Athens, Greece is captivating. It’s a high-octane mix of urban intensity and dynamic contemporary culture in timeless, serene setting. This lively Mediterranean city offers a surprisingly relaxed quality of everyday life. It can be a great place to live for a month or two, if not even longer, but what is the cost of living in Athens, Greece?
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Add to this the natural setting – Athens’ dense urban texture is actually broken up by vast green spaces – like the National Gardens, Mt. Lycabettus (for some great hiking), Filopappou Hill, and the Ancient Agora. The gorgeous beaches of the Athens’ Riviera are a short tram-ride away from the center, and just beyond them, the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion with its world-famous sunset. There’s even a therapeutic lake – Vouliagmeni, sheltered by dramatic cliffs. For weekend getaways, there is the Peloponnese , or one of the 200 or so Greek Islands (that’s the inhabited ones – there are over 6000 islands in total). The islands of the Saronic gulf – like Hydra and Aegina – are a very short ferry ride away. Finally, you can enjoy it all under the sun, all year round – Athens is one of the sunniest cities in Europe, but still a rough enough sense of the seasons to keep things interesting.
Also, the Parthenon deserves its own special mention – no matter how many times you glimpse it throughout the normal course of your Athenian day, it still manages to thrill.
A particularly nice aspect of Athens is the great variety of neighborhoods in the city and suburbs. This is a large urban area, and every district has its own distinctive character so you are sure to find a perfect fit for your lifestyle and budget.
Another great aspect of living in Athens for a month or more is of course the Mediterranean lifestyle. Athens is a city for enjoying weekends at the beach, mornings at the bustling markets choosing the best of the fish, and long afternoons of conversation over traditional Greek drinks with friends. Greece is a sociable, relaxed country.
The best aspect of all of living in Athens is the quality of life you can enjoy for the money. Here is what is costs to live in Athens for a month:
Cost of Housing in Athens
Housing is one of the best things about spending a month in Athens. When you calculate what it costs to live for a month in Athens, keep in mind the standard of housing is pretty high. Balconies, for example, are standard, and large verandas not at all rare. Quality building materials – tile, marble, and parquet flooring, nice kitchens – are also common. (What is not common are clothes dryers – but the hot dry Athenian winds take care of that quickly).
Note that unfurnished in Greece often means also no appliances – no refrigerator, stove, or washing machine.
For those who like an urban setting, there is elegant Kolonaki – the old-money neighborhood of Athens at the base of Lycabettus Hill. Or maybe you imagine yourself living in the winding streets of Plaka, Athens’ oldest and most traditional neighborhood. I stay in Exarchia – famous on the news for anarchists, but actually my favorite neighborhood because of the lively student culture of art-house cinemas, sidewalk ouzeries, and bookshops. In the center of Athens, even in Kolonaki, you can find one-bedroom apartments starting at €600 month, and nicer, furnished one bedrooms for around €850. Three bedroom apartments will start at about €800, and for twice that (€1600) you can get something very special (good verandas, great views). In Exarchia, you can expect to pay less.
For more nature and a little more space, there are several appealing options. Kifissia is a green northern suburb with an impressive pedigree. Here, prices are similar to Kolonaki. But there are more options – for instance, you can rent a home with a garden, even a home with a pool. Choices begin at about €3000 per month for deluxe choices like this.
The seaside neighborhoods of Voula and Vouliagmeni offer a glamorous sea-side vibe, with similar housing choices. These neighborhoods are popular with foreigners staying in Athens for work, and offer a more familiar international mood in the shops and restaurants, with many larger chains among them. But the beaches of the Athens Riviera at your doorstep offer considerable compensation.
This site spitogatos has lots of listings and descriptions in English.
Utilities in Athens
Utilities can add a lot to the cost of living in Athens, but compared with the rest of the world, they are not too bad. Electricity will be about €60 – 80 a month, and internet connection plus a landline starts at about €40 – I pay €80, but in addition to internet that includes nearly unlimited calls abroad to the US, UK, and elsewhere, plus cellular service for two numbers with a lot of hours. If you are here in the winter, you may need as much as €100 for heat.
Honestly, if you’re considering living in Athens for just a month or two, the many options on air bnb will already have these costs covered and save you the trouble of dealing with the utility companies. There are a lot of air bnbs in Athens so the prices are quite competitive. Among them are also plenty of fancy choices if you want to live it up a little.
Getting Around in Athens – Transportation Costs
Athens has a fantastic public transportation system, consisting of a network of three metro lines plus many trolleys and buses and a tram. Full-priced tickets cost €1.20 and are valid for 90 minutes. There are also discounted tickets if you get a personalized transportation card. The Athens Airport is also serviced by metro and express bus, with higher prices. You’ll find complete details here.
Many people keep cars in the city, and there are plenty of underground garages, with prices as low as €120 a month. Street parking is also possible. In the suburban areas, parking may be much easier.
For those living in the center, walking is the mode of transportation of choice – this is a lovely and walkable European city. While there are more bike paths than there used to be, Athens is not yet universally bike-friendly.
Taxis are inexpensive and plentiful, with a minimum change of €3.20 and many rides in the center not exceeding €10.
Food Prices in Athens
Now we come to the most fun segment of investigating how much it costs to live in Athens for a month. It’s not because of the prices – although they are excellent – but because of the stellar quality. Everything about the food experience in Athens is excellent, from the stellar quality of the food – produce, fish, meats, cheeses, wines – to the connection to the land, the sea, and the seasons, to – not least – the meaningful social engagement that shopping entails. This is among the top reasons I live in Greece.
Grocery Shopping in Athens
Everyone shops at the weekly “laiki” – Greek farmers’ markets with top quality produce directly from the producers. Every neighborhood has one or two nearby markets operating once a week – mine is on Saturdays along Kallidromiou in Exarchia – it’s supposed to be one the better ones in Athens.
Unlike in some countries, in Greece the farmers’ markets are not a boutique shopping experience for the elite – “laiki” means “the peoples’ market” and it is, with prices that are within reach for all. €20 to 25 at the weekly farmers’ market – sometimes including even fish – will get you more than one person can carry alone. The quality is superb, and on top of that you experience an authentic cultural connection. This is where the community comes together.
Besides the laiki, there is the central covered market of Athens – the Varvakios public market. The fish stalls are dazzling! It’s not for the shy or the squeamish, but if you tap into the energy, you’ll love shopping here. Just look for shining bright eyes and vibrant red gills – the signs of freshness. Large wild fish start at around €20 per kilo. Farm fish are closer to €6 – 8. Small fish – like fresh anchovies – as low as €2 – 3.
Additionally, every neighborhood has its artisanal cheese shops, specialty butchers, individual family bakeries, and so forth. Save an empty egg carton so you can get the farm-fresh eggs at smaller dairy stores, poultry shops, green grocers, and bakeries in your neighborhood – they’re delicious.
Buying food in Athens is almost as much fun as eating it. You’ll quickly become a part of a community as you frequent local shops. It’s also an education: merchants often have specially sourced items – like a cheese or charcuterie from a certain island – that they’re proud to offer. And speaking of cheeses, most artisanal Greek cheeses cost between €8 and 20 a kilo, with most at around €12 – 15.
Oenophiles will also enjoy their time in Athens. A local merchant can point you to excellent local bottles in a spectrum of prices, from the single digits and up through around €40 for a finer bottle, with many choices in the €15 – 20 range. Try some indigenous grape varieties for a deeper experience of Greek viticulture.
Supermarkets are beautifully stocked as well if you are looking for a more convenient, one-stop solution. But they will not have the variety that the guy who sells only olives and pickles can offer you, nor will they offer the same sense of encounter.
Cost of Eating Out in Athens
There is a huge selection of types of restaurants in Athens. “Fast Food” is actually fresh grilled souvlakia and salads. Tavernas and ouzeries – including meze places (that’s like Greek tapas) make up the main segment of the dining options – casual, friendly places with quality food and well-priced house wines and distilled spirits or ouzo. There are also plenty of high end restaurants, as well as some Michelin star places, accessibly priced compared to many other cities.
To have a super-casual meal out – souvlaki, spreads, salads, retsina – you can count on spending €10 – 12 a person.
For an ouzerie or taverna, including drinks, you’ll probably spend €17 – 25 a person.
Fish tavernas with fresh fish by the kilo are a huge splurge – here, count on closer to €50 a person, and conceivably much, much more.
Cost of Entertainment in Athens
Eating out is one of the main forms of socializing in Athens. But there are also elegant cocktail bars, with drinks ranging from €7 – 12. Keep in mind that the price often includes spectacular rooftop views.
This is also definitely a coffee culture. Athenians love catching up over a leisurely coffee, and they usually spend from €3 – 6 to do so.
There are all kinds of concerts in Athens, as well – including international performers. Tickets usually start at around €20 – 25 and go up to around €50.
Enjoying Culture in Athens
There is lots to do here – from ancient sites to contemporary and avant-gade performances. While spending a month in Athens, you’ll be able to see all the historic sights at your leisure. Museums and archaeological sites cost between €8 and €20 for the full-priced admission. The 20th and 21st centuries are also well-represented. The Ghika gallery is my favorite among them.
Additionally, there are many quality performances throughout the year. And with a twist – many times, you will be seeing performances at ancient theaters – a fantastic experience. The Athens and Epidaurus festival runs throughout the summer and features Ancient Greek drama and comedy as well as opera, dance, and other top events. Tickets usually begin at €25 for the upper tiers.
The National Opera is now housed at the magnificent Stavros Niarchos Foundation. There are two stages here with calendars of exciting cultural offerings.
Cinephiles will love their time in Athens, and especially in the summer. The “Therina” are summer cinemas, open to the sky, in fragrant gardens. Films cost €8 usually, with less expensive tickets some days of the week.
What Makes Athens a Good Choice for a Month’s Stay
Athens has a nice pace of life. There is the urban intensity of a vibrant European capital, but tempered with a Mediterranean sense of priorities: There’s always time for coffee, time for culture, and of course time for long evenings of philosophy and wine – the Symposia of the modern era. The civilized city offers a cultured lifestyle, the cost of living in Athens can be very affordable and the pleasures of the Aegean Islands are just a ferry ride away.
About the Author
Amber Charmei, originally from Manhattan, has been based in Greece since 2000. She writes on Greek culture and cuisine, and on travel destinations – both in Greece and throughout Europe – at www.provocolate.com, and in the travel and culture magazines of the Kathimerini – Greece Is and Taxidia, as well as The Telegraph, Costa Navarino, Domotelling, and Discover Greece. You can follow her casual travelogue on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more.