Greece, land of sunshine, true. But every once in awhile there are a few days of rain. It can happen anytime. I’ve seen 3 days of rain in June, I’ve seen 3 days of rain in August, Looks like we’re looking at 3 days of rain in November … No need to fret if it happens that you’ve arrived to a cloudy, rainy Athens. There is plenty to do in Greece’s capital city when it rains. Athens is full of museums, of course, and one of the things I personally love about rainy days is that it gets me inside to the visit them. It’s hard to leave the beautiful outdoors, full of sunshine, when you are only in Athens for a limited time and thinking about returning to gray London or drizzly Seattle, or cold Chicago. So I take advantage of those rainy days to explore the city’s museums, I grab an umbrella and take a stroll through the National Gardens, wander the streets of the city, many times alone, as the cafes fill up with Athenians enjoying the coolness the rains bring.
In addition to the tips below, don’t forget the the Athens Metro is a museum as well.
Here’s my top 10 things to do on a rainy day in Athens (divided into several geographically close activities):
Near the Acropolis
1. Visit the Acropolis Museum, plant yourself on the second level in the Cafe, enjoy a budget friendly lunch and enjoy the views.
2. From the Acropolis Museum you are just round the corner from the Atelier Spyros Vassiliou Museum, . Vassiliou, was one of the most acclaimed artists in Greece, and you may just recognize some of the work on display.
The Atelier Spyros Vassiliou Museum is open:
Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sunday from 10 am – 2 pm and on Wednesdays from noon to 8 pm.
Admission is 2 euro.
3. Also near the Acropolis is the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum. This private collection is housed in a beautiful building at Karyatidon and Kallisperi Streets, just off the esplanade of Dionysiou Areopagitou St. on the south side of the Acropolis, below the Theatre of Dionysos. The glitter of all those jewels will certainly bring the sunshine inside!
Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum is open:
Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 8.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.
Sunday: 11.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.
Wednesday: 9.00 a.m. – 9.00 p.m.
Mondays, Tuesdays and National holidays the museum is closed.
General Admission: 5,00 €
Students, senior Citizens, and Groups: 4,00 €
Near Syntagma Square
4. Another trio of activities on a rainy day includes a walk, with an umbrella, through the National Gardens. It’s peaceful, especially so in the rainy, when there’s few people out, and the gardens hold many secret areas where you can escape the rain. There is a cafe at one end, but I prefer to continue out of the gardens to the Zappeio, where I may wander inside the magnificent Zappeion Hall and admire the architecture inside (I love the rotanda!). One September I browsed the bookseller kiosks and found this lovely story:
A Rainy Day in Athens, 1841
Hans Christian Anderson, the beloved Danish teller of tales, visited the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Here, from his book, A Poet’s Bazaar, re-issued by Michael Kessend, New York in 1987, is an intriguing tale from a day in Athens.
The rain was falling in large drops and soon there was a downpour. Three different flocks of sheep stood in the narrow square in front of the church, they huddled together, closer and closer. The shepherds lent on their long staffs. Closely wrapped in thick brown smocks, with their shapeless hats pulled over their heads, they looked more like Greenlanders than what we think of as Greeks. They stood bare-legged in the mud. The rain poured down and eased off only towards evening, when the wind broke up the clouds and scattered them away like mist.
I ventured out. Creeping out from their low mud-huts were a couple of Negro families, who had been slaves under the Turks. The woman’s entire costume consisted of a sort of gown and a soiled skirt. She lay and scooped out water over the doorstep, while small black children, one wearing nothing but a red wool shirt, danced in the mud.
It certainly conjures up a much different Athens than we see today.
Following your visit to Zappeion is the third rainy day spot for this excursion:
5. Be an Athenian at the Aegli Cafe. Grab a seat on the covered veranda, order a coffee or light lunch and settle in for awhile, reading, people watching and enjoying the car free quietness of the gardens.
6. From the Zappeion gardens cross over Amalias to visit the Jewish Museum of Athens. Being a wandering Jewess myself, this museum holds a special place in my heart, but favoritism aside this is an amazing collection of Judaica from all over Greece. The museum also does a fine job of telling the story of the history of the Jews of Greece, which dates back more than 23 centuries in Greece!
The Jewish Museum of Greece is located at Nikis 39, Athens and is open:
Monday to Friday: 9.00 am to 2.30 pm
Sundays: 10.00 am – 2.00 pm
Admission fees: Adults 5 euros, students 3 euro
7. Continue on to the Frissiras Museum, a private collection of European artists, housed in a most beautiful building at the corner of Monis Asteriou and Kydathineon St. The museum is open:
Wednesday to Friday: 10am – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday: 11am – 5pm
Monday & Tuesday: closed
Admission is 3 euro.
8. Start your morning with a walk down to the cafes on Heraklidon street. Here you’ll find lovely old Neo-Classical buildings, renovated, cozy and friendly on a rainy day. Take a seat on the covered roof of Cafe Chocolat and contemplate the Parthenon from this prized Athenian vantage point. Look for the fabulous teahouse on Poulopoulou (2 blocks off of the pedestrian street). Enjoy a cup of organic herbal tea and when you are ready, continue back to Herakleidon street, to:
9. The Herakleidon Museum, the Escher exhibits. This small private collection is an experience in visual arts. The Herakleidon Museum is open:
Monday – closed
General admission: 6€
Students & over 65: 4€
10. Continue walking down Herakleidon away from the historical center and you’ll find the Melina Mercouri Cultural Center, The center is home to two permanent exhibitions, A Journey through Athens, on the first floor, where one can view 19th-century Athens and elements of the 20th century via reproductions of buildings, houses, stores and people, and my favorite, The Haridimos Shadow Puppet Museum – Theatre which, which hosts a vast collection of items that belonged to the Haridimos family, renowned shadow puppet masters. Over 1,000 exhibits are on display including figures made with leather, cardboard, gelatine and sets drawn on fabric, cloth-bound manuscripts, folk art paintings and photographs dating from the early 20th century until today. Performances are staged for schools free of charge, while puppet figure-making lessons are held for children and adults on a weekly basis, however if you are lucky enough to find Sotiris Haridimos on site when you arrive, you could be treated to your own private shadow puppet show!
The Cultural Center and Museum are open:
Daily from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm, except Mondays and Sunday evenings