city break in athens guide: the acropolis

Best Season for Athens: Complete Calendar of Key Events

Mid-April to May and September to October is the best season to visit Athens. Here are all the key events of the year to help you plan your trip.

Last updated: 21 Dec 2023

Most people visiting Athens usually arrive during the summer, from June to August.

Indeed, summer is a very good season to enjoy Athens.

But is it the best?

Living in Athens since the day I was born, I can say that I have my doubts.

Not to be misunderstood, the Athenian summer is unique and worth experiencing.

The weather is almost always sunny, the sea is quite warm, and the town is full of events.

You can watch theatrical performances in ancient theaters, such as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, movies at Open Air Cinemas, and eat local food in taverns under the starlight.

At the same time, you have the opportunity to combine your visit to the town with a tour of the Greek islands.

Distant view of the Temple of Hephaestus through green foliage in the Ancient Agora of Athens.

On the other hand, there are two important drawbacks to the summer months.

The first is the crowds you will encounter in the most popular city’s attractions and on the beaches.

Secondly, the high temperatures that prevail several days of summer. For example, in 2023, the thermometer exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) several times between July and August.

Thus, if you are visiting Athens from a northern country, you may find it challenging to adapt to such heat.

So, which season offers decent alternatives?

Best Season for Athens: Mid-April to May

Best season for Athens: Dionysiou Areopagitou Str.
Late spring and early autumn are two great seasons to visit Athens.

From the beginning of March, the weather improves significantly in Athens; to be precise, the winter (December – February) is not very cold.

The temperature in the city center rarely drops below 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).

Moreover, the frequency of snowfall is a couple of days every three years or so.

From mid-April onwards, however, spring is at its best.

The weather is generally sunny, and the temperature during the day is around 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit).

In other words, it’s an ideal season for Athens as you will find great conditions to walk around the city.

Entrance to the Ancient Agora of Athens with the Acropolis in the background.

At the same time, the sea starts to get warmer, and you can easily swim if you want. In addition, there are significantly fewer crowds on the beaches and, thus, the water is cleaner.

You will also be able to find better deals, both on flights and in hotels, than in the summer season.

Even the quality of services is usually better, as there are fewer clients to be served.

Now, if you want to combine your trip to Athens with a visit to famous islands, such as Mykonos and Santorini, this might be a great time.

In contrast to the summer, when they become overcrowded, you can live a more authentic experience during this period.

But if you want to continue your journey on a less popular Greek island, you may feel a bit lonely; most likely, only the permanent residents will be on the streets.

Also, especially in April, it is possible to find closed shops, as many tourist destinations are fully operational from May onwards.

Best Season for Athens: September to October

A saying among Greeks goes, “You can enjoy the best sea in September”.

Indeed, if you are traveling to Athens to enjoy swimming or water sports, September is a great choice.

Between mid-April and May, the weather is lovely.

Mainly in September, it ranges around 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit), while on some days, it reaches up to 30 (86 Fahrenheit).

There is a slight drop in the average temperature in October, at around 20 degrees (68 Fahrenheit).

Best season for Athens: Average temperature by month
September and October are among the best season for Athens as the weather is lovely – data source;

But again, most days are sunny, and a T-shirt is all you need to go out, especially during the day.

In addition, many outdoor festivals are organized, as the chance of rain is relatively low.

You can always check the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center for many enjoyable, free events and the Technopolis City of Athens.

Cheapest Season to Visit Athens: November to March

The Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Agora of Athens, lined with marble statues and lot of visitors.

The cheapest season to travel to Athens is between November and March.

Given that you are a “winter type”, you can get about 25% better prices at your accommodation cost.

As you can see in this chart by Statista, the average cost of overnight accommodation in Athens between November and March 2019 was 79.4 euros. The average price between April and October was 106.7 euros in the same year.

Moreover, you can get reduced prices in the most famous city’s attractions and shorter queues.

In particular, from November 1st to March 30th of each year, a reduced rate of 50% applies to single-use tickets for all archaeological sites and museums belonging to the State.

So take advantage of the rainy days and make your indoor visits, like those to Athens best museums.

Activities between November and March in Athens

Close-up of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, showcasing the Doric columns.

As I mentioned, winter is not as cold as in northern countries.

However, this does not mean that your summer clothes are enough.

A good jacket is essential, as is a good umbrella. It may not rain often, but the showers are strong when it does.

Here you can find what to pack for Athens all year round.

Winter is also the best season to explore the interiors of Athens’ shops.

As you will notice, during the summer, all customers are served outdoors.

But as the temperature drops, they move inside the cafes and restaurants.

So, since you will find some great shops in the city, it is a first-class opportunity to enjoy local food and great coffee.

Keep in mind that the local food during the winter is different from that in summer.

Ouzo, fish, and stuffed vegetables are replaced by lentils, soups, and the national dish of Greece, bean soup. Do not forget to try it!

Finally, if you like winter sports, you will have to drive about 2 hours up to Arachova for a ski resort.

The village there is picturesque, and you can easily spend two days skiing and relaxing in the surrounding cafes and taverns.

However, if you do not want to leave the city, there are other sports activities that you can follow.

Hiking to the Refuges of Penteli or the Monastery of Kaisariani, a drop-in in a local CrossFit affiliate or a padel club, or even a winter swim in the sea are some decent options.

Make sure to check out our Winter in Athens guide to make your stay unforgettable.

Holy Monastery of Kaisariani
The Monastery of Kaisariani is a great and easy hiking destination, even for families with young children.

Best Season for Athens: Key Events and Dates

In addition to the periods already mentioned, you can visit Athens during major holidays or events.

I have selected the most important of them for you in the calendar below.

New Year’s Eve in Athens – January 1st

Stadiou Street in central Athens with holiday lights and stars, full of people during Christmas.

The atmosphere will be festive if you are preparing to travel to Athens for the turn of the year.

People are constantly on the streets and preparing for New Year’s Eve.

In fact, during the days until the eve, it is better to avoid driving.

This is because all the city residents are doing their last-minute shopping and there is heavy traffic on the streets, where you can get stuck for hours.

The shops remain closed on January 1st and 2nd, while the archeological sites are closed on January 1st.

However, cafes, restaurants, and bars are open and full of people.

As for New Year’s Eve, Athenians use to eat at home with friends and family.

Shortly after 00:00, however, they go out and either gather in houses and play cards or visit bars and party until the morning.

Epiphany in Athens – January 6th

According to the Orthodox Church, the Epiphany on January 6th celebrates the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist.

During this day, a scenic custom takes place; the retrieval of the Cross from the sea.

Specifically, local priests throw the Cross into the cold sea waters, and young men dive and try to catch it first.

The man who surfaces with the Cross is said to have good luck in the coming year.

Yet, in recent years the custom has become less popular, and, in some areas, no one dives.

Nevertheless, it is worth drinking your morning coffee by the sea and watching the ceremony if you are in Athens during those days.

Valentine’s Day in Athens – February 14th

The truth is that there are no worth mentioning events in Athens for Valentine’s Day.

But you will find many romantic locations to enjoy your food or drink: restaurants and bars overlooking the Acropolis, the sea, or the Ancient Agora.

You can also consider booking a hotel in a lovely location and asking the reception to prepare your room accordingly.

Check how you can easily organize a perfect city break in Athens for special occasions like this.

Tsiknopempti in Athens – Moveable feast

Tsiknopempti could be literally translated in English as “Smoky Thursday”.

It is a feast of the orthodox tradition, and people consume large quantities of grilled meat on this day.

The feast is so popular that you can smell cooked meat almost everywhere in Athens.

You will often see groups of friends with barbecues even on the sidewalks, while it is nearly impossible to find a spot in taverns if you have not booked one days before.

If all this reminds you of something, you are right.

Tsiknopempti resembles the Fat Thursday that exists in many other countries and is associated with the Carnival celebration.

Consequently, it is a moveable feast that does not fall on a fixed date, so you must check your calendar to find it.

In 2024, Tsiknopempti will fall on March 7th.

Carnival in Athens

Every year, carnivals occur in most of Greece’s cities on the last Sunday of Apokries.

The country’s biggest Carnival takes place in Patras, about 200 km away from Athens.

If you like this kind of feast, spending the weekend in Patras is a must.

However, if you prefer to stay in Athens, you will find carnivals in many town municipalities.

The most noteworthy are the carnival celebrations in Moschato; they take place about 7 km from Syntagma and are easily accessible by metro.

Note that Apokries have their roots in ancient Greece, specifically in Dionysus’s feasts.

Thousands of years ago, people disguised themselves, danced, sang while drinking wine, and the fun culminated in honor of the god Dionysus.

Nowadays, Carnivals peak on Sunday, ten days after Tsiknopempti, so they do not have a fixed date.

In 2024, Carnival will fall on March 17th.

Clean Monday in Athens

The day after Carnival is Clean Monday, also known as Ash Monday or Pure Monday in other countries.

Unlike Tsiknopempti, on Clean Monday, you must not eat meat; according to Christian tradition, Easter fasting begins.

This day is a public holiday, and the Athenians celebrate it by flying a kite in the morning and eating seafood at noon.

Outdoor festivities are held in many city’s neighborhoods, while many residents go on picnics.

If you want to enjoy the day and feel like a local, the best spot is Filopappou Hill.

Visit a local supermarket a few days before, buy the corresponding food and take it with you to the hill.

However, if you prefer to eat in a tavern, make sure to book a spot in advance and be prepared to wait a long time until you are served.

March 25th

Together with October 28th, March 25th is Greece’s most important national public holiday.

Particularly, March 25th celebrates the Revolution of 1821.

It is the historical period when the Greeks revolted against the Ottoman army and founded the current independent state.

As you can imagine, a series of events take place to celebrate the day.

First, on March 24th, there is a student celebration in all the country’s schools.

Then, on March 25th, a large military parade takes place in the center of Athens.

During the day, people go out and celebrate.

After the parade, cafes and restaurants are full, especially downtown ones, so make sure you make a reservation before your visit.

Moreover, keep in mind that on this day, popular attractions like the Acropolis remain closed.

Easter in Athens

How may days in Athens? The Roman Agora
Orthodox Easter may be Athens’s best season if you want a unique local experience.

Easter is the most important feast of Orthodoxy in Greece, even more important than Christmas.

Therefore, a series of scenic customs and traditions take place throughout the country.

So, it may be the best season to visit Athens if you want to have a unique local experience.

The events culminate on Holy Saturday night and throughout Easter Sunday.

Especially on Holy Saturday night, just before 00:00, many Athenians go to church with candles.

There they will get the “holy light”, and as soon as the day changes, they will participate in fireworks shows.

Right after, they return home and eat traditional food with family and friends, such as painted red eggs and local buns.

On Easter Sunday, also known as the “feast of feasts”, follows the slow-roasting of the lamb.

Then the whole family gathers at the table to eat, sing, and dance.

Almost everything remains closed, even the archeological sites.

Note that in modern Greece, especially the younger ages are not very religious – or religious at all.

However, the celebration of Easter is so important that almost everyone participates.

So, a great place to attend on Holy Saturday night is the Church of Saint Demetrios Loumbardiaris at Filopappou Hill and the churches of Plaka.

Remember that Orthodox Easter is a moveable feast, usually with different dates than Catholic Easter.

In 2024, Easter Sunday will fall on May 5th.

May 1st

On May 1st, all services and businesses in Greece remain closed, honoring International Workers’ Day.

At the same time, however, May 1st is the first day of spring.

So, according to the custom, the children go to the countryside and make a wreath of flowers.

Immediately after, the whole family visits a tavern for food.

For this day, a perfect destination in Athens is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, with many happenings taking place.

International Museum Day – May 18th

Acropolis Museum
Acropolis Museum is the best place to celebrate International Museum Day.

All museums and monuments of Athens participate in International Museum Day on May 18th.

Thus, admission to all cultural places is free throughout the day.

In addition, many museums organize a series of events dedicated to protecting cultural heritage.

Here you can find a list of the must-see museums of Athens.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – August 15th

Mid-August is not the best season to visit Athens if you want to be in a vibrant city.

Besides the heat, most Athenians leave the town in August for their summer vacation.

Especially in the week of August 15th, locals desert the city, and many restaurants and shops close.

Almost everyone celebrates the day on an island or countryside, one of the most important Christian holidays.

In fact, festivals are organized all over the country – except for Athens, which, as said, is empty.

However, if you are in the city, you can take advantage of the opportunity and go anywhere you want, without any traffic; you will not have another chance to see Athens so quiet.

Acropolis Rally

If you like motor racing events, the Acropolis Rally is one of the oldest and most important car races.

Also known as the Rally of Gods, it started in 1951 and is now part of the World Rally Championship (WRC).

Actually, it is considered one of the most demanding and competitive rallies of the championship.

In 2022 the event was held over four days between September 8th and 11th. The opening ceremony took place in the facilities of the 2004 Olympic Games, with 70.000 spectators being present.

Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe were the overall rally winners.

October 28th – The Ochi day

Athenians sitting in a cafe on October 28th, the ochi day
Athenians in a cafe on October 28th, right after the parade. The day is a public holiday, and you can feel a festive atmosphere everywhere.

Every year on October 28th is celebrated the anniversary of “No”, or “ochi” in Greek.

The reason is the country’s refusal on October 28th, 1940, to surrender to the Italian troops of Mussolini, Hitler’s ally.

This refusal resulted in the country’s entry into World War II.

Every year on this day in Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in the country, a large military parade takes place.

In addition, student parades are held in Athens, with the Greek flag dominating public and private buildings.

Since this day is a public holiday, people go out, and you can feel a festive atmosphere everywhere.

You can also take advantage of the day to visit monuments such as the Acropolis, as they offer free admission to all.

Athens Authentic Marathon – November’s second Sunday

Athens marathon review: runners

You probably already know that the marathon race comes from Ancient Athens.

Specifically, it is named after the historical route of the Athenian messenger Pheidippides.

Immediately after the battle of Marathon in 490 BC, he ran from the battlefield to Athens to announce the victory over the Persian Army.

The specific distance is 42,195 meters.

Nowadays, the Athens Authentic Marathon follows the classic route, starting at the Marathon and ending at the Panathenaic Stadium.

It takes place on the second Sunday of November and involves tens of thousands of runners from around the world.

If you love running, it’s a great time to visit Athens; try to participate in the race at least once in your life, even if it’s the shortest distance of 5 or 10 kilometers.

The experience is unique, and the finish at Panathenaic Stadium is something you will remember forever.

Here you can find a complete review of the Athens Marathon.

Athens Polytechnic uprising – November 17th

Every year on November 17th, Athenians celebrate the Polytechnic uprising.

In 1973 students of the Athens Polytechnic occupied the university, reacting to the Greek military junta of 1967–1974.

The uprising began on November 14th, 1973, and escalated to an open anti-junta revolt.

It ended in bloodshed in the early morning of November 17th.

Today, unfortunately, the celebrations are usually accompanied by incidents between anti-authoritarians and police forces.

Therefore, it may not be the perfect time to visit Athens city center.

If you are in the town during those days, avoid walking in the areas around Victoria and Omonia metro stations.

Christmas in Athens – December 25th

Festive Christmas tree lighting up the night in the Syntagma with a full moon above.

From the end of November, Athens gets in the Christmas mood.

The city center and the shops are full of Christmas decorations.

However, don’t expect to find a great outdoor Christmas market like in other European cities; Athenians prefer to visit the bars and restaurants around the city center.

If you want to feel like a local, the best cafes to visit are near Kolokotroni str. – more about the street in Athens in 3 Days itinerary (Day 3).

Another worth mentioning tradition is the local carols.

Until a few years ago, young children sang carols on Christmas Eve from house to house.

Lately, however, this custom is fading away, and seeing it is becoming rarer and rarer.

In any case, if you meet children singing carols, don’t forget to follow the custom and tip them.

As for the shops, they remain closed on December 25 and 26, as do all the archeological sites.

However, cafes, restaurants, and bars are open and full of people.

On Christmas day, Athenians usually eat at home with their families, and after 23:00-00:00, they go out and party until morning.

How Many Days Do You Need in Athens?

Now that you know the best season for Athens, it’s time to decide how many days you should spend in Athens. So, make sure to check the “How Many Days In Athens?” guide.

Last but not least, if you are looking for a detailed plan for your trip, don’t miss out on my step-by-step itineraries.

They include the best places in town and their pins on Google Maps, so you don’t miss a thing.

But, most importantly, they are carefully and simply designed, depending on the number of days at your disposal: Athens in 1 day, Athens in 2 days, Athens in 3 days, Athens in 4 days, or hidden gems in Athens if you plan to stay even more days.

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