Many travelers need to get from Athens to Thessaloniki (or the other way around) at some point during their vacation in Greece. Both cities have incredible sights to see and offer excellent night life and shopping opportunities.
The train is a cheap and good alternative for getting between Athens and Thessaloniki. Buses are slightly cheaper but take longer. Flights can be a fast way to travel but you also need to consider getting to/from the airport (which is not exactly expensive but it can take hours in both cities).
Flights from Athens to Thessaloniki
Athens International Airport (ATH) is the international airport serving the capital of Greece. It is hub for Aegean Airlines, Hellenic Imperial Airways and Olympic Air. The airport is located about 33 km/20 miles from the city center, to which it’s connected by metro, bus and taxi.
Thessaloniki International Airport “Macedonia” (SKG) is located about 15 km from the city center and is the largest state operated airport in Greece. It is the main airport in Northern Greece and a gateway into the Halkidiki peninsula. It is hub for Aegean Airlines, Astra Airlines and Olympic Air.
Flights between Athens and Thessaloniki are operated by Aegean Airlines, Astra Airlines, Cyprus Airways, Kuban Airlines and Olympic Air. The flight time is 50 min. In mid-June 2012 expect to pay from €59 one way on Cyprus Airways or Aegean Airlines. Even by mid-August the domestic fares stay the same.
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Trains from Athens to Thessaloniki
There are two railway stations in Athens but the one which connects the capital to Northern Greece (Thessaloniki) is Larissis R.S. There are both express and regular trains available between the two cities. The journey takes between 5.5 hours (express) and 7.5 hours (regular). Trains leave couple of times a day.
To get to Larissis R.S. you need to take Metro Line 2 (Syntagma ->Sepolia) or trolley bus no.1 from Venizelou (Panepistimiou) Str.
There are six intercity (IC) trains linking Athens to Thessaloniki daily. They depart Larissis St. at 7:18 a.m. , 10:18 a.m., 12:18 p.m., 2:18 p.m., 4:16 p.m. and 6:18 p.m. The standard single fare is €55.40 for the type A ticket and €45.40 for the type B ticket. If you purchase online, the ticket is €39. The schedule and prices are here (click on Time table and then run a search).
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Buses from Athens to Thessaloniki
There are buses running between Athens and Thessaloniki daily. They leave every two hours (generally) from Terminal A (Kifissou St.). The journey takes 6 hours 30 min and costs €35 per person. To get to Terminal A, you can catch bus no.051 from Omonia Square (every 15 minutes and costs €1 one way).
According to this website (Greek) buses depart every hour from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. during the weekdays (except at 12:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.) and also at 9:30 p.m. over the weekends.
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Ferries from Athens to Thessaloniki
There are ferries connecting Athens (Piraeus) to Thessaloniki but they usually run only twice a week (at very weird hours, like Saturday night).*
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Driving from Athens to Thessaloniki
The driving distance between Athens and Thessaloniki is about 516 km. It takes roughly 6-7 hours of driving on a National Road. The scenery around you is really beautiful so don’t worry about getting too bored.
>>more information on Getting from Athens to Meteora
If you are a good driver you don’t need to worry about the not-so-well-behaved Greek drivers. They are notorious for changing lanes without signaling and similar stuff. Be careful around Tempe, where the road narrows from 4 lanes to only one.
You can rent a car once you get to Athens. If you come from an EU country your driver’s license is valid in Greece. Other nationals should have an international driver’s license.
Here’s a map (of the shortest route) to help with the directions:
Notes: the article was first published in February 2009 and has been updated (prices and schedules) in May 2012.
*the 2012 schedule isn’t yet available