It’s never been easier to get from Athens to Thessaloniki. There are four ways to travel: by plane, by car, by train, and by public bus.
Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, is a great place for culture, nightlife, and food. The city has fine accommodations in every price range, from budget hostels to luxurious 5-star hotels. There is also a whole host of stylish boutique hotels, many in historic buildings.
Since Thessaloniki is now less than an hour away from Athens by plane, and just four hours away by train, it also makes a very convenient destination to add to your trip.
Here are the four ways to get from Athens to Thessaloniki, along with links to train and bus services:
How to Get from Athens to Thessaloniki by Train
The OSE train line from Athens to Thessaloniki has recently been improved. A new routing has cut over 2 hours off of the trip. It now takes just 4 hours and 10 minutes. The one time I tried the new line out it arrived precisely to the minute. This is now the most convenient way to travel between the two cities.
How to Get Tickets for the Train
There are six departures daily, including one night train (which takes 6 hours, rather than 4 hours and 10 minutes). You can buy tickets on the train station or quickly and easily online at the trainose site. The tickets are €45.4 in coach, and €54.5 in first class (€ 25.2 and €35.1 respectively for the 6-hour night train).
Choosing a Seat
After you choose which train you are taking, you click in the blue band at the top of the screen, in the right-hand corner where it says “seat selection and passengers.” That will bring you to a screen that looks like this:
You can book as many tickets as you like by using the “Add Passenger” key, and then choose your seats on the left. The seats in white are still free.
The Advantages of Getting from Athens to Thessaloniki by Train
The train from Athens to Thessaloniki takes just over four hours. And all that time is useful time – for reading or getting some work done. Unlike flying, there’s no security screening, walking to the gate, or checking in – so the time is yours to read, work, and relax.
Because you are traveling from city center to city center, travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki by train cuts the expense and time of airport transfers. And very often, you can get tickets at the last minute, so it’s great for a spontaneous trip.
There is a snack bar and dining car that has very comfortable table space for working on your laptop.
The upholstery can be a little shabby. The night train can get very crowded, since this is the cheapest way to travel between the two cities.
How to Get from Athens to Thessaloniki by Plane
There are around 15 flights daily from Athens to Thessaloniki. Flights depart throughout the day, from early morning to late evening. If you book in advance, using your usual site, you can expect to pay as little as €40, and it’s often possible to find a flight for the next day for less than €80 or €90. The flight takes about 55 minutes.
The Advantages of Getting from Athens to Thessaloniki by Plane
The frequent departures mean you can leave when you want. Of course, if you’re flying in to ATH and going straight to Thessaloniki this is the clear option, and usually no more expensive than any of the others considering the ground transportation expenses to reach the train or the bus.
If you are on your way somewhere else right away – like Halkidiki (here’s how to get to Halkidiki from the Thessaloniki airport) – it may be easier to avoid the city center and leave directly from the airport. Here’s information on how to get into the center of Thessaloniki from the Thessaloniki airport – it’s an easy trip.
As frequent flyers know, that 55 minutes of flying is not the total travel time. And the ticket price is not the only expense. Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos Airport is far from the city center. You need at least 40 minutes from the city center whether you are travelling by metro (€10) or by express bus (€6). You need at least 30 minutes – and possibly much more, depending on traffic – by taxi (approximately €38).
Adding in the time you need for check-in, security, and getting to your gate (ATH is a large airport and you’ll want to allow plenty of time to reach your gate), and the time you need to reach the city center from SKG, it’s hardly faster than taking the bus.
Athens to Thessaloniki by KTEL- the Public Intercity Bus Service
Getting from Athens to Thessaloniki with the KTEL public bus service takes about 6 hours and 15 minutes, and costs €39. There are 9 departures daily, from early in the morning until late at night.
To book a ticket, visit the KTEL Macedonia site. Choose your route, then click on the yellow button on the lower left that says “purchase your ticket.” You can also get your ticket at the station, sometimes directly before departure. You can call the booking office – the number is on the screen – to ask about availability of seats.
Athens to Thessaloniki by KTEL: The Advantages
Nine departures daily offers flexibility. Also, there’s the added convenience of two departure points in Athens – Pedion Areos, which is near Exarchia near central Athens, and Kifisos – in the northern part of Athens. In Thessaloniki, the bus stops at the main bus terminal at the western edge of the city, and then near the train station closer to the center of town.
It is neither fast, nor inexpensive.
Athens to Thessaloniki by Car
The national road had been seriously upgraded, with several tunnels added. This cuts nearly half an hour from the drive. It now takes about 5 hours.
The Advantages of Driving from Athens to Thessaloniki
It’s a beautiful drive along a good road, and there’s rarely much traffic. There are many pleasant rest areas and things to see along the way. If you are a party of three or more, driving is also the least expensive option. The fuel cost is around €50 for a mid-size car. The tolls are also about €50, making for a €100 trip.
For two, it’s roughly the equivalent of taking the train. For three or four travelers, this is the most economical option.
Considering the fuel prices and the tolls, it’s an expensive option for one.