Thessaloniki's Macedonia International Airport (tel. 2310/473-212), 17km (11 miles) south of town, is served from Athens International Airport (www.aia.gr) by Olympic Air (tel. 810/114-4444 or 210/966-6666, official Greek phone numbers that never answer; www.olympicair.com) Aegean Airlines (tel. 810/112-0000; www.aegeanair.com) also has several flights daily between Athens and Thessaloniki. From the U.S., there are no direct flights to Thessaloniki. Connections can be made at a number of European cities, including Athens, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Vienna, and Zurich
The airport is a 30-minute drive from the city center. Bus no. 78 runs from the airport into central Thessaloniki in about an hour (usually stopping in Aristotelous Sq. and at the train station) daily from about 6am to 11pm and costs 4€. A taxi ride runs about 15€.
Five daily trains officially make the trip from Athens to Thessaloniki in about 6 hours, but most are crowded, without air-conditioning, and subject to unexplained delays; nonetheless, they are cheap, at around 50€ round trip coach. If you must take a train, choose the fast InterCity, preferably the overnight sleeper, which has first-class compartments for four to six passengers and sleeper compartments for two to six passengers. Make reservations for sleeping compartments well in advance at the Larissa train station in Athens (tel. 210/323-6747; www.ose.gr).
In Thessaloniki, you can purchase tickets at the OSE Thessaloniki Train Station, 28 Monastiriou, the western extension of Egnatia (tel. 2310/599-421). InterCity coach tickets from Athens to Thessaloniki cost from 120€ round trip, sleeper service from 150€ round-trip. A taxi ride from the station to Aristotelous Square takes about 10 minutes and costs about 8€. Tip: Avoid the trek to the train station to get information and buy tickets, and use the OSE (train) office instead, at 18 Aristotelous Sq. (tel. 2310/598-120; www.ose.gr), 9am to 9pm Tuesday to Friday; 9am to 3pm Monday and Saturday.
Ten air-conditioned buses from Athens usually make the trip daily to Thessaloniki in about 7 hours (includes one 20-min. stop at a roadside restaurant with toilet facilities). Buses usually arrive on time. Make reservations in advance at the Athens bus terminal, 100 Kifissou (tel. 210/512-4910 or 210/512-9233). A one-way fare costs about 45€. Many buses arrive in Thessaloniki at the station at 65 Monastiriou (tel. 2310/510-834) opposite the train station, where there are taxis. Some buses stop at the newer bus station at 194 Iannitsou (tel. 2310/595-408), west of the train station. For general information on Athens-Macedonia schedules and fares, call tel. 210/512-4910 or go to www.ktel.org.
From Athens, take the 516km (320-mile) National Road, a four-lane highway that's the best in Greece, although stretches are always being repaired or widened, which leads to frequent delays. The road, a major truck route, is also often the scene of serious accidents. Plan on at least 6 or 7 hours, if you stop en route. Gas stations are common along the National Road, but you often must exit to reach them. Much of the road skirts the mountains and goes through the plains of central and northern Greece. In other words, it's not the most stunning drive.
If you're driving to Northern Greece from Europe, you'll probably take the ferry from the Italian ports of Bari, Ancona, or Brindisi to Igoumenitsou on the northwest coast of Greece, and then drive across the Pindus Mountains to Thessaloniki. The trip is spectacular; allow at least 5 or 6 hours. The southern route (via Ioannina and Kalambaka to Larissa and the National Rd.) is much less treacherous than the northern alternative (through Kozani) -- particularly in winter, although snow can close both routes. The southern route also passes Kalambaka and the monasteries perched on the awesome pinnacles of the Meteora. You will almost certainly encounter continuing roadwork on the National Highway (called the Via Egnatia, after its Roman predecessor) designed to link Patras (in the Peloponnese) with Central Greece and continue on to Macedonia and the Turkish border. The road was officially completed in June of 2009, but work will continue for some time.
The Thessaloniki office of the Greek National Tourism Organization is at 136 Tsimiski (tel. 2310/221-100; www.visitgreece.gr), 2 blocks inland and 2 blocks east of the harborside White Tower.
Finding an Address -- Buildings almost never have visible numbers; ask for what you want by name, not by number. If possible, have someone write down, in Greek, what you are searching for so that you can show the name to a local. Even with a good map, and helpful locals, you'll probably have trouble finding some of the churches in Ano Poli, but take it, as the Greeks say, "Siga, siga" ("Slowly, slowly"), and you'll find your way.
High Season in Thessaloniki -- The busiest time of the year in Thessaloniki is not summer but fall, when the International Trade Fair and Festival of Greek Songs takes place in September, followed by the Demitria celebrations of the city's patron saint continuing into October and November. There is also a film festival in November. If you come between September and November, be sure to book a hotel in advance -- and be prepared to pay dearly: Price hikes of more than 50% are usual during convention and festival season, although Greece's wobbly economy may keep prices down.
Maps -- City maps and two excellent guides to the city (The Thessaloniki Handbook [with section-by-section maps], by Christos Zafiris; and Monuments of Thessaloniki [with an excellent city-center map], by Apostolos Papagiannopoulos) are usually available at bookstores, including Ianos, 7 Aristotelous (tel. 2310/277-164); Traveller Bookstore, 41 Proxenou Koromila (tel. 2310/275-215); Malliaris, 9 Aristotelous (tel. 2310/276-926); and P. Kyriakides, 40 Agias Sophias St. (tel. 2310/241-613).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.