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summer cinemas athens

To say that Athens gets hot in the summer is an understatement. Many Athenians escape to the islands, preferring a sea breeze to the sweltering city. But for those stuck in the concrete jungle, a classic way to cool down is to visit one of the city’s many open-air cinemas – also called summer cinemas – after dark.

An important summer ritual for Greeks of all ages, these open-air cinemas usually open for the season in late April or early May, when the weather first starts to warm up, and close in late September or early October. The films being screened are always in their original language with Greek subtitles (except for kids’ films, which are dubbed) and many are small productions rather than Hollywood blockbusters. Some cinemas also play film classics, giving younger audiences the opportunity to enjoy these masterpieces on the big screen.

Often bordered by fragrant honeysuckle and jasmine, summer cinemas are not just a place to catch an evening film – they also offer Athenians the chance to savor local delicacies. Watching a film and eating go hand in hand, but the movie snacks at open-air cinemas in Greece often go above and beyond typical cinema fare.

summer cinemas athens

In the 1960s and 70s, various types of nuts and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin etc.), spoon sweets, lemonade and vyssinada, the old-fashioned sour cherry cordial, were the most common foods and drinks found at open-air cinemas. As people gradually began bringing their own food to the cinema, like souvlaki bought from nearby holes-in-the-wall, cinema owners saw an opportunity to increase revenues. Small tables appeared in between seats, and cinema canteens morphed into small restaurants, baking pies and pizzas and grilling souvlaki and hot dogs. Nowadays many of them also boast full bars where you can buy wine by the glass, draft beer and even cocktails.

There are two shows every night, usually one at 9 p.m. and one at 11 p.m. But times may differ depending on the length of the film and the season. Also, due to their proximity to apartment blocks and houses, some cinemas lower their volume for the 11 p.m. screening – you may have to scoot up to the front to hear properly.

Summer cinemas are not just a place to catch an evening film – they also offer Athenians the chance to savor local delicacies.

We put together a list of cinemas in the city and suburbs worth visiting for their beauty as well as their food. Don’t forget to bring something warm, because despite the oppressive heat of the day, it can actually get chilly late at night.

The oldest open-air cinema in Athens, Cine Aegli opened in 1903 and is situated in Zappeion Gardens, close to Syntagma Square. It now belongs to a large multiplex chain and, as a result, plays recent releases. The excellent bar is the real draw, but you can also munch on hot dogs and souvlaki skewers. We prefer sitting on the private balcony, where tables set with linen and stem glasses seat up to five people and you can order from the Aegli restaurant menu. A cinema ticket, which includes a welcome drink, costs €20 and all food is extra.

Cine Thission is situated in a lush garden and boasts stunning views of the Acropolis. Despite being on the tourist map, the cinema retains its original vintage feel beloved by foreigners and locals alike. Opened in 1935, it’s the oldest independent open-air cinema in Athens still in operation. The canteen sells handmade vyssinada and spoon sweets, fragrant cheese pies, baklava and other delicious fare.

Positioned on a terrace in the center of Plaka, Cine Paris is another summer cinema with impressive views of the Acropolis. Opened in 1920 by a Greek hairdresser who had lived and worked in Paris for years (hence the name), it closed down in the late 1960s due to financial trouble and only re-opened again in 1986. The bar here is particularly good, so if you are looking for a malt whiskey or beer you will be spoiled for choice. There’s also sparkling wine for those in a celebratory mood and four types of granita. The canteen food is rather basic, so we recommend visiting nearby restaurants Paradosiako or To Kafeneio beforehand for some real Greek food.

Cine Dexameni, located on the site of an old aqueduct in leafy Dexameni Square, is a small oasis amongst Kolonaki’s concrete buildings. After years spent as a shadow-puppet theater, it re-opened as a cinema in 1991 and since then it has become one of the most popular cinemas in Athens due to its Aegean island vibes. The small canteen offers standard cinema snacks: popcorn, nachos with cheese, hot dogs, cheese pies and drinks. Stop by Dexameni café before the film if you want something heartier.

summer cinemas athens

Further out from the city center, in the posh suburb of Filothei, Cine Filothei is best known for its relaxing atmosphere in a small green park. The cinema’s canteen was one of the first to expand its menu beyond the basics, and it is still one of the best – the large selection of cocktails, especially the frozen margaritas, are reason enough to make the trip. There is also fresh Italian gelato that will satisfy even the pickiest young eater.

One of the newest cinemas (it opened 12 years ago), Cine Floisvos has quickly become a favorite due to its prime location: it’s mere steps from the sea. There is nothing more summery than watching a film while catching whiffs of the salty sea air; the lounge chairs in the front row add to the beachy vibe. As for food, the cinema runs a café next door where you can order cooling ice cream and fresh fruit granitas, as well as a wide selection of drinks to enjoy with your movie.

Editor’s note: It’s Beat the Heat Week at Culinary Backstreets, and in this week’s stories, we’re sharing some of our favorite spots to visit when the summer temperatures soar.

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Published on August 15, 2018

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