When I first told my friends I was heading to Greece for a few weeks, the first thing they asked me was which island I was going to visit.

“Oh man, you gotta go to Santorini”

The truth is, I planned this trip in the winter. And as beautiful as Santorini seems in pictures, I prefer to visit city destinations in the wintertime.

So while Greece conjures visions of crystal-blue ocean views and cute sunbathed villages, I skipped that experience entirely to go to the capital. I was not disappointed; Athens reflects all the richness and depth of contemporary Greek culture.

With a population of 3.1 million, Athens can be a little crowded for some, and the city has mixed reviews. This article should set the record straight. I’ll help you understand the logistics of living and working in Athens and weigh the pros and cons.

Is Athens good for digital nomads?

As far as digital nomad cities go, Athens is an easy one. Does this come as any surprise to you? Greece is one of the top tourist destinations on the planet, and digital nomads can avail themselves of the same infrastructure that makes travelling here so smooth. 

Being so densely populated, Athens has a ton of amenities for locals too. From public transport to cafes, you likely won’t struggle to find the things you need to live your daily life in comfort. Moreover, Athens’ popularity as a tourist destination implies that most people speak English. Even older people know a few words.

The only immediate drawback that comes to mind is Greece’s internet speed. You’ll be very lucky to get better than 100MBps, and it’s usually drastically lower, so keep that in mind.

Digital Nomad Athens
Digital Nomad Athens

First Impressions of Athens

Here are the things that stuck out to me when I first got to Athens. Of course, everyone has different tastes, so my turnoffs might be your turnons and vice versa.

Turnons

  • Greek people are helpful. The first 24 hours are the biggest test of this since this is when you’re navigating things like phone plans, gyms, and so on for the first time. Everyone explained these things to me patiently and with a kind demeanour.
  • Rich history. The sheer number of Greek ruins and historical museums is almost overwhelming, and I feel guilty for skipping a few.
  • Excellent parks. Nobody mentioned this to me before I went, but Athens has some amazingly calm parks centred around mountains (or hills) with breathtaking views at the top. They make for excellent respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Turnoffs

  • The density gives you a claustrophobic feeling. I’m accustomed to density, but Athens’ steep hills, narrow streets, and ugly grey apartment blocks are somewhat depressing.
  • Terrible drivers. Every time I cross the street, it feels like I’m risking my life. That’s hardly an exaggeration. Athenian drivers aren’t just aggressive – they’re irrational. Far more than their Balkan neighbours.
  • Endless Graffiti. Some of the graffiti is kind of cool, but most of it just looks ugly, especially when it covers a once-brilliant neoclassical building.

Everything You Need To Know Before You Get To Athens

If you hear the Greek gods calling out to you, telling you to book a trip to Athens, that means they probably are. Or maybe you need professional help. I don’t know. Either way, it’s time to channel that excitement into planning out your stay as a digital nomad in Athens. 

Housing & Neighborhoods

Unless you’re planning a stay that lasts more than a few months, Airbnb is your best bet. During the off-season, you’ll be able to negotiate prices down by quite a bit. Since Greeks are rather averse to paying taxes, you might dangle a cash payment in return for a reduced monthly rental fee.

Unless it’s low season (December to March), you’re going to want to think about getting an apartment well in advance of the day you arrive there. Start looking for apartments at least one month ahead of time, probably 2 months ahead of a summertime stay. Being such a hot tourist destination, the best places in Athens get booked up fast. And as you’ll see soon, location really does matter here since some neighbourhoods are rather sketchy.

I discuss the cost of living in Athens in more detail elsewhere. In general, rent for a nice place will typically cost you upwards of €1,000 per month, no matter where you stay. And note that the closer you are to the Acropolis, the more expensive things will get. Locals often pay around €400 or less outside the centre, so you’ll probably pay a big premium for your apartment. This should give you confidence in negotiating the price down by 10-15%.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to go through the ordeal of finding and researching apartments yourself, we’ve got you covered. Ensuring that a prospective apartment is actually suitable for remote work, and livable for a months-long stay is a huge time-sink.

In fact, most rental sites have posed major problems for me, and I know I’m not alone. If you want a more consistent solution, we’re in the process of curating a large database of digital nomad apartments. Enter your name and email below to get access to them as soon as they’re released.

Best Neighbourhoods

Here are my favourite neighbourhoods in Athens, typically, the best neighbourhoods are to the East and South of the centre. There are also some luxurious neighbourhoods well North of the city centre.

  • Kolonaki
  • Plaka
  • Piraeus
  • Exarcheia
  • Psyri
  • Kifissia
  • Thissio

I go into more detail in another article where I discuss the best neighbourhoods to stay in Athens, including the pros and cons for each one. For now, I’ll give a brief overview of my favourites.

Kolonaki

Located just South of Mount Lycabettus, Kolonaki is a central neighbourhood with an exclusive atmosphere. It’s not quite as busy or popular with tourists as Plaka, giving it more of a local feel. 

Generally, Kolonaki is considered one of the most prestigious neighbourhoods in Athens. There are a fair few high-end cafes and fine dining establishments in the area, alongside upscale boutiques and designer shops. 

One downside to note is that Kolonaki is a little bit hilly, but the calm vibe in proximity to the centre more than makes up for it. Better yet, the National Art Gallery and Museum of Cycladic art will be practically at your doorstep.

Plaka

When you picture Athens, you probably picture the Acropolis, ruins of ancient Greek temples, and quaint little Greek restaurants nestled inside pastel-coloured neoclassical buildings. These pictures all come from Plaka.

Indeed, Plaka does a lot of the heavy lifting for Athens. When it comes down to it, Plaka is the main reason why you’re coming here. And as far as neighbourhoods go, it’s about as safe and central as you can get. Plus, along with Kolonaki, it’s one of the few that are mostly free of Graffiti.

For better or for worse, these features also mean that Plaka is crowded with tourists and souvenir shops. Since I was there during the low season, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it felt empty, which is understandable. However, the lively bits tended to be occupied by tourists and not locals going about their day. 

If you’re like most nomads, you probably want to live like a local and spend somewhat like a local too. This neighbourhood will not give you that opportunity. Plaka is unbelievably charming in appearance, but somewhat lacking in terms of substance, which, in my opinion, makes it undeserving of top billing in this ranking. 

Piraeus

First of all, yes, I am aware that Piraeus is its own city and not a neighbourhood of Athens. But since it’s so well-connected with Athens via the metro and other forms of public transport, I would be remiss not to mention it here. If I could live in Piraeus, I would choose to live near the subway station Dimotiko Theatro. 

Piraeus was Athens’ main port during ancient times and remains so today. However, little remains of those ancient times as it seems almost all buildings here were built in the last 20-100 years. I found the neighbourhoods here to be quite vibrant, and they offered something of a different flavour compared to the rest of Athens, likely because Piraeus has something that the centre doesn’t: The Sea. 

Indeed, picture-perfect ocean views and restaurants serving fresh seafood are the main draws of Piraeus. Plus, you can easily reach the centre within half an hour, to fulfill all your sightseeing needs. If you’re looking for a more lowkey seaside vibe while digital nomadding in Athens, then Piraeus is for you.

Exarcheia

Frankly, Exarcheia is not to everyone’s taste. And that’s fine, I’m not even sure if it’s to my taste either.

However, I should not fail to mention Exarcheia, because it’s one of the most unique neighbourhoods I’ve ever been to.

You see, Exarcheia has been an anarchist neighbourhood for a long time. Nowadays, the area is slowly gentrifying, and as the graffiti that plasters the apartments here tells you, tourists are not welcome.

Exarcheia is in relatively close proximity to the Acropolis, maybe 30 minutes on foot. There are plenty of coworking spaces, cafes and parks nearby too. Because of this, AirBNBs are a bit pricy, and I’m not sure that they’re listed at anything close to fair value. That said, eating out here is quite cheap. And the graffiti-covered blocks surrounding you as you eat outside make for an interesting atmosphere, to say the least.

Exarcheia Athens
Exarcheia Athens

Neighbourhoods to avoid

Generally speaking, neighbourhoods immediately to the North and West of the centre are not safe.

  • Kato Patisia
  • Elaionas
  • Metaxourgheio
  • Omonoia

Kato Patisia

Kato Patisia is located to the North of the city, and it’s one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Athens. It’s a densely populated area, and the streets can get quite dangerous after dark. 

The area also has a poor reputation, and many locals and tourists avoid it, the former calling it a dump. It’s definitely not the best place for digital nomads to stay, and it’s best to avoid it altogether even if there is a fair amount of AirBNBs in the area.

Metaxourgheio

Metaxourgheio is another gritty neighbourhood located in the centre of Athens. During the daytime, the neighbourhood is mostly safe, though I have heard that plenty of drug dealing does take place. At night though, things look grimmer, or so I’ve heard.

The area is slowly gentrifying, and many Airbnbs pop up here due to its central location. Honestly, I felt that most streets were safe to walk on, there were only a couple filled with desperate-looking people. Frankly, I’ve seen much worse in my home city. 

Entry & Visas

Like most nomads, you will likely stay less than 90 days in Athens. However, keep in mind that you can only stay 90 out of 180 days in Greece. Moreover, if you don’t have a Schengen passport, you can only stay 90 out of 180 days in Schengen, not just in Greece. Check this visa list to see if you need a visa to visit.

If you wish to stay longer in Greece, note that they are offering a digital nomad visa to non-EU citizens who are remote workers, freelancers, or entrepreneurs. The visa requires a minimum monthly salary of €3,500 after tax deductions, a valid passport, health insurance, and a clean criminal record. The visa is valid for a stay of up to 12 months, after which digital nomads can choose to apply for a permit that you can renew every two years. Visa and permit holders are entitled to a 50% tax break for a maximum of seven years. The visa application fee is €75, and candidates must submit a work contract from an employer outside of Greece or proof of earnings for self-employed workers. You can complete the application process at a Greek consular authority in your country of residence.

How To Pay For Stuff In Athens

I said that Greeks love cash earlier in this article, but keep in mind that nearly every store accepts credit cards. Even that hole-in-the-wall bakery where you get a nice warm loaf of fresh bread every day. Note that Greece uses the Euro. You can likely get away with not bringing any Euros with you and just extracting money at a Greek ATM if need be.

Getting here, there, and everywhere

Most people fly into Athens Airport and make it the starting point of their journey in Greece. However, others come from the Greek islands via the port of Piraeus. Either way, you can take the metro from either of those locations and pass through the centre of Athens. Taking a cab is alright too since they’re typically cheap. But if your apartment is near a subway station, I don’t see why you wouldn’t take the metro. The ticket from the airport only costs 9 Euros.

Just make sure that you don’t get on the suburban interrail train at the airport, the platforms are the same, but you can figure out pretty quickly which train you should take by asking someone at the airport. Subways leave from the airport once every 30 minutes or so.

If you arrive in the middle of the night when the metro is closed, there is also the X95 bus which takes you to Syntagma Square, the main square of Athens. 

Once You’re In Athens…

Now that you’ve finally arrived in Athens, you need a game plan for your first day. If you get there at night, I recommend just grabbing a meal and going to bed. But if you get there in the morning or afternoon, then you’ll have some time to get settled in. Don’t bother trying to cram touristy things in on the first day, just focus on being able to work properly and navigate the city tomorrow.

What To Do The Day You Arrive In Athens

When I first got to Athens, I was dehydrated from my flight, and I needed a drink. Fortunately, the water from the tap didn’t taste bad at all, and it was completely safe to drink.

After figuring out where everything was in my apartment, I focused on getting a SIM card. I got one from Vodafone since it was close to me. It cost me about 22 Euros for 50 GB – a great deal compared to where I come from. Note that Vodafone locations, like many stores in Greece, close for a few hours in the middle of the day.

You might also want to sort out getting a transit pass, but in my opinion, you should just get a 5-ticket pass whenever you need one. They cost about 5.70 Euros, so at an average of about 1 euro per 90-minute trip, I was extremely satisfied with the quality of public transit, particularly the metro. Taxi cabs are prevalent, and fairly cheap too.

Places to Work As A Digital Nomad in Athens

The best places to work depend heavily on which neighbourhood you live in. While there are a few coworking spaces like Stone Soup, which is a favourite among nomads, and ImpactHub, which is a pricier but perhaps more consistent option, there might not be the same abundance of coworking spaces per capita that you get in major nomad hubs like Mexico or Thailand.

I was also pleasantly surprised that there are a few cafes to work from as well, considering that Southern European countries tend to frown upon laptops in cafes. Dope Roasting and Yellow Cafe are my favourites. Keep in mind a coffee will cost you around 3 euros.

One local also mentioned to me that the Stavros Niarchos Institute in Piraeus is a beautiful modern building with plenty of places for you to work. Since it’s open to the public, you can work there for free. Note that it’s a bit out of the way, which is why I never worked there.

Food (The Most Important Part)

Yes, Greek food is more than just Souvlaki and Gyros…

But if those two items were the only items on the menu at Greek restaurants, I would be pretty happy already.

That said, given how little Greek people make, (the minimum wage is about 700 euros per month, according to what a local told me) I’m surprised that people can afford to eat things other than Souvlaki and Gyros from local restaurants.

The average restaurant meal will cost you between 8-15 Euros. Meanwhile, something simple like Gyros or Falafel costs 3-4 euros. I honestly didn’t feel that quality varied much based on price. Maybe I needed to go somewhere more high-end to find that, but I didn’t feel it was worth it. You can tip 5-10% on your meals, but tipping culture is pretty laid back and nobody will be offended by the amount you tip, if at all. I liked that pretty much everyone gives you free water with your meals here too, which is unique in Europe.

From what I can tell, the Greeks have a pretty big culture of eating at home. Maybe that relates to the price of meals in restaurants. 

When Greeks eat at home, they don’t skimp on vegetables. While I was at the grocery store, I saw people load up on quality fresh produce while spending little time procuring meat. I didn’t see a ton of butcher shops around either.

Speaking of shopping for food, you’ll get a pretty wide variety of different markets to choose from in Athens. Don’t miss out on the Athens Central Market! 

For regular shopping, you can pick from fruit stands and butcher shops, all the way up to big-box supermarkets. I was slightly annoyed that supermarkets closed at 8 PM and weren’t open at all on Sundays. It seemed pretty odd for such a big city.

Vibes

Social Life

If you’re going to make friends here, the longer you stay, the better. What I found was that people that I would see in my daily life would warm up to me after a while, despite initial apathy. I think since Greece receives so many tourists, you’re just a foreigner passing through for the first week or two. Afterward, you begin integrating a tiny bit into their community, and some people will accept you.

Meeting locals can be easy, so long as you have some sort of rapport with one first. Afterwards, they might invite you to meet more friends. 

To meet that first friend, you might need to go to a hostel and tag along with people to meet locals at bars or other such venues. While Athens has some pretty good nightlife, especially in the winter, it’s something you need to approach with a group of people. I don’t recommend going solo to nightlife spots unless it’s a touristy bar. 

On the other hand, you can try talking to people at cafes or going to meetup groups if you want to try socializing by yourself.

Like socializing, dating is a very personal thing, but it seems like the dating scene is relatively good here too. Greek people seem pretty laid-back and not at all pretentious

Street Life

One of my favourite things about visiting new places is just walking down the street and soaking in my surroundings. Athens has some interesting places, but I would have expected more variety based on how big the city is, and the fact that most neighbourhoods are quite old, relatively speaking.

I mentioned before that aside from Piraeus, I found the neighbourhoods outside the centre to be pretty boring. I won’t say any more about that. Inside the centre, things can be pretty touristy, which is boring in its own way, but it does feel energetic. Plaka and even the subdued Kolonaki are the gold standards for upscale neighbourhoods here.

For me, the most fascinating neighbourhoods were the ones like Exarcheia, Metaxourgheio, Omonia, and so on. Considering some of the desperate poverty that you see in those places, particularly the last two, I can’t say that I liked the energy, but it is tangible. It was very enlightening to walk the streets there.

Weather

From personal experience, I’ll be the first to tell you that winters are colder than you think. That’s because nobody is equipped for the cold at all in Athens. Central heating provides limited warmth, and many cafes and other indoor venues are not heated properly either.

On the other hand, you’re going to bake in the summer here. Spring and Fall are the ideal times to visit Athens if you want temperate weather.

I was also told that the cold weather understandably makes the energy around Athens a little more subdued than it is during the warmer months.

Activities

The museums and art galleries are terrific. From niche pop-up galleries in the Exarcheia district to the national archaeological museum, an extended digital nomad stay in Athens is worth it just to work through this incredible volume of museums.

As far as daily activities go, joggers might be a bit disappointed if they don’t live near a park. Sidewalks are narrow, and the streets are hilly. Meanwhile, parks are usually situated on a hill, so that might be difficult to run on too. If you prefer to work out indoors, there are quite a few sports facilities, but I’m not quite sure what someone might need to do to shoot hoops or play tennis if they so desire. Weightlifting gyms were pretty sparse, and some can be extremely expensive. I’m talking 60-100 Euros per month.

One other thing to note is that there are so many parks with incredible viewpoints. So you can get most of your exercise just climbing up these in search of the perfect sunset. Note that while Filopappou and Lycabettus are the popular parks, don’t sleep on the ones further afield, like Attiko Alsos. 

Living in Athens: My lasting impressions

For me, my lasting image of Athens would be looking down on the Acropolis from Mount Lycabettus after sunset, with the glowing city lights illuminating the scene.

Will I come back again? Probably, I was busy with work, so I feel like there are social aspects to the city that I didn’t completely uncover. For example, I barely drank while I was there.

I go into great detail about the pros and cons of living in Athens in another article. That said, I’ve summarized a few of them for you here:

Why you might want to come back

  • The romance of the city and the history surrounding it
  • Public parks with breathtaking views
  • Charming neighbourhoods like Plaka and Kolonaki

Why you might never return 

  • The boring grey, uniform appearance of the apartment buildings
  • The historical areas are smaller than you think

The Final Word on Athens

Want to live in a big Southern European city for dirt cheap? Athens is the place to be. The city is incredibly multifaceted if you know where to look. Just walk from Exarcheia to Kolonaki, and then to Plaka to see what I mean. Each of these shows a different face of Athens, and they each have a certain romance to them that makes them unforgettable.

Athens might be a rather crowded capital city with millions of people going about their daily lives without caring whether you find it exciting or not. But in time, you too can carve out your own piece of the city, filled with wonder and intrigue.

If you’re looking to explore the rest of Greece, I’ve compiled an extensive guide for digital nomads. And for more articles about Greece and the rest of the world, keep reading my blog and subscribe to my newsletter where I’ll give you weekly updates on new nomad destinations and more digital nomad tips.

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