Living in Athens: The Ultimate Expat Guide

Living in Athens: The Ultimate Expat Guide

Updated: February 2024


As a multifaceted meeting point between past and present, east and west, ancient history, and contemporary politics, Athens is undoubtedly the definition of a city with a unique character. Slowly yet passionately - as the Greeks like to say - it has transformed itself not only into a distinctive cultural hub, but into the epicentre of budding businesses.


Representing a combination of the easy-going lifestyle and the passel of possibilities for professional growth, Athens is the perfect destination for those who seek a dynamic and rewarding work-life balance and Europe Language Jobs wrote an entire blog dedicated to living in Athens: the ultimate expat guide you will ever need.


Ready to make yourself at home in this marvellous city? Our guide will help you along every step of the way as you learn to settle in and enjoy life as an expat in Athens.


  1. Finding a Job in Athens
  2. Getting Around in Athens
  3. Finding a Place to Stay in Athens
  4. Living Like a Greek - Athens Culture
  5. Fun Things to Do in Athens
  6. Cost of Living in Athens

Finding a job in Athens


If working abroad is one of the main reasons why you are considering emigrating, moving to a city like Athens will not disappoint! Companies are searching high and low for qualified and experienced professionals, so, with the right skills and qualifications, you will have no problem getting employed. To make sure you know where to start, let’s take a look at the job market in Athens and its standing for expats in particular:


Paperwork you will need 


Working in Athens as an EU-EEA citizen could not be easier, since all you need is your ID or Passport to take initial action. After three months of residing in Greece, you must then apply for the Certificate of Registration from the Department of Aliens, regardless of whether your employer has requested it from you. It is a free document that you can obtain from your local police station. These are the documents you will need to prepare: 


  • an application form
  • copy of your ID 
  • 4 passport-sized photos 
  • proof of medical insurance - it can be the EHIC card or private insurance 
  • proof of employment - a letter from your hiring company, or any other document that shows that you have a regular income 
  • proof of residence - a rental contract, or proof of ownership 


If you come from a country outside the EU, you are required to hold a visa. Apart from your passport, a validated criminal background check from your home country is a document you can’t go without when going through the employment process. 


Living in Athens : The Ultimate expat guide


A quick tip: prepare to be patient and persistent when dealing with local bureaucracy. Generally speaking, obtaining legal documents is a rather tedious process, and not all the authorities serving you will speak English. However, having done research on the requirements for different applications, you will eventually finish the process; don't forget you can always reach out to other expats who have already jumped through the hoops and are familiar with Greek administration. 



Most popular expat jobs and in-demand languages


The demand for English and other language speakers in Athens is growing steadily, making the city a great destination for international jobseekers. 


As in all European countries currently, the service sector is flourishing and promises a wide range of possibilities for career development in different fields of the business world. There are many opportunities available in international companies looking for qualified individuals and skilled team members to take up roles in their Sales and Account Management, Digital and Content Marketing, or Business Development departments. The job market in Athens is also particularly appealing for specialists within the fields of IT and Finance. 


As previously mentioned, English is widely spoken throughout the city and proficiency is therefore essential - any other languages you speak are of course a bonus and an asset! The Customer Service sector, offering positions such as Desk Help advisors, Technical Support Advocates, and Customer Care specialists, provides a wide range of opportunities for different language speakers. DutchGermanItalianFrenchPolishHungarianSpanish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Czech speakers are highly valued by large companies with an international presence. 



Getting around Athens


Athens boasts an efficient, reliable public transport system with three metro lines that connect the city to its suburbs. Above ground, buses and a tram network cover all the city areas. No matter where you choose to live, you are bound to have a bus or metro station near your home, so nothing will feel too far away. If it's one of those days where you just don't feel like walking or cycling, there are always taxis available at the drop of a hat. This makes living in Athens easy and convenient; you can cover long distances without having to worry about the route. 


Public transport 


You can get a monthly pass for all means of public transport for €27 (€45 if you need a ticket covering routes to and from the airport). You can easily get yourself the pass at the kiosks located in underground metro stations, hop on board a bus or metro, and get to exploring the Grecian gem that is Athens with an unlimited number of rides. 


A standard single ticket will cost you €1.20 for a ride of up to 90 mins. You can buy a daily pass for unlimited travelling with all services for €4.10 or a 5-day ticket for €8.20 - ideal for minibreaks. 


For more information on routes, fares, and schedules of public transport in Athens visit Oasa.  


There is also a handful of useful apps related to public transport in Athens:


  • BEAT - useful when ordering a taxi. It will help you calculate the approximate amount you will be required to pay to get to your desired destination, so that you can make sure you have enough money and that the driver isn't stringing you on.
  • Moovit - journey planner app working in real time. 
  • Ferryhopper - if you're planning to visit any of the islands, just check the best deals using this app. 
  • ATH Airport App - designed to help you navigate the airport and find your way to and from it. You'll be able to access information such as the airport's layout, the shops and services available there, arrivals and departures. 


getting around Athens


Finding a place to stay


What's the next step to starting your life as an expat after finding a job abroad? Looking for accommodation! While cherry-picking a new home might be an exciting experience, you need to be careful about whom you go to when asking for help with finding accommodation. You must make sure that the agency you use is legitimate. 


The Hellenic Association of Realtors, the Federation of Greek Real Estate Agents, and the European Association of Estate Agents are the best places to start. Through these, you can find recognised realtors, so you will not have to worry about getting scammed and losing money.


If you prefer to find a place independently, without the assistance of agencies, Facebook accommodation groups are also a good source of offers. Wherever possible, always scrutinise offers and request to see the flat on a video call when looking for rooms through these Facebook groups!


You can also browse websites like The BluegroundNestpick, and Tospitimou


Athens is a large city and can be disorientating at first, so it is best to choose a neighbourhood that suits you. This will help you settle into the new city faster. Most foreigners living in Athens gravitate towards certain areas. Here are some suggestions on where to look for accommodation: 


  • Pagrati is an area close to the centre of Athens with great access to public transport and cheap housing. If you are looking to live in a place where many foreigners choose to live, this is probably the best option.
  • Exarcheia is very close to the centre and has affordable apartments for those on a tight budget. It is close to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, a nice cultural spot to swing by, but bear in mind that Exarcheia is not the safest neighbourhood to live in.
  • Marousi is one of the livelier neighbourhoods in the northern suburbs. It is dotted with coffee houses, bars and shops. It is a great place for young people who want to work and experience Greek lifestyle at the same time.  
  • Ilioupolis is one of the cheapest, safest neighbourhoods and is situated in the southern suburbs. Albeit further from the sea, you can find great and affordable housing, mainly in the form of apartments. 
  • Ano Glyfada is one of the pricier places you can look for housing due to its location on the Athenian riviera. It is a stone's throw from the glistening sea, with various taverns and restaurants by the beach.


Living like a Greek


Living like a Greek - Athens culture 


Greece is known for its delicious cuisine, strong coffee, stunning landscapes, impressive landmarks, and ancient overtones. While working in Athens, you will have the chance to experience all of this! The very first thing to captivate the hearts and minds of foreigners is always Greece's rich history, which is evoked at every corner of Athens by the remnants of classical architecture that adorn the age-old city. 


Way of life


There are many clichés and stereotypes about Greeks, but one that rings especially true is the claim that Greek people know how to lead an "easy-going" life. This happy-go-lucky mentality is inherent in Greek nature, as can be perceived in the capital. Walking through Athens, you will never feel the sense of anyone stressed or in a hurry as you might expect from one of Europe´s economic epicentres.


The factors that Greeks value the most are those that bring pleasure and enrich one's life on both physical and spiritual levels: good food, family time, and respect for traditions. It's no surprise they manage to maintain such a healthy work-life balance!


Speaking of ways of life, during the last decade, social media has revolutionised our daily routines. In a travel context, social media has become a way to explore cities, cultures, and trends through photos and posts from people based in your place of interest.


Want to get a taste of Athens from its own inhabitants? Check out the local influencers we have listed below:


  • @gabnikoladis is your number one associate when it comes to gastronomic passion. If you would like to learn about the emblematic flavours of Greece or borrow his mouth-watering recipes, go follow Gabriel Nikolaidis on Instagram. Expect not only culinary delights but travel inspiration, too!


  • Another Instagram profile you shouldn't miss is @nmastoras. Nicholas is a photographer based in Athens who loves to travel. He will take you places across Greece that will definitely inspire you to kickstart your own Hellenic adventure.


  • Next up is Panagiotis Koutroumpis - @goatherd_k - to enthral us with his edgy urban shots of both Athens and other European cities.


  • Finally, another note-worthy photographer based in Athens is Vasilis Siampalis. He is your go-to man for insight into the elegance of Greek fashion and lifestyle. Make sure to follow his account @billyheis to keep up with the latest trends. 


culture in Athens


LGBTQ+ Community


Greece is one of the most welcoming countries in the world. The vast majority of people in the capital are liberal and won't bat an eyelash at same-sex couples holding hands while strolling the beautiful streets of Athens. The queer scene is well-developed, with many gay bars, saunas, beaches, and other venues inviting representatives of all colours of the rainbow. 


Especially the Gazi district is known as the most queer-friendly neighbourhood in Athens, with most businesses dedicated mainly to the LGBTQ+ community being located there. The city has its own Pride Parade, taking place every year around June. 


In February 2024, Greece became the 16th country in the EU to legalise same-sex marriage. It is a huge step forward on the road to gender equality, and a valid reason to celebrate!



Coffee culture 


The Greek people's love for coffee is undeniable. Reinforcing their firm belief in enjoying "the good things in life", the Greeks insist on chatting over coffee with friends or family (or both!) at least once a day. Don't be surprised if you stroll by cafés that are brimming with people during working hours. The favourite caffeine-rich beverage (now commercialised by international coffee shop chains) is a "φραπές", or "frappé": iced coffee with sugar and frothy milk.



Holidays to remember


Traditions are extremely meaningful and therefore important to Greek people. Religious holidays are always celebrated in a specific manner and traditions regarding weddings, name days, and birthdays are always followed and respected. When immersing yourself in this culture, you will appreciate the chance to participate in many long-standing rituals, so don't shy away from getting involved and being a part of the celebration.


Here are a few of the holidays you should keep in mind: 


  • 25th March - Greek Independence Day 
  • 17th November - Remembrance Day of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising
  • 15th August -  The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (a nationwide celebration of the Virgin Mary's Repose)



Learning the Greek language


Greek is indeed one of the hardest languages to learn due to its complex grammar system, extensive vocabulary, and unique alphabet. However, don't stress so much about learning to read an entirely new set of characters; most young people in Athens are brought up learning languages, as it is crucial for their career development and the tourism sector. That is not to say that you shouldn't make any effort to communicate with the locals.


It is quick and easy to memorise a couple of basic phrases to show gratitude and respect towards locals; Greek people greatly appreciate when a foreigner attempts to speak their native language and will be the first to teach you useful words and phrases. Forming bonds with locals is rewarding on a personal and social level, but will also help you get to grips with their language and expressions much faster.


Of course, if you're on a mission to master a new alphabet, there are also language schools scattered all over the map. In a city as large as Athens, you are bound to find a language school or a private tutor ready to teach you in your native language. 


If you prefer a more casual, self-motivated approach, language learning apps might just be the perfect tool. Download one today and start training your Greek language skills.


Language tools:



Useful phrases in Greek 


Striking up a conversation with the easy-going Greeks is super straightforward, and they will be even friendlier if you greet them with a few basic Greek words. These are probably the top 3 words you will need in order to spark a conversation before asking if they speak English:


  • Kalimera! - "Good Morning!"
  • Signomi! - "Excuse me!" or "I’m sorry."
  • Efharisto! - "Thank You!"


Fun things to do in Athens 




"Greek food" has become its own category everywhere you go in the world. There is a reason for that - it is fantastic! Fresh local vegetables, yoghurt, cheeses, and fish are a staple of this Mediterranean cuisine. There are some dishes you should definitely try if you want to experience Athens like the locals. Here is a short list of the most traditional dishes you simply have to taste:


  • Moussaka – a casserole that contains all the typical Greek ingredients rolled in one: mincemeat layered with chopped potatoes and sliced aubergine steeped in a béchamel-like sauce.
  • Spanakopita – a kind of crispy pastry oozing with feta cheese and spinach, the perfect hearty breakfast meal.
  • Gemista – peppers and tomatoes stuffed with rice and ground meat, drizzled in tomato sauce and sprinkled with herbs.
  • Greek salad – We call it Greek salad, yes, but in Athens, you will hear it referred to simply as Salad. It's a mix of tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and feta cheese, seasoned with oregano and quality olive oil. 
  • Fish – any kind that you like. Freshly caught in the early hours of the morning and served barbecue-style just a few hours later on your plate!
  • Baklava – don’t forget about dessert! Although originally from its neighbouring country, Baklava is commonly enjoyed in Greece and a must-try treat in Athens. A great place to try this honey-drizzled delight is Chatzis


If you're in the mood for some delicious Greek food but don't fancy going out, use apps such as WOLT or efood to order in. They're the most popular food delivery apps among the locals. 


Baklava gastronomy Athens


Museums and theatres 


Athens itself is a cultural hotspot, so there are countless venues where you can find entertainment, each revealing to you a unique side of Greece and its rich culture. Make sure to have drawn up an itinerary so you don't miss the chance to visit something new every week; and no, you do not have to worry about running out of new places to discover! 


The Acropolis Museum is one of the most fascinating and monumental museums in Europe, hosting incredible artefacts dating back to the Roman and Early Christian eras. It is well known that Greece is strewn with all sorts of intriguing remnants and relics, so make sure to add the National Archaeological Museum to your schedule, too.


During the heat of the summer months in Athens, culture moves outdoors and you can find concerts and plays organised outside in the fresh Mediterranean air. One of the most popular ancient theatres, Herodes or “Herodeon,” hosts events suitable for all audiences. There you can revel in raw theatricality, a defining feature of the Greek culture; the question is, do you prefer comedies or tragedies? 


Acropolis of Athens



Once in Athens, you must visit the Acropolis of Athens!


It contains the most ancient architecture in the city, such as the famous Parthenon. Most tourists love to experience the magical feeling they get when witnessing such history.


Athena Parthenos



Along with Acropolis of Athens, you must visit Athena Parthenos!! Athens' beauty has been well-sculptured here.





The Greeks certainly know how to have a plate-smashingly good time and party like crazy! The first thing you need to know about a typical night out in Athens is that it always starts with food! As opposed to Western-style restaurants, most local taverns play music and sometimes have a dance floor... As you finish dinner around midnight, you will either shimmy over to the dance floor or hop in a cab to a club where you will party until morning.


Since the city skyline is decorated with a myriad of iconic emblems, rooftop bars are a big thing in Athens. You should definitely grab a drink or two in classy bars such as “A for Athens”, “360 Cocktail Bar”, “Couleur Locale” or “City Zen”.


In fact, the city centre is brimming with bars. Good places to check out the buzzing Athens nightlife are Kolokotroni Street, or Agias Irinis Square. 


If you're looking for a more hipster vibe, head on down to Exarchia. The choice of bars is endless and the atmosphere is young and cool. 


Looking for luxury? Kolonaki is a more expensive area where you can enjoy extravagant cocktails in elegance.


Gazi and Monastiraki are two other essential areas to go out when it comes to explosive nightlife and partying.


Going out in Athens


Cost of living in Athens


Compared to other European capitals, Athens is certainly considered one of the more affordable destinations where you can live in comfort on a moderate budget. 



Rent & utilities 


With regards to accommodation costs, prices vary depending on the neighbourhood. Of course, finding a place to rent by the sea will be less affordable than a flat further from the coastline. Rent can start anywhere from €350 per month for a room and €650 for a small flat. Of course, the rates will increase depending on the district. This is great as it allows students and individuals on a tighter budget to find a homely place without breaking the bank.


Your utility bills (electricity, gas, heating, water) will come to around €150. On average, it will cost you €25 to get high-speed internet.



Food and groceries 


Eating takeaway from your favourite restaurants all the time would be delicious but expensive. Luckily, if you choose to cook at home, the supermarket bills are a lot more economical - a great opportunity to start following new Greek recipes in your own kitchen. Supermarkets like ALDI and LIDL are good options for your weekly shopping. 


Of course, Athens has many international cuisines on offer, but don't worry if restaurants aren't your thing: just by stepping out of your flat, you will no doubt find a range of sizzling street food before you.


The Greek capital is also one of the most vegan-friendly cities in Europe, so it caters to everyone’s needs or habits.


Outdoor food markets with fresh ingredients are your best bet for juicy fruit/veg and raw fish/meat products. 


Here is our estimation of how much the weekly shop for 1 would cost:



Medical care 


When it comes to healthcare, there is the option to obtain national health insurance through your place of employment. However, if you prefer to go private, you can also register with private health insurance companies to have access to hospitals. As long as you are employed in a legitimate business, you will not have to worry about healthcare.


Depending on income and the number of children to support, certain citizens are eligible for free healthcare. The fee for private doctors usually varies depending on their speciality, but most will charge a fee of 50€ per consultation. 



Films and books set in Athens


If you'd like to get to know the city a bit better before moving there, watching a few films or reading a couple of books filmed or set there might be a good idea! Here are our suggestions:




  • The Two Faces of January

This film directed by Hossein Amini and based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith, tells the story of an American couple who are going on a trip around Europe. While visiting Athens, they meet a tour guide who is actually a professional swindler. The tour guide takes the opportunity to offer his services to them without knowing the secrets that their marriage hides and ends up in great danger.


The film was recorded in Athens and Crete. Among other places we can distinguish the Acropolis of Athens, the ruins of Knossos and the bay of Chania.


  • My Life in Ruins

This film by director Donald Petrie tells the adventures of a young American woman who works as a tourist guide in Greece. She embarks on a trip with a peculiar group of tourists, where she will end up finding love and changing her vision of life.


Some of the places that appear in the movie are the Archaeological site of Olympia, the Plaka neighborhood, the Oracle of Delphi and the Acropolis of Athens.


  • Alpeis (Alps)

This greek film by Yorgos Lanthimos tells the story of a group called “Alps”, four people (a paramedic, a nurse, a gymnast and a coach) who, in exchange for money, take over the identity of recently deceased people to alleviate the pain suffered by families and accompany them on a daily basis.


  • Mamma Mia!

Although it was not recorded in Athens, we cannot forget this great classic when we think of Greek-themed films. This movie, a film version of the ABBA musical, places us in 1999, on the beautiful Greek island of Kalokairi. There, Sophie, the daughter of a businesswoman, sends her wedding invitation to three different unknown men, only knowing that one of them is her father. The three go unaware that Sophie's mother, their former love, had nothing to do with the invitation.


With this film, you will take a paradisiacal journey across the Greek islands of Skiathos, Skopelos and the town of Damouchari.




  • The Murderess by Alexandros Papadiamantis

This book is considered one of the most important works of modern Greek literature. It tells the story of an old woman from Skiathos, Khadula, who did not have an easy life. One day while taking care of her granddaughter sick with whooping cough, she has a revelation and decides to choke her to death. From there, faithful to her conviction, based on her own life, that there is enough misery in the world for a woman, she decides to end up with the lives of different little girls until she falls in hands of justice.


  • Serpent and Lily by Nikos Kazantzakis

Beautiful prose poem that Nikos Kazantzakis published in Athens in 1906. He wrote it at the age of twenty-two inspired by the love affair he had with his English teacher with whom he ran away to Mount Psiloritis (Ida).


The poet speaks from the heart about topics such as beauty, eroticism, madness, and death.


  • The Late-Night News (also known as Deadline in Athens) by Petros Márkaris

The first book in the author's thriller/criminal series Kostas Haritos. The eccentric commissioner Haritos investigates the case of an Albanian couple who have been found brutally murdered in their home in Athens. Soon, a journalist working on the same case who asks uncomfortable questions follows in the couple's wake. Why does someone want to hide the possible involvement of children in the case?

The story places us in Athens after the economic crisis, with miseries and serious social problems such as racial discrimination and child trafficking that Petros Márkaris masterfully portrays.


  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles, set during the Greek Heroic Age, follows the story of Patroclus and Achilles, focusing on their (later on, romantic) relationship throughout their childhood years and early adulthood, tackling the ups and downs of the Trojan War. Narrated by Patroclus, the hero himself, this book is a modern adaptation and partial retelling of Homer's Iliad.


Athens Playlist

Craving more? Want to feel the city's vibe on an even deeper level? Listen to the playlist we have prepared for you, inspired by sunlight, ancient architecture, and a carefree lifestyle. 


Did this expat guide clinch it? Have you resolved to relocate to Athens? Who wouldn’t want to live immersed in exciting traditions, an easy-going lifestyle, and the remnants of ancient history, whilst benefitting from the increasing opportunities for career development as an expat?! Now that you have discovered in detail what it would be like to live in Greece's lively capital, are you committed to taking action and making Athens your new home? Share in the comments how you imagine yourself living in this vibrant classical city. 

About the Author: 
Kristin Savage is a professional writer and editor for ClassyEssay and GrabMyEssay. She often writes for platforms such as TopEssayWriting and BestEssaysEducation, where she is able to provide her audience with information on finding employment abroad and kick-starting their own careers. In her spare time, Kristin loves to travel and explore new destinations.