Cinemagic Times: These Are Athens’ Most Dazzling Open Air Cinemas

by Anastasia Valti-Spanopoulou

Call it a paradox if you wish, but for all the plate-smashing, loud-talking, and crazy-driving stereotypes you may have heard about Greece, it’s always had a midsummer-night’s-dream feel to it. Is it the soft summer breeze? Is it that radiant starry sky? Let’s just agree to call it a mystery before our cheesiness threatens the sanity of your adult mind. Still though, there’s no shame in pointing out that Greece is a remarkably romantic travel destination. This of course includes those breathtaking islands Greece is so famous about, which is why recently we put together an island hopping guide for you. But don’t be fooled, Athens is also an extraordinary place to explore. So if you’re spending a few days in the capital this summer, we simply refuse to let you settle for just the usual Greek tourist attractions, when there’s so many more unique things to do in Athens for those seeking an authentic travel experience.

For example: did you know that Athens is full of amazing places for brunch? It does (we even wrote a blogpost about it!). Did you know it’s an endless land of breathtaking rooftop bars? It is (we covered that too). And did you know that one of the best things to do in Athens in the summer (according to locals, mind you) is catch a movie at one of the city’s many atmospheric outdoor cinemas? Now you do! So waste no time: grab your significant other (or friends, or wonderful children,) and go enjoy your next favourite movie under the city’s summer stars while the weather’s still warm and the open air cinemas are still...well, open.

#1 Thision Open Air Cinema I Thisio

What can one say about an outdoor cinema that has managed to operate almost non-stop since 1935? Well, for one thing, we can say that it’s one of the two single outdoor cinemas in the world where you can watch a movie with a view to the Acropolis. For another, we can say it comes as no surprise that CNN Travel listed Cine Thisio as one of the best open air cinemas in the worldTIME Travel considers it an absolute Athens must see, and BBC Culture rates it as one of the most beautiful movie theaters in the world, period. We don’t think we need to convince you any further to pay a visit to what is clearly one of the best movie theaters in Athens, but we still like to let you in on an awesome little piece of information, which is that this family owned business offers not just the usual snack and beverages at their canteen, but also their own homemade sour cherry sweet preserve (and also tsipouro, because they’re awesome!) so don’t miss out.

Enchanting view from Cine Thisio (Picture by Cine Thisio/Website)

Price: Normal Ticket EUR 8, Discount Ticket EUR 6
Where to Find It: Apostolou Pavlou 7, Athens
Who to Call: +30 210 3420864

#2  Cine Paris I Plaka

Remember we mentioned there are two outdoor cinemas in Athens that can offer you a view of the Acropolis? The second Athens movie theater with this ace up its sleeve is Cine Paris. It’s been closing down and opening up again since the 20’s (Greece has always had its turbulences), but today its popularity seems unshakable, and this cinema has become one of the many modern-day landmarks in Greece you should definitely check out during your stay. For those of you who haven’t visited Greece before, you should know that the neighborhood of Plaka is not only one of the major tourist attractions, but also one of the best places to eat in Athens if you’re looking for traditional Greek tavernas. But back to our topic of discussion: Cine Paris’s entrance features the movie theater’s shop, selling piles rare-to-find, retro-kitsch movie posters, but this mustn’t give you the wrong idea - the theater itself is very charming and discreet, located on the roof and filled with bushes and flowers that give you the usual serene/nostalgic/romantic outdoor cinema sensation. Fun fact: the man who first opened Cine Paris was a hairdresser who used to live in Paris, and hence named the theater after the city of lights (more nostalgia for everyone!).

Drinks and movies from the balcony of Cine Paris (Picture by Renate Toxopeus)

Price: Normal Ticket EUR 8 but only EUR 6 every Tue. and Wed., Discount Ticket EUR 6
Where to Find it: Kydathineon 22, Athens
Who to Call: +30 210 3222071  

#3 Cine Dexameni | Kolonaki

One of the most famous outdoor cinemas of the city, Dexameni has been standing since 1905 in where an ancient aqueduct used to function. It has 'served' briefly as a muppet show stage, but thankfully today it operates again as an atmospheric outdoor cinema in the central area of Kolonaki. It's the perfect cool refuge on a hot summer night, offering all the outdoor cinema essentials: slushies, hot dogs,  pizza, and a surprisingly well-tasting cold beer. The Dexameni cafe found just outside the cinema is a pretty charming little spot to enjoy a late coffee before exploring the famous Athens nightlife, or some tsipouro for those of you who can handle it. So if you're looking for things to do with friends in the area, we can tell you Dexameni has sure offered us some unique experiences on a summer night!

Rentro chic entrance of Cine Dexameni (Picture by Cine Dexameni/Facebook)

Prices: Normal Ticket EUR 8 (2for1 every Wed.), Discount Ticket EUR 5
Where to Find it: Plazza Dexamenis, Athens
Who to Call:  +30 210 3613942 

#4 Cine Aegli I Zappeion

If you were impressed with how old Cine Thisio is, Aegli Cinema (or Aigli Cinema, as you will often see it misspelt in all sorts of places,) will simply blow your mind away, when you hear it's been operating since 1903 and thus holds the title of the oldest open air movie theatre in Athens! This historic cinema is part of a multispace, that also includes a cafe, a Greek restaurant, and several business and private events spaces. More importantly, however, the whole thing is located in a green oasis within the center of the city - the aforementioned oasis being no other but the popular Zappeion garden. Ahhh what a refreshing feeling to be watching one of the best movies in theaters right now surrounded by tons and tons of green! Not to mention that, if you’re a bon viveur, you also have the option to book a private dining arrangement on the cinema’s balcony, so you can enjoy your movie from the privileged seat of your dinner table. Clearly, looking into a cool outdoors cinema like Cine Aegli is one of the best things to do in Athens when the heat gets too much, but if you’d like a few more tips you can also check out our detailed heat survival guide.

Beautiful balcony at Cine Aigli in Zappeion (Picture by Fenia_ / Instagram)

Price: Normal Ticket EUR 8.5, Discount Ticket EUR 6
Where to Find it: Zappeion Garden (Entrance from Vassilissis Sofias Av.), Parking Area Available
Who to Call: +30 210 33 69 369

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#5 Cine Chloe I Kifissia

Okay, we know the Northern Suburb of Kifissia may be a little far from your hotel in the center, but maybe you’re in the neighborhood since we revealed to you it’s one of the best Athens’ shopping areas in last week’s blogpost. If that’s the case, you’ll find a visit to Chloe Cinema very rewarding. Loved by locals of Kifissia for decades, this ever-green garden (chloe means turf in Greek) gives you a cosy feeling of peace, even though it’s surrounded by a bunch of posh/cool/super-busy Athens bars. Highlight: From inside the garden you can see the top of the tower of Kifissia, which functions a simple store today but is still a point of reference for residents of the area and looks fine-so-fine. Obviously, a good idea if you're searching for things to do on a date (good luck!). Oh, and did we mention pizza? Pizza!!

Cine Chloe in the heart of Kifissia, on the northern suburbs of Athens (Picture by John Kirki /Facebook)

Price: Normal Ticket EUR 8.5 but only EUR 6.5 from Mon to Wed, Discount Ticket EUR 6.5
Where to Find it: Kassaveti 17, Kifissia
Who to Call: +30 210 8011500

#6 Ria Varkiza I Varkiza

And now to the South! As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, the Southern suburbs feature some of Athens’ best beaches, so it’s very likely that you’ll end up somewhere around here during your stay in Athens. So what better than topping your visit to the beach with a visit to the movies? Ria Varkiza is definitely a tempting option for a number of reasons, but mainly because: it has substituted chairs with sunbeds in the first couple of rows; it offers two-person couches here and there for cuddly times; it’s spacious, it’s got a great sound system, and it serves souvlaki skewers to anyone not interested in the usual hot-dogs and slushies. Heaven!

Cine Ria by the Athens Riviera in Varkiza (Picture by CineRia/ Facebook)

Price: Normal Ticket EUR 8 but only EUR 6 on Tue., Discount Ticket EUR 6
Where to Find it: Afroditis 8, Varkiza
Who to Call: +30 2108970844

#7 Zefyros New Art Cinema I Petralona

Most city tours will not take you to Petralona, because unlike the more touristic parts of Athens, it's charm is not about tourist attractions. As far as local attractions go, however, this hip area, full of youngsters, cool little bars, and budding Athenian art, holds a special place in the hearts of many Greek youths. Among other quirky things to do, here you’ll find the cult outdoor cinema that has become a ‘classic’ for local film lovers. The red velvet curtains in the entrance have been left there since god knows when on purpose, to hint at you that hear you should not expect to watch the latest blockbusters playing in the rest of Athens’ movie theaters at the moment, but the cinematic masterpieces of the past that have defined film as we know it today - a bit ‘heavier’ than the rom coms and action films you’ll catch in many other cinemas, but definitely more educational. If you’re an art junkie, you’ll be happy to hear that Zefyros also hosts literary nights, visual art exhibitions and innovative theater performances so, to be fair, it’s much more than just  amovie theater.

Greek cult open-air cinema Zefyros in Petralona (Picture by Zefiros New Star Art Cinema / Facebook)

Price: Normal Ticket EUR 8, Discount Ticket EUR 6
Where to Find it: Troon 36, Petralona
Where to Call: +30 210 3462677

That’s the end of our list, but not the end of our post - we’ve saved the best part for last! Fellow film junkies and Athens lovers, if you haven’t already heard, we absolutely must inform you that for the 6th consecutive year our city is hosting its notorious Athens Open Air Film Festival from the 21st of June till the 5th of September, 2016. The (amazing) concept is that during this period, a number of museum gardens and outdoor cinemas open their doors to the public, so that anyone can enjoy award winning film classics, lesser known ingenious movies from international and Greek directors, musicals, and live music performances, without paying a single dime! You think this couldn’t get any better, but actually this year the festival is even more spectacular, as it celebrates the 400 years from Shakespeare's death by incorporating classic and revolutionary film adaptations of his plays alike. Round of applause to the co-ordinators for putting together such a great program this year. 

P.S. Keep in mind that most open air cinemas show two movies after the sun goes down. This means most cinemas play their first film between 8-9pm, and close their doors around 1am. However, each theater follows its own schedule so make sure you check their particular timetable before visiting. Also, keep in mind smoking is generally allowed, so that can be a nuisance if you’re not a smoker. Finally, some nights the greenery of the theater garden can cause temperatures to drop, so it’s not a bad idea to carry a light cardigan with you. That’s all. Now you know absolutely everything you need to know.

P.S.2. All opinions expressed in this article are, as always, entirely personal and are not meant to promote.

 

And before we say goodbye -for now- here’s a map to the best open air cinemas in Athens, as listed above.

Cover Pic: Cine Ria in Varkiza by CIneRia/Facebook