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Athens Says No More Tourists: Here Is Where To Go Instead

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Athens, Greece is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, but a growing segment of locals aren't happy about the influx of tourists.

Recently, anti-tourist sentiment and protests have been seen throughout the city, with some locals even spray-painting messages like “No more tourism” onto buildings.

The economy of Greece relies heavily on tourism, and a record-breaking 7.1 million tourists visited Athens in 2023 — but it's impossible to deny the negative effects tourism has had.

Tourist Crowds in Athens

In Athens, many neighborhoods are now full of Airbnbs, forcing out the locals and only providing accommodations for tourists. Housing prices have gone up significantly.

Overtourism in Athens has also led to huge crowds, especially in the summer months. For tourists, it's also not a great experience — no one wants to wait in line for an hour in the sweltering sun just to visit the Acropolis or overpay at the touristy restaurants and souvenir shops on every corner. And no one wants to feel unwelcome visiting a destination either.

So what's the alternative?

Here's why Thessaloniki is the best alternative to Athens this year:

Church in Thessaloniki

A Beautiful City In Northern Greece

Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece after Athens, is a historic coastal city located in the northern part of the country.

You can't fly nonstop to Thessaloniki from the U.S. like you can to Athens, but there are flights available from many European cities (and it's a 55-minute direct flight from Athens.)

You can also take a scenic 5-hour train ride from Athens to Thessaloniki.

Woman in Thessaloniki, Greece

This city remains virtually undiscovered by many foreign tourists, but it's worth the effort to visit because you'll be rewarded with an amazing, underrated destination.

Delicious Local Food

Another reason to head to Thessaloniki? The food!

If you're looking for delicious, traditional, and affordable Greek food, you'll find it in spades in Thessaloniki. This city is a foodie paradise!

Greek street food dish souvlaki

Being located on the sea, it's a great destination for fresh seafood. Enjoy a seafood mezze at any local taverna and wash it down with some ouzo like the Greeks do.

When it comes to street food, souvlaki is always a favorite. And for breakfast or a mid-morning snack, bougatsa is a favorite in Thessaloniki — it's a sweet or savory filo pastry pie.

Lots Of Historic Sites

Although it doesn't have as many impressive ancient sites as Athens, Thessaloniki has its own share of fascinating historical sites you can discover.

Aerial view of the old Byzantine Castle in the city of Thessaloniki , Greece

The White Tower is one of the most iconic locations in the city. This historic tower was constructed in the 15th century during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Another spot not to miss is the Heptapyrgion, a Byzantine castle.

When it comes to ancient sites, don't miss visiting the Roman Forum, the Arch of Galerius, and the Rotunda, some of the oldest parts of the city.

If you're interested in ancient history, you also can't miss the Archaeological Museum in Thessaloniki.

The best part is that all of these places are cheap to visit — tickets range from €3 to €8, so it's a lot less expensive than Athens, where just visiting the Acropolis is €20!

A view of the White Tower of Thessaloniki

Affordable And Fewer Crowds

As I hinted at above, prices in Thessaloniki are a lot cheaper than in Athens.

This goes not only for attractions but also for hotels, food, transportation, and other activities.

According to BudgetYourTrip, the average price for a hotel in Thessaloniki is just €58 (around $62) per night. Meals out at a restaurant will set you back only €10 to €15 per person.

Aerial Panoramic View Of Thessaloniki, Greece, Southern Europe

Thessaloniki is also far less crowded than Athens. It has a more local feel, and you can enjoy strolling along the waterfront promenade or going out to dinner without being inundated by large tour groups or people trying to sell you souvenirs or hustle you into their restaurant.

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