On the hunt for the best places to live in Greece for expats? Excellent! You’re going to be joining the thousands upon thousands of foreign nationals who’ve chosen this sun-kissed southern end of Europe as their new home. You’ll soon be tanning yourself on the beaches of the Cyclades Isles or devouring saganaki cheese straight off the grill.
But first: Decide where you’d like to go. Cue this guide. It offers insights into nine of the best places to live in Greece for expats. It’s not just a list of popular spots where you’ll get sun and sea, mind you. It takes a nuanced look at the knowledge that permanent residents are after something a little different to two-week vacationers, whether that means decent job prospects or a real escape from the Rat Race.
There’s good news, too. Right now, Greece is still seen as a fantastic place for would-be settlers. The housing market remains cheap, still around 16% below pre-crash rates, and there’s an all-new Golden Visa scheme to help those buying and moving to get residency and rights.
No list of the best places to live in Greece for expats could possibly be complete without a mention of Athens. The buzzing capital of the country, it simply can’t be ignored if you’re keen on getting stuck into the cosmopolitan vibes of modern life. This is the epicenter of Greek government, the biggest business hub of the country, and the home of the great port of Piraeus. To put it another way – it’s probably got more job opportunities than anywhere else in Greece.
When you’re not working you also get to enjoy some of Europe’s – nay, the world’s – most iconic historical relics. The mighty Parthenon rises high above the downtown core of the capital, surrounded by the atmospheric Plaka area. You’ve also got the immersive Acropolis Museum and the Roman Forum of Athens to explore.
You’ll probably want to skip living in the main tourist areas, though. Better options for neighborhoods include the upcoming hipster district of Koukaki (hello breakfasts of sourdough and avocado!) and the upscale outer-town area of Kifissia (home to farmer’s markets and elegant cafe roasteries).
Ah, Crete. Just a mention of this island is enough to conjure images of gold-sanded beaches and sparkling seas. With the likes of the Balos Lagoon and the pink-tinged shores of Elafonisi up its sleeve, it’s hardly a surprise that the largest island in Greece is now a major holiday mecca. Folk come by their thousands every year to hit the beaches of the north shore and see the history of Knossos and Chania.
However, Crete is big enough to retain its authentic side. Yes, the northern resorts of Agia Marina, Malia, and Rethymno are now almost entirely given over to the sunbathing crowd. But venture into the mountains just a little and you’ll still find hardy Cretan villages filled with equally hardy locals, places like Armeni and Askifou. Meanwhile, the southern coast has a loyal international following that’s very Summer of Love circa 1969 – check out Matala or Palaiochora if you’re keen to kick it with the hippies, swimsuits usually optional.
More sensibly for budding expats looking to retire to Greece, Crete is just about at the tail end of a pretty severe property downturn. The crash hit prices here hard, cutting almost 40% off the value of lots of homes since 2008. That’s changing now, but slowly, which means there are lots of bargains to be had, even on sea-view homes and deluxe villas!
The thing about Corfu is that it’s got just about everything you could want. Stunning beaches fringe the whole west coast, with the most epic examples popping up with Palaiokastritsa and Porto Timoni. There are sleepy fishing towns strung along the western shore, like Kalami and Agni, where you can dine on uber-fresh Adriatic catches while gazing at the Albanian mountains. And there are pumping party towns like Kavos that don’t sleep a wink in the summer.
Couple all that with one of the busiest airports in the Ionian Region and you’ve got somewhere that’s not only idyllic but also easy to get to from London and stacks of other major European air hubs. That means you could relocate to these parts and still whiz back to your old home with ease, either on short-haul seasonal connections or by linking up to long-haul routes to the US.
You will need to consider where you’ll want to settle on Corfu, though. It’s a rather large island, measuring over 35 miles from top to bottom when you factor in the dogleg at its center. What’s more, different regions offer different things. There are parties and resorts in the south and east. There are wooded hills and mountains inland. There are remoter beaches out west and up north.
The second city of Greece is hardly like Athens at all. For starters, it’s tucked under the end of the Balkan Mountains in the far north-eastern corner of the country. That means historical influences from the Byzantine empire and the Ottomans are way more palpable here than elsewhere – you’ll notice it mainly in the architecture and the food. On top of that, Thessaloniki manages to fuse the grit of a port city with the energy of a student town, but still seems eminently walkable and welcoming.
It’s that artful combo that really makes us put it up there with the best places to live in Greece for expats. Well, that plus an airport that’s slowly but steadily gaining more and more low-cost connections to the rest of Europe. Fly from here to Belgrade, to Vienna, to Bristol, to Krakow – the list goes on and on.
Also worthy of note is the proximity of the Halkidiki peninsula. A three-pronged headland that’s famed for its white-sand beaches and crystal-clear lagoons, you could head there on your weekends to swim and sunbathe. Just don’t venture to the easternmost part – that’s called Mount Athos and it’s inhabited by some particularly stoic Orthodox monks!
Ikaria is a great pick for any expats who count themselves among the silver generation. The reason? It’s hailed as one of the planet’s unique Blue Zones. AKA – areas of the globe that seem to support a more venerable and aged population than other spots. Or, to put it in the blunt manner of another blogger, this is “the island where people forget to die.”
Some think it’s a combo of the fantastic climate and the healthy diet. Others say it’s the locals’ propensity for swimming in the Aegean Sea. And then there are the superstitious folk who argue that the island draws strength from the fact that the mythical Icarus is said to have fallen down to Earth after flying to close to the sun real close to here.
Whatever the reason, you might just bag yourself a few more years by relocating to this rugged rock in the Aegean. And what a rock it is! Verdant mountains covered in chestnut woods and olive groves rise inland, while the coast is a medley of pebble bays and craggy capes that’s just asking to be explored.
The Methana peninsula juts out of the side of the Peloponnese into the glinting waters of the Saronic Gulf. That places it neatly close enough to Athens to make day trips from the city a viable option (or commuting if you so wish) but far enough away to offer a slower pace of life and all the joys of being by the Aegean.
At its core, the Methana headland isn’t a headland at all. Instead, it’s the cap of an ancient volcano, which has 32 craters and outlets dotted around the region. The main one can still be hiked – don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted for almost 2,000 years, although there’s still lots of geothermal activity in the area (just check out the hot springs on the north coast!).
Closeness to the Greek capital aside, the other reason we mention this one on our list of the best places to live in Greece for expats is because it’s a downright gorgeous spot. Not that well known to travelers, it remains very local and more authentic than islands like Hydra or Aegina, with a covering of scented pine woods and goat farms.
The Mani is for those expats who really want to escape from the ebbs and the flows of the Rat Race. It’s one of the most undiscovered corners of the Peloponnese. Capping off the end of the middle peninsula of the region, it’s isolated out on the edge of the Mediterranean, some 2.5 hours from the nearest major airport in Kalamata.
But the fact it’s far-flung and distant is all part of the charm. The Mani rolls to a totally different pace from the rest of the country. The clocks seem to slow down the minute you pass the bend in the winding roadway that takes you south past the gateway town of Areopoli and into the rugged land of misty peaks and lonely bays that awaits.
Expats living here won’t have to deal with anywhere near the same amount of tourist footfall as in other parts of Greece. It’s a good place to come if you’re determined to learn the local lingo and get involved with the local community, because there’s not such an international crowd as elsewhere. The most stunning towns along The Mani include little Gerolimenas and untrodden Porto Kagio.
Nafplion has long been an escape from Athens, which is just under two hours’ drive away, for those seeking somewhere a little more relaxed and closer to the beaches than the big metropolis. It ticks both those boxes, what with its bouganvilea-strewn old town that rolls down the side of a castle-topped mountain and good access to the pebbly coves that curve around the Argolic Gulf.
Unlike many cities in the region – notably uber-ancient Mycenae that’s just to the north – Nafplion isn’t all that old. Well…at least not for Greece. It hit its zenith around the Byzantine period and then became a major Venetian fortress city that was besieged by the Ottomans. That’s where its fortified port and big castle come from.
Prices in Nafplion aren’t the cheapest in Greece. A steady onslaught of rich city folk have upped the average cost of property in the last 20 years or so. However, you can find some good, rustic bargains in the more rural lands of the Argolid to the north and south of the town, or even in smaller local villages like Tolo and Vivari.
Syros makes it onto our list of the best places to live in Greece for expats because it offers arguably the finest balance between the holiday charms of the Cyclades and real, raw life. The main thing here is that it’s home to the only true city in that famous island chain and serves as the capital of the South Aegean region.
The town you’ll want to be based in is Ermoupoli. It’s a fantastic palette swatch of colors. Once the principal port in the whole of Greece, the town has its roots in the era of the Greek Revolution, when it was a haven for refugee settlers from other islands. Today, it’s a bustling place with 150-year-old merchant mansions spilling down to a lively marina, complete with one of the most fantastic churches in the country, the blue-domed Saint Nicholas Cathedral.
When you want to leave behind the vibes of the town, Syros proper offers some of the Cycaldes’s more hidden beaches. The north is basically deserted, all dusty hills that drop to lonely sea caves. The south coast has attractive bays that are best reached by boat – think Paralia Fokiotripes and wavy Komito.
Best places to live in Greece for expats – the conclusion
Our list of the best places to live in Greece for expats includes a whole medley of different sorts of destinations. We’ve picked out the buzzing capital of the country for those who want to score big-ticket jobs and spend weekends touring ancient monuments. But we’ve also highlighted some long-lost islands and corners of the Peloponnese where you can look forward to slowing down the pace of life, tucking into Mediterranean cooking, and hopping beaches. Of course, there are many more options besides, like the party isle of Mykonos, Rhodes in the east, and the retiree fav of Kefalonia our west.