If you're looking to go by land, you can jump on a train. Slow and fast train options are available and can offer you a stress-free and scenic route up north. For a more leisurely journey, you can take a bus from Athens to Thessaloniki as well.
If you're interested in exploring the Greek mainland en route to Thessaloniki, you can rent a car or arrange for a private transfer to drive up to Greece's second largest city. With sights such as Mount Olympus along the way, driving can offer a unique look at the Greek countryside.
When planning your trip, consider this week-long itinerary that will take you from the mainland to the islands as you explore Athens, Thessaloniki and Crete. If you're a history buff, this 10-day trip explores the ancient sights of Athens, Thessaloniki and Delphi, one of the most magical places in Greece.
Duration: 40 minutes
Flying is the fastest way to get to Thessaloniki from Athens, although this can sometimes be the most expensive option as well. Multiple flights are available per day, year-round, so this can be a convenient option if you're looking to make the most of your time in Greece. Note that only economy seats are available for these short flights.
Duration: 4 - 6 hours
You can take a train up to Thessaloniki if you're looking for a scenic and relaxing trip. There are slow and fast train options and the ticket price varies based on the train you choose. Trains depart from the Athens Railway Station, also known as the Larissa Station.
These trains offer a variety of canteen snacks as well as local Greek dishes that you can enjoy as you take in sights of the Greek countryside outside, including steel viaducts south of Larissa, which were used strategically during WWII by British Special Forces and Greek resistance fighters to cut off German supply lines in occupied Greece.
By Rental Car or Private Transfer
Duration: 6 hours or more with stops
Driving to Thessaloniki can be a great way to explore the Greek mainland. The National Road A1 will take you from Athens up north to Thessaloniki and along the way, you can make a brief detour to Mount Olympus, mythical home of the Greek gods and goddesses, where perhaps you can find some nectar or at the very least, delicious Greek mountain tea.
Note that Greek drivers can be very aggressive and this route includes one of the more dangerous stretches of highway in Greece, near Tempi. The highway switches from four lanes down to one as it goes through a narrow pass and accidents can easily occur here.
If you rent a car, Greek car rental companies primarily offer vehicles with manual transmission. However, for a higher price, you can find automatic cars as well. For American drivers, be sure to bring an international license along with your state driver's license.
If you'd rather just relax in the passenger seat, consider hiring a private transfer to take you to Thessaloniki. This can be a great way to let someone else take the wheel who knows the area and driving culture well.
Duration: 6 - 6.5 hours
There are many bus options available to take you from Athens to Thessaloniki. Two bus terminals service Thessaloniki: Kifisso (or Kifiso) Bus Terminal A and the more centrally-located Terminal 3 at Mavromattaion Street, on the west side of the Pedion tou Areos Park.
The Kifisso terminal can be difficult to find, so be sure to take a taxi there or if you have a local friend in town, ask them for a ride in exchange for a Nescafe Frappe and tyropita (cheese pie).
KTEL operates buses in Greece and these buses are air-conditioned and offer free wifi.