Converting unix timestamp string to readable date


I have a string representing a unix timestamp (i.e. "1284101485") in Python, and I'd like to convert it to a readable date. When I use time.strftime, I get a TypeError:

>>>import time
>>>print time.strftime("%B %d %Y", "1284101485")

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
TypeError: argument must be 9-item sequence, not str
3/29/2018 12:19:51 AM

>>> from datetime import datetime
>>> datetime.fromtimestamp(1172969203.1)
datetime.datetime(2007, 3, 4, 0, 46, 43, 100000)

Taken from


The most voted answer suggests using fromtimestamp which is error prone since it uses the local timezone. To avoid issues a better approach is to use UTC:


Where posix_time is the Posix epoch time you want to convert


>>> import time
>>> time.ctime(int("1284101485"))
'Fri Sep 10 16:51:25 2010'
>>> time.strftime("%D %H:%M", time.localtime(int("1284101485")))
'09/10/10 16:51'

There are two parts:

  1. Convert the unix timestamp ("seconds since epoch") to the local time
  2. Display the local time in the desired format.

A portable way to get the local time that works even if the local time zone had a different utc offset in the past and python has no access to the tz database is to use a pytz timezone:

#!/usr/bin/env python
from datetime import datetime
import tzlocal  # $ pip install tzlocal

unix_timestamp = float("1284101485")
local_timezone = tzlocal.get_localzone() # get pytz timezone
local_time = datetime.fromtimestamp(unix_timestamp, local_timezone)

To display it, you could use any time format that is supported by your system e.g.:

print(local_time.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S.%f%z (%Z)"))
print(local_time.strftime("%B %d %Y"))  # print date in your format

If you do not need a local time, to get a readable UTC time instead:

utc_time = datetime.utcfromtimestamp(unix_timestamp)
print(utc_time.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S.%f+00:00 (UTC)"))

If you don't care about the timezone issues that might affect what date is returned or if python has access to the tz database on your system:

local_time = datetime.fromtimestamp(unix_timestamp)
print(local_time.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S.%f"))

On Python 3, you could get a timezone-aware datetime using only stdlib (the UTC offset may be wrong if python has no access to the tz database on your system e.g., on Windows):

#!/usr/bin/env python3
from datetime import datetime, timezone

utc_time = datetime.fromtimestamp(unix_timestamp, timezone.utc)
local_time = utc_time.astimezone()
print(local_time.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S.%f%z (%Z)"))

Functions from the time module are thin wrappers around the corresponding C API and therefore they may be less portable than the corresponding datetime methods otherwise you could use them too:

#!/usr/bin/env python
import time

unix_timestamp  = int("1284101485")
utc_time = time.gmtime(unix_timestamp)
local_time = time.localtime(unix_timestamp)
print(time.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S", local_time)) 
print(time.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S+00:00 (UTC)", utc_time))  

For a human readable timestamp from a UNIX timestamp, I have used this in scripts before:

import os, datetime

datetime.datetime.fromtimestamp(float(os.path.getmtime("FILE"))).strftime("%B %d, %Y")


'December 26, 2012'


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