There's a longstanding and venerated tradition of evenings spent at one of Athens's outdoor cinemas during summertime, when rain is virtually non-existent and the scent of bougainvillea and jasmine fills the air. During the heyday of Greek tourism in the 1960s, there were as many as 600 open-air theaters around the city.
Today, only a few dozen remain, but even in the doldrums of the current financial crisis, Athenians regularly take in showings under the stars for a romantic reprieve from the melee of urban life (it also doesn't hurt that ticket prices are are often less than 10 euro). If you are in the Greek capital this summer, head to at least one of the city’s charming outdoor cinemas—and keep an eye out for free screenings at historical and cultural sites as part of the season-long Athens & Epidaurus Festival. While the film selections skew more indie than blockbuster, the historic alfresco experience is entertainment enough.
It’s hard to beat the view from Cine Paris’ rooftop theater in the heart of the historic Plaka district. Catch an early showing on the upper deck, where sunsets over the rocky Western slope of the Acropolis are as captivating as the films.
Just off Dexameni Square—a popular gathering spot in the swanky Kolonaki neighborhood on summer nights—this well-known cinema offers a full bar and a chic courtyard aesthetic.
This urban gem is tucked away along a cobblestone street in upscale Kolonaki. Hit the cocktail bar and charming bistro next door to make a night of it. 50 Charitos; 30/210-721-57171
In the edgy Exarchia neighborhood, Vox’s rooftop theater overlooks the always-lively town square, and features an equally engaging blue mural (which matches the theater's seating). Snacks and drinks are on offer at the small bar, located next to the screen. 82 Themistokleous; 30/210-330-1020
A few blocks from Vox, Riviera provides a lush, green escape from the summertime crowds, and is set amid of a cluster of Exarchia’s best bars and restaurants. 46 Valtetsiou; 30/210-384-4827
Over a century old, this expansive outdoor cinema, located within the storied National Gardens, simultaneously channels La Belle Époque and the windswept natural beauty of the Mediterranean. The theater's top-deck “VIP” section offers full restaurant service.
While the working-class neighborhood of Pangrati entices few tourists, it’s worth a visit for the charming Oasis Cinema, a short stroll from the National Gardens. Run by the same family for more than 35 years, Oasis keeps an eclectic film calendar and offers snacks and drinks. 7 Pratinou; 30/210-724-4015
One of the oldest open-air cinemas in the city, Thisio is a veritable Athens institution. If you get tired of the movie, views of the nearby Acropolis provide equal entertainment.