Thessaloniki is Greece’s second city, but has earned its place as its cultural capital. With over 3,000 years of continuous occupation, the hippest city in Greece has been heavily influenced both by the ages it has lived through and its eclectic array of residents.
From the Roman-founded Church of Agios Dimitrious to the now-defunct Turkish Bezestini markets, Thessalonoiki is a haven for architecture fiends and culture vultures alike. For those of a more commercial mindset, theModiano Market sells the best in local meat and produce, while Proxenou Koromila stocks the latest fashions. Thessaloniki is not a big city, but it has real depth with a past and present almost as complex as its streets. So consider a longer stay to unwrap more than the first layer of the mystery.
Thessaloniki’s Top 10
10. NTNG The National Theatre of Northern Greece shows the best in contemporary and ancient Greek theatre. Some you may be familiar with, some you certainly won’t.
5. The Museum of Byzantine Culture With exhibitions about the city’s history, it’s a great first stop to get acquainted with the stories behind the buildings.
9. The Bezesteni This covered flea market is even older some of the trinkets found there, having been in operation since the 15th century.
4. The Panayia Acheiropoietos The most ancient of the city’s churches and renowned for its intricate marble work.
8. The Alatza Imaret An ancient mosque with a proud history of resilience to both the elements and enemy fire.
3. Vlatadon Monastery The exquisite interior decorations are a perfect, if slightly decayed, example of late-14th century art.
7. Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki 15 World Heritage-listed ancient monuments are strewn throughout the city.
2. The Rotunda Originally designed as the mausoleum for a Roman Emperor, the Rotunda was then converted into a rather stunning church.
6. The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki Founded to honour the proud Jewish history of the Mediterranean.
1. The White Tower Thessaloniki’s 800-year-old city symbol is a monument, museum and defensive structure.
- Byzantine Walls – Of the original Byzantine walls built in Thessaloniki in the days of yore, those in the northernmost area are still standing today.
- White Tower – One of the original fortified towers from the 1500s and the city’s symbol.
- Promenade – A lovely place to visit along the seashore that is almost 21km long.
- Roman Forum – Today you can see the excavations of this landmark from thousands of years ago.
- Saint Nicolaos Orfanos – One of the smaller Byzantine churches in the area today.
Thessaloniki Art & Culture
- Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki – One of the most famous museums in the area, housing some of the greatest artefacts from ancient Macedonian times.
- Museum of Byzantine Culture – Tells and shows some of the glories, artefacts and more from Byzantine history.
- Thessaloniki International Trade Fair – A yearly event held in the Thessaloniki International Exhibition Centre in mid-September.
- Museum of the Macedonian Struggle – Tells the story of the Greek heroic revolutionaries who wrestled Macedonia away from the Bulgars and Turks.
- Olympion Theatre – Home to the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.
- Proxenou Koromila – One of the places in Thessaloniki to find fashionable clothing, shoes and accessories.
- IANOS – This bookstore is located in the centre of the city and also hosts cultural events and offers art and souvenirs.
- Mitropoleos – A well-known shopping area with great cafes for when you want to stop and take a break.
- Modiano Market – For exquisite local delicacies, sweets, bread and more, don’t miss a trip here.
- Egnatia Street – Offers great deals on clothing.
Gay & Lesbian Thessaloniki
- Bar Me – A cosy little place to visit in Thessaloniki.
- Bigaroon – A dancing bar that attracts a young crowd.
- Don’t Tell Mama – This adorable place got its name from a song and offers a lot of variety in music.
- Pasta Flora – A lovely place to hang out and chill with dim lights, ambiance, background music and drinks.
- Elvis – This local disco offers house, electronic and techno music.
- Aristotelous Square – Includes the promenade and is the largest in Thessaloniki, filled with cafes and restaurants.
- ΧΑΝΘ/Palios Zoologikos Kipos – Central city gardens and includes a skate park, rock climbing and paintball.
- Nea Paralia – Located along the waterfront and stretches 3km down the coast.
- Chalkidiki – Some of the closest beaches in the area.
- Seich Sou – National park and forest that offers great views, mountain bike trails and hiking.
- The Kaftanzoglio Stadium is home to the Iraklis Soccer club.
- To catch a game with the Iraklis Thessaloniki basketball team, check out the Ivanofio Indoor Hall.
- The PAOK Sports Arena hosts volleyball tournaments and other athletic games.
- Thessaloniki is the finish line to the yearly Alexander the Great Marathon.
- The Kaftanzoglio Stadium hosts regular events, including national and European competitions.
Thessaloniki celebrates local and global photographic innovation at the International Festival of Photography, with exhibitions staged across the city from February to April.
May’s Anastenaria Firewalking Festival attracts thousands of daredevils and tens of thousands of spectators from across Greece. Feeling brave? There are also lessons on offer.
The Thessaloniki Book Fair in May proves Greek literature isn’t just about ancient mythology.
The Feast Day of St Demetrius sees the city come alive in October, with music, dance and feasting in celebration of one of the city’s best-loved saints.
November’s International Film Festival is a launching pad for Greek flicks, as well as bringing premieres of major and art-house films from across the globe.
When To Go
May and June are great months to visit. The chill is easy to manage and the sticky heat is yet to arrive
For winter enthusiasts, November and December are when the city really goes all out in the name of Christmas spirit.
Most summer tourists have left by September and October, when locals come back and prices return to normal levels.
Public transport is a good option for taking the stress out of navigating Thessaloniki’s complex streets.
Rental cars are always popular, but during the summer months aren’t the best due to highly congested streets.
Bicycles are great in the warmer months. In winter, they’re not so ideal!
The second city of Greece may not compare to Athens in size and population, but the capital of the vast Macedonia region is a wonderful destination to explore. Diverse architecture, notable culture and multi-ethnic roots conspire to make Thessaloniki a vital city. Though a major commercial seaport and transportation hub, for visitors, the most notable features of Thessaloniki can be found in Ottoman, Byzantine and early Christian monuments, many of which became UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1988.
The former European Capital of Culture has a spate of museums to offer and a vibrant music and nightlife scene to discover. From the Jewish Museum and Archaeological Museum to the impressive Thessaloniki Concert Hall, the city is never dull or devoid of entertainment options, to enjoy after a late dinner of course. Must-see attractions include the White Tower, the most important symbol of the city, Rotunda of St. George and Arch of Galerius.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurant & Nightlife
Thessaloniki enjoys four seasons, with cold winters and dry, hot summers.
- Winter (December to February) 1-10°C
- Spring (March to May) 5-23°C
- Summer (June to September) 15-31°C
- Fall (October to November) 6-21°C
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