Despite the difficulties of recent times with the recession and severe austerity measures, Athens remains an appealing place for expats to move to.
School is compulsory throughout Greece from the age of 6 to 15 years. The first six years are at primary (Dimotiko), the next three years at junior high (Gymnasio) and a further three optional years at senior high (Lykeion). Kindergartens and pre-schools are available for those who wish to send their children for early years’ education. The school year is divided into winter, spring, and summer terms.
There are a wide range of state and private schools to choose from in Athens. State schools can be preferable for those planning to live in Athens for the long term and looking for a deeper level of integration into the local community.
However, Athens also boasts several international schools, including American and British schools. You can also find schools teaching in other languages such as French and German, too.
If you wish to enroll your child in a private school, you will usually be expected to provide documents such as school reports, a letter from the school attended previously and medical records. Your child may also be required to have an interview at the prospective school. Fees are payable for all private schools in Athens.
Improvements have been made to transport in Athens both in the run up to and since the city hosted the 2004 Olympic Games. The road infrastructure has been improved, as has the city’s public transport network. Although the road infrastructure in Athens is reasonably good, the standard of driving is not always high. Athens and indeed the whole of Greece have a relatively high rate of road traffic accidents, so it is important to drive with caution. The minimum age for driving is 18, and if you wish to use a hire car you will need to be at least 21 years of age. Drivers must carry a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and warning triangle in their vehicle at all times, as well as their relevant driving documents.
Athens has a good public transport network, consisting of buses, trams and the Athens metro. Public transport is inexpensive, clean and generally punctual, but as in other major cities it gets crowded at peak times. There are many pickpockets on public transport in Athens, so it is essential to be vigilant at all times and carry your valuables securely.
Living in Athens offers more opportunities for learning about history than almost any other city in the world. A pedestrian area stretches for 3 km from the lower part of the city up to the rocky outcrop of the Acropolis where some of the city’s most important ancient buildings are situated, including the Parthenon, the Erectheum and the temple of Athena Nike.
Athens is home to a variety of museums, including the National Archaeological Museum, which has some of the world’s most important collections of ancient Greek artefacts. The National Historic Museum charts the history of modern Greece from the 15th to 20th centuries. A range of Greek art can be seen at the Herakleidon Museum of Art, which is also used as a venue for musical events, lectures and conferences.
In Athens you will also find the National Opera House, which is the oldest in the country. It has two auditoria, where you can see opera and ballet performances. Other musical events can be enjoyed at the Athens Concert Hall. The annual Athens festival attracts many people to the city for its excellent performances of plays, opera, ballet and music. Held from June to September, it features performers from Greece and from other countries.
If you enjoy the great outdoors, you will probably want to spend time at the Andreas Syngros Park on the northern side of the city, where you can explore 95 acres of parkland and forest. A wealthy banker, Andreas Syngros, wished to leave the estate to the city, and his widow fulfilled this wish on her death in 1921. The estate is home to an agricultural college, and its grounds are particularly popular with walkers, runners, and cyclists.
The cost of living in Athens is cheaper than in many other European capitals. Many establishments in Athens still prefer cash and some will not accept credit cards at all, so be prepared with real money, particularly for cafes, markets, and taxis.