Athens vs Thessaloniki: 2 Cities, 7 Crash Tests

Athens and Thessaloniki, the two largest and most defining cities of Greece go head to head in an epic battle between North and South. The eternal question has always been: Which is better? What it boils down to is a matter of preference. Let’s put these two city breaks that rival each other to the crash test.





Iconic landmark: Acropolis, a timeless temple built to honour goddess Athena in the 5th century BC, that was converted to a mosque under Ottoman rule with a harem  at the Erechtheion.


Don’t forget to…

Take a city tour to Hadrian’s Arch, Syntagma Square, Kallimarmaro, Omonia Square, and visit the Acropolis Museum and National Archaeological Museum too.

Shopaholics rejoice at downtown Ermou Street, and the upmarket Kolonaki area. Head to the flea market at Monastiraki Square, one of the best places to buy just about anything!


Iconic landmark: White Tower, the Ottoman reconstruction of a Byzantine fortification built in the 12th century – later a notorious prison and scene of mass executions.


Don’t forget to…

Take a city tour to the Arch of Galerius, Agia Sofia, Agios Dimitrios, Aristotelous Square, and visit the Archaeological Museum.

Shopaholics rejoice at thoroughfares like Tsimiski, Proxenou Koromila and Mitropoleos in a sacred ritual of shopping. Head to the traditional Modiano markets, an enclosed area in the city center.


Weather: Hot summers, mild winters – not many rainy days.


Weather: Cool summers, snowy winters, more thunderstorms.


People: The bustling city boasts of 3 million vibrant residents who are always on the go. Evidence of growing multiculturalism has made the city all the more interesting.


People: 1 million residents with a cosmopolitan attitude, community spirit and a carefree vibe. Calm and relaxed, Thessalonians are also known around Greece for slurring their l’s.


Transport: Extensive and clean metro network and tram, but still lots of traffic in the streets. The cost of a public transport ticket is $43 (US).

Location: The city is not far from Piraeus and an ideal spot for island hopping to islands of the nearby Saronic Gulf, or if you want to go further, head to the Cyclades.


Transport: Metro is still under construction, but everything is a short walk away in a compact city. $30 US for a public transport system.

Location: Not far from Halkidiki with its vast expanses of golden beaches, but also a great place to explore Northern Greece, or the rest of Southeast Europe.


Culinary trends: Athens has drawn on influences from the new cultures entering the country via migration to create a tasty combination of fast, cheap and convenient multicultural offerings.


Cuisine trends: Thessalonians are foodies, inspired by their cultural influences and spices from the east. Trademark sweets include cream-filled bougatsas, custard-filled trigona panoramatos.


Step back in time… The Anafiotika, above Plaka, is a little “village” unique for its white-washed cubic houses and brightly-colored shutters with an island feel. Named after the island of Anafi where its original residents came from.



Step back in time… The Ladadika quarter was an important commercial hub for many decades. Now, its cobble-stone alleyways and mysterious dead-end streets that make it one of the most picturesque neighborhoods of the city.



Main Festivals: The Greek Festival at the Herod Atticus (Irodion) theater and other venues takes place over summer as do the Rockwave, Ejekt and Release festivals. If a major performer decides to come to Greece for just one gig, they are most likely to come to Athens.


Main Festivals: The Thessaloniki International Trade Fair in September has plenty of entertainment scheduled on the sidelines of events focused on commerce, while the Thessaloniki Film Festival features  the best of celluloid each November.


Train: 5h 20 mins (prices range from 9 euros to 39 euros one way, with cheap deals if you book 48 hours in advance – well worth the trip as it has spectacular views)

Bus (KTEL): 5-7 hours

Air: 55-minute flight (cheap tickets offered by Ryanair

Private taxi: 450-900 euros per car


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