The beauty of a city like Athens is that there is always something going on. The grand ancient ruins and superb museums are open year-round. But depending on your budget and your goals, you might find that tailoring your trip to a certain season suits you best.
Summer is hot, hot, hot – and packed with tourists and high prices, but the incredible arts and cultural festivals explode during that season. Winter’s got rock-bottom prices and a vibrant nightlife as Athenians keep themselves entertained through the chillier months.
Spring and fall are a perfect compromise, with reasonable temps, prices and crowds. And always wonderful is Greek Orthodox Easter, where the entire country stops what they’re doing and joins the celebration.
The quiet shoulder seasons (April & May, September & October) are the best time to visit
Spring and Autumn in Athens are a gift. The mild temperatures make exploring easy, and the summer crowds have yet to arrive or have waned so that if you time your visits right, you’ll have elbow room at the famous sights. Accommodation prices can drop by 20%, and service can be better overall.
The exception is Greece’s biggest blowout holiday, Orthodox Easter, which is preceded by a week of celebration – the date changes every year (and is sometimes in May). The whole country gets a holiday, and hotels get booked up. Reserve well in advance. One of the most impressive Good Friday candlelit processions climbs Lykavittos Hill.
Athens is beautiful in September, perfect for strolling the streets or hitting the clubs with locals returning from the islands. Though festivals have wound down, October is a great month to stay in Athens, too, as city life remains strong and the theater and opera begin. Ohi Day on October 28 commemorates the day in 1940 when Greek Prime Minister Metaxas rejected Mussolini’s ultimatum.
Budget travelers can bag a bargain from November to March
In winter, the temperatures drop, and you might even see occasional snow, but the Athens nightlife booms. Accommodation is at its lowest price for the year, so it’s a super time to travel on a budget – though keep in mind that if you plan to visit islands as well, the ferry schedules are at their most limited.
One of the least busy months of the year, November means space at the top sights and no major holiday schedule disruptions. Come December, though, and the cool sunshine gives way to bright lights during the Christmas season. Nightclubs and bouzoukia in Athens are lively, running into the wee hours.
In the new year, the highlight of February is usually Carnival, keyed to the three weeks prior to the fasting of Lent. Minor events lead up to a weekend of costume parades, feasting and dancing.
June to August is the high season – get ready for a festival overload
While high summer can be blazing hot and accommodation costs the most, it’s also the best time to join Athens’ bountiful festival season and booming beach club scene. In August, Athenians leave for the islands, and some restaurants, galleries and bars close — but the upside is that the city traffic is calmer.
For festival-goers, June sizzles in Athens. Top national and international performers fill stages with dance, music and drama, and many of the festivals continue all summer, like the Athens Epidaurus Festival. Temperatures continue to soar, and outdoor cinemas and sprawling beach clubs thrive in July.
Come August, when Athenians leave for the islands, expect to do less but relax more. If you’re traveling mid-month, reserve well ahead as Greeks take to the roads and boats for the Feast of Assumption on August 15.