Many of the best things to see and do in Athens happen during the summer. Which is logical, as this is the peak season for international tourism and specifically Greece is a place that leads this industry within the European Union.
I have found activities that can keep you entertained right in the center of the city as well as I have managed to get the best summer plans just outside the city. Continue reading this informative compilation and I guarantee you'll have a better idea of what to see and do when you land in the capital of the cradle of Western civilization.
1. Have a cocktail in some of the famous terraces of Athens
Going up to enjoy a summer evening on the terraces of the city's buildings is a very Mediterranean tradition from the Spanish coast to the southernmost tip of the Israeli shores. Clearly, this is also a very important custom in Greek culture and you can't miss this ritual on your visit to Athens in the summer for several reasons.
The first is that this city is known for the frequency of its winds and this can help you cope with the high temperatures of the European summer. Especially in a region that has suffered from increasingly extreme summers in recent years.
The second reason is that they will offer you panoramic views of the scenery of Athens illuminated under the moonlight and with a direct perspective of the Acropolis mountain. The latter depending on the area of the city you choose.
Psyri and Gazi are two neighborhoods with an ideal nightlife for you to enjoy this Greek tradition. They also combine a vibrant cultural and party scene that can transform a small evening of drinking into an evening that extends until dawn the next day.
Depending on the establishment you are going to choose I advise you to book in advance on the website or social networks of the local. And the fact is that many have such a revolutionary or modern proposal of Greek gastronomy in Athens and Mediterranean cocktails, that they are filled with tourists during each and every day of the summer.
2. Take part in one of the screenings at the many open-air cinemas in the city
Another night and summer activity that defines the experience of living and visiting Athens at this time of the year are the open-air cinemas. Throughout the city there are some 40 cinemas with these structural characteristics and perhaps the most famous of all is the Thisio Cinema. It offers a direct view of the illuminated acropolis that stands out behind the projection screen.
These cinemas are characterized by offering alcoholic beverages that also accompany the available functions as a simultaneous entertainment. In addition, you have to know that almost all of these establishments handle a billboard of movies that are either subtitled in English or are in English and have Greek subtitles.
Clearly, it is one of the best experiences among the plans to do in Athens at night not only for the excellent entertainment it offers but also for the savings associated with this activity. For most of these functions manage minimum fees of less than 5 euros per ticket or are completely free.
This is due to the fact that every summer there is an Athens Open Air Film Festival that usually runs from mid-June to the end of August. If the film belongs to this film circuit it is very likely to be auteur cinema with an excellent quality and with a very Europeanist style.
3. Enjoy a visit to the National Observatory of Athens
Spending the summer in the Mediterranean is an extremely fun experience until you have to start looking for alternative plans that go beyond beach activities. That is to escape the oppressive heat that can occur during the days of this time of year. Fortunately, the Greek capital is a vibrant and diverse city with spaces like the National Observatory of Greece. It offers you a cool and safe space to escape the high temperatures, while experiencing a visit to a place of significant historical importance to the entire Western world.
You can enjoy guided tours in Greek and English, while touring a building created in 1842 that sits on the Hill of the Nymphs on Mount Philoponus, right in the historical and touristic heart of the city. Inside you will find various items of importance such as the telescope that was used to create the first detailed map of the lunar surface or those used today to observe celestial spectacles.
Keep in mind that this is one of the first planetariums in the western hemisphere and is also the first scientific research institution in Greece after its independence from the 500-year occupation by the Ottomans. In addition, the clarity of the summer skies makes a visit to this planetarium even more recommended during these months of the year. Going beyond the environmental comfort it offers to visitors escaping the Greek heat.
You have to keep in mind that this observatory is very close to the tourist epicenters of the city such as the Acropolis or the neighborhoods of Monastiraki and Plaka. Therefore you could use the best tourist buses in Athens to move around the area if you are also interested in enjoying a tourist audio guide of the areas you pass through this section of the city.
Details of interest
- Prices: access is free, but guided tours usually cost 5 euros per person.
- Duration: it is open until around 11 pm on most summer days and depending on your interests it can take 2 or even 3 hours to walk around inside.
4. Tour the Athens Riviera
For many years it seemed unthinkable that the coasts near the Greek capital would become a tourist destination worthy of being visited and enjoyed by locals and foreigners during the summer season. However, many of the beaches that are a bit further away from the cruise ports in Athens make the Attica Region Riviera as interesting as Mykonos or Santorini.
In fact, the sea swimming spots near the Greek capital have the approval of excellent water quality by the European Environmental Agency. Which is a distinction that is not offered to any area of the continent and is definitely not assigned to many tourist regions that anyway receive bathers all summer long.
Specifically the southern suburbs of the city are an ideal place for these beach visits within the mainland section of Attica. Glyfada stands out among other alternatives for its proximity to the center of Athens, for the wide commercial and cultural variety it handles and for being accessible by train on the red line from the urban epicenter of Athens.
Asteras Beach is one of the best known, while Paralia Kavouri is one of the local secrets that, despite being farther away, is usually preferred by Athenians.
5. Don't hesitate to organize a picnic in the hills of Athens
Summer in Athens is full of traditions and picnics on one of the many hills of the city is one of those secrets that are not shared with the hordes of tourists. However, they are within the reach of those who do good research for their trip, like you right now.
Specifically there are 4 hills that should catch your attention for this activity and these are the Hill of the Nymphs, the Mount of the Muses, the Areopagus or Mount Lycabettus. All of them can be easily accessed from the surrounding neighborhoods in the urban bases of the city. In addition, on a good afternoon you will enjoy a visibility of the horizon that will allow you to see as far as the sea on the shores of the port of Piraeus and other coastal communities of the Athens Metropolitan Area.
In the case of Mount Lycabettus there is a cable car that takes you to the top in less than 10 minutes and the Areopagus stands out for its proximity to the Acropolis of Athens. Which makes it very convenient that you book some of the Acropolis tours or excursions for the same day of your picnic.
I recommend that you go shopping in the streets closest to these respective hills of the city. This so you can enjoy Greek summer delicacies such as salads of olives, tomatoes and feta cheese fresh from an authentic Athenian kitchen. Don't forget to bring a blanket to cover the ground and have a place to sit to enjoy the beautiful sunset.
6. Visit the National Archaeological Museum
This is the largest museum in all of Greece and covers an area of about 8,000 square meters, housing some 11,000 historical items. Most of these from the period when Ancient Greece was the most important empire of all Western culture and laid the foundations of what our modern societies are today.
It has been open to the public since 1889 and will remain with its doors extended throughout the summer season. This time of the year is a favorable time to visit because of the fact that many tourists will want to tour its facilities, but most of them will be focused on other types of entertainment. Just like what you experience in the Greek islands or on the mainland coasts of the country.
That means it will be an iconic part of the city that will actually be available to be toured in comfort. That's while offering you a break from the crowded streets of tourists and the hustle and bustle that characterizes the tourist epicenters of Athens at this time of year.
Since you will already be in the area, you can take the opportunity to walk the streets of Exharcheia, the neighborhood where this museum is located. It is characterized by its modernity and at the same time by its anarchic identity that has always had a significant influence on the cultural and political life of Athens.
Details of interest
- Prices: there are days that are constantly changing for free access for tourists, but in general access is usually 5 to 6 euros for people over 18 years. There are guided tours for 50 euros for groups of up to 5 members.
- Duration: you can spend 4 or even 5 hours touring it if you pay close attention to all the exhibits of the place.
7. Visit the islands closest to the city
Clearly, Greece is internationally known for the significant number of islands it has in its national territory. There are approximately 6,000 of them and it is most likely that for you it is essential to visit some of them even if your focus of interest when visiting this beautiful corner of the Mediterranean is its capital, Athens.
The city has several ports from where these excursions depart to the Greek islands from Athens. Salamina, Aegina and Kea are some of the most important ones, with the most crystalline waters and the closest proximity to this city.
The first one I mentioned stands out for its geographical dimensions and its significant proximity to the Greek continental shelf. So if you decide to visit it, it is very likely that you will need more than 48 hours to get to know all the coasts that offer very different beach environments. At least if you compare the northern coasts with the southern coasts of Salamina.
Details of interest
- Prices: the best way to get to these islands are the excursions, these usually combine several islands in the same itinerary for a single date. First for the time saving and then for the money saving. The rates are almost always around 130 or 140 euros per person with up to three destinations in the same itinerary.
8. Take a swim in Vouliagmeni Lake
This lake is known as a healing space within the Athenian Riviera and it really is a very curious geographical corner. It is a kind of marine spring that receives its brackish water through an underwater cave.
It is one of the best kept secrets of those who really investigate entertainment options for small day trips from Athens. And is that this small brackish water lake is located a short distance of 25 kilometers south of the urban center of the Greek capital.
Its temperature is quite favorable and the water for some unknown reason is full of minerals. But the real attraction of the place is the beauty of the landscape that characterizes its surroundings. In fact, it has been a natural monument for a couple of years.
It has cafeterias, changing rooms and even a restaurant. In fact, many people living in the area of Vouliagmeni attend it without the need to be interested in bathing in this beautiful lake.
Details of interest
- Prices: access to the lake has changing rates that depend on the day of the week of the visit and the age of the person. On average you can expect entrance fees of about 15 euros per adult and about 6 for children between 12 and 6 years of age. Minors are free.
- How to get there: you can get there by driving a private car for about half an hour, although there are bus routes that will get you close to Vouliagmeni and that means you will have to pay a cab to the entrance of the lake.
9. Experience a concert at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an amphitheater dating back to 161 AD. It suffered serious damage in 267, the result of an invasion of the city. Although by 1954 it had already been restored and in 1957 it was functioning with the same purpose as today. That is, to host live entertainment shows ranging from theatrical performances, dance, concerts, operas and televised shows.
Today it is one of the most important points for the activities of the Athens Festival. It consists of a lot of cultural events that take place from May to September in theaters, cinemas and concert halls of the city thanks to the financial support of the municipality of Athens.
If by the time of your summer visit to the Greek capital you manage to coincide with a show of your interest taking place at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, then it is imperative that you buy tickets for it. You would be attending one of the oldest and most important amphitheaters in the history of mankind.
I advise you not to forget a blanket or a cushion to sit on, as these are completely rigid marble seats that can become a bit uncomfortable after being on them for 1 hour in the same position.
10. Visit Syntagmatos Square and watch the changing of the Greek Guard
Syntagmatos Square, known as Syntagma in English, is located in the geographical center of Athens, in the area near the Plaka neighborhood, right next to the National Garden of Athens. The area surrounding the square also has the Hotel Grande Bretagne, a hotel that has been in operation since 1874 and is a favorite of the most famous personalities visiting the city.
Ermou Street is one of the most commercial areas of the city and is also on the edge of this important square which is known as Constitution Square. This is because of its relation to the revolutionary movement that led to the drafting of this national document in 1843.
As the Hellenic Parliament is also located in this square you have the opportunity to witness one of the most curious and entertaining traditions of the city. It is the changing of the guard of the army that guards a monument dedicated to the Greek soldiers who have died in battles for their country.
This small replacement takes place every hour from 10 am until sunset. Now, summer is an ideal time to visit this square due to the fact that there will be a very significant entertainment offer around this very important point of the city. And it is actually a transit area between many of the sites you will visit in this part of the city.
To escape the heat, I suggest you take part in one of the bike tours in Athens that will surely have a stop in this square and will also take you to other important monuments in the area.
Temperatures in Athens in summer
Estimates always indicate that the maximum temperatures in Athens in the summer months can reach 33 degrees Celsius. However, the truth is that they can go up to 40 or 43 degrees because this has already happened. As for minimum temperatures you can expect around 21 or 22 degrees for the nights of the summer months.
Athens Summer Tourist Attraction in Athens
Athens is full of tourists during the summer and this is something you should take into account for your travel planning. Keep in mind that it is not an unsustainable tourism either, as it is not a city that is characterized by becoming uncomfortable by the amount of people that group in the main attractions.
Prices in Athens in summer
Summer is the most expensive time of the year to visit Athens because the demand is abundant and the supply clearly has limited options. My recommendation is to buy or book as many things in advance as possible, as this will ensure more favorable prices than having to pay for services at the very moment you consume them.
What to pack to visit Athens in summer?
Wear comfortable and breathable clothes, as you will be walking a lot every day of your visit and the environmental conditions will remain dry and hot throughout your trip. Footwear is another important factor, as it must be comfortable but also suitable for all kinds of activities.
Don't forget the sunscreen if you have to use one with a specific dermatological formula, as it will be a real inconvenience to have to look for them in all the pharmacies of the city.