In over a year of digital nomad life, I have been writing and living and finding all kinds of love in cities across Europe. But the one that is my true home – and my true love – is Athens, Greece.
It’s not one of the more popular cities for writers and creatives on the go, at least not yet. But it has so much to offer anyone who loves warmth and history and excellent, cheap living. Digital nomad life in Athens is great – here’s why.
What being a digital nomad in Athens, Greece is really like
Let’s be real – the term digital nomad is pretty cringe. But it’s the best way to describe this life of moving around and making where you are work for you. (Not to be confused with long-term travel, where you just explore full-time. I have work to do now!)
My priorities when finding a digital nomad base are a low cost of living, warm weather, friendly people, and plenty of cafes to read and write in. Athens has all of these, and more.
Related: top things you need to know before going to Greece.
Despite how inexpensive and sunny it is, Athens isn’t yet a big digital nomad hub, though the digital nomad scene in Greece is certainly growing. After a month here, I can see a few reasons why.
The city itself can look a little bit rough for first-time visitors – all the car exhaust and graffiti and crumbling Neoclassical mansions aren’t the warmest welcomes.
Life also isn’t as convenient here as in other European cities. The internet speeds leave a lot to be desired, the trains and buses have regular strikes and outages (I made some new friends recently waiting an hour for buses that never came thanks to a spontaneous protest), and there’s a constant line at every ATM in my neighborhood.
Internet Speeds and Slow Living
There’s 10 cafes to a block in Kypseli, the area where I often stay, but only a few have WiFi that moves faster than the tiny black-clad grandmas meandering down the sidewalks. It’s also definitely not the norm to pull out a laptop there and start typing away.
It’s just a cultural thing. In Greece (and Split, Croatia, which is another great digital nomad city), you go drink coffee to socialize and relax. And maybe you play some backgammon and smoke endless cigarettes and pet the stray white cat who lives under one of the tables. You don’t typically go to peck away on a screen. But you’ll see a few fellow writers perched at cafes once in a while too.
Why I love living in Athens
But that slow lifestyle is part of what I love about living here while working as a freelance writer. I mean, I love Greece. The life part of the work/life balance is so relaxing I can’t believe how much I get done while feeling so calm.
Lazy days on beaches and boats and long walks to the middle of the city and an hour-long wine break on a roof deck with an impeccable Acropolis view in the warm light of the fading fall sun… it’s perfect. This is why I became a digital nomad in Greece – to enjoy this kind of life and freedom.
You can sit at that cafe for three hours sipping just one frothy espresso freddo. The ice slowly melts and the street cat taunts the passing dogs and old friends great each other with delight.
I don’t even smell the cigarette smoke any more, or the frequent diesel fumes of this congested city. Well, most days I don’t smell it, but occasionally it hits me like that first sip of a strong dark espresso.
Staying out of the busy tourist center has allowed me to meander into life here – the shouts and rhythms of the weekly farmer’s market around the corner where I get a week’s worth of produce for $5, the intensity of the old men playing backgammon in the tree-shaded square, the snoozing habits of the stray dog who lives behind the 24 hour kiosk (a Greek fixture where I can get anything from energy drinks to bananas to condoms, which tells you they know how to live here).
My favorite Athens, Greece spots as a digital nomad:
- Coffee shops: SCRY in Kypseli has decent WiFi and excellent coffee and a very cute cat. Taf in Omonia has incredible espresso and a quiet upstairs section. Telaro in Psiri has comfortable tables in the back for working.
- Coworking spaces: There are quite a few open in Athens now, but my favorite is Stone Soup near Omonia. A friendly homey feel but with fast internet (so rare!) and plenty of events to meet the digital nomad community.
- Neighborhoods to live in: Glyfada is for the upscale expats and feels like a Greek LA, Psiri is very central and very hip, Exarchia is a little rough but full of youthful excitement, and Kypseli is packed with activity and farmer’s markets and lovely cafes and poets and actors and young families.
- Finding an apartment: I go through Airbnb to find great, cheap apartments in residential neighborhoods and get a feel for local life. (Read more about my strategy for finding housing, healthcare, and more essentials of digital nomad life.) I’ve stayed in this huge place in Kypseli with the kindest host, Anastas and this comfy little nest in Exarchia and loved both.
And the way the light looks on the surrounding mountains – soft indefinite rosy gold in the early morning, a clear warm blue mid-day, a lilac and orange sunset over the distant blue of those mountains again – I never tire of looking at it.
It sustains me through low periods of work (and pay), the loneliness and other challenges that are part of this nomadic unsettled free life, the jitters that come from too much espresso drunk with a giant sugary donut from the corner bakery.
The ancient vastness here is steadying, somehow – Athens has been Athens for so long I feel small in a delightfully freeing way. It’s the perfect place to balance working and living a truly beautiful life.