Greece › Athens › Best Time to Visit Athens
by Santorini Dave • Updated: March 23, 2023
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When is the Best Time to Visit Athens?
The best time to visit Athens, Greece is during the shoulder seasons of late April to early June and late September to early November. During these months, the weather is typically warm and sunny, with fewer crowds than during the peak summer months of July and August. First-time visitors to Athens who are most concerned about outdoor sightseeing in comfortable weather will find these months the best. The shoulder seasons offer comfortable temperatures for exploring the city’s historical sites, such as the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the Ancient Agora.
In the shoulder seasons, you can expect mild temperatures, ranging from 60°F (15°C) to 80°F (27°C), and a lower likelihood of rain compared to the winter months. The weather is ideal for walking around the city, enjoying outdoor cafes, and visiting the many archaeological sites and museums.
While the summer months of mid-June to mid-August offer the warmest temperatures and the most sunshine, they can also be very hot, with temperatures often rising above 90°F (32°C) during the day. The summer heat can make sightseeing less comfortable, and tourist sites can be crowded.
If you prefer a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere, consider visiting Athens during the off-season, from November to March. The weather is cooler and more unpredictable, with a higher chance of rain, but you’ll experience fewer tourists, lower prices, and a more authentic experience of the city.
- Best Time to Visit Athens for Good Weather: Athens is blazing hot (and busy) in July and August, when afternoon temperatures can rise to 40°C. A better plan for warm pleasant weather is to visit between mid-April and late June or early September through late-October when temperatures typically hover between 20°C and 25°C. March and November also have good sightseeing weather but be prepared for cool nights and some rain. (Some years Athens even gets snow in the winter.)
- Best Time for Sightseeing: The best time for sightseeing in Athens is when the weather is mild and there are smaller lines and fewer tourists: April through about mid-May, or October and into early November are the best times to visit the top attractions in Athens.
- Best Time to Visit the Acropolis: The best time to visit the Acropolis is in the early morning hours, especially in the summer months when it gets unbearably hot by late morning and early afternoon. As Athens is a major stop on Mediterranean cruise routes, tour buses will be pulling up at 8 a.m. when it opens, so you’ll need to be there and be ready to enter the minute the doors open to stay ahead of the crowds. The next best time is near the end of the day, about two hours before closing. It’s best to buy Acropolis tickets online. In terms of what months are best for visiting the Acropolis, I recommend April, early May, October, and early November when crowds are smaller but weather still enjoyable.
- Best Time for Beaches: Greater Athens has the longest coastline of any European capital, with 16 Blue Flag beaches. The best time to visit to experience them is from June through September. September is especially nice when the big crowds have gone but the water is a comfortable 24°C, having had all summer to warm up.
- Best Time to Experience Authentic Greek Celebrations: Easter is the most important celebration on the Greek calendar, with Greeks celebrating an entire seven days over Holy Week. This is a great time to visit for those looking for a local experience, with the chance to enjoy candlelit processions, fireworks, and sumptuous feasts. Note: Greek Easter usually falls on different dates than Easter in US, Canada, Australia, and Western Europe.
Athens Travel Seasons
- High Season (Mid-June through Mid-September): Summer in Athens is the high season, a good time to visit if you’re hoping to experience heat and a hopping nightlife. There will be an especially lively atmosphere with lots of tourists in the streets, and this seasons also sees the highest accommodation and airfare rates. In August, many locals, including shop owners and restauranteurs, go on vacation to the mountains or beaches, which means some businesses will be closed.
- Shoulder Season (April through Mid-June, Mid-September through October): Shoulder season is the time most feel is the very best for visiting Athens. From April through the end of spring and again in early fall, the weather is often pleasant with high temperatures ranging in the low to mid-20s. This is also when there are better deals for accommodation and flights, and most shops, attractions, and restaurants will be open.
- Low Season (November through March): The low season is from late autumn through winter. While this time of year brings more grey days and rain, snow is rare in the city with low temperatures usually well above freezing. There’s plenty of room for sightseeing (crowds are thin and lineups rare) and discounts on both hotels and airfare are usually readily available. The downside is that Greek ferries won’t be running on a full schedule.
Athens Events and Festivals
Athens in January
- New Year’s Day/Saint Basil’s Day – A national Greek holiday, January 1st celebrates both the New Year and Saint Basil’s Day. It’s similar to Christmas Day in North America and many other places around the world, as Saint Basil is Greece’s version of Santa Claus. People exchange gifts and some make a special cake with a coin inside known as a vasilopita. The person that receives the slice with the coin inside is believed to have good luck. Many businesses and tourist attractions will be closed, though most restaurants, cafes, and bars will be open.
- Epiphany – January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated in many places across Europe, including Athens. One of the oldest Christian celebrations, it represents the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist as well as the famous visit from the Three Wise Men. In the Greek capital, visitors can experience a sight to behold, with thousands gathering for the Blessing of the Waters in Piraeus, Athens’ main port.
- Souvenir Expo – For five days in mid-January, the largest expo of folk art and tourism items comes to Athens. The Souvenir Expo features products inspired by Greek tradition, with outstanding masterpieces exhibited, including handmade decorative items, tourist clothing, and objects with high classical value.
Athens in February
- Carnival – Carnivals are hosted throughout Greece with some of the biggest and best festivities enjoyed in Athens. Known locally as Apokries, it takes place three weeks before Lent. While it’s related to Christianity, its roots are in ancient festivals that honored Dionysus, the god of fertility and wine. Nightlife is bustling now with clubs and bars throwing all sorts of themed parties. On the last weekend of Carnival, there are multiple parades and outdoor celebrations. In the old quarter of Plaka, the streets will be filled with locals throwing confetti and engaging in plastic bat wars.
- SNFCC Ice Skating – Throughout February, part of the long canal at the Stavros Niarchos Center (SNFCC) is transformed into an ice-skating rink, open for free to the public every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Valentine’s Day – As one of Europe’s most romantic cities, Valentine’s Day, February 14, is celebrated in a big way in Athens. Here and throughout the country, gifts and cards are exchanged, while many restaurants offer special romantic dinners. Couples can enjoy walking in the glow of the Parthenon at night, walk hand-in-hand through the pedestrian streets of Plaka, and take in local performances.
Athens in March
- Clean Monday – Clean Monday is one of Greece’s most important feasts. It’s celebrated on the first day of the seventh week before Easter Sunday, and marks the end of Carnival celebrations. Clean Monday is a national holiday, which means some businesses will be closed. Locals enjoy building and flying kites, consuming shellfish, and taking outdoor excursions. As noted above: Greek Easter has different dates than Easter in the West.
- Independence Day and the Feast of the Annunciation – March 25th marks two holidays which are celebrated at the same time, the Greek National Anniversary which celebrates the country’s victory in the war of independence against the Turks, and a major religious holiday honoring the day that Angel Gabriel announced Mary the incarnation of Christ. This is a national holiday, bringing business closures, including some tourist sites like the Acropolis, other archaeological sites, and all museums. Some streets may be blocked for parades and festivities.
- Saint Patrick’s Day – Pubs and bars throughout the city frequently offer special drink deals, including green beer along with Irish music and dancing for St. Patrick’s Day. The Greek-Irish Society hosts its event of the year, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Ball, on or around March 17.
Athens in April
- Athens International Film and Video Festival – This film festival takes place over a week in mid-April. It showcases some 250 films and video, including feature-length films, narrative, short-form, and documentaries from around the world.
- Holy Week and Easter – Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday (in the Orthodox calendar) is Holy Week in Greece. While it sometimes falls in March, it’s usually in April. The biggest holiday of the year in Athens and throughout Greece, many shops will have limited hours and there are church services every evening. On Saturday, just before midnight, many locals arrive at church with Easter candles. The lights are switched off to represent Jesus’ death and the priest announces that “Christ Has Risen.” Afterward, there are lots of cheering, kisses, and fireworks. Easter Sunday brings family and friends together for large feasts where wine is ever-flowing, lambs are roasted on a spit and people crack red eggs against each other – the one standing with the last remaining uncracked egg will have good luck.
- Comicdom Con – Held for three days in mid-April, this even promotes emerging local illustrators as well as international comic artists.
- The Feast of Saint George – This day honors one of the most celebrated saints in Greece. Hosted on April 23 most years, while some of the most elaborate festivals are in the mountain village of Arachova, and in Skiathos and Skyros, there will be feasting, music and dancing at venues throughout Athens.
Athens in May
- May Day/International Workers’ Day – May 1 is May Day and International Workers’ Day in Greece. A national holiday, locals often head to the countryside to enjoy picnics, and many museums, monuments, attractions and some shops will be closed, although restaurants usually remain open. Across Greece, there is generally a day-long transit strike, and in Athens, there may be protests as well as parades scheduled.
- Athens Jazz Festival – One of the city’s most popular festivals offers five days full of music, bringing jazz musicians from across the globe to perform on historic Lycabettus hill.
- Athens Epidaurus Festival – This annual arts festival is hosted in both Athens and Epidaurus starting in late May and running through the summer. One of the country’s most famous festivals, it includes theatrical, musical, and a variety of other cultural events at various venues around the city.
Athens in June
- Mt Olymprov International Improv Festival – This event features improve shows, instructors, lots of food and fun to the city for five days in early June.
- Art Athina – Held for four days around the Summer Solstice, this international contemporary art fair is one of the oldest in Europe. Launched in 1993, it showcases artists, cultural institutions, and Greek and foreign art galleries.
- Athens Photo Festival – The leading international festival of photography and visual culture in southeastern Europe, the Athens Photo Festival features works from emerging and established artists and photographers from across the globe.
- European Music Day – This national event is celebrated in more than four dozen Greek cities for five days starting on June 21st each year. There are 350 events hosted at more than 200 venues, with dance groups, choirs, philharmonic and symphony orchestras, and music ensembles playing in squares, archaeological sites, parks, and gardens.
Athens in July
- Rockwave Festival – Taking place for two weeks in July, this festival is one of the most famous in Athens, hosted just outside of the city in Malakasa. Some of the past artists have included Robbie Williams, Arctic Monkeys, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, The Black Keys, and Lana Del Rey.
- Ejekt Festival Athens – This long-running festival is hosted at the Plateia Nerou by the sea. It showcases some of the best electronic-based and alternative music in the world for two-days in mid-July each year, including big-name bands like The Cure.
Athens in August
With many locals heading to beaches, mountains and islands to cool off during their holidays, festivals are limited in the city this month.
- The Day of Assumption of the Virgin Mary – August 15 is a national holiday and the second most important holiday after Easter that celebrates Mary’s ascent to heaven and her reunion with Jesus. Many businesses will be closed, with processions and feasts around the country, including Athens.
- August Full Moon Festival – Every year in Athens and throughout Greece, the year’s most impressive full moon is celebrated with a variety of events. A series of sites and monuments will be open free of charge, and other festivities like free concerts are held in museums around the city.
Athens in September
- Athens Book Fair – The annual Athens Book Fair takes place during the first half of September. Each year features a special theme, like 2018’s which was dedicated to poems set to music, with special evenings highlighting collaborations between poets and composers, with songs performed by well-known singers.
- Athens International Film Festival – This festival takes place over the second half of September. It supports independent film production, featuring films from around the world with no genre limitations.
- European Day of Languages Multilingual Festival – In late September each year, this festival presents songs, dance, stories and games in celebration of the European Day of Languages.
Athens in October
- Oxi Day – On October 28 each year, Greeks around the country celebrate the day the country said no (“oxi”) to the Italians who had asked for their surrender during the Second World War with Ohi Day, also known as Oxi Day. It brings feasts, processions, folk fairs and more. In Athens, there will be a parade marching past the Parliament building.
- Halloween – Bars and nightclubs around Athens use Halloween as a great excuse for throwing costume parties and offering special themed menus. Trick-or-treating generally only takes place among expats who often organize special events for their kids. There is usually a Halloween Carnival held on the Athens campus of American Community Schools where children can play games and win prizes. Adults can look forward to all sorts of fun events featuring live music, ghoulish cocktails, and costume contests.
Athens in November
- Athens Marathon – Held annually during the first half of November, according to legend, the Athens Marathon covers the very same ground Phiedippides ran when he delivered news of victory from the battlefield of Marathon. The finish line is at the birthplace of modern Olympic Games, Olympic Stadium.
- Anniversary of the Polytechnic Uprising, Athens – A national holiday on November 17 each year, this day remembers the 1973 student uprising at Polytechnic University in Athens. This is when tanks crashed into the gates of the university and multiple students were killed. There is a march, often followed by violent protest around the American Embassy; this area is best avoided by tourists at this time.
- GeMin – Held for three days in late November, this event features rock displays, minerals, fossils, crystals, gemstones and more at the Royal Olympic Hotel in Athens.
Athens in December
- Holiday Events – A wide range of events celebrating Christmas will take place leading up to the holiday, including music shows at the Athens Concert Hall. A Christmas tree will be lit up in blue and white, the holiday colors of Greece, in Syntagma Square, there are holiday bazaars, and a Santa Claus Kingdom which offers indoor ice skating, games, rides, and fair food.
- Christmas Eve – On Christmas Eve, December 24, children traditionally sing Christmas carols from door to door.
- Christmas Day and Boxing Day – Christmas Day, December 25, and Boxing Day December 26, are national holidays throughout Greece with many businesses closed, although some restaurants will be open. Today, families follow typical western Christmas traditions.
- New Year’s Eve – Like many cities around the world, Athens celebrates December 31, New Year’s Eve, in a big way. There will be special events, including dinners and parties, hosted across the city, and a countdown to the New Year accompanied by fireworks. As the Greeks believe the New Year brings good luck and fortune, many spending their time playing cards with friends and family, with games lasting through early morning hours.
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