During Greece’s version of carnival (apokries), the city counts down to Lent with three weeks of merriment. Streets ignite with dressed-up locals and clouds of confetti; bars and clubs throw themed parties; and family and friends come together to share grilled meat on Smoky Thursday (Tsiknopempti). From impromptu pavement barbecues and hilltop picnics beneath kite-whipped skies, to shiny happy costume parties and scrumptious seafood feasts, Carnival in Athens is a three-week fling ... and you're all invited.
You can check out the full programme of free apokries fun (in English) here or read on for some of the highlights:
- Catch the Athens State Orchestra perform traditional Greek songs at Athens' glorious Varvakios Agora at 11am. This is on Smokey Thursday (20 Feb), the last day when meat can be eaten before the beginning of Lent, and it takes place in a meat market. Get the hint? Later that day, the party moves to the central Psirri square, while over at the Museum of Folk Art & Tradition you can join some more traditional, and less carnivorous, celebrations from 1pm.
- On Friday 21, the Athens State Orchestra plays again at Agias Irinis Square in Monastiraki at 11am. Catch a free carnival concert at Monastiraki Square at 2.30pm. More of a parade type? Join the crowd at the Acropolis metro station at 7pm and dance your way over to Psirri.
- Latin fans have a date at Voukourestiou Street in Kolonaki with the Athens Big Band and Martha Moreleon, on Saturday 22 at 2.30pm. Plenty of time to be at Koukaki at 5pm for a parade of stilt walkers and other merry antics.
- On Sunday 23 at 12pm, families can head over to the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments for a treasure hunt (pre-registration required by contacting the museum) or hit majestic Zappeion for circus artists, face painting, music, dancing and jugglers from 11am.
- On the 25th at 12pm you have to be at the entrance of the Ancient Agora to join the crowd that follows the 50 member strong orchestra Horostasi around town. The theme is loud Dionysian and pagan tunes.
- Carnival celebrations take over Syntagma Square with Carnaval La Land at 12pm on Friday 28th. Music, acrobats, jugglers, mimes and Afro-Latin shenanigans for all. Later in the afternoon at 5pm, scout a comfy spot at Apostolou Pavlou & Heraklidon Streets in Thissio for two free concerts by the Wedding Singers and Michalis Rakintzis (yes, the Eurovision S.A.G.A.P.O hero).
- In the same spot, on Saturday 29th at 12pm, catch another free live gig with Petro-Loukas Chalkias. You can't get any more traditional than when it comes to Greek carnival music. Meanwhile, at Syntagma Square there will be a Dionysian parade that leads up to Monastiraki Square for a free concert. At 5pm in Thissio, you can listen to two superb Greek female singers perform; Glykeria and Melina Kana, followed by a rebetiko band and a free 60s-70s themed concert.
- Take a rest on Sunday. Kidding. Thissio is the place to be once again for free concerts, dancing and drinking from 12pm until late at night.
- It's Clean Monday! Let's go fly a kite, up to the highest height—that would be Philopappou Hill and Pnyx. Enjoy music from the Athens State Orchestra and folk Greek singer Gogo Tsamba from 11am.