Seasonal Planning for Athens Travel
Visitors to Athens will want to bring shorts and T-shirts in the summer, and jackets during the winter—it’s a good idea to bring long pants (or skirts for women) regardless of the season, in case you intend to visit monasteries or religious sites.
The high season brings crowds to the famous attractions of the Acropolis, and popular day trip destinations around the city (like Cape Sounion and Delphi) are also very busy. It’s a good time to visit the beach and the islands close to Athens (like Aegina).
The off-season, on the other hand, can be a good time to take advantage of deals on tours and accommodation. You’ll have a quieter, more local experience while escaping the intense heat of the summer months (remember that most of Athens’ attractions are outdoors).
|Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
|June through August (Summer)||Long hours of daylight, good weather for trips to the beach, extended opening hours at tourist attractions||Peak season crowds and prices, weather can get very hot, some shops shut during August as locals leave the city||Visiting beaches and islands around Athens, enjoying the sunshine at outdoor cafés||Museums for their long opening hours, day trip to Aegina for beaches and island experience|
|September through November(Fall)||Cheaper prices, cooler temperatures, and fewer crowds than in summer||The weather in late fall can sometimes be chilly or rainy, although it generally stays hot enough for the beach until November||Relaxing on beaches outside the city and sightseeing at the Acropolis||The Acropolis for sightseeing, Cape Sounion or Delphi for a pleasant day trip|
|March through May (Spring)||Blooming flowers, mild weather, celebrate Easter and Greek Independence Day||Some attractions have limited opening hours around holidays, ferries and transport may be crowded||Enjoying the flowers and orange blossoms, experiencing Greek Easter customs||The Acropolis Museum on Greek Independence Day for free entry|
|December through February (Winter)||Off-season deals and discounts, thinner crowds at major attractions, the month-long Christmas season from December to January||Limited opening hours at some attractions, weather can be cold and sometimes rainy||Trying traditional Christmas sweets, participating in New Years’ Eve festivities||The central neighborhood of Plaka, to watch New Year's Eve fireworks over the Acropolis|
Summer (June through August)
Athens is one of Europe’s famous capital cities, attracting millions of tourists each year. The majority of these come during the summer, when vacation time and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea draw in travelers from all over the world. Summer is the perfect time to combine Athens with an island-hopping itinerary (check out a great one here).
Major attractions in Athens, like the Acropolis Museum, the Parthenon, and the National Archaeological Museum, are very busy during this time. It’s a good idea to make your arrangements well in advance, including booking accommodation, ferries, and tickets. Despite the crowds, the high season is a good time to take advantage of longer summer opening hours—the incredible collections at the city’s museums are well worth lingering on.
It’s worth noting that many locals leave the city in August, heading to coastal locations to cool off just as travelers are flooding in. While some small businesses may be closed, the main visitors’ areas are very much up and running during this season. Shops in Greece generally stay open late, with some closing in the middle of the day during the hot summer.
Athens Open Air Film Festival (June-August): Running through the summer months each year, this popular festival offers free film screenings around the city.
Aegina International Music Festival (August): If you choose to take a day trip from Athens to the nearby island of Aegina, you might want to check out this classical music festival. Ticketed performances are offered in venues around the island for most of the month.
Assumption Day (August): Taking place on August 15th, this holiday is celebrated all over Greece. In Athens, morning mass is held at the Church of Panageia Kapnikarea.
Fall (September through November)
If you love sunny weather but don’t care for crowds, fall can be a good time for sightseeing in Athens. While the weather generally remains fairly warm until November, the attractions get less busy after the August rush (although Athens receives visitors year-round).
The world-famous sites on and around the Acropolis include the Parthenon, the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and more. Once you’ve seen the ruins, the sprawling Acropolis Museum and National Archaeological Museum offer plenty more to explore.
The ongoing pleasant weather also makes early fall a great time for day trips. The Saronic Islands (Aegina, Hydra, Poros, and Spetses, plus the less popular Salamis) can easily be reached via a quick ferry ride. If you’d prefer to stay on the mainland, there are many fascinating towns and archaeological sites nearby: Cape Sounion, Eleusis, and Marathon are all very close to Athens, while Delphi, Corinth, and Thebes are a 1-2 hour drive away. This itinerary will allow you to explore some of the most important historic sites near the city.
Aeschylia Festival (June-November): Just a few miles from Athens, the town of Eleusis is home to music, dance, and art installations during this festival.
Aegina Fistiki Festival (September): The island of Aegina, a quick ferry ride from Athens, is famous for its pistachios. This celebration features sweet and savory pistachio products for sale.
Oxi Day (October): Taking place on the 28th of October, this national holiday commemorates Greece’s refusal to allow Mussolini’s troops to enter the country in 1940. Oxi, sometimes written ohi or ochi, means “no” in Greek. The event is celebrated with parades in Athens; note that some attractions have limited hours on this day.
Spring (March through May)
Spring in Athens is marked by blooming flowers and warming temperatures, making it the perfect time for outdoor sightseeing before the crowds of summer arrive. It also offers visitors the unique opportunity to participate in Greek Easter traditions. Orthodox Easter takes place on different dates than the Western Christian Easter, so check in advance to confirm exact timings.
During Easter, guests can visit historic Byzantine churches for services and taste traditional sweets at the city’s bakeries. Processions take place throughout Athens on Good Friday, while on Easter Saturday, a holy flame is brought to Athens from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Easter isn’t the only event in Athens in spring; there’s also Greek Independence Day on March 25th. If you plan to be in Athens on that day, check museum timings in advance—some may have limited hours, while others (like the Acropolis Museum) usually offer free entry. The holiday is celebrated with parades through the city streets, and by eating bakaliaros skordalia (cod with garlic sauce).
Athens Half-Marathon (March): The Athens Half-Marathon gives dedicated runners a chance to see the historic areas of the city in a unique way.
Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival (April-May): Taking place in the springtime each year, this long-running jazz festival features participants from dozens of countries.
International Workers’ Day (May): Celebrated in many countries around the world on May 1st, International Workers’ Day is called Protomagia in Greek. In Athens, you can expect protests, demonstrations, and some closures.
Winter (December through February)
Winter is the off-season in Athens. Rain showers fall intermittently during this time, and it has even been known to snow. However, the winter is usually punctuated by plenty of “halcyon days”, when temperatures are surprisingly warm and summer-like.
Although some attractions have shortened winter hours, visitors can expect to enjoy discounts on tickets and accommodation. For those who’d love to explore the Acropolis without the crowds, winter is a great time to travel.
Average winter highs hover in the 50s Fahrenheit, while lows are in the 40s, so it’s a good idea to bring a jacket. Despite the cold, outdoor life continues throughout the year, with many cafés offering heat lamps so patrons can sit outside. While the weather may not be good enough for the beach, there’s still plenty of history to discover around Athens—nearby places like Delphi and Corinth offer lots to see and do.
Christmas (December): The Christmas season in Greece lasts from December 6th to January 6th. In Athens, Christmas decorations can be seen in public squares, and the city’s bakeries offer up tasty treats.
Epiphany (January): On January 6th, head to Piraeus port to see the “Blessing of the Waters” ceremony (where a priest throws a cross into the water, and swimmers have to dive in to retrieve it).
Carnival (February): Greek Carnival, known as Apokries, is celebrated before the beginning of Lent. It’s marked by street parties featuring music, dance, and outdoor meat roasts.