Athens is rich in cultural events. Most of them take place in outdoor theatres during the summer, whilst the winter festivals usually take place at the Concert Hall of Athens.
Comic fans join with comic artists and illustrators at this event held in Technopolis Arts Complex in Gazi each January. It is one of Athen's most successful and popular annual events, hosting exhibitions from Greek and international artists.
Dionyssia is the largest wine event of the year and is the wine lover's favourite exhibition. The event is held at the Zappeion Megaro Athens in the National Gardens. Over 120 renowned Greek wine distilleries and wine importers exhibit at this festival, with more than 10,000 visitors enjoying wine-tasting in an inviting atmosphere with exceptional aesthetics. www.dionysia.gr
Athens Video Art Festival (April – May)
This is the most important festival of digital arts and new media in Greece. The Athens Video Art Festival is usually a three-day event that takes place annually during springtime at the Technopolis Arts Complex in Gazi. The festival is dedicated to modern culture and new tehnologies. It is a trendy and powerful event which showcases the talents of digital artists around the world. www.athensvideoartfestival.gr
Athens Book Festival (May)
Publishers and book lovers gather to the heart of Athens' historical centre in the Zappeion Hall within the National Gardens for this annual book festival, which is usually held in May.
The International Jazz and Blues Festival of Athens (May - June)
Athens International Jazz and Blues Festival is held around the end of May/beginning of June at the scenic Lycabettus Theatre. Jazz artists from around the world meet and perform under the beautiful and romantic summer moonlight on the historic Lycabettus hill, equipped with astonishing views of Athens. Some events are held at the Technopolis Arts Complex in Gazi, so it is best to check out where the festival is being held first.
Traditional Greek Dance Festival (May – September)
During the summer, Greek dancers perform at the famous ‘Dora Stratou’ theatre on Philopappou Hill. The dancers dress in traditional costumes and perform traditional songs and dances which have been around for over 2,500 years.
Athens & Epidaurus Festival (June – September)
Ancient Greeks performed plays in the spectacular theatres of Herodes Atticus and Epidauros Theatre. Today, every summer between June and September, the ancient theatres revive and host the world’s greatest artists who perform under the moonlight. The ‘Athens & Epidauros Festival’ is organised by the ‘Hellenic Festival’ company and offers a range of performances including ancient and modern theatre, opera, ballet, jazz, classical music, concerts, dance and symphonic orchestras. www.greekfestival.gr
Lykavittos Festival (June – September)
The famous outdoor Lycabettus Theatre stages some of the most popular summer cultural events attracting music and theatre fans. One of the most popular festivals is Lykavittos, held between June and September each year, the festival sees a selection of bands playing in the open-air theatre as the sun picturesquely sets behind them. www.greekfestival.gr
Rockwave Festival (June)
The Rockwave three-day festival is Greece’s hottest music event of the year, featuring some of the best Greek and international pop, rock and contemporary bands in Athens. www.rockwavefestival.gr
European Music Day ‘E.M.D’ (21st June)
European Music Day sees music of all kinds performed in the streets and the squares around Greece, all free of charge. The basic objective of the one-day festival is to see the projection of musical creation and the the production of live events for musicians all over Europe. www.europeanmusicday.gr
Athens International Dancing Festival (July)
The Athens International Dancing Festival has been held annually since 2003 in the first two weeks of July. The festivals hosts some of the most interesting and renowned dance companies from Europe and America at the Technopolis Arts Complex.
August Full Moon Festival (August)
On the night of the full moon in August (it is said that the August full moon is the brightest and most beautiful of the year), Athens opens its major archaeological monuments and sites to the public for free. Opera performances, Greek dances and classical music are performed under the stars. If you are in Athens during this time, it is an enhancing night not to be missed.
MIRfestival is the latest international contemporary art festival to hit Athens. It aims to promote contemporary art through performing arts and visual new media. MIRfestival is where the experimental takes place. (In Russian, MIR means ‘world’ and ‘peace’). www.mirfestival.gr
Athens International Film Festival (September)
The Athens International Film Festival Opening Nights, organised by Athens Film Society, aim to present the Greek audiences with a hand-picked selection of independent film productions from all over the world. www.aiff.gr
Green Design Festival (September – October)
The Green Design Festival is the event of the 21st century. It is an original, open-air, open-to-all event, supported by the City of Athens and the Hellenic Ministry of the Environment. The event is hosted in Syntagma Square and is where culture meets new technology. The event seeks to present design in all forms and applications to spark a discussion on a contemporary way of life that is more eco-friendly and to assist in developing more positive environmental attitudes. www.greendesignfestival.gr
Athens Photo Festival (September – November)
The Athens Photo Festival is a major cultural and artistic event with a worldwide impact that transforms Athens into the centre of international photography.The festival aims to broaden the existing platform for presenting the annual Greek photography output and aims to make contacts with artists from various countries.
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS & CELEBRATIONS
New Year ‘Protohronia’ – 01 January
New Year festivities mark the beginning of a new calendar year. The celebrations usually include an impressive fireworks display and a plethora of parties and events around Athens, with everyone greeting the Happy New Year ‘Kali Khronia’.
Epiphany ‘Epifánia’ or ‘Theofania’ – 6 January
Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Customs revolve around ‘the blessing of the waters’. Following the church service, a procession heads towards the sea where after the ceremony, the priest throws a cross into the waters, thus blessing the waters. Many daring divers compete to retrieve the cross, the one who does will enjoy blessing, good luck and health for the entire year.
Carnival ‘Apokries’ (February – March)
The Greek orthodox carnival begins 58 days before Easter. Festivities and glamorous masquerade parties last for days. Most modern carnival-related events worldwide, the processions, costuming and feasting all derive from Greek ancient ceremonies. Most parties, parades and traditional events occur during the weekend preceding Monday of Lent.
Monday of Lent ‘ Kathari Deftera’
Monday of Lent in Greek ‘Kathari Deftera’ is also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Green Monday and Clean Monday. It is a movable feast that occurs at the beginning of the seventh week before Orthodox Easter Sunday. It signifies the beginning of leaving the sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods behind, preparing for cleanliness from within and externally and heading towards Easter with a clean conscience, with forgiveness, and with renewed Christian love. ‘Kathari Deftera’ is celebrated with outdoor excursions, eating fasting food and flying kites. Traditionally, it is considered to mark the beginning of the spring season.
Indepedence Day (25 March)
25th March is one of the most significant public holidays in Greece. It is both a religious holiday celebrating The Annunciation to the Virgin Mary and a national holiday honouring the 1821 Greek Revolution against the Turks. The national military parade takes place on this day.
Easter is the most important religious festivity on the Greek Orthodox calendar. The spiritual preparation for ‘Pascha’ begins on Clean Monday with 40 days of fasting. Holy Week is a time for Greek families to reunite. Church bells are heard all over the city and people head to the church services and processions. The festivities climax at midnight on Easter Saturday, when the priests announce the resurrection and intone ‘Christ is risen’, candles are lit with the Holy Light and fireworks explode. Celebrations peak on Easter Sunday with family member gatherings where lamb is roasted to mark the end of fasting, eating of red dyed eggs symbolising both the blood of Christ and resurrection, delicious traditional baked goods including ‘tsourekia’ and dancing.
May Day or Labour Day ‘Protomayia’ (01 May)
Traditionally, flower wreathes are hung outside the entrance doors to ward off evil. To honour Labour Day, a big parade takes place marked by workers demonstrations.
Assumption of the Virgin (15 August)
The most important festival in the Orthodox calendar after Easter is the Assumption of the Virgin. This is the heart of the holiday period and almost all the businesses in Athens are closed for this day.
Celebrating the Ohi (meaning 'no') day with parades and traditional dancing. The day commemorates the famous negative reply by the Greece’s Prime Minister Metaxas to Mussolini in 1940 after he demanded the surrender of Greece.
Athens celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ with church services, Christmas carols and events and glamorous parties.
MOST IMPORTANT EVENTS
Kiffissia Flower Show (April – May)
The Kiffissia Flower Show is the most impressive flower and botanical show in Greece. The show presents over 50 species of flower and takes place at the Kifissia Park.
Athens Fashion Week (October)
Attracting thousands of visitors including the international press and celebrities, the Athens Fashion Week has earned its place in the fashion world. Newcomers and famous Greek and international designers unite for this extravaganza in the Technopolis Arts Complex in Gazi. www.hfda.gr
Athens Classic Marathon (October)
Athens has the pride of being home to the marathon, which was born by a real historic and heroic event. Commemorating the famous run of the soldier Pheidippides in 490BC, the 42 kilometre race begins in the town of Marathon and ends up at the Panathenaic Stadium. in 490BC, the Marathon plain witnessed one of history's most important battles. According to the ancient historian Herodotus, an army of 10,000 Greeks and 1,000 Plataeans defeated 25,000 Persians preserving the newly founded first democracy. Following the victory, Pheidippidis, an Athenian soldier, ran 42 km to Athens to announce the good news. After he announced the famous 'Nenikikamen' meaning we have won, he collapsed. www.athensclassicmarathon.gr
Athens International Motor Show (November)
The Athens International Motor Show is the biggest one in Greece and is held at Hellinikon East Airport (Athens’ former international airport). A perfect visit to admire the latest car models and technology.