When to go to Athens

Winters in Greece are relatively mild; summers can be ferociously hot. Warm weather and bright sunshine is pretty much guaranteed from April and through to November. The city virtually shuts down for several days on either side of August 15, the biggest national holiday.

Summer -  festivals, beaches, and scorching heat

Athens Festival (www.greekfestival.gr) World-class festival of performing arts with a brilliantly diverse line-up ranging from Toumani Diabate to Bob Wilson. (June-July)

Music Day (www.europeanmusicday.gr) Free concerts all over town, from Greek pop to music performed by the city’s ethnic communities (last week in June)

Synch Festival (www.synch.gr) Electronic music festival in the suitably post-industrial surroundings of Technopolis, the old gasworks. (June)

Rockwave (www.rockwavefestival.gr) Catch the likes of Manu Chao and The Black Eyed Peas at this festival at Terra Vibe. It’s in the middle of the woods in Malakasa, 35km outside town. (July)

August Full Moon The city’s monuments stay open all night and entry is free.

Autumn - 21st century frocks and 2500-year-old races

MIR festival (www.mirfestival.gr) Performances, projections, video installations, concerts, and exhibitions take over the Gazi neighbourhood. (Sept)

Athens Fashion Week (www.athens-fashion.gr) A modest event established in 2005, but gradually gaining a global reputation. (Oct)

Athens Marathon (www.athensclassicmarathon.gr) Retrace the route run by Pheidippidis in 490 BC to announce the Athenian victory over the Persians at the battle of Marathon. He died on the spot, but don’t let that put you off. (Oct)

Winter - carnival fever keeps festive spirits high

Design Walk (www.designwalk.gr) Open studios, design talks and exhibitions centres all over the Psyrri neighbourhood. (Feb)

Apokries Carnival in Greece is very much a celebration of the ancient god of wine, Dionysus. Three weeks of fancy dress parties and carnivorous binges before the 40-day fast for Lent. (Feb-March)

Spring - Orthodox celebrations and art fairs

Easter Greek Orthodox Easter doesn’t always coincide with Catholic/Protestant Easter. Most locals leave town to celebrate the advent of spring. The most scenic places for midnight mass are St George on the summit of Lycabettus Hill, or one of the many old churches sprinkled around Plaka. (April or May)

Athens Film Festival (www.athensfest.org) This is low-key as film festivals go, but the line-up includes interesting documentaries and world cinema that you won’t catch easily elsewhere. (Late April)

Art Athina (www.art-athina.gr) Gallerists from around the world descend on the Faliro Pavilion (which hosted the Taekwondo at the 2004 Olympics). (May)