January is by far the coldest month of the year in Athens with daytime temperatures around 55°F (13°C) (sometimes climbing to 60 to 62°F (17°C)) and nighttime lows dropping to about 45°F (7°C).
Precipitation-wise, it can vary widely with mostly grey, overcast skies mixed with scattered rainstorms. About one in three days receives rain of some kind. The water is cold at about 61°F (16°C) so it's not the best time for swimming or beach-going activities.
However, the city itself is mild compared to other big European cities like Paris, Rome, or London which get to below freezing levels this time of year. Pack a good rain jacket and warm clothing, particularly if you plan to take any day trips to the beaches or mountains.
Crowds and Costs
The wonderful part about visiting Athens in January is that it's extremely cheap compared to other times of the year—and much less crowded. Flights into the city are much more affordable than, say, mid-July, and many of the hotels run special off-season rates. You'll be able to visit the Acropolis and other tourist attractions without elbowing your way through crowds or fighting off other tourists for photo ops. Plus, you won't deal with long lines at restaurants or hot, crowded metro stations.
The exception is if you arrive the first few days of the month when you may experience some crowds still lingering from the December and New Years' Eve holidays.
Where to Go
The weather is the same city-wide in January, as are most of the crowds, so you can go anywhere in Athens as long as you're OK with the colder weather. The Acropolis is always a top attraction, and there are also tons of museums and historical sites. Additionally, January is a great time to wander through Athens' farmer's markets.
If you're eager for a day trip, head to Delphi just two hours northwest where you can explore the sacred ruins on the hills of Mount Parnassus. The crumbling temple, called the Sanctuary of Apollo (also known as the Oracle of Apollo), was once a place of mystery and worship that many Greeks believed was the center of the earth. It will be colder there so bring extra warm clothes—occasionally it even snows. There are several ski resorts nearby if you want to hit the slopes.
Another great place for a day trip is Attica, a wine region outside of the city that was the birthplace of the famous retsina wine.
What to Do
Athens is full of wonders but it's the history and culture that draws people the most. Particularly in the winter when the beaches are too cold, the city's ancient ruins shine. Check out the famous Acropolis (home to iconic structures such as the Parthenon, Hadrian’s Library, and the Theatre of Dionysus), or drop by Royal Palace. If you're into museums, check out the National Archaeological Museum or the Museum of Cycladic Art, both of which are great indoor options on a colder January day.
Take a day trip to the Oracle of Apollo in Delphi, or swing by the Papagiannakos Winery in Attica. If you're dead set on venturing off to one of the islands, Kea is a good choice (just drive 45 minutes to Lavrion to catch the ferry) because in addition to beaches, it has a large network of beautiful hiking and walking trails. That means that if the weather is bad, you'll still have things to do. Also, unlike many of the resort islands that close down in the winter, Kea maintains a large number of restaurants, hotels, and places to shop that stay open in January.
Events in January
New Year's Day (Jan. 1): New Year's Day is a public holiday in Greece and as such, most people are off work and government buildings are closed. Although the major festivities occur the night before, there are still celebrations scattered throughout the city.
Epiphany and Solemn Blessing of the Waters (Jan. 6): Many people in Greece celebrate the Christian day of Epiphany on Jan. 6 when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, according to the Greek Orthodox Church. In honor of the special day, there are often celebrations along the coast that involve a priest throwing a cross into the frigid water and people diving in to retrieve it. The winner is then blessed by the priest.
Traveling to Athens in January? Check out this great itinerary.
Highlights of Athens – 5 Days. Discover some of the best things to do in Greece on this five-day tour of the capital. In addition to famous Athens' sites like the Acropolis Museum and the Parthenon, this fun-packed cultural itinerary includes a tour of the city's food markets and a trip to the seaside Temple of Poseidon in the Athens Riviera.