Best 9 cities in Greece: From cosmopolitan life to charming island living


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Greece is a popular destination for tourists and for those seeking the perfect setting for a second home. There are many fascinating cities to visit or settle in Greece, with Athens being top of everyone’s wish list, along with other smaller, beautiful cities and towns.

In fact, the term “metropolis” comes from the Greek language, meaning “city”, therefore Greece is virtually the birthplace of the modern cities we all enjoy today — a good reason to visit the motherland where it all started.

In addition to being literally steeped in ancient times and centuries-old tradition, many Greek cities are in stunning locations, either overlooking the azure waters of the sea or nestling in the gorgeous countryside. Some of our chosen cities are on the mainland, while others are on the islands, but all are great-looking and welcoming places you should add to your bucket list.

Here is our list of the best cities in Greece that are well worth visiting and possibly considered for a move abroad:

1. Athens

  • Location: Southeast corner of mainland Greece

  • Population: 665,000

Athens is at the top of everyone’s list of Greek cities to visit because it gives visitors an amazing history lesson unlike any place else in the world, delicious cuisine, and pleasant weather all year long. Athens is the oldest European capital, 3,400 years old, and is famous for its archaeological sites such as the awe-inspiring Acropolis.

The city has several charming and quirky neighborhoods including Anafiotika. The Greek capital is popular with many foreigners settling in Greece because it is such a cosmopolitan city. Property on the fringes of the city is reasonably priced to buy and rent and the public transportation network is cheap and efficient.

Main attractions: Athens is the most popular city to visit in Greece for good reason. There are numerous archaeological sites, museums, and ancient cemeteries, as the city itself is a living museum best discovered on foot. There are also great food markets and a wide variety of restaurants to savor at reasonable prices.

Most popular activity in Athens: A tour of the Olympic Stadium, the Acropolis, Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Zeus, and the New Acropolis Museum

2. Thessaloniki

  • Location: Northern mainland Greece, on the coast

  • Population: 315,000

Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city and is regarded as the food capital of the country. From neighborhood Greek tavernas, to large international restaurant chains and fine dining establishments, this city is a paradise for foodies.

Thessaloniki is steeped in history and is one of the most attractive Greek cities, with a beautiful coastal boulevard. It also benefits from being within a short drive to the Khalkidhiki region, a popular beach vacation destination.

Among the advantages of visiting or living in Thessaloniki are all the conveniences of a large city at your doorstep, including shopping, dining, entertainment, education, transportation and so much more. It is home to the Aristotle University, the largest higher-education institution in Greece. The city is the main transport hub for Eastern Europe. It is easy to get around using the local bus service and the new Metropolitan Railway.

Main attractions: The Byzantine Castle overlooking the Aegean, museums, art galleries and great Greek food. There are lots of things to do in Thessaloniki, including great restaurants, opera and theatre, plus the annual floral exhibition to enjoy.

Most popular activity in Thessaloniki: Food tour of the hidden treasures of Thessaloniki for foodies

3. Patras

  • Location:  The northwest Peloponnese Peninsula

  • Population: 170,000

Best known for its large port that connects Greece with Italy, Patras sits at the foot of Mount Panachaikon overlooking the Bay of Patras. There is plenty to see and do in this Greek city and it is a magnet for tourists on 17 January each year when the city holds the largest carnival in Europe, as it has done for 150 years.

Main attractions: Historical monuments including the Roman Odeon (160 AD) where music concerts and plays are held and the medieval castle. The Arcaia Clauss Winery. Restaurants, bars, and numerous seaside cafés.

4. Nafplion

  • Location: Southern coast of the Peloponnese Peninsula

  • Population: 15,000

Nafplion is very much one of the working cities in Greece, buzzing with activity all year round. It does have a number of tempting beaches for relaxing and its restaurants serve excellent seafood.

A largely undiscovered gem, Nafplion is known for its abundance of orange crops. The Koroniotis Winery produces fruity reds and crisp whites, while the Karonis Distillery is known for its ouzo, tsipouro, brandy, and liqueurs. There is a small expat community.

If you decide on moving to Nafplion, walk around the city looking for yellow stickers – these denote a property for rent. Real estate agents deal mainly with house sales.

Main attractions: This area is rich in fascinating archaeology. Mycenae, home of Agamemnon, lies close by, as well as the beautiful Sanctuary of Aesculapius in Epidaurus. Tiryns, a UNESCO World Heritage site is situated just on the edge of the city.

Most popular activity: City walking tour

5. Corfu Town

  • Location: On the island of Corfu, in the Ionian sea, western Greece

  • Population: 25,000

Sitting on the eastern coast of Corfu island, Corfu Town has a UNESCO-listed Old Town, making it one of the most beautiful Greek cities with cobbled streets, pastel-colored buildings and Venetian architecture. The city also has a wide esplanade with parkland by the coast. There is a lively community of expats who enjoy the best of Greek island life, including great water sports, good hiking trails and a reasonable cost of living.

Corfu was inhabited by the Venetians for 400 years and is steeped in history. There are beautiful churches to visit too, including Saint Spyridon is home to the remains of the island’s Patron Saint.

Main attractions: The city is protected by the Old 15th-century fortress to the east, with its chapel with lovely mosaics, and the newer fortress with its network of underground tunnels, to the west. Both are well worth visiting. The town’s easy access to the island’s beautiful beaches, such as Kontogialos or Mirtiotissa, is one of the main pros of visiting Corfu Town.

Most popular activity in Corfu Town: Enjoy the best views of old town and Corfu island from a private yacht tour

6. Rhodes Town

  • Location: On the island of Rhodes, in the Dodecanese Islands, close to the Turkish mainland

  • Population: 50,000

Rhodes Town is another famous Greek city because of its rich medieval history, linked to the Crusader Knights that lived there. It is great fun to explore the atmospheric ‘Street of the Knights’ and the museum. The city is pedestrian-only and easy to explore on foot and visit the marina, beach, port, and aquarium along the coast. In addition to the town’s own beach, many other beautiful beaches on the island such as Oasis Beach are within close reach.

The Old Town of Rhodes has a Jewish Quarter housing a memorial to the many Jews who lost their lives in Auschwitz during the Second World War. For expats, Rhodes Town is the most expensive part of the island to live and most prefer to live in the surrounding villages.

Main attractions: Rhodes Town is UNESCO-listed as it is the best-preserved fortified medieval city in Europe. There are cobbled streets and many old buildings including the Palace of the Old Master (Kastello) with 24 rooms open to the public.

Most popular activity in Rhodes Town: Catamaran day cruise

7. Chania

  • Location: The northwest coast of Crete island

  • Population: 56,000

The charming city of Chania on Crete Island is popular both with visitors and expats. It stands on the site of the ancient city of Kydonia, overlooking the Venetian harbor, nicknamed ‘Venice of the East’. Chania is Crete’s second largest city and is one of the prettiest Greek cities, with a relaxing pace of life.

Main attractions: There is plenty to enjoy in and around the city of Chania. In the old town center, there are narrow streets with cafes, beautiful architecture as well as museums and churches. On the outskirts, there are lovely beaches.

Most popular activity in Chania: A walking tour of Old Town, Public Market, Hill of Prophet Elias, Agia Triada

8. Rethymno

  • Location: The northern coast of Crete island

  • Population: 32,000

Rethymno is Crete’s third-largest city and it has so much character. There is plenty to explore plus the coastline is lined with palm trees. A lovely sandy beach stretches for 18 km (11 miles) just east of the city. There are museums to visit and a great selection of really good restaurants to enjoy.

The second largest carnival in Greece is held in Rethymno. A large student population ensures that there is plenty of life in the city.

Main attractions: The Old Town is delightful with narrow streets and Venetian and Ottoman architecture, which make Rethymno one of the prettiest Greek cities. There are museums to browse and the lighthouse to visit. Fortezza, the largest fortress in Crete, is located in Rethymno, built in the 16th century in the shape of a star.

Most popular activity in Rethymno: Tour of Gorge of Kroutaliotis, Preveli Monastery, Damnoni Beach, Spili Village

9. Kalambaka

  • Location: In the region of Thessaly, east of the Pindos Mountains, in the heart of the Greek mainland

  • Population: 15,000

For a change of scenery, Kalambaka is one of the smaller, but most amazing Greek towns because of its location. It sits in the foothills of Meteora. It is one of the oldest towns in the area and was once called ‘Eginio’.

Today, Kalambaka is very modern with a strong emphasis on tourism. The small expat community that lives there works with the travel companies organizing trips to amazing monasteries of Meteora.

Main attractions: The holy complex of Meteora is second in importance to Mount Athos. It has numerous spectacular rock formations and pillars topped by six monasteries that date from the 13th and 14th centuries. Kalambaka has plenty for those who enjoy the outdoors, including pretty waterfalls, hiking routes and caves.

Most popular activity in Kalambaka: Meteora monasteries full private tour

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