Last updated on January 21st, 2020 at 08:42 pm
Visitors often ask when is the best time to go to Athens. While our vibrant capital is a year-round destination, you might find that some months are better than others. Read on to find out more!
When to visit Athens
Athens in Greece is a lively, multi-cultural city, with lots of tourist attractions and plenty of authentic little corners. Our city never sleeps – daily life starts pretty early, and goes on until the wee hours of the morning.
Visiting Athens is great at any time of the year! However, it might be best to plan your Athens visit around the weather, or around the numerous festivals and seasonal events happening in our city.
When is the best time to go to Athens?
If we had to choose the best time to go to Athens, we would visit in May / June or September / early October. This is the time when you will get pleasant weather without the uncomfortably high summer temperatures or cold winter storms.
At the same time, the city won’t be as crowded as in July and August – though this is starting to change, as our tourist season is getting longer and goes well into September.
Weather in Athens
The weather in Athens is quite variable. We have hot summers, with temperatures normally averaging at around 30-35 C / 85-95 F during the day. Temperatures over 40 C / 104 F are not uncommon, however!
With that in mind, you might prefer to avoid visiting Athens in July and August. These are some of the busiest months in terms of tourism, but they are also the warmest months. If you don’t like the heat, you will probably feel uncomfortable. Have a look at our tips for staying cool in the summer in Athens.
Our winters are fairly mild in terms of temperature. The average day temperature in winter in Athens is generally between 5-15 C / 40-60 F. Snow is rather uncommon, but it’s possible. If you are living in a cold country, you will probably be amused by our excited reactions to snowfall.
Does it rain in Athens Greece?
Occasionally, there is some rain or a storm – and in all honesty, you don’t want to be caught out on the streets then. Storms in Greece can be quite intense, and our drainage systems are not always the greatest, so you may end up trying to run around while avoiding water puddles.
The rainiest months in Athens are January and February, however in recent years we’ve had some pretty crazy storms over the summer months.
Overall, April to June and September to November are the best months in terms of weather in Athens, as the temperature is mild. Just be prepared for the occasional rainy day, on which you can explore one of the numerous museums in Athens.
The best time to go to Athens for museums
If you are mostly interested in seeing the museums in Athens, the best time to visit might actually be winter. From November to March, many of the museums in Athens have a reduced entry fee. At the same time, they won’t be nearly as crowded, as there are considerably fewer tourists than in summer.
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 the ancient sites
As you would probably expect, the ancient sites in Athens are all open-air. Unlike the Ancient Akrotiri in Santorini which is fully covered, you will be exposed to the elements.
Visiting the ancient sites on a very hot day can be a no-no for some people, especially those with health issues, seniors and toddlers. Similarly, wandering around the sites on a rainy day can even be dangerous, especially if you are planning to go up the slippery Acropolis marbles.
If you are visiting Athens in summer, go to the ancient sites either first thing in the morning, or in the early evening, when it’s not as hot. If you have the choice, however, visit during spring or autumn, as you will enjoy them more.
Entry fees to the ancient sites are reduced to half price from November to March. Also, entrance to the sites is free on the first Sunday of these months.
For more free entrance days, check out our article on the combined ticket to the Acropolis and the other ancient sites in Athens.
The best time to go to Athens for special events and festivals
There is always something happening in Athens. From religious and traditional festivals to special music, theatre and cultural events, chances are that there will be some sort of special event when you are in Athens.
Some of the most important events in Athens are the carnival, Easter, the Jazz festival, the Athens and Epidaurus festival, the Athens Marathon and Christmas.
Athens in January – A quiet month
Overall, January is a fairly quiet month in Athens. With few tourists around, it can be a pleasant time of the year to visit. Even though you should expect some grim weather, January traditionally has the halcyon days, which are sunny and beautiful. With global warming though, you can never be sure!
In terms of festivals and special events, there aren’t that many in January in Athens. New Year’s is a public holiday, so if you like quiet days it’s a great day to wander around the city.
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 over retrieving it. This event symbolizes the Baptism of Christ by St John the Baptist. A bit chilly, if you ask us!
Athens in February – The carnival in Greece
We wouldn’t necessarily suggest that you visit Athens in February. This is one of our coldest months, and you should expect a fair amount of rain. You may even feel that people are a little grumpy!
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, which is usually in March.
The carnival in Greece is like any other carnival in the world. People dress up, parades are happening 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 or Meat Eating Thursday. The concept is exactly what you imagined – people get together to eat meat!
This day is often an unofficial half-day off, and you will see large groups of Athenians sitting around and having souvlaki, gyros, and other popular types of grilled meat dishes.
Athens in March – Feast on fasting foods and celebrate Independence Day
Officially, March is the beginning of spring. In practice, you may get some cold weather and rain, but temperatures are definitely higher than in the two previous months.
March normally sees the last few days of the carnival, followed by Clean Monday, Kathara Deftera. This is the beginning of the Lent period and it’s exactly seven weeks before Easter Sunday.
According to the Greek Orthodox Religion, Lent is a time to fast. Orthodox fasting is quite 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. Yes, you got it, 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 food market in Athens remains open throughout the night before Clean Monday, and it’s actually packed! This is a great time to have dishes like taramosalata, fava, dolmadakia, octopus, calamari, and many more fasting delicacies.
Another special day is the Greece Independence Day, on the 25th March. This is when we celebrate the revolution against the Ottoman Empire, in 1821, which was really the time that 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. Note that most of the museums and sites are closed on that day, though you can benefit from free entrance to the Acropolis Museum.
Athens in April – Experience Greek Easter
If you are not super interested in swimming on the lovely Greek beaches, visiting Athens in April can actually be very rewarding and a great 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.
Our Greek Easter traditions are very unique. If you are interested in a cultural side that few visitors experience, visit Athens during Easter. Just 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 in Athens in April will generally be pleasant, and some people will even be able to go for a swim.
Athens in May – Beware of the 1st May strikes in Greece
Our number one month to visit Athens, is probably May, as the end of spring in Athens is really nice. The weather is generally mild and sunny, but doesn’t get uncomfortably hot.
The 1st of May is a big day off / strike day in Greece. Do not plan on travelling around Greece on that day, especially by ferry, as your journey is likely to be cancelled. All sites will be closed, so you can take a day off sightseeing. Go to the beach, or visit the National Gardens.
If you happen to be in Athens on the 18th May, note that all museums and 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, 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 in Athens.
Athens in June – Events and festivals in Athens Greece
June is one of the best months to visit Athens due to the long daylight hours. Note that temperatures may rise well over 30 degrees, so be prepared to use a hat and sunblock!
There are several festival and special events happening in Athens in June. Arguably the most significant is the Athens and Epidaurus Festival, beginning in June and continuing 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. At the same time, it’s the first long weekend of the summer, so if you are catching a ferry back to Athens from the islands get your tickets in advance.
Athens in July – One of the warmest months in Greece
July is a very hot month here in Athens. And while some Athenians start going on holidays, many tourists visit from all around the world. So if you visit Athens in July, be prepared for crowds and high temperatures!
At the same time, July is a great month for events in Athens. The Athens and Epidaurus Festival continues, alongside several music festivals in Athens. The Rockwave Festival, the Ejekt Festival and the Release Festival are among the most popular music festivals in Greece.
Additionally, there are also music events happening 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.
Athens in August – Athens holiday
August is an interesting time to be in Athens. You will find that many of the smaller businesses in Athens are closed in August. The owners take a much needed break to go on vacation! The bigger chain stores and most restaurants are open as normal, so you won’t have any problems.
In terms of weather, August in Athens is very hot. Surprisingly, it can also get windy, as the northern Meltemi wind appears in July and August. You are rather unlikely to experience this in central Athens. However, if you are taking a boat to go to the Cyclades or other Greek islands, you may encounter some pretty rough seas.
In terms of special events, Athens in August is actually pretty dead. Artistic events and festivals move to the islands and other popular summer destinations. That said, check out what’s happening during the full moon night in Athens, as some museums organize special events. 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!
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 our favourite months in Athens, or anywhere in Greece for that matter. The temperature is cooler than August, making this an ideal time to visit. While the tourist season extends well into September, you generally won’t see as many crowds as in July and August.
After the scarcity of events in August, September is a great time to be in Athens. Apart from the numerous performances in Herodion theatre, there are many other events happening. An event to look out for is the popular Athens International Film Festival. If you are interested in any of the movies, make sure you get your tickets in advance.
If you are in Athens 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.
If you are staying in Athens longer, September is a month when many gyms, yoga schools and other similar places offer free days, so ask around!
Athens in October – The best of Athens in the off-season
While you’d typically think that October is cold, the weather can actually very variable. For 2019, October was unusually warm, and many Athenians spent their weekends on the beach!
Like in September, there are several things going on in Athens, like the Vegan festival or the Chocofestival. It’s also the time that 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 somehow celebrating the beginning of the war, rather than its end, which was on 12th October 1944!
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.
Athens in November
Most people don’t have a special reason to visit Athens in November. However, a large number of visitors book their international flights to Athens in November well in advance. This is because they participate in the Athens Authentic Marathon.
This event takes place on an annual basis, on the second Sunday of November. For 2019, over 60,000 entries have been submitted for the various races, and the event is now fully booked.
If you are travelling to the Athens airport on that day, it’s best to take the metro. You can still use a taxi, but leave your hotel earlier than planned, as there are traffic regulations on the day.
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, a march towards the US Embassy happens on the day.
No, this is not the Polytechnic march – it’s a much smaller one close to Syntagma!
The march 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 stay closed for the rest of the day, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
Athens in December – Christmas in Athens
While Athens doesn’t have the glitz of other European cities when it comes to Christmas markets, it is still an interesting destination. This is more so if you want to briefly escape the Northern European cold.
An important day is the 6th December. In 2008, the 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos died as a result of a policeman’s gunshot in Exarchia. This was the last straw for Athenians who had already had enough of the austerity and the paycuts that came with it.
In the next few weeks, several riots happened, and Athens was literally on fire. Even the Christmas tree in Syntagma square was burnt down to the ground.
Since 2008, there are always riots and demonstrations in Exarchia and the surrounding areas on 6th December. You may want to leave them out of your Athens itinerary.
The period leading to Christmas and New Year’s is pretty festive, with many events and happenings taking place around the city. As for the weather, it’s variable. On some days it doesn’t really look like winter, but more like early autumn. Sometimes, though, you can get extreme downpours and strong, cold wind!
Athens is generally very quiet on Christmas Day, as most people spend time with family and friends. Christmas celebrations are a lot less picturesque than our Easter customs, and they normally involve lots of food, and many late nights during Christmas week. While you will find some Christmas markets around central Athens, they are not as big or special as in Central European countries.
As for New Year’s Eve, there are always events on that evening, usually happening on Apostolou Pavlou street, close to the Acropolis. Some of the best known Greek musicians are invited to participate.
When is the best time to go to Athens – Conclusion
We really believe that you should avoid July and August if you can. However, our answer for the best time to go to Athens is “anytime really”. You should visit our exciting, lively city at some point in your life, and not worry too much about the weather or the crowds!
We are sure 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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