Nothing beats experiencing Athens for yourself, but we’ve compiled a list of books, movies, and music to get you in the mood before your trip.
The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller
Miller’s ouzo swilling idyll in 1930’s Athens—in the company of Lawrence Durrell and poet Yorgos Katsimbalis—was cut short by the outbreak of World War II.
Deadline in Athens by Petros Markaris
The first in a trilogy of crime thrillers set in Athens, starring the world-weary Inspector Costas Haritos. Masterfully translated by David Conolly, who has also translated the poems of Cavafy and Elytis.
Outline by Rachel Cusk
An elusive British novelist goes to Athens to teach a summer writing course and becomes entangled in the lives of various strangers.
Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens, by James Davidson
A scintillating portrait of the private lives of the ancient Athenians, the inventors of hedonism, eroticism, and aphrodisiacs.
Dinner with Persephone by Patricia Storace
Part travelogue, part cultural history, poet Patricia Storace’s wry account of the year she lived in Athens straddles the sublime and the surreal.
Liaisons Culinaires by Andreas Staikos
A contemporary Athenian love story, told through the recipes that love rivals Dimitris and Damocles devise to win over the capricious Nana.
Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens by Sofka Zinovieff
Zinovieff’s account of moving to Athens with her family captures the joyous exuberance and maddening contradictions of the city from an insider-outsider perspective.
Albums and Compilations
Pote tin Kyriaki (Never on Sunday)
Manos Hatzidakis’ Oscar-winning soundtrack to Jules Dassin’s classic movie, includes the hit Ta Paidia tou Peiraia (The Children of Piraeus).
Eimai enas Ftochos kai Monos Cowboy (I’m a Poor and Lonely Cowboy)
By turns satirical and tender, this 1978 album by Loukianos Kilaidonis inspired by the everyday life of Athenians is still much loved by locals.
Rembetika: Greek Music from the Underground
A box set of classic, remastered rembetiko tracks featuring the masters of the ‘Greek blues’, Markos Vamvakaris, Andonis Dalgas, and Yorgos Batis.
Songs about Athens
From folk songs extolling the beauty of a bygone Athens to modern rap about life in the suburbs, there’s more to Greek music than the plucky bouzouki.
- Londra, Parisi, Athina (London, Paris, Athens) - Sophia Vembo
- H Athina ti Nichta (Athens by Night) - Rena Vlachopoulou
- Tou Votanikou o Magas (The Rogue of Votanikos) - Grigoris Bithikotsis
- Mantissa (Prophetess) - Marina Satti
- Lightning Bolts - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
- Proastia (Suburbia) - Stereo Nova
- Tango tis Athinas - Belinda
- Athina (Athens) - Going Through
- The White Rose of Athens - Nana Mouskouri
- Athena - Satin Jackets featuring Anduze
Never on Sunday (Pote Tin Kyriaki, 1960)
Jules Dassin made Melina Mercouri famous by casting her as a feisty prostitute who outwits Homer Thrace, an American classicist who tries to tame her.
Le Casse (The Burglars, 1971)
This heist movie starring Jean Paul Belmondo & Omar Sharif features a stunning car chase through the streets of Athens and Piraeus
Quiet Days in August (Isyxes Meres tou Avgoustou, 1991)
Veteran director Pandelis Voulgaris paints a sensitive portrait of the lonely people left behind in mid-August Athens and the tentative friendships they forge in the deserted city.
Cheap Cigarettes (Ftina Tsigara, 2000)
Renos Haralambidis directs and stars in this lyrical, low-budget movie as a bohemian flaneur wandering the streets of Athens one long, hot summer.
A Dog’s Dream (To Oneiro tou Skylou) (2005)
Theo Angelopoulos’ former assistant Angelos Frantzis’ magical realist film noir unfolds over one night in Athens.
Yorgos Lanthimos is Greece’s most successful cinematic export. This typically dark and subversive tale centres around a very unusual business: impersonating the recently deceased in order to comfort the bereaved.
The Two Faces of January (2014)
Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen star as glamorous American tourists in 1960s Athens who aren’t quite what they seem in Hossein Amini’s thriller. The Parthenon also stars.
Amerika Square (2016)
Yannis Sakaridis tackles the refugee crisis in Greece head-on in this kinetic, empathetic tale set in downtown Athens.