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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.

Living in Athens as an expat

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.

Those looking to make a trip further afield are able to do so easily thanks to Athens's ideal location in Greece – from here, most other places in the country can be accessed by train, plane, boat or bus.

One of the advantages of living in Athens is that there is always an array of things to see and do. Athens is home to both ancient and modern attractions, offering a variety of activities 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 kinds.

Cost of living in Athens

Although living in Greece is quite affordable by European standards, the cost of living in Athens is the highest in Greece, owing to its global appeal as a cultural and historical centre. The cost of accommodation, groceries and eating out are all higher than in other mainland Greek cities, though expats on a budget will find that adopting local living standards can somewhat bring those costs down.

Families and children in Athens

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 relocate to Athens will find themselves in a lively urban environment where residents are extremely proud of the place in which they live.

Climate in Athens

Athens's subtropical Mediterranean climate is sunny and hot, especially during the summer months of June to September, when heatwaves can push the mercury past 104°F (40°C). Winters can get chilly, especially at night, and snowfall is not unheard of.

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 highs of 95°F (35°C). Heatwaves occur frequently and can push the mercury up to 104°F (40°C) 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 jumper 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 moving in Athens for prospective expats to consider.


Accommodation in Athens

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

Being a tourism hotspot, Athens's accommodation 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 in Athens. 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 the 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 the 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 the locals eat and shopping where they shop.

Cost of living in Athens

Athens is the most expensive place to live in Greece. Mercer's 2022 Cost of Living Survey places the capital 126th out of 227 listed cities, similar to Belfast or Wellington but cheaper than other European capitals like Lisbon, Rome or Madrid. On the mainland, basic amenities should be cheaper than on the Greek islands.


Cost of accommodation in Athens

Accommodation prices in Greece are on the rise, and Athens is no exception. Rental costs in Athens are estimated to be 29 percent higher than in Greece's next largest city, Thessaloniki. Renting or buying a home will be the highest cost for expats in the capital. That said, it's worth knowing that foreigners who invest above a certain threshold in Greek property can apply for residency on that basis.


Cost of transport in Athens

Unlike the rest of the country, Athens boasts a metro and a tram network, both of which are reliable, convenient and cost-effective. Greece's bus network is its primary form of public transport, and is generally safe and affordable. There are, however, sporadic strikes in the major cities, and these can bring the bus network to a halt.

Greek drivers are notorious for their disregard for road laws, and driving in Athens is neither easy nor free from risk. Expats who insist on driving should consider car insurance mandatory. Parking is limited and may be very expensive.


Cost of education in Athens

Public education is free but conducted in Greek. Expats who plan a long-term stay are generally happy to enrol their children, but many expats prefer private or international schools at a higher cost. Prices usually go up with the learner's academic level. Athens provides a wide range of private schools with various languages of instruction, and expat parents should not have trouble finding something to meet their budget.


Cost of groceries in Athens

Expensive compared to other mainland Greek cities, groceries in Athens are still relatively affordable compared to many European cities. Locally produced wine, cheeses and olive oil are very affordable, and laiki, weekly farmer's markets, are a great source of fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables. Imported and branded products go for more than expats might expect, but are overall reasonable.


Cost of entertainment and eating out in Athens

Athens's restaurants, nightlife, flea markets, malls and boutiques are a major draw. Whether shopping, visiting the capital's attractions or just going out and taking in the city, there is always something to do in Athens. The lifestyle in this cultural capital can get expensive, however. Price-conscious expats can try avoiding tourist areas and eating at their local establishments.


Cost of living in Athens chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Athens in November 2022.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 490

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

EUR 430

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 850

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

EUR 790

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

EUR 4.01

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 1.63

Rice (1kg)

EUR 2.27

Loaf of white bread

EUR 1.07

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 8.26

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

EUR 4.79

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

EUR 8

Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 1.73

Cappuccino 

EUR 3.19

Bottle of local beer

EUR 4

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

EUR 50

Utilities/household

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

EUR 0.31

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

EUR 19

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

EUR 115

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

EUR 0.75

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

EUR 1.20

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

EUR 2.09

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. Athens's massive flea market in Monastiraki is also 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 and 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 Sports Complex. Among these venues 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. Water-sports 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 artisanal 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 and department stores to entertainment facilities like a 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, Athens provides plenty for expats to see and do. 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 new arrivals 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, a testament to craftsmanship during the height of 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 provides panoramic views of the city and leads visitors along its walkways to discover ancient relics from the surrounding archaeological sites. 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 on this remarkable ancient site first began 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.