Living in: Great cities for history and ancient ruins
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One of the oldest cities in the world, Athens is the capital of Ancient and modern Greece and is considered the birthplace of Western civilisation. The Parthenon shines brightly up on the Acropolis, overlooking the city as one of the world’s most famous monuments – instantly recognisable and celebrated as a symbol of Classical Greek architecture. When Athens was preparing to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, construction of the underground metro encountered so many archaeological significant sites that delays lasted for years. The city is home to dozens of archaeology institutes and museums, with academics studying the best of Hellenic art, culture and architecture. Today, the economic crisis, high unemployment and unpopular austerity measures have depressed prices across the Greek property market. However, the finance minister recently announced that the recovery should start to be seen in 2014.
“Currently, prices are at very attractive levels,” said Theo Bosdas, managing director of Engel & Völkers Athens. “The real estate market for foreign buyers is starting to show its strength.” Districts close to the Acropolis, such as Plaka, are in demand by foreigners who want to be near the heart of the tourist areas. However prices are still low. “These areas have not experienced a solid stream of demand that would allow prices to show an uptick,” Bosdas explained. Other popular areas include the luxury districts in city’s north, such as residential Dionysus and upmarket Kifissia, which includes the quarter of Politia and nearby Ekali. Also very desirable is the area south of the city known as the Athens Riviera, with seaside suburbs such as posh Glyfada, Voula and Vouliagmeni. A two-bedroom house or flat in these areas rents for four to 10 euros per square metre, and similar properties in these areas cost between 2,000 and 6,000 euros per square metre.
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Just 60km west of Jerusalem’s religious and historic sites, modern Tel Aviv is the financial and cultural capital of Israel with its Mediterranean beaches and hopping nightlife. But it has a dose of history as well in Jaffa, the ancient Arab port that was absorbed into Tel Aviv after the creation of the state of Israel. Jaffa has been inhabited for millennia and archaeologists have made finds that date back to the Iron Age, continuing up through the Biblical and Roman periods to the Crusades.
Near the city centre, the area known as White City is filled with 1930s Bauhaus and Modernist architecture and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. These white, curvilinear buildings and apartments attract foreign buyers as well as artists and local residents. “The [White City] buildings were built to get the most out of the local climate, sun and sea breeze, and are concrete structures with high-ceilinged interiors, decorated tiles and a unique aesthetic,” said Orian Cohen, a local real estate specialist.
One of Tel Aviv’s oldest neighbourhoods, Neve Tzedek, was built just outside of Jaffa’s walls around the turn of the 20th Century and is today a trendy and desirable neighbourhood known for its sandstone buildings. “Locally referred to as ‘The Red City’, the area has a colourful, eclectic design and historic buildings that made it attractive for preservation,” Cohen said. Many younger Tel Avivians live in central and south Tel Aviv, close to the bars, restaurants, beaches and cafes, and both developers and buyers are looking for older houses and apartments in central Tel Aviv to renovate. The area around the Jaffa Port, with its many art galleries and new food market, has become increasingly popular over the last five years.