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Visit one of the many outdoor cinemas in Athens and enjoy a movie in the open-air. Here are some of the most renowned ones
Popcorn, chilled beer and the Acropolis at night…the start of summer in Athens signals the unmistakable 9pm and 11pm whirr of chunky projectors showing films on big screens set up on rooftops, terraces, enclosed courtyards, jasmine-scented gardens, even car parks, as the magical season of “cinema under the stars” gets under way.
In the Sixties, the city used to host more than 600 outdoor cinemas showing classic Hollywood flicks to neighbourhood audiences on makeshift seating, surrounded by potted plants and the illuminated windows of surrounding apartments where people sneakily watched from balconies free of charge.
Today, more than 90 screens still “pop up” offering a unique social experience that taps into nostalgia yet feels part of authentic contemporary Athenian life.
At approximately €8 (£6) a ticket, an outdoor screening has the added thrill of being an ultra-affordable means of entertainment.
Often in built-up areas, some open-air cinemas have discreet entrances, but spot a buzzing queue on a cobbled pavement between May and September and the chances are you are at a movie-house door.
Films are shown in their original language with Greek subtitles, never dubbed. Snacks and drinks are available. Smoking is generally allowed. Here are some of the best ones to visit:
Built in 1935, this cinema oozes charm with its intimate garden setting, facing the sacred rock of the Acropolis. Ideal for classic movie lovers and Hitchcock fans. Notable for homemade sour cherry drink and cheese pie. Blankets available, if chilly.
Located in a roof garden above Philomousou Etairias Square. After a bistro dinner in Plaka Square, you can sit back and marvel at a surreal view of the Acropolis hovering above the neo-classical buildings in this oldest quarter of the city. Cine Paris shows contemporary award-winning pictures as well as the classics. Notable for its vintage poster shop.
Named after Hadrian’s aqueduct, this lovely garden in the heart of Kolonaki makes a refreshing haven on a hot night. One of the most popular haunts in town, it offers mainstream films, pizza and hot dogs plus a charming bar. Well situated for a post-screening ouzo or two at the ouzeri just outside the doors.
Excellent service makes this the most exclusive of outdoor cinemas. Aegli plays movies for all tastes in the theatrical setting of oasis-like Zappeion Garden with a state-of-the-art sound system. The bar supplies chill beer and delicious souvlaki.
In a spacious, scented garden in the Exarcheia neighbourhood, the alternative quarter of Athens, Riviera screens classical and European cinema. Fountains play underneath the projection screen; alluring cosy tavernas are nearby.
The cultural heart of Petralona, the student quarter, this is the open-air art-house of Athens and alternative summer home of intellectuals, artists, film critics and celebrities. Two red velvet curtains at the entrance symbolise an unashamedly unmodernised reverence for cinematic tradition.
One of the oldest cinemas in the working-class district of Pangrati, complete with art-deco interior and red velvet armchairs, as well as a second, open-air venue on the rooftop. The floor tilts down towards the screen to allow for a better view. Notable for quality movies and a €10 (£7.50) ticket which allows you to watch three movies for an unlimited period of time.
A car park behind a theatre and a warehouse during the winter, the space is transformed into a charming cinema with industrial decoration in the centre of Athens’s artistic quarter. Expect re-mastered copies of old movies and exclusive European releases.
Frequented by local actors and artists, this legendary rooftop cinema on Exarcheia Square – famous for its love of the Hitchcock oeuvre – shows European and arty films true to the intellectual character of the district.