There is no way you could get bored in Thessaloniki. Here is a to do and see list to get you started!
- 1 The white tower
- 2 Museum of Byzantine culture
- 3 The churches
- 4 Folklife and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace
- 5 The museum of the Jewish presence
- 6 Atatürk’s house
- 7 Food
- 8 The markets
- 9 The Galerius arch
- 10 Bey Hamam
- 11 Paralia
- 12 Aristoteles square
- 13 The Heptapyrgion
- 14 Outside of town
The white tower
The white tower is often seen as the symbol of the town. The monument, on the waterfront, was built in 1430 by the Ottomans to guard the town’s sea walls. The tower is 33 m high, including the small 6 meter tower that was built on top of the original tower. The tower served as a prison in the 19th century where the prisoners would await their execution. It got the name “Red tower” or “Blood tower” at the time. Today the tower is used as exhibition space. You can also see images of the big 1917 fire there.
Museum of Byzantine culture
You can discover different aspects of the Byzantine period in this museum, the art, religion, historical and political changes and more.
There are many beautiful churches in Thessaloniki including a few very special ones.
The Hagios Demetrios, church of Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of the town is very impressive. It is said the place where St Demetrius was imprisoned and martyred, before he died under emperor Diocletianus, lays underneath the church. The remnants of St Demetrius are kept in a shrine in the church. There are beautiful Byzantine mosaics and one can visit the crypt as well.
Another must see church in town is the Aghia Sofia, a church from the 8th century. Both churches are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Do visit the churches Agioi Apostoloi from the 14th century and the Panagia Chalkeon church from the 11th century as well.
The Rotonda is a special building and one of the oldest Christian churches in the world. The building was originally built as a mausoleum for emperor Galerius. It is a church nowadays. It has incredible mosaics and a minaret. The walls of this round building are about 6 meters thick and it has a diameter of about 24 m. The building was converted into a mosque in 1591. When it was reconverted to a church in 1912, the minaret was preserved.
Folklife and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace
A museum with a very extensive collection of more then 20 000 objects for the amateur.
The museum of the Jewish presence
This museum was founded in 2001 to honour the Jewish, mostly Sephardic, community of Thessaloniki. It’s an interesting museum that gives a fine overview of the community in the past.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the republic of Turkey, was born in this house in 1881. It is now a museum about him. As the museum is on the grounds of the Turkish consulate, you will have to have your passport with you to visit the house museum.
Eat!! You’ll find Ottoman influences in some of the traditional dishes in the Greek Macedonian cuisine, for example lamb with wine-poached pears. You will also find many sea dishes as well like the Mydia yiachni, a mussel stew. Like in the rest of Greece you will be able to taste the fine flavours of the Mezedes as well
The Kitchen bar (adress: Warehouse B, Thessaloniki port) is a modern restaurant with an international menu located in an old customs building at the port. The food is very nice, the sea view is even nicer, the price is not that nice.
Panellinion (adress: Salaminos 1) is a traditional little restaurant with typical decoration from the Ladadika quarter. Nice mezedes and a very large choice of Ouzo.
Trigones Elenidis (adress: corner of D Gounari & Tsimiski) is a shop that sells just one product since 1960: the heavenly Trigones. Seriously there must be angels in this kitchen because these sweet cones filled with cream are something special. The first time I was in Thessaloniki I bought one of these pastries, just to taste. That was the last time I bought one. Now I buy 2 kilo boxes and go on a diet as soon as I leave town.
The vibrant markets of Thessaloniki really fit into the lively image of town. The Agora Modiano is a market where you can find local artisans with everything and anything you need, from meat to fruit and vegetables, souvenirs to clothing. The atmosphere is fun and chill. But there are many more markets in town like the Kapani market with a variety of shops (great seafood here!)and screaming market owners.
The Galerius arch
Have a pita with souvlaki under the arch that was built in 298 AD to celebrate the victory of emperor Galerius over the Persians. Cheers!
The first Turkish bath house of Thessaloniki was built in 1444. It is mostly used as a cultural venue these days.
The Paralia is a big road on the waterfront. On one side of the road, the seaside, one can walk, chat, jog, bike, chill. On the other side of the big road there are loads of nightclubs, bars and restaurants. Have a Frappé in the sun and watch the large ships go by.
The Aristoteles square is seen as the heart of town. It’s a large square with many activities and a pretty sea view. It’s a nice spot to sit on one of the benches and watch whatever is going on at that moment.
This old Byzantine and Ottoman fortress, located on top of the hill, offers a great view of Thessaloniki and the sea.
Outside of town
There are no real beaches in Thessaloniki. Mihaniona, a small town about 20 km fromThessaloniki is a good spot for a beach close by. Aghia Yorgi is another option for a nice beach not far from town. You will find mainly Greek families here.
Further, at about 100 km so more of a daytrip or better still for a weekend out, you’ll find Halkidiki. Halkidiki are actually three peninsulas: Sithonia, Kassandra and Mount Athos. Kassandra is the most touristic one. Sithonia is the wild one. Mount Athos is the secret one, as it is inhabited by monks and forbidden for women and children to visit. You will find picture perfect beaches in Halkidiki.
Outside of the high season Sithonia is completely empty, a bit of a ghost peninsula. Many of the hotels and camping sites close and it can be quite challenging to find a place to stay but when you do it’s so relaxed: you’ll have the peninsula all to yourself!