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Moving to Athens

Expats moving to Athens are bound to fall in love with this beautiful cultural capital of Europe. The city's architecture is marked by the imposing and beautiful Parthenon, which watches over Athens from the Acropolis. This ancient structure stands as a reminder of the past and places modern Athens in contrast with the empire of old.

Athens is the capital city of Greece, located in the middle of the Greek mainland between continental Greece to the north and the Peloponnese region to the south. A city with a rich history dating back thousands of years, Athens is considered one of the most important cities in the foundation of Western civilisation.

The city centre in Athens is vibrant and busy and is where most businesses and government organisations are based – there is a good chance that expats moving to Athens will end up working in this area of the city. 

One of the advantages of living in Athens is that there is always a vast array of things to see and do. Athens is home to both ancient and modern attractions, offering a variety of sightseeing options and weekend getaways within easy reach. Athens also has myriad shopping opportunities, ranging from flea markets to luxurious boutiques, which are bound to satisfy shoppers of all ilks.

Those looking to make a trip further afield are easily able to do so as Athens is ideally situated for moving around the rest of Greece – from here, most other places in Greece can be accessed by train, plane, boat or bus.

For expats moving to Athens with children, in addition to the standard Greek public schooling, there is a wide range of private schools in various languages which are spread out across Athens. Moreover, expats who choose to move to Athens will find themselves in a lively urban environment where residents are extremely proud of the place in which they live.

The city offers a good balance between urban and suburban life, and, in the space of an hour's drive, expats can find themselves surrounded by a completely new environment. Athens is a splendid destination for expats looking for a busy, diverse and ever-expanding place to call home.  

Weather in Athens

Sun worshippers will be right at home in Athens. The city has a subtropical Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine hours, and there is little rainfall throughout the year.

Based on its annual average temperature, Athens is one of the hottest cities in Europe, particularly during summer when temperatures regularly reach 35°C (95°F). Heatwaves occur frequently and can push the mercury up to 40°C (104°F) and beyond. Summer is from June to September, with July being the hottest month.

Winters are mild, although the nights can be chilly so it's best to have a sweater to hand. Some parts of Athens may experience snowfall, particularly in the north.

 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Athens

Widely thought of as the birthplace of democracy, Athens is Greece's central hub and has contributed much to the worlds of art, theatre, architecture, philosophy and politics. With such a storied history, it’s easy to romanticise day-to-day life in Athens, but what's it really like to live there?

Here are a few pros and cons of living in Athens for prospective expats to consider.


Accommodation in Athens

- CON: Much of the city’s accommodation is pricey

Being a tourism hotspot, accommodation in Athens is more expensive than in other areas of Greece. Compared to other cities, there's less value for money and it can be tough to find something suitable.

+ PRO: Though harder to find, more affordable options exist

There are a few tricks that expats can use to up their chances of finding a more budget-friendly place to live. They could, for instance, make sure they start their house search in the off season which will already shave off quite a bit. A lot of accommodation stands empty during this time, which gives expats a bargaining chip that could be used to leverage a lower rental cost.


Lifestyle in Athens

+ PRO: Incredible historical sites

People come from all over the world to visit some of the world’s most ancient architecture and historical sites in Athens, but expats living there are lucky enough to have all this right on their doorstep. Exploring the attractions of Athens in the off season is a great way to get to know the city.

- CON: Crowded during holiday season

During the tourist season, Athens is flooded with visitors and can quickly become claustrophobic. Many residents of Athens find this to be a good time to take a getaway of their own to escape the chaos.

+ PRO: Amazing food

Whether grabbing a quick bite to eat from a roadside stall or living it up in a fine-dining restaurant, Athens offers countless opportunities to sample authentically Greek food, and this is just one of many lifestyle perks of living here. High-quality locally-sourced ingredients such as fresh seafood, Greek cheese and olive oil never disappoint and can be found in abundance.


Getting around in Athens

+ PRO: Robust public transport system

Home to the country’s only metro, Athens has a fantastic public transport system that also consists of trains, buses and ferries, making it easy to travel locally and regionally.

- CON: Not the best city to drive in

Driving in Athens is not for the faint of heart, and expat drivers will have to contend with a host of challenges ranging from massive traffic jams and erratic Greek driving to numerous extra expenses and a lack of parking, particularly in the city centre.


Cost of living in Athens

- CON: Expensive compared to other parts of Greece

While not the most expensive European capital, Athens is still far from the cheapest. The city’s status as a tourism hotspot drives the cost of living up, giving Athens the unfortunate title of Greece’s most expensive city.

+ PRO: Expats can save money by living like locals

Avoiding touristy areas of Athens can go a long way towards keeping costs down. In particular, restaurants and shops close to tourist attractions often inflate their prices. Expats can save money by eating where locals eat and shopping where locals shop.

Lifestyle in Athens

The lifestyle in Athens is undoubtedly one of the city's major perks. The city is a great springboard for travel throughout the country. During the warmer months, the Greek islands are popular for getaways, while the picturesque coastal towns and villages of the Peloponnese region are just an hour or two away. In the summer, the Athens Riviera along the city’s southern coast is packed with beach lovers who don’t have to travel far to enjoy a day in the sun.

There are numerous opportunities for entertainment and shopping in Athens too – the city has flea markets, modern malls, boutique stores, and a vibrant nightlife scene.


Shopping in Athens

For expats who love to shop, there are plenty of malls in the centre of Athens, as well as some gorgeous boutiques in the Kolonaki area. For those who prefer large malls and outdoor shopping centres, there is Mall Athens, Golden Hall and Avenue Mall, all within minutes of each other in Marousi. Also, Athens' massive flea market in Monastiraki is always worth a visit. 


Nightlife in Athens

Agia Irini Square

Known as the ‘new heart of Athens’, this picturesque square in Monastiraki used to be a flower and textile market. Today it’s packed on the weekends thanks to a resurgence of trendy bars, cafés and restaurants.

Psirri

Squeezed between Monastiraki and Omonia, Psirri attracts quite a crowd at night. The area hosts an array of venues offering Greek food, live music and local spirits like ouzo and rakomelo.

Gazi

Until the opening of its metro station, Gazi was a worn-down immigrant quarter characterised by the steely remnants of a defunct gasworks factory. Artistic minds then took over and forged a creative space that highlights the area’s industrial history. Gazi is now lined with restaurants, bars and clubs and in the thick of summer it’s difficult to walk around without bumping into anyone.

Kolonaki

One of the capital’s most upscale neighbourhoods, Kolonaki has its share of authentic tavernas, trendy bars, chic clubs, gourmet restaurants and atmospheric outdoor cafés. The cocktail bars on Skoufa are particularly popular with the after-work crowd.

Exarchia

The city’s alternative edge, Exarchia attracts artistic, student and bohemian crowds. The street art and graffiti-covered buildings house various grunge-chic bars and clubs, many of which play rock music. 

Kifissia

One of the most expensive suburbs in Athens, Kifissia has a distinct nightlife. The posh neighbourhood is dotted with upscale restaurants that are packed with a sophisticated crowd when the weekend comes around.

Southern Athens

The southern suburbs of Athens are just steps away from the sea, which is why summer is the best time to hit the area’s glamorous open-air clubs. Glyfada, a large, upmarket neighbourhood has numerous bars and restaurants that come alive on weekends. 


Sports and outdoor activities in Athens

The history of sports in Greece dates back to ancient times, and fans can still attend international events at one of the five major venues in the Athens Olympic Sport Complex. Among these is the Panathenaic Stadium (Kallimarmaro), which is where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896.

Aside from this, riding clubs, football fields and basketball courts can be found throughout Athens. Mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners take to Mount Immitos to get lost in the lush and scenic trails on the east side of the city. Watersports facilities line the southern suburbs of Athens where the beaches are awash with people during the warmer months.

Shopping in Athens

For expats who love to shop, Athens is the place to be. With various shopping avenues available, there is something for everyone. From fresh produce to locally made goods, expats will be able to experience the authentic taste and culture of Greece.

Expats who revel in a good bargain and a vintage find should visit the abundance of flea markets. Conversely, those who prefer designer brands and high-end fashion will find Athens's shopping centres and boutiques highly satisfactory.


Markets in Athens

Monastiraki Flea Market

Monastiraki is located in Old Athens, where both locals and tourists love getting lost in the pedestrian streets. One section is tightly lined with shops selling souvenirs emblazoned with 'I Love Greece', while others are filled with fantastic antiques and vendors selling Greek handicrafts.

On Sundays, when most stores in Athens are closed, the streets off Avissinias Square become an open flea market where people sell antiques and bric-a-brac items off tables and carpets.

Athens Central Market

The Athens Central Market is one of the best and cheapest places to buy fresh food and provides a lively, colourful experience. Walking through the lanes, expats will find fresh meat and fish, bellowing vendors and endless Greek deli offerings.


Malls and shopping streets in Athens

Ermou Street

The largest outdoor shopping street in Athens houses recognisable international brands including Mango, Marks & Spencer, Zara and Sephora. These are interspersed with popular Greek shops like Tsakiris Mallas, Folli Follie and The Hondos Center.

The Mall Athens

When Athenians say ‘the mall’, there is only one they are referring to. The Mall Athens was built after the 2004 Olympic Games in the centre of Maroussi, an upmarket suburb in northern Athens. Situated close to the Neraziotissa station, its numerous levels contain plenty to keep shopping enthusiasts occupied, from clothing stores and department stores to entertainment facilities like the mall's cinema and food court.


Boutique shopping in Athens

Expats who prefer poking in and out of boutique shops over the indoor constraints of a typical mall are in luck. Lovely neighbourhoods such as Kifissia, Halandri, Kolonaki and Glyfada are well-known shopping destinations that feature designer shops and locally owned businesses. 

Kifissia and Halandri, in the northern suburbs, are popular for offering a day of shopping, eating and coffee drinking. Boutiques line the streets around Kolonaki Square and the Voukourestiou pedestrian walkway, which is especially famous for its succession of high-end shops. Lastly, Glyfada is the centre of shopping in the south of Athens. A few minutes from the sea, the streets of this suburb are flanked by dozens of shopping choices.

See and Do in Athens

A modern city built on ancient foundations, there is plenty for expats to see and do in Athens. Expats can discover the city’s history in its museums and monuments, but they can also experience it in their daily interactions. Becoming immersed in the various attractions in Athens is a great way for expats to get to grips with their surroundings and make themselves feel at home. 


Recommended attractions in Athens

Acropolis of Athens

Set higher than the rest of the city, the Acropolis is the heart of Athens. The perfectly sculpted ancient marble buildings and stunning views of the city provide a memorable experience. The most famous monument is the Parthenon which is a testament to craftsmanship during the height of the Ancient Greece's power.

Acropolis Museum

The Acropolis Museum was built in the shadow of the Acropolis itself and is a landmark in its own right. The museum’s layout leads visitors along its walkways to discover ancient relics from the surrounding archaeological sites and provides panoramic views of the city. Thousands of fascinating artefacts are on display.

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The National Archaeological Museum is the largest of its kind in Greece and remains one of the world's most prominent Ancient Greek museums. With a rich collection of historical art dating back to the Prehistoric era, this museum is a must-see.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Construction first began on this remarkable ancient site in the 6th century BC. More than 600 years later, the 104-column temple was completed. During the Roman period, the temple was the largest in all of Greece. Though the temple later fell into disuse, it is still possible to visit the site of the ruin, where 16 beautiful Corinthian columns remain standing.

Temple of Poseidon at Sounion

The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion was an important place of worship in Ancient Greece and is now a popular day-trip destination. Set on a cliff, this temple dedicated to the god of the sea provides suitably breathtaking views of the ocean below.