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Urban growth at different spatial scales is analysed using the assumptions that large cities have experienced sequential cycles of urbanization, suburbanization and re-urbanization that reflect complex demographic dynamics. Original approaches, quantitative methodologies and indicators are employed to support analysis of urban growth at different spatial scales. Residential mobility is considered as a proxy measure for spatial dynamics, intensity of urban expansion and socioeconomic development at local and regional scales in Mediterranean Europe. By computing the percent share of the population living in the same municipality five years before the census date in the total resident population at the census date, a spatial analysis of residential mobility and related background context allowed for the identification of specific urban cycles, outlining heterogeneous patterns of growth in the metropolitan region of Athens, Greece, over the last three decades (1981–2011). Results indicate that changes in spatial patterns of residential mobility are associated with multiple factors (directly or indirectly), dependent on demographic dynamics and economic cycles exposing (apparent or latent) variability in the socio-spatial urban structure and functional re-organization processes across larger metropolitan areas. Multiple socioeconomic transitions are identified in the study area, with short-range population movements diverging with urbanization, suburbanization and re-urbanization. Under both economic expansion and recession, spatial patterns of residential mobility reflect differential population dynamics, whose knowledge provides innovative visions for future urban cycles in Europe.