The best time to visit Athens Greece is somewhat subjective. Part of the answer depends on what you are planning to do during your time in the Greek capital, your budget, and your personal preferences.
Are you hoping to use Athens as a starting point for a wider Greece itinerary? Are you planning to island hop?
Or are you simply trying to plan a weekend away in Athens that centres around seeing the historical sights and walking in the footsteps of Plato and Socrates? This article will explore what traveling to Athens is like during the various seasons so that you can make a decision that is best for you.
- 1 The Best Time to Visit Athens Greece
- 2 The Best Time to Visit Athens Greece by Month
The Best Time to Visit Athens Greece
If you want the short answer, the best time to visit Athens is: virtually any time except July and August. This is the peak of the tourist season.
Arguably the best time to travel is during the shoulder season. Namely, the months of May and June, or late September to early November. At this time, the crowds subside, the weather is warm but more bearable than the peak summer months, and prices are often as much as 50% lower than during the peak season.
When NOT to Visit Athens
So why should you avoid visiting Athens in July and August? Well, during this time, the streets of old Plaka are filled with more British and American tourists than they are Greeks! Prices can be as much as 50% higher during August compared to the rest of the year.
Additionally, getting around and into attractions is made that bit much stressful by the constant presence of crowds. Even getting out of the airport is a nightmare. Not to mention, the impossibility of finding a seat on the metro or the X95 bus for the hour-long journey to the city centre.
The Best Time to Visit Athens Greece by Month
The weather and costs of travel to Athens vary significantly throughout the year. Greece may be a Mediterranean paradise but it does get very cold during the winter months! A run through of what to expect month by month is detailed below.
January in Athens
Greece in January is usually relatively cold, although Athens and Southern Greece are often much milder than the northern parts of the country. Temperatures here range from between 7 and 13 degrees Celsius each day.
So while the conditions are not the warm, Mediterranean climes that Greece is known for, winters in Athens are much milder than in many other parts of Europe. Greece sees more than 250 days of sunshine a year so even when it is chilly during the winter months, you can still generally expect clear blue skies. Winter here does not mean dreary weather and cloudy skies.
The costs of travel are at their lowest during this period, and several Athens museums and city attractions are free to enter on certain days. At the same time, you should keep in mind that many Athens landmarks, archaeological sites, and museums close earlier during the winter months.
The precise opening times vary from place to place. It is a good idea to double-check the details for each attraction before you visit. The last admission is usually an hour before closing.
Festivals and events in Athens in January
New Year’s Day is a big celebration in Greece like in much of the world. Like in many countries, Greeks will usually spend this day with their families eating traditional Greek foods, drinking, and playing games.
A traditional cake known as a vasilopita is cut. There is a coin hidden inside and whoever receives the coin is said to be guaranteed good luck in the year ahead.
Traditional vasilopita is made from a kind of sweet bread but today, sponge and even chocolate varieties are quite common. You will be able to buy one of these cakes from any Athenian bakery well into mid-January if you want to experience this aspect of Greek culture.
February in Athens
Weather conditions in Athens in February are comparable to those in January. Temperatures tend to range between 7 and 14 degrees Celsius and it is important to layer up and take a comfortable coat. However, there is one thing that makes travelling during this month that much more exciting: the carnival!
Celebrate Apokries in Athens
The vast majority of Greeks are Orthodox (more than 90% of the population). Carnival or “Apokries” is a tradition that takes place every February. It has been practiced in Greece for over 200 years.
Apokries means “no more meat” and is a time for holy fasting. However, for you as a tourist, the interesting part of Apokries is the events and parties that take place across Athens.
In some ways, Apokries is comparable to Halloween. Locals dress up in all manner of weird and wonderful costumes and head out to themed parties.
In 2023, the three weeks of Apokries will fall on February 5-26. You may want to consider taking a day trip from Athens to see the grand Apokries carnival that is hosted in Patras every year.
March in Athens
Athens in March sees temperatures start to improve as spring in Greece begins. The average daytime temperature is between 9 and 16 degrees Celsius, although there are often some exceptionally warm days. Temperatures really start increasing towards the end of the month.
From November to March, museums and historical sites offer reduced admission. Entrance to sites is also free on certain dates. March is the final month to explore Athens and enjoy reduced prices.
Events in Athens in March
Greek Independence Day is celebrated every year on the 25th of March. The holiday celebrates the country’s independence from Turkey after years of struggling under Turkish rule.
It recognises the lives lost during the war for independence which lasted between 1821 and 1832. Parades take place in Greek cities and towns across the country, but the largest of these is in Athens.
Get to Syntagma Square at 10 am to see a grand procession complete with marching bands, floats, and military flyovers. Greek flags are displayed with pride in every store, museum, and Athenian restaurant and it is common to eat bakaliaro with skordalia (fried cod with garlic sauce) on this day.
Most Greeks cook this at home, however, there will be many tavernas that remain open on this day where you can try it. Consider making a reservation at one of the many seafood restaurants in Exarchia or Piraeus.
April in Athens
April is when things really start warming up in Athens. Expect daytime temperatures as high as 20-22 degrees Celsius. Some days, it is even warm enough to head out to Vouliagmeni, and the beaches of the Athens Riviera.
Orthodox Easter tends to fall during the month of April. This is one of the most important festivals in the Greek calendar.
In fact, many Greeks say that Orthodox Easter is more important to them than Christmas! There are advantages and disadvantages of travelling during this time.
For one thing, parts of Athens become virtually a ghost town during Easter weekend as locals flock to their family’s villages to celebrate with loved ones. Additionally, closures of attractions, stores and restaurants due to religious celebrations may interfere with your itinerary somewhat.
However, if you are interested in Greek culture, this could be the best time to visit Athens. There are several notable religious events and celebrations that take place around the city. Tourists are welcome to attend such events, provided that they are respectful.
Candlelight processions take place on the streets of various Athens neighbourhoods on Easter Friday. Church ceremonies are held on Holy Saturday. In 2023, Orthodox Easter Sunday will fall on the 16th of April.
May in Athens
The month of May can be seen as the start of the summer season in Athens. Temperatures rise up to the early twenties (degrees Celsius) and tourists start to trickle in.
The increased number of daylight hours means that touristic sites are open longer. However, prices start to increase during this time too.
Still, May in Greece is essentially the “shoulder season”. So you can still secure better flight, hotel, and excursion deals by traveling at this time compared to traveling in July and August.
Events in Athens in May
May marks the start of the Epidaurus Festival in Greece. This is a wonderful cultural festival that takes place every year between May and October.
Greek dances, theatrical performances, traditional music, and other cultural performances are hosted in historic venues throughout Athens and the UNESCO site of Epidaurus. What could be better than watching a Greek tragedy played out in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theatre on the slopes of the Acropolis?
May Day/labor day is celebrated in Greece on the 1st of May. This is a public holiday and most Athenians flock to Athens’ parks and beaches.
June in Athens
June is perhaps the best time to visit Athens if you want to enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine along with your city sightseeing. Temperatures at this time are often well into the high twenties. Think daily averages of around 27°C.
These conditions are perfect for venturing down to the beaches close to Athens, or sailing out to Hydra and the nearby Saronic islands. Most summer tourists flock to Greece during July and August. Travel now if you want to avoid the crowds.
July in Athens
Athens in July is very hot and humid. Temperatures are often as high as 35 degrees Celsius.
This is perfect if you are spending your time lounging by a pool in the Athenian Riviera. However, less than ideal for exploring ancient ruins outside.
Trekking around historical sites can be tough in the heat. Particularly when you add in the fact that there are crowds and you will probably have to queue to enter a lot of places.
July and August are the priciest times to travel to Athens. You should try to book everything in advance if you can.
That way, you can be sure to secure the best deals. This is particularly true of ferry tickets, which do occasionally sell out. Tickets can be purchased online, taking some of the stress out of your trip to the islands close to Athens.
It can get very humid and muggy in the city centre. Try to choose accommodation that has air-conditioning if you can.
August in Athens
Travelling to Athens in August has its pros and cons, just like any other time of year. Temperatures during this month are similar to July – often in the realms of 35 degrees Celsius.
Tourist crowds are at their highest during this time and it can feel as though you hear more international accents than Greek ones! Most Greeks get long vacation times off from work in August.
With no reason to stay in the concrete, many leave the city and head to the islands. The advantage of this is that some residential Athens neighborhoods such as Pagrati and the Mets become very quiet.
This is the most expensive time to travel. If you want to obtain a glimpse of what everyday local life is like in Athens and hang out with Athenians, this is not a good time to travel.
September in Athens
September is one of the best times to visit Athens. The conditions during this time are very similar to those in June.
The number of tourists start to dissipate, and the costs of travelling reduce slightly from the middle of the month. Temperatures in Athens in September are still warm enough that you could sail out to stunning islands in the Cyclades and beyond. If you want to avoid the tourist hordes, there are many quiet Greek islands you could consider.
October in Athens
The weather in Greece in October is often unpredictable. Typically, it is still warm and sunny – particularly for the first half of the month. Expect daytime temperatures of around 23° – 25° Celsius.
However, you should not plan a trip to Athens in October if your trip revolves around beaches and summer sun. Sometimes, October can be very rainy and windy.
This is the last month of the Epidaurus festival. October also marks the last chance to enjoy certain outdoor events (e.g. the open-air cinemas in Thissio) before those businesses close for Autumn and Winter.
Events in Athens in October
Oxi Day (the day of no) is celebrated every year on the 28th of October. This marks the anniversary of the day that Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas said no (oxi) to Mussolini and the Italians when he asked Greece to allow Nazis into the country.
Military parades are hosted all over the country. In Athens, this starts at 11 am from Syntagma Square, but it is a good idea to arrive early to secure a good seat.
November in Athens
Temperatures start to drop during November in Athens. It gets dark earlier and earlier, and the nights start drawing in. Expect daytime temperatures that range between 12° and 18° Celsius.
Fortunately, prices for tours, flights, and accommodation all decrease during this month. This is perfect if you hope to explore Greece on a budget.
From November until March, museums and historical attractions across Athens offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month. This includes the Acropolis and its museum. The Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Ancient Agora, and the Temple of Hephaestus.
It should be noted that November marks the start of the off-season in Athens. Many touristic sites and Athens museums reduce their opening hours from this point onwards.
December in Athens
December in Athens can be a charming time to visit as the city gears up for Christmas. Spending the festive season in Greece may not be the most usual choice but it’s certainly a rewarding one.
December in Athens can get chilly and snow is not unheard of. Typically though, temperatures seldom dip below 5 degrees Celsius. Athenian winters are much milder than spending December in most European cities.
Enjoy Festive Charms in Athens
During this time, ice rinks are erected around the city, offering magnificent views over the sunbleached remnants of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, and other historical sites. A sprawling Christmas tree is set up in Syntagma Square, and gorgeous light displays decorate the streets of Monastiraki, Syntagma, Psiri, and Makrygianni.
A portion of New Year’s Eve in Greece is spent with families eating good food and waiting for the midnight countdown. Then, people head out into Athens to enjoy the Athenian nightlife and party until the next morning.
Events and parties are hosted at many clubs and rooftop bars and usually require a prior reservation. Firework displays are set off across the city at the stroke of midnight.
Do you have any further questions about the best time to visit Athens or planning a trip to Greece in general? Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Safe travels! Melissa xo