Thessaloniki, a port city on the Aegean Sea located 500km north of Athens. Is one of the most underrated travel destinations in all of Greece in our opinions. Filled with easy transportation to and from the city, as well as plenty of sites to take in, world class food, accommodation, and a nightlife scene that is easily one of the best in all of Europe.
Getting to Thessaloniki
As the second largest city of Greece, Thessaloniki has its own international airport "Macedonia" and a major port.
Thessaloniki is connected with Athens, Thrace, and Macedonia by railway. In addition, you can reach Thessaloniki by train from Bulgaria, Turkey, and the Middle Eastern countries.
There are intercity buses between Athens and Thessaloniki that take you to your destination in 6 hours. Tickets are always on sale at the box offices on bus stations.
Getting from the "Macedonia" airport to the Thessaloniki downtown
The airport is located 15 km from the city center, where it is most convenient to get by bus number 78 (or number 78N, if the flight arrives at night). The fare is about 2 EUR, the journey takes about 45 minutes.The bus passes the railway station where you can exit if needed, or go directly to “Aristotle Square” (it will be announced as “Platia Aristotelus”) in downtown. Prices are as of January 2019.
Pro tip: You can take good seats and ride while sitting by getting into the bus not in the arrival area, but in the departure area - at the bus stop, where passengers come from the city.
The cost of a trip by taxi from the airport to the city starts from 25 EUR, and takes about half an hour. Taxi back is more expensive - about 30 EUR.
Transportation in Thessaloniki
There is no subway in Thessaloniki yet, but it is being built and should to opened in 2020. The main means of transport are buses. A single trip costs 1 EUR, a ticket for 70 minutes with 1 transfer - 1.20 EUR, for 90 minutes with 2 transfers - 1.50 EUR and for 120 minutes with 3 transfers - 2 EUR, routes cover the entire city. It is necessary to take into account that some of the buses connect only to the center of the city and the west part, and the other part - the center and the east.
There is one-way traffic on most streets, so for travelers, it can be difficult to navigate where to look for a bus in the opposite direction. It's simple: the bus usually stops on a parallel street. In the center, almost all the stops are equipped with electronic boards with numbers and arrival times of transport.
Sightseeing bus for 2 EUR
Those who want to quickly see the sights, but are not ready to pay for the sightseeing tour – you can use the bus number 50. The fare costs 2 EUR, the route passes through the entire historic center.
Tickets are sold in special machines or kiosks, you can also pay the fare to the driver, but it is 0.1 EUR more. The ticket must be punched at the entrance to the bus. Travel cards for multiple trips are punched with each transfer. More information can be obtained on the official website.
A trip around the city by taxi costs from 3.5 EUR and does not exceed 30 EUR. Cars work on the counter and have a corporate blue-white coloring. Fans of bikes can rent a bike, although there are few bike lanes in the city: one of the best ones stretches along the embankment. The rental price starts at 5 EUR per day and depends on the type of bike and availability of equipment.
The most convenient way to move in and outside of the city is to rent a car. You can rent it immediately upon arrival at the airport or in numerous places in the city. It is better to take care of this in advance in order to choose an inexpensive and good model. The most simple car can be rented for 25 EUR per day, a luxury car will cost 100 EUR. All large rental companies have representatives in Thessaloniki: Hertz, Budget, Avis, Europcar, etc., as well as several local firms.
Accommodation in Thessaloniki
The price of a double room in a modest hotel starts from 30 EUR, in the "five-star" hotel room can be rented for 150-200 EUR per day. In hotels of the average price category (3-4 *) accommodation will cost 50-60 EUR. An apartment would cost approximately the same. Those who prefer a cheaper holiday might prefer hostels for 10 EUR per person. The most affordable option is camping. For only 15 EUR, you can put up a tent on an equipped platform that can accommodate several travelers at once. Per usual we like to give you the three options to explore and check out yourselves as we stayed in one hotel at each level.
Affordable Hostel - Stay Hybrid Hostel - For $45 a night you can stay in this luxurious feeling hostel equipped with a world class staff and a private room for yourself. It’s a wonderful place especially if you’re traveling as a couple, it’s super clean, and honestly can’t find a better place in the city to meet people in the common areas.
Mid Range Hotel - The Modernist - Cosy rooms with modern decorations, breakfast prepared for you each morning. The hotel is situated in the center of Thessaloniki, one block further from Aristotelous square. Best value for money in this city for sure!
Luxury Hotel - Antigon Urban Chic Hotel - New hotel with some of the comfiest beds you’ll find in the world. You feel as though you’re royalty from the moment you walk through the doors. The worst part about staying here was the fact that we actually had to leave, we absolutely did not want to.
Visiting Greece on a budget? Find out how to affordably visit Santorini.
In what area of Thessaloniki to stay?
Touristic sights of Thessaloniki are spread all around the city and existing archaeological excavations can be found almost on all streets.
In what area to stay, depends on the purpose of the trip Fans of outdoor activities and nightlife will be attracted to the central and coastal areas, while some families might prefer to rent inexpensive, quiet housing in a “sleeping area”.
Central areas are close to the main tourist trails but are pretty noisy. Also, it is believed that central areas of Thessaloniki are the most dangerous .
The areas of Thessaloniki that are very affordable and suitable for family holiday: Kalamaria, Panorama, Pefka. There is a well-developed public transport network, there are many shops, and no crowds of tourists.
Despite the fact that Thessaloniki was once considered a beach resort, the life of a large city has left its mark: compared to other Greek cities, the coast is not very suitable for swimming, and the cargo port pollutes the water. But the beaches are very good in the suburbs. The most picturesque places are located on the Halkidiki peninsula. A lot of people come here on weekends, so it’s better to go on weekdays to avoid the crowds.
The coast in the vicinity of Thessaloniki is covered with sand mixed with very small pebbles. In some places, it is not noticeable at all. The bottom almost everywhere is shallow, which is important for families with kids. The waves are not very strong but it is better to look after the children.
Almost all beaches are municipal and free, you will have to pay only for the rental of sunbeds and umbrellas if needed. A set of an umbrella and two deck chairs cost 7-10 EUR per day, on some beaches rental is included in the price of a drink at a beach bar.
You can come with your towel and sit right on the sand and not pay anything.
Visiting Thessaloniki with kids
There is no swimming in Thessaloniki which is, however, compensated by the abundance of entertainment for kids. Therefore, families willingly come here, staying in nearby towns and cities. First of all, “Waterland” water park, one of the largest European water amusement parks, deserves attention. You can reach it from Aristotle Square on a special bus. Another place loved by children is “Magic Park” amusement park. It is located on the outskirts of the city, near the Ikea store.
Those who love nature will be interested in the Zoo “Zoologikos Kipos” and the Museum of Natural History. In the neighboring village of Lengohori children are given lessons in riding, archery, basketball, and football.
Nightlife in Thessaloniki
One of the fastest growing and most talked about things among Greeks is the nightlife that now exists in Thessaloniki. What used to be just a small scene among the locals has transformed into a full on attraction, bringing in not only tourists every weekend but also locals flocking in from Athens to take part in all the fun.
“Mylos” a concert venue in Thessaloniki boasts some of the best events across Europe at the moment. Ranging from Re-Works techno music festival to Bluegrass concerts, live acoustic shows, and full-on rock concerts. This really is the place to be on the weekend if you’ve the chance to get tickets as they sell out quite fast.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds however there are hundreds of other bars to check out in other areas of the city. Ladadika for example is one of the most warming neighborhoods we’ve had the pleasure of visiting in all of Greece with it’s comforting ambience, good restaurants to choose from, and an abundance of entertainment to choose from it’s no wonder the locals dub this the heart of the city.
Best Places to visit in Ladadika
Beer O’Clock - Wonderful location in restaurant row near the port. The best selection of beers by far with over a hundred beers locally and internationally. Great selection of food and a waitstaff that’ll make you feel extremely welcome and right at home.
Zithos Restaurant - Greek restaurant with nice ambience and excellent selection of traditional and hearty Greek food. If you’re looking for two dishes to make you feel like you’re taking in the local scene, try the fried fish of the day and the double baked pork belly.
Full Tou Meze - This restaurant located just steps away from Zithos and Beer O’clock boasts probably one of the best feels in all of Thessaloniki. From the moment you walk in you’ll be engulfed in an old school style setup that’ll transform you back into the old Greek times. On top of that they serve up wonderful Greek dishes that are to easily be shared and a waitstaff that will not disappoint.