Linked to tourism and a warm climate that allows cultural events to be held in open-air spaces, festivals in Greece have for many decades been an integral part of the country's culture and economy. In recent years, festivals have ceased to be the exclusive prerogative of Athens and the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO). All over the country, municipal authorities in collaboration with cultural centres and other agents have established festive cultural events in countless smaller towns and villages. The majority of festivals in Greece are held during the summer months in open-air spaces, ancient theatres or specially created installations at sites of particular historic and aesthetic interest.
The oldest and best-known festival is the Athens Festival, organized by the cultural department of the GNTO and hosted at the theatres of Herod Atticus and Lycabettus in Athens as well as in Epidaurus. The Festival runs from June to the end of September. In Athens, the Festival held in the 5,000-seat Roman theatre of Herod Atticus below the Acropolis has been an annual event since 1955. Initially planned to host ancient Greek drama and music performances, over the years it has extended its programme to include modern and contemporary theatre, music and dance.
The first modern-day artist to appear at the 4th century BC theatre of Epidaurus, which seats 14,000 and is internationally renowned for its beauty and excellent acoustics, was the great conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos in 1935; three years later the first contemporary performance of Greek drama was held there. Since 1954, the Epidaurus Theatre has hosted performances of ancient drama and musical events featuring internationally renowned artists such as Maria Callas, Monserrat Caballe, Mtislav Rostropovich, the Berlin Philarmonic Orchestra of Berlin conducted by HerbertVon Karajan, and the Orchestra and Choir of La Scala of Milan conducted by Claudio Abado. Next to the theatre of Epidaurus is "Small Epidaurus," a recently excavated ancient theatre that has been hosting musical performances organized by the Athens Concert Hall since 1995.
Thessaloniki is the seat of the International Film Festival, the major annual cinematic event in Greece, which made its debut in 1960 as a Greek film festival and established a separate international section in 1966. After a series of changes in its structure dictated by political and social factors, the Festival asserted its international profile in 1992. It is held every autumn. The Demetria Festival, also in Thessalloniki, hosts theatrical, musical, dance and operatic performances by Greek and foreign companies as well as lectures, exhibitions and symposia. The venues for these events are distributed throughout the city. In the town of Kalamata, the International Documentary Film Festival is held every October.
Many of the festivals in other parts and towns of Greece have gained great renown and popularity over the last years; some of them focus on particular forms of art while others offer a variety of performances. These include the Festival of Nafplion, the Festival of Argos, the International Dance Festival in Kalamata, the Olymbos Festival held in the ancient theatre at the site of Dion, the festivals of Philippoi and Thasos at the ancient theatres at Philippoi and on the island of Thasos, the Festival of Herakleion, the International Festival at Patras, the Dodoni Festival at the ancient theatre of Dodoni in Epirus, the Dionysia on the island of Naxos and a lot more.
For more information about Greek festivals please visit:
Athens and Epidaurus Festival
Thessaloniki International Film Festival
Kalamata International Dance Festival
Short Film Festival in Drama