One of the Best Places to Live in Alabama: Athens

October 31, 2023
Athens is named one of the best places to live in Alabama annually. The state and the desire to live in a quaint town that’s close to everything has become very appealing.

Athens has quickly become one of the best places to live in Alabama due to its proximity to business centers, dining and shopping, recreation, and a first-class educational system.

Athens is named one of the best places to live in Alabama annually. As Huntsville continues to solidify itself as the epicenter of technology in the state, if not the whole southeast, the desire to live in a quaint town that’s close to everything has become very appealing. The Elk River is nearby, as is the Tennessee River. And with endless trails and some of the most beautiful golf courses in the state, it’s no wonder that folks of all ages are flocking to the area. 

One of the Best Places to Live in Alabama

Athens, Alabama, celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018, making it one of the oldest cities in the state. The downtown has not lost its historical luster either, as many of the buildings have retained the 19th century antebellum architecture that we seem to be losing in the South. Many of the businesses on the square are family owned, with the regal courthouse sitting dead center. 

To put it into perspective, Athens, Alabama, is the epitome of a quaint little southern town. 


The beauty and attractiveness of Athens derives from the fact that it’s central to everything. It’s the halfway point between Birmingham and Nashville, Tennessee. It borders Huntsville and the majority of the jobs you’ll find in North Alabama. Athens, Huntsville, Madison, and Decatur all have incredible restaurants. Not to mention that Athens provides an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities for the whole family to enjoy. It’s truly one of those towns where kids are safe to be kids as they explore the expansive woods and creeks in the area’s neighborhoods.


From sandwiches and craft beer to pizza and street tacos, Athens isn’t lacking when it comes to quality local dining. With new restaurants opening often, there are plenty of places to choose from and new options to try. Two of our favorites are Village Pizza and Wildwood Deli, which just so happen to be nestled in the heart of downtown.

And downtown dining just keeps on growing, with Old Blackbear Brewing Company and The Salty Cod both being recent additions. 


Athens State University was an all-female school for 110 years before it became coeducational. Today, it serves as an upper-level university offering more than 30 majors for junior- and senior-level students. It’s perfectly situated for folks who live in North Alabama and Southern Tennessee and is known to accommodate class schedules based on students’ work schedules. 

Athens City Schools are ranked among the top schools in the state of Alabama as well and produce solid sports teams each year. 


Once an all-female school, Athens State University is one of the longest-running academic institutions in Alabama. Photo Courtesy Athens State University.


Many of us here at Winter Homes have spent an ample amount of time on the Elk River. There’s nothing like skiing the glass-smooth water on a warm summer evening or catching bream and shellcracker on a May morning. The Elk River runs for some 20 miles through Limestone County before dumping into the Tennessee River. This section is classified as a Class 1 stream and is bordered by towering bluffs, pristine forest, and open fields. It is aptly named the Canoe and Kayak Trail and is one of the best places to paddle in the state.


Athens is named one of the best places to live in Alabama annually for many reasons including it's charm and proximity.
The Canoe and Kayak Trail on the Elk River is but one part of what makes Athens one of the best places to live in Alabama.

Joe Wheeler Wildlife Refuge and Joe Wheeler State Park are just down the road. On the refuge, you’ll find great crappie fishing on the Tennessee River in the spring and cat fishing almost year-round. If you have a small john boat or canoe, venture into the swamps to try your luck on a mess of hand-sized bream. 

The state park has a really nice public golf course. Or, if you’re really serious about the game, consider joining the private Canebrake Club. The course at Canebrake, which is run by a top-notch pro, Micky Wolfe, is immaculate. It runs through a variety of extremely beautiful landscapes, including oak-laden woods, swamps, and creeks. If you happen to live in Canebrake, you can scout the numerous ponds as you’re playing for rising bass and bluegill.   

Fun Facts About Athens

  • Originally called Athenson, the name was changed to Athens after the city in Greece.
  • Athens’ first mayor was Sam Tanner. The nearby town of Tanner was named after him.  
  • Alabama’s first governor, William Wyatt Bibb, was from Athens.
  • Alabama’s second governor, Bibb’s brother Thomas, was also from Athens.
  • Initially an all-women’s college, Athens State was founded in 1822.
  • The Alabama Shakes are from Athens.
  • Indianapolis Colts quarterback, Phillip Rivers, grew up in Athens and was an all-state athlete at Athens High School. 

If you’re looking for homes for sale in Athens, Alabama, or better yet, to build, let us know how we can help. Our deep roots and wide knowledge of the area can serve you as a guide to all things Athens. We hope to see you here!