The top cities for starting something new: Athens

Why you should consider relocating to the Greek capital city in 2021.
Athens Greece w/ stam_16x9-min
The lowdown

Why you should consider it: 

An exodus of talent since 2008 has meant lower competition and bigger opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs. 

Who it’s good for: 

Creatives drawn by the sun, cheap and good living, rich culture, artistic and food scenes.

Why now: 

Greece is finally on the up after more than a decade of austerity.

We’ve been fixated on Athens recently. The founders of plant shop Kopria graced the cover of our June/July 2020 edition and, in the same issue, we dug into the lockdown lives of jewellerymaker Stefani Stoyanof and photographer Marco Argüello. The two left Texas in search of a cheaper but better lifestyle and, as Stefani said, ‘Athens was the perfect choice’. There aren’t tons of international companies in Athens, so lucrative jobs aren’t as common as in other capital cities. But Athens has provided a laid-back, sometimes gritty, setting for an influx of creatives, artists, writers and musicians attracted by the high standard – but low cost – of living and the almost year-round sun.

‘I meet new artists all the time’

British artist Catriona Gallagher moved to Athens in 2015. Here she describes how the city’s art scene has developed since then. 

‘I was finishing my studies at the Edinburgh College of Art, in 2013, when I met a Greek guy on the course who was running a residency in Athens called Snetha. And I got involved. It was the first time I had been to the city and I found it very politically active, with a lot of energy and grassroots work going on. I really loved it, and so I came back the following year. 

‘At the time I arrived, there weren’t that many foreign artists in Athens – which is completely the opposite now. I ended up spending most of my time with Greeks, and picked up Greek. Things changed around 2015 when Documenta – the international art biennial that takes place in Kassel, Germany – announced it would be coming here. Suddenly there was a large international spotlight on Athens. There was already exciting stuff happening but, when Documenta arrived, a huge influx of people started. 

‘In 2017, three friends and I set up an art space called A-DASH, renovating a neoclassical building and turning it into a studio and exhibition space. There has been a lot more activity since then, with foreign artists getting involved in the grassroots scene, whereas before it was mainly Greeks. There are, of course, benefits and problems with that. I’ve always been critical of artists coming and using Athens as a place of inspiration without it being a two-way dialogue, without giving anything back.  

‘When we founded A-DASH, it was in the period when huge parts of the city centre were abandoned – there’s a lot of space available in Athens that you wouldn’t find in the north of Europe. Metaxourgio, when I arrived in Athens, was an area popular with artists and it was becoming gentrified, quickly. There are some very interesting exhibition spaces and music venues there. 

‘The focus in the past few years has been Kypseli. It was a cheap area and a lot of artists were moving there if they couldn’t afford to be closer to the centre. It’s become established with lots of new bars and restaurants following artists who have set up studios, project spaces and refugee spaces, too.  

‘Things have started to shift now. The property market has picked up, the economy has picked up, but it is still affordable and the lifestyle is wonderful. People are still moving here – I meet new artists all the time.’ 

Find more of the top cities for starting something new in 2021.

This article was first published in Courier Issue 37, October/November 2020. To purchase the full issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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