When is the best time to visit Athens – Advice by a local

Visitors often ask when is the best time to visit Athens. While the vibrant Greek capital is a year-round destination, you will find that some months are better than others. Read on to find out more!

Best time of the year in Athens

Athens in Greece is where I live. It’s a lively, multi-cultural city, with lots of tourist attractions and plenty of authentic little corners.

Best time to visit Athens - The Acropolis

Our city never sleeps! Daily life starts pretty early, and goes on until the wee hours of the morning.

Athens is great anytime! With that said, the weather varies a lot throughout the year. We have some exceptionally hot days, and the temperature can be unbearable. In winter, we have rain, wind, and maybe even snow.

In addition, there are numerous festivals and seasonal celebrations happening in our city, that some visitors would be interested in.

Guards in front of the Greek Parliament

In this article, I will break down the weather 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!

Weather in Athens – Temperatures by season

Compared to most European capitals, Athens has warm weather. However, temperatures and rainfall vary considerably throughout the year.

Our spring months are generally lovely. April and May are mostly warm and dry. The average daily temperature in May is around 20 – 25 C / 68 – 77 F, which makes it a great time of year to book a holiday.

Bonus – the hills around the Acropolis are blooming with flowers!

Many tourists visit during the summer months, June to August. Temperatures normally average at around 30-35 C / 85-95 F during the day. Sometimes, it gets really hot – over 40 C / 104 F!

Best time to go to Athens - Lycabettus Hill

With that in mind, you might prefer to avoid visiting Athens in July and August, which are the warmest months. If you can’t

If you can’t tolerate the heat, you will probably feel uncomfortable with our high summer temperatures. If this is the only time you can visit though, have a look at my tips for staying cool in the summer in Athens.

Autumn is an interesting time of year to visit. Average day temperatures in September range around 25 C / 77 F, 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.

Finally, our winters are fairly mild. The average day temperature is generally between 5-15 C / 40-60 F. Snow is rather uncommon, but it’s possible. This is me in February 2021!

Snow in Athens Winter 2021

In addition, January traditionally has the halcyon days, which are sunny and beautiful. With global warming though, you can never be sure!

If you are coming from a cold country, you will probably be very amused by our excited reactions to snowfall 🙂

Does it rain in Athens Greece?

Spring and summer in Athens are typically dry. People visiting between mid May and mid September will be very unlikely to face any rain.

The winter months, especially January and February, are the rainiest months in Athens. Occasionally, storms happen, and you don’t want to be caught out on the streets then. Our drainage systems are not the greatest, so you may end up trying to run around while avoiding water puddles.

If you are visiting the city in spring or autumn, be prepared for the occasional rainy day. This is when you can explore one of the numerous museums in Athens.

The best time to go to Athens for the ancient sites

Athens has several ancient sites, which are all open-air. Unlike the Ancient Akrotiri in Santorini which is fully covered, you will be exposed to the elements.

Roman Agora Athens

Visiting the archaeological spaces on a hot summer day can be challenging for some people, especially those with health issues, seniors and toddlers. It’s best to see the ancient sites either first thing in the morning, or in the early 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.

If you have the choice, visit during spring or fall. You will enjoy our ancient treasures a lot more.

Note: Entry fees to the ancient sites are reduced to half price from November to March. In addition, entrance to the sites is free on the first Sunday of these months. For more free entrance days throughout the year, check out this article.

The best time to go to Athens for museums

If you are mostly interested in visiting the numerous museums in Athens, the best time to arrange your trip might actually be winter.

From November to March, many of the museums in Athens have a reduced entry fee. Moreover, they won’t be nearly as crowded, as there are considerably fewer tourists than in summer.

The national archaeological museum in Athens

That is not to say that you won’t enjoy the Athens museums during other times of the year. The museums likely to be more crowded in summer, are the Acropolis Museum and certain rooms in the National Archaeological Museum. By all means visit, just be aware that there may be large groups on guided tours.

The best time to go to Athens 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
  • April / May: Greek Easter
  • May: the Jazz festival
  • Summer: the Athens and Epidaurus festival, with many performances happening at Herodion theatre
  • November: the Athens Marathon
  • December: Christmas.

Let’s break down all the events, month by month.

January – A quiet month

Overall, January is a quiet month in Athens. Due to the grim weather, there are few tourists around. On the positive side, it’s a good time of the year to visit in terms of crowds and hotels prices.

New Year’s day is a public holiday. If you like wandering around quiet cities, you will love it.

Epiphany celebrations in Greece

On the 6th January, the Epiphany is celebrated in certain coastal areas around Athens, like Piraeus. A priest throws a cross in the sea, and several men compete to retrieve it. This event symbolizes the Baptism of Christ by St John the Baptist. A bit chilly, if you ask me!

February – The Carnival

I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that you visit Athens in February. Apart from it being one of our coldest and rainiest months, you may also feel that people are a little grumpy.

However, February is the beginning of the carnival season all around Greece. To be precise, the carnival period begins ten Sundays before Orthodox Easter Sunday, and lasts for three weeks. The last day of the carnival is marked by Clean Monday.

Carnival celebrations in Athens - Vanessa as a witch

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 place in Greece for the carnival is by all means Patras. Xanthi, in northern Greece, hosts a very traditional carnival as well.

Right in the middle of the carnival period, we celebrate Tsiknopempti. This could be roughly translated as Grilled Meat Thursday. The concept is exactly that – people get together to eat meat!

Greek souvlaki

This day is often an unofficial half-day off. You will see large groups of Athenians sitting around restaurants and having souvlakigyros, and other popular types of grilled meat dishes.

March – Clean Monday and Independence Day

Officially, March is the beginning of spring. You might get some cold weather and rain, but temperatures are definitely higher than in the two previous months.

Best time to visit Athens - Kite flying in March

March normally sees the last few days of the carnival, followed by Clean MondayKathara Deftera. 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. Orthodox fasting is different from fasting in other Christian traditions.

Basically, fasting in Greece has to do with giving up most animal products, apart from seafood. Along with those, you should give up all bad thoughts, and all the pleasures of the flesh. That’s right, ALL the pleasures of the flesh.

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!

This is a great time to have dishes like taramosalatafavadolmadakia, octopus, calamari, and many more fasting delicacies. Most restaurants will have a special menu.

Fasting in Greece - Dolmadakia

Another special day is the Greece Independence Day, on the 25th March. This is when we celebrate the 1821 Revolution against the Ottoman Empire. This is the time when modern Greece was established.

There are many parades throughout the city. The biggest one is at Syntagma Square, right in front of the Parliament.

Many of the tourist attractions are closed on that day, but you can benefit from free entrance to the Acropolis Museum.

April – Experience Greek Easter

Visiting Athens in April can be a very rewarding cultural experience. This is because, as a rule, the Orthodox Easter is normally in April – though on some years it can be in early May.

Read Easter eggs for Greek Easter

Our Greek Easter traditions are unique. If you are interested in a cultural side that few visitors get to experience, visit Athens during Easter week.

Note that the sites and museums will have irregular opening hours on Good Friday and Good Saturday, and will be closed on Easter Sunday.

The weather is generally pleasant and warm, and some people will even be able to go for a swim. However, don’t plan your trip around beach time, as the sea can still be cold.

Finally, if you are visiting on the 18th April, take advantage from the free entrance to cultural attractions, due to the World Heritage Day.

May – Beware of the 1st May strikes in Greece

If someone asked me my favourite month of the year to visit Athens, I would vote for May. In my opinion, spring is the best time of year here, as we get good weather, without the extreme summer temperatures.

Note that the 1st of May is a strike day in Greece. Do not plan on travelling, especially by ferry, as your journey is likely to be cancelled. All sites are closed, so you can take a day off sightseeing. Go to one of the beaches, or visit the National Gardens.

A guide to the national gardens in Athens

If you happen to be in Athens on the 18th May, you are lucky. All museums and archaeological spaces are free to enter due to the International Museums Day. Start your day early, and visit as many as you can!

Best time to go to Athens - Technopolis Jazz Festival

Finally, if you are in Athens towards the end of May, definitely check out the week-long Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival. There are three bands a day, some of which are pretty well known in the jazz circles. The festival has free entrance and it’s a great way to spend one or more of your evenings.

June – Festivals in Athens Greece

June is one of the best months to visit due to the long daylight hours. However, temperatures may rise well over 30 degrees. Don’t forget your hat and sunblock!

Summer in Athens - Herodion theatre

There are several festivals in June. Arguably the most significant 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, and some museums may be closed then.

For Greeks, this is 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 combine your Athens trip with an island or two, June is a fantastic choice. Tourism is open as normal, but hotels prices are lower than in peak season. Moreover, it is easier to find accommodation, so you can even book a last-minute trip.

July – One of the warmest months in Greece

July is a very hot month here in Athens, and temperatures occasionally climb over 40 C / 104 F. Regardless, its peak season, and many tourists visit from all around the world. Be prepared for crowds.

Best time to visit Athens - Summer music festivals

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, there are also music happenings in some of the Athens museums gardens. Check out what’s on at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaro Moussikis), at the Numismatic Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum.

August – Athenians go on holiday

I find August an interesting time to be in Athens. Many of the smaller businesses are closed, as the owners take a much needed break to go on vacation! The tourist attractions, bigger chain stores, shops and most restaurants are open as normal.

In terms of weather, August is very hot. Surprisingly, it can also get windy, as the northern Meltemi winds appear. Take that into account if you are taking a ferry to the Cyclades or other Greek islands.

Naxos island in Greece

There are few special festivals in Athens in August, as most of them move to the islands and other summer destinations. Some museums organize special celebrations for the August full moon night. As an example, the Acropolis museum typically remains open until midnight, with a free live music event.

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. You will be impressed as to how quiet certain areas of central Athens can get on that day!

Street art in Plaka, Athens

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.

September – Back to school

September is one of my favourite months in Athens and Greece. You will find good weather, as the temperature is much cooler than in peak season. While the tourist season extends well into September, the crowds are significantly smaller than in July and August.

Best time to go to Athens - The National Library

September is a great time to be in Athens, as there are numerous performances in Herodion theatre, plus many other 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 Athens museums for free.

Best time to go to Athens - The Acropolis museum

For anyone staying in Athens for a longer period of time: September is a month when many gyms, yoga schools and other similar places offer free days. Ask around!

October – The beginning of the off-season

While you’d typically think that October is cold, the weather can actually very variable. In both 2019 and 2020, October was unusually hot. Many Athenians spent their weekends on the beaches! It’s a good time to take a trip to Greece.

A beach near Athens

There are several happenings in Athens, like the Vegan festival or the Chocofestival. October is also the time when the Benaki museum normally launches several new temporary exhibitions in the Pireos building.

A special day in October in Athens is the 28th October, when we celebrate the “OXI” day. This is the day that Greece’s PM and former military general 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 archaeological sites and public museums is free. Ironically, we are celebrating the beginning of the war, rather than its end, which was on 12th October 1944.

Little Kook cafe Psyrri in Athens

As for Halloween, while it’s not part of the Greek tradition, it is being celebrated more and more in Athens. Swing by the Little Kook cafe in Psiri to have a trick-or-treat, or to just take photos of the decorations.

November – The Athens Marathon

Most people don’t have a special reason to visit Athens in November. However, a large number of visitors book their flights and accommodation well in advance. This is because they participate in the Athens Authentic Marathon.

People running the authentic Athens 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 there are traffic regulations that 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.

A demonstration in Athens

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, all the way from Omonoia metro to Megaro Moussikis metro.

Some metro stations in central Athens will be closed in the afternoon and probably for the rest of the day. Plan your itinerary accordingly.

December – Christmas in Athens

The most important event in December is Christmas. While Athens doesn’t have the glitz of other European cities, it is still an interesting destination. This is even more so if you want to escape the cold Northern European weather.

Best time to go to Athens - Christmas tree

The period leading to Christmas and New Year’s is pretty festive, with many events and happenings taking place around the city. You will find some Christmas markets around central Athens, 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.

Celebrate Christmas in Athens

As for New Year’s Eve, there are always events on that evening. They usually happen on Apostolou Pavlou street, close to the Acropolis, and around Syntagma Square. Some of the best known Greek musicians are invited to participate.

Another important day to watch out for is the 6th December. In 2008, the 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos died as a result of a policeman’s gunshot in Exarchia. In memory of this sad incident, there are always riots and demonstrations in the surrounding areas.

The weather in December can be variable. On some days it doesn’t really look like winter, but more like early fall. Sometimes, though, you can get extreme downpours and strong, cold wind!

Conclusion – When is the best time to visit Athens?

If I had to choose the best time to visit Athens, I would go for the beginning or the end of the tourist season. In my opinion, April to mid June and September to mid October are the best months to visit the Greek capital.

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.

Overall, it’s best to avoid July and August if you can. However, if that’s the only time you can take a holiday, no worries. You should visit our exciting, lively city at some point in your life, and not worry too much about the high temperatures or the crowds!

A guide to the best time to visit Athens, Greece

Whenever you visit, you will find plenty to keep you occupied, and you will appreciate both our ancient culture and our contemporary, vibrant lifestyle.

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Vanessa from Real Greek Experiences

 

Hi! I am Vanessa and I am an Athenian. 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!

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