As with many European capitals, Athens slows down in August as locals flee the city for their summer holidays. The good news for travellers is you can still discover the city and its sites, with less traffic and crowds. We’ve put together a snapshot of what to do in Athens in August, should you be visiting at this time of year.
Summer days along the Athenian coastline
Whether you’re at the start or end of your holiday, you’ll find the coastline of Athens full of life and activity at this time of year. Locals head to this pristine seaside on hot August days. Make a day of it at The House Project, Athens’ largest beach house, that is ideal for families, couples or those flying solo. If it’s real luxury you crave, reserve a day bed at Astir beach club and spend the day swimming in the crystal blue waters of the exclusive Laimos Peninsula. Here are five of our favourite beaches, easily reached from central Athens for all budgets and tastes.
If you want to experience more of the Athenian Riviera, hop on a half-day sailing cruise by catamaran, where you will swim in secret coves and be treated to an authentic Greek lunch with an intimate group size of no more than 10 people on board.
Why Athens Tip: This catamaran cruise fills up fast during August, avoid disappointment and book ahead of time!
Comedy, tragedy & drama at Ancient Epidaurus
Famous for its exemplary proportions and acoustics, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus was constructed in the late 4th century BC, around the time when Athens was flourishing in art, philosophy, science and of course theatre. With a capacity of more than 12,000 spectators, it is regarded as the best-preserved theatre in Greece. If your schedule allows, experience it in August, when the stage comes alive with the works of Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes and more, as part of the Athens and Epidaurus Festival.
Two shows (The Clouds & Prometheus Bound) will be performed from 2 to 10 August 2019. Book your theatre tickets online and then secure a seat on our recommended Epidaurus bus transfer to get there and back to Athens on these performance nights.
An innovative modern performance infused with traditional Greek dance, The Thread will also be held at ancient Epidaurus on 24 August by internationally acclaimed choreographer Russell Maliphant.
Panageia (Assumption Day) – 15th August
The 15th August is a national public holiday and a religious tribute to the Virgin Mary. ‘Assumption day’ is one of the most important days in the Greek Orthodox calendar and the perfect opportunity to light a candle in one of the many churches around Athens, with their remarkable iconography and Byzantine art.
Join morning mass at the church of Panageia Kapnikarea (Church of the Virgin Mary) on Ermou Street, which was built in 1050AD. See more at the Byzantine and Christian Museum which stays open despite the national holiday.
Feel like getting out of the city on the 15th August, you can take a half-day tour down to the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounio.
Why Athens Tip: The Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum are all open on 15th August.
August midsummer full moon
The August midsummer full moon falls on the 15th August 2019 which is a national holiday in Greece. For photography enthusiasts, the best place to capture the full moon rising behind the Acropolis is from either Pnyx Hill or Philopappos Hill. The moonrise is set for 8:35pm so we suggest being in position by 8:15pm as the moon will be high in the sky by 9pm.
Both the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum are open until midnight on the 15th August and offer free entry from 8:00pm onwards to all their galleries. Both museums will also present free musical concerts from 9:00pm in their forecourts.
Major sites and museums
All of Athens’ major attractions and museums will be open this month and the Acropolis welcomes you with fewer line-ups. Be sure to stop by the Acropolis museum and combine the two in a day. The Presidential Guard is always on duty outside Hellenic Parliament, so head to Syntagma Square at the top of the hour for one of their famous changeovers or stick around on a Sunday at 11:00am for a ceremonious parade.
The National Archaeological Museum is a treasure trove from the ancient world, with some of the most significant pieces dating back to the Neolithic period. See the Antikythera mechanism, thought to be the world’s first computer that lived beneath the sea for 2000 years before it was discovered.
Discover Athens with a local
For another dimension to your food experience, let a local show you what good eating and drinking in Athens is all about by exploring the restaurants and bars Athenians prefer or discover your palette for Greek wines, led by a Greek wine expert.
With an upbeat summer atmosphere and expansive views of the Acropolis and old Monastiraki Square, head to one of Athens’ rooftop bars for a very Athenian way to spend a few hours, perched above the city. Open day or night for coffee, light refreshments and impressive cocktails.
Athens for families and the SNFCC
Whether your children are big or small, Athens is the perfect city destination to explore as a family at all times of the year. Greeks have an inherent love of tiny tots, which makes travelling in and around Greece an absolute dream for parents. The newly built Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is popular with Athenian families, allowing small children to roam freely and explore the large Mediterranean garden. Weekly events include sailing and kayaking along an artificial canal with free tours in and around the complex.
Restore the soul
Take your sunburn and tired feet to the city’s sanctuary of calm and serenity at Athens’ newest and most luxurious hammam baths, where ancient rituals of wellness prevail. Restore the balance to your physical and mental health and allow heat and steam to open your pores, followed by massage, exfoliation and relaxation. A perfect way to start or end your holiday. Polis Hammam, open daily until 11:00pm T. +30 210 048 8216. 6-8 Avliton, Athens.
Catch a flick beneath the Acropolis
Visiting an outdoor cinema is a tradition that flourished in Athens during the 1960’s and is a very Athenian way of enjoying summer nights. Cine Paris is hard to beat, located in the heart of Plaka with killer views of the Acropolis.
All is not lost in August, you can still fill your luggage with memories of Athens. Head down the labyrinth streets of Plaka for souvenirs, trinkets and Byzantine inspired jewellery. Back towards Syntagma, certified ancient replicas can be found at Attic Black. You’ll find fashion, shoes, costume jewellery and more, at the very cosmopolitan district of Kolonaki or you can cherish the air conditioning at Attica department store in Syntagma or inside the upmarket Golden Hall shopping centre. Summer sales run through to the 31st August.
Why Athens Tips: Athens in August
Visitors should be aware that travelling domestically around the national holiday of 15th August can be crowded on boats, flights and all roads leading in and out of the city. You should expect delays and where possible avoid travelling at this time. If arriving into Athens during this peak period, a pre-arranged transfer is highly recommended to avoid inflated, last-minute prices that are often quoted by taxi drivers and particularly common at the Port of Piraeus. Read our Athens Travel Guide for further information on public transport and travelling around Athens.
Many Athenian restaurants close during August, we recommend you call during this time to confirm they are open.
Happy August exploring!