The movie is just the excuse
Cinema made its debut in Greece at the end of the 19th century. Shortly after its arrival, traveling projectionists started setting up canvas screens in well-frequented city spots such as Syntagma Square, delighting the local populace. As time passed, these open-air screenings began to establish themselves in dedicated spaces, typically on rooftops or in bougainvillea-draped courtyards, and to offer amenities such as snack bars.
These cinemas, which today might serve everything from popcorn and beer to pizza, souvlaki, and cocktails, continue to be a cherished part of the summer experience in Greece. This year, approximately 100 open-air cinemas are in operation in Athens and the surrounding municipalities. The oldest among them first opened their doors in the 1920s and ’30s. Recommended ones include Cine Thisio (situated beneath the Acropolis), Dexameni in Kolonaki, Oasis in Pangrati, Aigli in Zappeio, and Cine Floisvos at the Marina of the same name. It’s worth noting that in Greece, films are shown in their original language with Greek subtitles.
A green oasis with sculptures
Situated 5 km east of Syntagma, in the residential area of Goudi at the base of Mt Ymittos, you’ll discover the National Glyptotheque. This hidden gem isn’t just a green oasis; it also showcases the evolution of modern Greek sculpture from the pre-revolutionary era to the 21st century. Until the mid-19th century, this location functioned as a shooting range. Later, it accommodated military facilities and the stables of King George I’s cavalry. Around 20 years ago, these structures were repurposed into exhibition areas.
The outdoor sculpture park is especially striking, covering an area of 6,500 square meters and presenting roughly 60 large-scale works. These include prominent pieces by acclaimed artists such as Yiannis Gaitis, Aphrodite Liti, Thodoros Papagiannis, and George Zongolopoulos. Although the Glyptotheque does not currently house a café, if you bring your own provisions, you’re sure to find a serene, shaded spot for a picnic. Expect to see locals, especially on weekends, who frequent the park for exercise, leisurely walks with their dogs, or just a peaceful respite. – Panagiotis Koustas
The transformation of a city
In September 2024, Athens will celebrate its 190th year as the capital of the Greek State. Athens has continued to grow and transform for the better part of two centuries, with the most dramatic changes occurring after WWII. The “Urbanography” exhibition, curated by Syrago Tsiara, the director of the National Gallery, narrates a part of the “urban experience” and identifies some of the factors that have shaped Athens and other Greek cities. It does this through 202 artworks and snippets from 22 Greek films, highlighting themes such as urbanization, reconstruction, immigration, and urban culture.
The exhibition offers a glimpse into Athens during the post-war decades from 1950 to 1970, a time of rapid transformation. It documents the formation of the city’s squares, the construction of its main roads, and the placement of traffic signals to regulate the increasingly dense flow of vehicles. -Xenia Georgiadou
National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum
50 Vasileos Konstantinou
Return to sender
A striking multicolored pavilion constructed from 120 bales of used clothing starkly underscores what happens to a significant portion of the West’s aid to African nations. An overwhelming volume of second-hand clothes, considered unfit for redistribution, ends up in landfills, aggravating existing environmental issues. This installation, by the Kenyan collective NEST, became a widely discussed highlight at Documenta 15 (2022). For its subsequent display in Athens, the clothes and textiles utilized were sourced entirely from Greece. –Xenia Georgiadou
Esplanade, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
364 Syngrou, Kallithea
Art to make you think
The group exhibition “Modern Love: Love in the Years of Cold Intimacies,” curated by Katerina Gregos, the artistic director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, delves into human relationships in the age of digital interconnectivity and social networking. Can tenderness be quantified? How deep can the bonds formed through algorithms be? This exhibition explores these questions through VR works, 3D landscapes, AI-generated photos, videos, collages, and installations. It seeks to explore how the material world merges with the digital one, and how a screen can serve as a stage for grand passions and steadfast friendships. The exhibition runs until November 5th at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (Kallirois and Ambrosiou Frantzi, not far from the Acropolis Museum). -Xenia Georgiadou
Come dine with me
This year has seen the rise of a fresh trend in entertainment: Athenian supper clubs. This dining concept turns meals into a means of creating unforgettable evenings in unexpected venues. From art galleries and 1960s family homes to terraces of vintage apartment buildings beyond the city center, each setting lends an element of surprise to the dining experience. Candlelit dinners foster social interactions, opening doors to new friendships and opportunities for flirting.
The experience is enhanced with live music, fine wine, and unexpected twists – such as the time we found ourselves partaking in a painting lesson with a live model before dinner! The Kalos Aeras’ dinners recapture the charm of dining with friends, on the porch of an old house in a serene southern suburb, Ilioupoli. The Pullman Club, lacking a permanent location, plans to shift its activities to the islands later in the summer. The Paradiso Club offers its own unique experiences, such as a seafood BBQ accompanied by live music on a terrace in Kolonaki. -Nena Dimitriou
For more information, check out their Instagram accounts: @Kalosaeras, @pullman.club, @paradiso_athens
Devoted to the diva
“You are born an artist, or you are not.
And you stay an artist, dear, even
if your voice is less of a fireworks display.
The artist is always there.” – Maria Callas.
As we honor the centenniAL of the birth of the ultimate opera star, Maria Callas, in December 2023, an anniversary recognized on UNESCO’s celebratory list for the year, Athens readies itself to unveil the world’s only Maria Callas Museum. The museum will find its home in the listed building of the former Royal Hotel, a prime example of interwar architecture, located at 44 Mitropoleos, facing the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens. It will feature a collection built through donations, loans and acquisitions that began in 2000, when the Municipality of Athens purchased objects belonging to Callas at a Paris auction. Over time, more items, including photographs, letters, garments, theatre costumes, were added.
A comprehensive year-long program of events by the Greek National Opera, curated by its artistic director George Koumentakis, includes the September anniversary gala “Callas at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.” At this event, four international opera stars will perform arias by Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi, Donizetti, Toma, and the Greek classical composer Manolis Kalomiris – all previously performed by Callas.
Starting November 26th, the National Library of Greece – SNFCC will host an exhibition titled “Unboxing Callas,” a journey through the extensive private collection of Dimitris Pyromallis and the archives of the Greek National Opera. On December 2nd, Callas’s birthday, the premiere of the documentary “Mary, Mariana, Maria – The Unknown Greek Years of Callas,” directed by Vasilis Louras, will take place at the Stavros Niarchos Hall – SNFCC. The film delves into the years when Callas received her artistic training and performed her initial roles at the Greek National Opera (1937-1945), along with her three subsequent performances at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (1957) and at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus (1960 and 1961).
Also in December, the Greek National Opera will release a video showcasing Callas’ repertoire from 1937 to 1945 in Athens – from auditions to recitals. This will be broadcast for free on GNO TV (tv.nationalopera.gr). In addition, on the streaming service of the state television network ERT (ertflix.gr), audiences can already view the acclaimed documentary “The Greek Maria Callas,” written and directed by Tasos Psarras, with English subtitles.
Among the many volumes published on Callas, a standout is the collector’s edition of the coffee-table book “Maria by Callas” by Tom Volf (Assouline). With contributions from Callas’s closest friends and colleagues, Volf has curated a personal album that encapsulates the diva’s life and works. This updated edition is the product of countless hours of research and collaboration, offering fresh insights into the life of the legendary opera singer. -Nena Dimitriou
Back in the limelight
Over the years, Kypseli has undergone various transformations. In the early 20th century it was primarily a rural area with farms; during the interwar period came urbanization, marked by detached houses and some of Athens’ first apartment buildings. Post-1960s, Kypseli turned into a desirable residential district of apartment buildings for the middle and upper classes, and a destination for evening entertainment. In the 1980s, many long-time residents moved out to the suburbs, and immigrants moved in, drawn by affordable housing rates. Despite periods of decline, the neighborhood has recently begun to thrive again, partially due to the increase in Airbnb accommodations.
A walk along its main pedestrianized artery, Fokionos Negri, is recommended for anyone interested in observing architectural styles of different periods and experiencing the area’s lively daily life. Aghias Zonis Street offers another captivating emerging scene. Here, trendy new spots coexist with ageing jewelry stores, tailor shops, photo studios, and even a coffee roastery from the 1960s. Check out Marili (26 Aghias Zonis) with baked delicacies from the nation of Georgia; Santo Belto (21 Aghias Zonis) for coffee, dessert, or wine; the vibrant Eprepe (1 Aghias Zonis), for its tasty cocktails and creative bar food; or Iznogood & Nephew (28 Aghias Zonis) for drinks and jazz music played on vinyl records. –Georgia Papastamou
The new cool place in Exarchia
Bauhaus architectural elements, a flood of natural light and a cool atmosphere created by a young and lively crowd are what will greet any visitor stepping into Behold Theman, a spacious new café and health-food grocery store on Exarchia Square. Coffee comes from Omsom, an Athenian roastery renowned for expertly roasting small-batches of high-quality beans. Alongside the exceptional coffee, you’ll enjoy delicious vegan and vegetarian sandwiches and a variety of delectable baked goods. There’s also a curated selection of products to buy, ranging from kombucha and fair-trade chocolates to craft beers. An eclectic soundtrack featuring Velvet Underground, New Order, and contemporary Greek songwriters like Pan Pan, plays in the background. -Nena Dimitriou
6 Stournari, Τel. (+30) 210.380.5644
Good coffee, great vibes
Athens is brimming with places that serve good coffee, but Foyer Espresso Bar stands out thanks to its exclusive collaborations with top European roasteries. First established in Omonia in 2014 and recently relocated to a Scandinavian-style space near the park in Pangrati, the café embodies its creators’ dream of a welcoming hub where everyone is invited to enjoy a stellar cup of coffee and has become a rendezvous point for coffee enthusiasts. A selection of cakes and sweets made on the premises are also on offer. -Nena Dimitriou
2 Vriaxidos, Τel. (+30) 210.751.4124
The artist’s home
Alekos Fassianos was one of Greece’s most iconic painters, demonstrating multiple talents – from engraving and sculpting to poster design, set and costume creation, and illustration. His unique artistic vision was crafted by his interactions with people, the natural environment, the rich heritage of ancient Greece, and aided by a vivid color palette.
His vibrantly direct and animated artistic expression is now exhibited at a new museum in the neighborhood of Metaxourgio, housed in the artist’s childhood home, repurposed by Fassianos himself, with the help of his good friend, architect Kyriakos Krokos. This modern art space provides unique insights into his life and work through exhibitions, discussions, educational programs, and academic activities. Please note that the museum will be closed from July 23rd to August 23rd, but between July 15th and September 15th, visitors can explore Fassianos’ Cycladic studio – the artist’s residence on the island of Kea. -Vlasis Kostouros
260 Pireos, located in the industrial district of Tavros and once home to a 1970s furniture factory, exemplifies the industrial architecture of that era. Today, this repurposed space hosts the Athens Festival’s most avant-garde and unconventional performances. Its central courtyard serves as the stage for everything from jazz concerts to lively parties, enjoyed by audiences over drinks from the on-site canteen. This year’s highlights include “Isadora Duncan” by French choreographer Jérôme Bel, and the drag oratorio “Songs of the Greek People,” a collaboration between Yiannis Skourletis and the Bijoux de Kant group. -Panagiotis Koustas
Miguel Flores-Vianna has been a photographer, writer, and editor for more than 20 years, but his relationship with Greece, a country he visits every year, began in his childhood when his parents in Argentina dressed him as a Greek Evzone for a celebration. For his book Hautes Bohemians Greece (published by Vendome), he photographed some of the most beautiful houses in Greece, offering readers access to private spaces of immeasurable elegance, with charming echoes of Greek history.
All these homes (those of Jasper Conran and Oisin Byrne in Lindos, Rhodes; Helen and Brice Marden in Hydra Town; Jacob Rothschild in Strongilo, Corfu; and Joan and Patrick Leigh Fermor in Kardamyli) meant a lot to their owners emotionally, but even more symbolically, as he says. “It’s as if they are preserving them for the next generations. I am deeply moved by this feeling that they were more the ‘guardians᾽ than the owners in the narrow sense of the term.”
Most of us Greeks cherish our grandmothers’ cooking, which encapsulates their wisdom, experience, and most importantly, love. This is certainly the case for author Anastasia Miari, whose grandmother’s knack for creating extraordinary dishes from the simplest of ingredients left a profound impression on her. Anastasia created the Instagram account @MatriarchEats as a platform to document her grandmother’s recipes before venturing out to meet and cook with other grandmothers around Greece. “Yiayia” is the author’s second cookbook, featuring 80 regional recipes from every corner of Greece, from the Ionian to the mainland and from the northern regions to the southernmost islands such as Kastellorizo. Its pages reveal some of the most cherished Greek dishes, including pies and pasta meals perfect for the everyday family table. -Nena Dimitriou