Picking the right destination isn’t about finding the perfect one. It’s about deciding on which positive aspects appeal to you, and the negatives you’re willing to ignore. If you’re planning an extended stay in the birthplace of democracy, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of living in Athens. 

For digital nomads and ex-pats, Athens has much to offer. The city is of course known for its breathtaking ruins and intriguing museums, but beneath the surface, there is a lot more about this city that you have yet to discover. Join me, as I bring the hidden positives (and negatives) of living in Athens to light.

12 Pros of Living in Athens

As you can tell, there’s a lot to like about living in Athens. I think what surprised me the most is just how relaxing and refreshing the public parks were. 

Don’t have time to read through everything? Here are the 12 pros of living in Athens summarized for you:

  1. Rich and Historical Culture
  2. Comfortable Climate
  3. Lots of Social Options
  4. Tourist Infrastructure
  5. High English Proficiency
  6. Helpful Locals
  7. Incredible Museums
  8. Excellent Parks
  9. Lots of Transportation
  10. Digital Nomad Visa Available
  11. Excellent Cuisine
  12. Approachable Dating Scene

1. Experiencing a Rich and Historical Culture 

Athens, as the cradle of Western civilization, offers an unparalleled cultural experience. Here, the past and present collide in the most mesmerizing way. Imagine taking a break from your work to explore the Parthenon. 

The city’s ancient structures aren’t just dead relics; they’re alive, imbued with thousands of years of human experience. You’ll have the opportunity to walk the same paths as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. If you’re working remotely, immersing yourself in such a historically rich environment can provide a unique perspective, fostering creativity and innovation in your work. I know it certainly jumpstarted my creativity.

2. Comfortable Mediterranean Climate 

The climate in Athens is another key advantage for digital nomads. Sunny weather permeates the city year-round; winters are surprisingly mild. Picture yourself enjoying a leisurely work day from a sunny balcony, or taking your laptop to a seaside café. This makes going to work seem like much less of a chore. And think of all the potential health benefits! Exposure to sunlight can boost Vitamin D levels and help regulate sleep cycles, which might make you feel more energetic and productive.

3. Vibrant Social Scene 

Athenians, while accustomed to seeing tourists, are quite friendly to anyone they might encounter throughout the day. And if you stay here long enough, you might just get access to some of the parties and other local happenings that a passing tourist wouldn’t have access to. Nightlife is alive and well here too, particularly in the summer months.

Since Athens is a major capital city with millions of people living in it, you can find all sorts of different people to hang out with, including intellectuals of all stripes.

4. Top Tourist Destination with Supporting Infrastructure

Athens has been catering to tourists for decades, and as a result, it has developed an infrastructure that can greatly facilitate your nomadic lifestyle. The city is designed to accommodate a diverse range of needs and preferences. Need a midnight snack? There’s a 24-hour bakery around the corner. Lost your charger? Electronic shops abound. 

Moreover, the city boasts a plethora of accommodations for various budgets, from luxury boutique hotels to quaint Airbnb apartments. Want to explore the islands on the weekend? Athens’ ports and airports offer connections to almost anywhere in Greece and beyond. In essence, the city’s well-established tourist infrastructure makes the practical aspects of nomadic life far less daunting.

Given this wealth of tourist infrastructure, it can still be a bit tough to find apartments that possess the perfect amenities and price-point for a longer stay. Not every hotel room has a workspace, for instance.

Most short-term rental sites have posed major problems for me as a digital nomad, 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 in Athens and beyond. Enter your name and email below to get access to them as soon as they’re released.

5. Widespread English Proficiency

Athens may be a city steeped in history, but its residents are thoroughly modern and well-versed in English. This can be a great relief for those worried about language barriers. Whether you’re ordering a souvlaki, asking for directions to the Acropolis, or simply striking up a conversation with a local at a taverna, you’ll find that English is widely spoken. 

Interestingly, I noticed many older individuals are also proficient in English, which goes to show how easy it is to communicate here. This linguistic advantage can make your transition to life in Athens seamless and enjoyable. You’ll never have to utter the phrase “It’s all Greek to me” when English is so widely spoken.

6. Helpful Locals

In Athens, the warmth of the sun is matched only by the hospitality of the locals. From the first day I got there, people were very willing to explain things like directions to me. Moreover, they even gave me helpful tips on things in the city like good cafes. This innate helpfulness is a lifeline when navigating a new city and makes settling into Athens that much smoother.

7. Incredible Museums

Imagine living and working amidst the echoes of ancient civilizations! With a history spanning over 3,000 years, Athens offers countless opportunities to immerse yourself in the past. Take a break from your laptop to visit the iconic Parthenon, wander through the Museum of Cycladic Art, or explore the ancient Agora. Every monument, every cobblestone street, and every museum in Athens is a chapter from the past waiting to be discovered. As a digital nomad, your breaks from work become journeys through time! It’s an absolutely ideal situation for anyone interested in world history.

8. Excellent Parks

This was one advantage to Athens that surprised me more than any other. Athens is known for its history, sure, but the parks offer an excellent reprieve from the sprawl of the city.

Philopappou Park
Philopappou Park

If you need a break from the urban hustle, Athens offers numerous verdant oases within the city. Imagine lounging in the lush greenery of Filopappou Park, with a breathtaking view of the Acropolis. The city’s parks provide not just a visual respite from city life, but also a chance to reconnect with nature. You may find these green spaces to become your favourite spots for outdoor workouts or simply places to rejuvenate your mind.

9. Multiple Transportation Options

Though Athens is a bustling metropolis, getting around the city is a breeze. The city boasts a robust public transportation network, including the metro, buses, and taxis, that spans the entire city and beyond. Whether you’re rushing to a meet-up in Plaka or simply exploring the city’s outskirts, the efficient transport options ensure you’re never stranded. And for those moonlit nights when you feel like exploring on foot, the core of the city is quite safe and pleasant to wander through.

10. Stay Longer With A Digital Nomad Visa

One of the significant advantages of choosing Athens as a base for digital nomad life is Greece’s progressive approach to remote work. Greece offers a digital nomad visa for non-EU citizens, making it possible for you to stay in this metropolis for an entire year. Perhaps you could make Athens your home base while exploring the rest of Greece, or even Europe while taking advantage of this visa. 

11. Diverse and Affordable Cuisine

Greek cuisine is not only a feast for the taste buds but also for the soul. The sizzle of souvlaki on the grill, the creamy goodness of moussaka, the tangy zest of tzatziki – every bite is a testament to Greece’s rich culinary history. What’s more, you shared that the food is quite affordable! Imagine enjoying a hearty meal after a productive day of work, basking in the golden Mediterranean sunset, for less than 15 Euros. And enjoy street food for less than 5 Euros too.

If you ever tire of Greek food, there are also many Indian, Chinese, and Middle-eastern options for those looking for a change of pace.

12. Approachable Dating Scene

As far as I can tell, the residents of Athens are quite open-minded and not at all pretentious. Add in the fact that Greeks are generally speaking quite friendly and attractive, and that makes for a good dating scene. And the idea of romance with the Acropolis as the backdrop sounds like a modern-day fairytale, doesn’t it? Who knows, the ancient gods of love might have an exciting chapter in store for you in Athens!

12 Cons of Living In Athens

If you’re too lazy to read through every disadvantage of living in Athens, here’s the redux:

  1. Mediocre Internet Speed
  2. Depressing Architecture Outside The Centre
  3. Aggressive Drivers
  4. Prevalence of Graffiti
  5. Expensive Rent For Short Stays
  6. Digital Nomad Visa Questionable
  7. Limited Co-Working Spaces
  8. Supermarkets Aren’t Open Late
  9. You’re Considered One Of Many Tourists
  10. Scorching Summers
  11. Limited Outdoor Fitness 
  12. Questionable Gyms

1. Mediocre Internet Speed

Imagine you’re in the middle of a crucial virtual meeting and your connection starts to falter, or you’re racing against a deadline, but your file upload is moving at a snail’s pace. Unfortunately, these scenarios could be a frequent occurrence given the average internet speed of around 44Mbps. While there may be workarounds like purchasing a SIM card with ample data, this aspect of Athenian life could potentially disrupt your work rhythm. 

In the digital age, where connectivity is paramount, particularly for digital nomads, the slow broadband speed in Athens could pose a significant issue. It’s like trying to swim upstream – frustrating and exhausting. The wifi rarely cuts out completely in the cities, but it often slows down.

If you want to know the best ways to counter slow internet speeds in Greece, I cover 6 valuable strategies in the article I linked

2. A Somewhat Depressing Cityscape Outside The Centre

City density and architecture play a crucial role in influencing one’s mood and general outlook. Athens, with its closely-packed buildings and labyrinth-like streets, might feel claustrophobic to some. Outside the centre, the charming 19th-century neoclassical buildings give way to a series of bland grey edifices constructed after World War 2. 

Imagine feeling hemmed in, surrounded by concrete, yearning for an open space to simply breathe. The city’s architecture, often appearing worn and devoid of cheer, might add to the sensation of melancholy. While you might find a peculiar charm in the city’s raw and unfiltered presentation, many find it requires getting used to.

To avoid staying in a dull, gray neighbourhood, read this article where I sum up the best neighbourhoods to stay in Athens.

3. Aggressive Drivers

Generally speaking, I found Greeks to be easygoing. That is, except when they are on the road. In fact, the only arguments I witnessed in the country took place between drivers on Athenian roadways. The speed at which drivers bomb down side streets makes something as simple as crossing a street a high-adrenaline endeavour.

Picture this: you’re standing at the edge of a bustling Athenian street, and suddenly the traffic lights stop working. Subsequently, you witness a kind of vehicular ballet, with drivers weaving in and out of lanes with startling unpredictability. I saw this episode myself one windy afternoon when the power went out for a brief moment. 

4. Prevalence of Graffiti

Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, and this couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to urban street art. In Athens, graffiti is a prevalent part of the cityscape, and for the most part, I don’t see any artistic intent behind it. 

While some view it as an expression of the city’s rebellious spirit, others might find it unattractive or even disturbing. Imagine going for a morning walk, coffee in hand, hoping for a serene start to the day, only to find the buildings screaming at you with graffiti. It can create a rather conflicting visual aesthetic that may not be appealing to everyone. According to one local I spoke with, most of these graffiti-stained buildings are remnants from a 10-year-old fad. Don’t expect the graffiti to disappear any time soon.

5. Expensive Rent for Short Stays

As if a high cost of living isn’t enough, the rent in Athens, especially closer to popular landmarks like the Acropolis, might take a significant chunk out of your wallet. You’d think being a nomad would give you an edge over soaring real estate prices, and that’s somewhat true in Athens, but only if you don’t stay in the most popular tourist areas. You’re left to weigh the perks of living close to iconic sights against the downsides of an overstretched budget.

Elsewhere, I discuss the cost of living in Athens, including its relation to monthly rent, in greater detail.

6. The Digital Nomad Visa Is Somewhat Inaccessible

The Greek digital nomad visa, while a commendable initiative, does come with its own string attached. Namely, a minimum monthly salary requirement of €3,500. Plus, the application process and taxes are somewhat deceiving. It’s like being invited to a party but being asked to bring your own decorations. For digital nomads with fluctuating incomes or those just starting their journey, the income restriction could be a barrier to entry.

7. Limited Co-Working Space

While Athens has a couple of coworking spaces, they are relatively sparse compared to other digital nomad hotspots. The relative lack of these spaces in Athens could be a serious drawback, especially for those who rely on these shared environments for productivity and connection.

8. Limited Supermarket Hours

Imagine you’ve just had a productive day of work, but you forgot to stock your fridge earlier. You rush to the local supermarket only to find that it’s closed. Unlike cities where supermarkets operate late into the night or 24/7, Athens supermarkets usually operate from 8am to 8pm and are closed on Sundays. This limitation requires a degree of forward planning, especially if you’re used to late-night shopping or restocking your pantry on weekends. For such a large city, this limitation is baffling.

9. You Might Be Perceived As Another Passing Tourist

Despite their renowned friendliness, some locals may initially perceive you as just another passing tourist. This can influence the depth of interactions and the overall sense of belonging in the city. For instance, you might end up receiving tourist recommendations when what you really want are local, off-the-beaten-path experiences. You may have to put in some extra effort to break through this perception barrier and integrate more deeply into the local community.

10. Extremely Hot Summers

You’ve just wrapped up a conference call, you step outside for a breather, and it feels like stepping into a sauna. Athens is notorious for its extremely hot summers. If you’re not a fan of scorching heat, this could pose a major discomfort, particularly if you don’t have access to air-conditioning. Keeping cool will require strategic planning, like working during cooler hours or finding air-conditioned public spaces. My recommendation is to visit Athens outside the summer months since that will be the peak tourist season anyways.

11. Limited Suitable Outdoor Running Areas

Let’s say you enjoy the liberating feel of a morning jog. In Athens, this could pose a challenge due to the city’s narrow sidewalks and hilly streets. Even the parks, which are beautiful, are usually centred around a hill, and thus not too pleasant to run through.

 Trying to navigate your way through the bustling streets and steep slopes can be quite a test of agility, and certainly not the relaxing run you might have imagined. Like trying to dance the tango in a crowded elevator, it’s not impossible, but it’s certainly challenging. You might need to find alternative running routes or adjust your fitness routine to adapt to the city’s unique terrain.

12. Sparse and Expensive Indoor Workout Facilities

The first gym I went to asked me for about 120 Euros in exchange for a monthly pass. Apparently, they weren’t accustomed to people who wanted daily memberships and had set their prices for 2 and 3 times a week. Considering Greece is the birthplace of the gymnasium, I found this a little surprising. The lady at that gym even recommended that I go someplace else to find what I was looking for. I did eventually, but the gym I found was rather disgusting and unruly. Yet, it was the only one big enough to accommodate my needs. 

This could be a stumbling block if you’re passionate about maintaining a rigorous fitness routine or are accustomed to a wide choice of gym facilities. Thankfully, you can always train your legs in one of Athens’ many hilly parks.

The Final Word: Weighing the pros and cons of living in Athens

I started this article saying Athens is not perfect, and I’m going to end it the same way.

I think that if Athens has been on the top of your list for a long time, and you’re interested in Ancient Greece, or history in general, then a long stay here should be a no-brainer. That’s because the city offers a lot more than just history, as I pointed out regarding the nightlife and the parks.

However, history is still Athens’ main feature. If that’s not important to you, then maybe the cons of living in the city outweigh the pros. Decent parks and nightlife might not be enough to distract you from the city’s faults, of which there are many.

If you want to learn more about what it’s like to live as a digital nomad in Athens, I documented my experience in detail. Read that article for more recommendations.

Pros and cons of living in Athens
Pros and cons of living in Athens

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