to visit Athens is the shoulder season. April to mid June and September to mid October are the best months to visit Athens in Greece.
This is the time of year when you will get pleasant weather, without the uncomfortably high summer temperatures or winter storms. Moreover, you won’t find as many tourist crowds as in the peak summer months.
However, if you want to fully experience the notorious nightlife, festivals and international atmosphere, and then go to a few islands, summer is also a great time to go to Athens. Just be prepared for the hot weather!
FAQ about Athens
Here are a few questions I’ve been asked in the past:
What is the weather like in Athens in summer?
The weather in Athens in summer is hot and dry. Temperatures may rise over 35C (95F), and you are unlikely to experience any rain. Even in September, which is considered early fall, temperatures are often over 30C (86F).
What is the hottest month in Athens?
The hottest months in Athens are July and August. On some days, temperatures might climb over 40C (104F).
Does it rain in Athens Greece?
If you visit Athens from mid April to early October, you will mostly get dry weather. During autumn, winter and early spring, you are likely to get some rain.
How many days do you need in Athens?
This depends on what you want to do. Most people spend 2 or 3 days in Athens, which are enough to see some of the main sights. However, the Greek capital has a lot to offer, and you could easily spend one or two weeks in Athens and never run out of things to do.
What is the best time of year to visit Athens?
The best months to visit Athens are April, May, early June, September and early October. These months are considered the shoulder season, and you will experience more pleasant weather and fewer crowds. That said, whenever you visit, you will find plenty to keep you occupied, and you will appreciate both our ancient culture and our contemporary, vibrant lifestyle.
More travel guides about Athens and Greece
If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in:
- Athens 3 day sightseeing itinerary
- 2 days in Athens itinerary
- The best museums in Athens
- 50 iconic dishes to try in Greece
- An introduction to the Greek island groups
- Tips for island-hopping in Greece
Hi! I am Vanessa from Athens. I hope this article on the best time to visit Athens has helped you plan your trip here! If you have any questions please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!