- Carnival Season, February or March
- Easter, April or May
- Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival, late May to early June
- Athens & Epidaurus Festival, June to August
- August Moon Festival, August
In winter Athens welcomes visitors with festivals that aren’t really aimed at tourists. Expect local insight and warmth from hospitality (rather than from the sun).
Epiphany (Blessing of the Waters)
A national holiday, 6 January marks the end of the Christmas season. Celebrated in Greek Orthodoxy as the day St John baptised the Christ child, this day is now when seas, lakes and rivers are blessed, with the largest ceremony held at Piraeus.
While February is a less-common time to head to Greece, if you time your visit with Carnival, it’s well worth it.
Carnival (Apokreas) starts three weeks before Lent, from mid-January to late February/early March. Minor events lead up to a wild weekend of costume parades, floats, feasting and traditional dancing.
The weather warms a bit, making March a relaxed time to visit, although the calendar is relatively quiet.
The anniversary of the hoisting of the Greek flag by independence supporters at Moni Agias Lavras is celebrated with parades and dancing on 25 March. This act of revolt marked the start of the War of Independence.
The biggest religious celebration of the year is Easter, essentially a two-week holiday before and after. Many leave Athens for their home villages, but the city still celebrates widely.
Good Friday is marked by somber candlelight processions; one of the largest goes up Lykavittos Hill. On Saturday evening, the Holy Fire is delivered from Jerusalem to the Metochion in Plaka. Midnight Mass marks Jesus' resurrection and the end of Lenten fasting, and people head out for lamb feasts after church and all Sunday.
If you're planning to spend more time outdoors, May is a great time to visit. Temperatures are relatively mild and local produce fills Greek kitchens.
The first of May, Labour Day, is a national holiday, marked by union demonstrations and occasional strikes. There is also a mass exodus from the city for countryside picnics; wildflowers are gathered and made into wreaths to decorate houses.
Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival
This annual jazz festival takes place in late May or early June at Technopolis, the converted gasworks in Gazi, as well as at the Onassis Cultural Centre.
Athens' annual three-day, international contemporary-art fair at the massive Athens Conservatoire showcases a broad spectrum of art from Greek and international galleries, including sculpture and installations. Satellite exhibitions are also held in other venues.
Athens Street Food Festival
This is a relatively new event, running since 2016, but embraced with gusto, as Athenians crowd an old tram depot to try out all the best snacks, both traditional and super new.
For festival-goers looking for contemporary acts, June is when the summer starts hopping in Athens. Top national and international performers fill stages with dance, music and drama.
Athens & Epidaurus Festival
The most prominent Greek summer festival features local and international music, dance and drama at the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus at the Acropolis, and around town. Events run from June to August.
Every odd-numbered year, the biennial showcases top local and international artists through June to October.
Athens Pride is an annual LGBTQ event, usually celebrated in early June, culminating in a parade that starts on Syntagma.
Temperatures soar and life buzzes on the streets, and people seek respite from the heat in outdoor cinemas. Much social activity, including a major rock festival, moves to giant beachfront clubs just outside the city.
Rockwave has major international artists and draws massive crowds. It's held at Terra Vibe, a huge parkland at the edge of Athens in Malakasa. There are special buses from town and sometimes cheap camping is offered.
Respect the heat of August – do less and relax more fully. If you’re travelling around 15 August, a national holiday for the Dormition of the Virgin, reserve well ahead, as Greeks take to the roads and boats in large numbers.
August Moon Festival
Under the August full moon, historical venues and archaeological sites, including the Acropolis and the Roman Agora, are open all night, with free admission and theatre, dance and music performances.
The sun is high though less and less blazing. The crowds begin to thin, but the sea is still warm. Fresh figs and grapes are in season and plentiful.
Athens International Film Festival
The city's annual film festival features retrospectives, premieres and international art films and documentaries.
While the flow of tourists starts to ebb, the sunny weather often holds through most of October. City life picks up pace again, and the general cultural calendar is busier.
A simple 'no' (ohi in Greek) was Prime Minister Metaxas' famous response when Mussolini demanded free passage through Greece for his troops on 28 October 1940. The date is now a major national holiday with remembrance services, parades, feasting and dance.
Autumn sees temperatures drop. Outside the city, olive-picking is in full swing and feta production picks up, giving you the opportunity to taste some seriously fresh cheese.
While you can expect cooler temperatures and a chilly sea, Athens is in full swing. With fewer tourists, you're likely to meet more locals.
Traditionally, Christmas marked the end of a 40-day fast with honey cookies and a roasted hog. Today you are more likely to see Christmas trees, fishing boats decorated with lights and children carolling. Families gather for a Christmas Day feast.