Summer may seem like the best time to come to Athens, and we get it: the weather is perfect, and you can escape to any of a number of nearby beaches for a quick day—or weekend-long trip—when summer in the city becomes a little too hot.
However, if you ask us, there really isn’t a bad time to come to Athens. There’s never a shortage of things to do. While the summer draws the crowds for the weather, you may find the city much more manageable (and certainly less crowded) in the off season. To help you figure out how to best prepare for your trip, we’ve broken down our packing guide by spring, summer, autumn and winter, so you won’t be caught by surprise.
Personally, spring is one of my favourite times to be in Athens. During March and April, flowers will start blooming, and the smell of orange tree blossoms floats down pretty much every street. The temperatures from March to May average around 19 degrees, and towards the end of May it could get up to 25. For the outdoorsy traveller, spring is ideal in Athens. You can spend time hiking or biking around Mount Hymettus, or taking more local walks up Lycabettus Hill or around Philopappou, so make sure to bring your hiking shoes. And sunglasses are a must—even if the temperatures are cool, when the sun bounces off all that brilliant marble around Syntagma, you’re going to want a layer over your eyes.
It’s always tempting to dress for the weather you hope will happen, but don’t forget to pack layers. Nighttime will still get cool in Athens, so even though you can happily walk around in a t-shirt during the day, you’ll want to add a sweater at night. It’s also a good idea to bring layers if you plan on doing as the Greeks do and sitting at outdoor cafes and bars; as soon as winter ends and as long as it isn’t raining, you’ll find Greeks enjoying their coffees and cocktails al fresco.
And speaking of rain, while there isn’t as much of a chance of precipitation in spring as in the winter months, you will still want to pack for the possibility of rain showers. Another thing to think about: if you suffer from allergies, you may want to stock up on antihistamines or allergy medication before landing.
It’s probably safe to say that if you’re coming to Athens in summer, you will want to spend at least a little time at one of the beaches in and around the city. Temperatures can climb up to 40 degrees, so a good way to cool off is somewhere seaside like Vouliagmeni or Glyfada. Or maybe even a rooftop pool at Fresh Hotel or the Hilton. Make sure to pack a bathing suit or two for these spots.
Should you decide to stay in the city on a scorching day, it may be tempting to bare shoulders and legs; but be aware that if you want to tour churches or religious sites, you will need to cover up. Avoid overly revealing clothing and bring a scarf or light cover-up that you can easily pull out of your bag.
Another reason to cover up a bit more? Protection from the sun. If you’re prone to sunburn, only a few minutes outside could make you turn red, so don’t forget your hat. You can buy sunblock here, but if you are choosy about your brand, perhaps consider bringing some from home. You may also want to bring a layer for intense A/C; sometimes it can shock your system to go from extreme outdoor temperatures to colder indoor ones.
And here’s a suggestion that applies to all seasons, but the summer in particular: leave the stilettos at home. Athens has its share of cobbled streets (which are tricky enough to navigate in the flattest shoes), and you could end up with a twisted ankle if you try to explore the Parthenon or wander around Anafiotika in impractical footwear.
Autumn is another beautiful season in Athens. You may not encounter the vivid changing leaves that you find in other European cities, but the weather in autumn is still lovely, with temperatures averaging around 26 degrees. Load up on warm-weather attire, but layers are key; nighttime can get cool so you’ll want a sweater or jacket and maybe a pair of jeans to keep dining and drinking al fresco through the evening, an essential activity that lasts through late October or even November. Outdoor theatres like the Odeon of Herodes Atticus will still have shows under the stars.
During this time of year, the sea is still warm, so bring a swimsuit and plan a day by the sea. You’ll also avoid the summer crowds, which thin out in early September. It’s a good time of year for wandering the city streets without worrying too much about the heat—might we suggest one of the many great walking tours in this city? But for the adventurers out there, this might be a great time for some hiking. Throw a pair of hiking shoes in your suitcase (and breathable socks, because it’ll still be warm and you’ll want to let your toes breathe) and head to Mount Ymittos’ trail or explore the Tatoi Palace. Again, make sure to pack sun protection if your skin is sensitive.
It may still be pretty dry in the city during the fall, but you never know when a sudden rainshower will break out. Bring shoes that can stand a little water and an umbrella or a jacket.
The first thing to know about Athens in the winter is that it does occasionally snow here (particularly in the outer suburbs of the city). Temperatures can dip down as low as 6 degrees, so if you’re coming from December to February, bring a heavier jacket, scarves, and perhaps even gloves or boots if you’re sensitive to the cold.
This season averages the most rain, about 30 days of the year. In addition to the usual raincoats and umbrellas, make sure to toss in a pair of shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, or that are waterproof. When rain is heavy, you may encounter lots of flowing water on the sidewalks and squares of Athens.
But winter is the perfect time to spend inside any of Athens’ spectacular museums or fantastic restaurants. If you want to blend in with the locals, wear black—as in many big cities, you’ll find people often dress in monochrome dark colours from head to toe.