This text is part of the article “And the Living is A-Z”, published in Greece-Is Athens, Summer 2018 Edition. By Paulina Björk Kapsalis, Maria Coveou, Nena Dimitriou, Alex King, Maria Korachai, Pagona Lipsati & Alexandra Tzavella.
Dexameni is the Greek word for “cistern” and it’s also the name of a favorite Athenian haunt: a cool, shaded public square and pedestrian strip running between Irakelitou and Xanthippou streets high up in the neighborhood of Kolonaki, at the base of Lycabettus Hill.
The Roman-era cistern that was part of Hadrian’s Aqueduct (and that gave the square its name) is still there, underground; restored in the 19th century, it provided Athens with water from 1870 until around 1950. Its “rooftop” is now home to an open-air movie theater, also called Dexameni, a favorite among locals.
The ever-popular Café Dexameni, meanwhile, is where they go before or after the movie for an ouzo and meze. The café is a historic establishment that started life as a traditional kafeneio in the early 20th century – when much of the area was still mostly grazing land – and became a haunt for great Greek writers like Alexandros Papadiamantis, Nikos Kazantzakis and, later, Nobel laureate Odysseus Elytis. A statue of Elytis stands in Dexameni Square.
Tip: As you climb up the steps to the square at night, take a look behind you to catch a wonderful view of an illuminated Acropolis.