Thessaloniki is the second biggest city in Greece and sits on top of thousands of years of history from the Ottomans to the Byzantines and all the way back to the Macedonian Empire and is in fact named after Alexander the Great’s sister. From walks along the promenade to traditional food in old tavernas, all that is Greek can be found here, and with enough time and inquisition, you may just find a few of the wonderful things that this metropolis has on offer. Here are our top 5 things to do in Thessaloniki:
1.The White Tower
When taking a lovely stroll, down the seafront, it is hard to ignore this looming and curious White Tower. A former island prison, it is now open to the public who can walk up its many stairs to the top in order to get a fine view of the seafront and surrounding city; on a clear day you can see Hortiatis mountain and even Mt Olympus. Every level shows an interesting part of the history of Thessaloniki, from its time as a trading hub, to its Jewish history and Nazi occupation. At only 3 Euros this is a no brainer and a great place to start your exploration of Thessaloniki.
Once the most important market in Thessaloniki, this area, now teems with students and locals going to eat and drink in an area known for its Tavernas and bars. As well as the most important market in the city, it was once the centre of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki until WW2. After being left almost completely abandoned throughout the 1970s it has since been brought back to life and is now a hugely important area, with a great atmosphere, that is totally worth a visit. I recommend popping into the Cretian taverna in Ladadika and then checking out some of the adjacent bars.
Overlooking all of the city sits the city walls, an area that has seen more than its fair share of battles and sieges. Attached to the end of the main wall is the Trigoniou Tower, a joint in the system, linking up another wall that extends down into the city. For panoramic views of the entire city, this is a great place to go. For the brave, you can walk up the steep streets to get there and for the braver, you can take a bus and hold on as it winds its way up the ever steepening hill to the walls above. There are plenty of cafés up here to enjoy a drink before you head back into the city and if you have any spare time don’t miss the chance to visit the Eptapyrgio Fortress, a pleasant 5-minute walk from the walls.
If you have time for one museum then the Archaeological museum is the one to go to. I was completely taken aback by the quantity and quality of the items on display. There are amazing Roman statues and mosaic floors as well as a huge collection of Macedonian gold. You can see Ancient Greek tablets and pottery all found in the area and it really brought the history of Thessaloniki alive for me. At only 8 Euros for admission, I would say this is a great price for what is on display as you can spend a few hours here looking at the rich and well preserved pieces on display.
More museums to visit include: The Byzantine museum, The Macedonian War Museum, a photography museum and the Jewish Museum (which as a lover of history I recommend).
5.Galerian complex and Rotunda
Right in the middle of the city, a huge archaeological excavation has taken place, and the Palace of Emperor Galerian has been unearthed and the ruins are there for all to see. At the end of the complex is the Rotunda, a huge rotunda building believed to have been built as a Mausoleum for Galerius but never used as such. Instead, it has been a Roman temple, a Church, a Mosque and now a reconsecrated Church. The ruins of the Palace are of course free, as they are in the centre of the city, not enclosed, and the Rotunda is only a couple of Euros to get in and well worth a visit. Inside it has some stunning 1st Millennium frescos, really beautiful.
Around every corner…
Just by walking around the city you are bound to turn a corner and find something beautiful and interesting. The city is brimming with Byzantine churches all with unique interiors and beautiful icons. Old Ottoman bathhouses litter the centre and there are even shops with clear flooring so you can see the history underneath the building. Great food is everywhere with plenty of Tavernas and restaurants and bars and Gyro takeaways , there is something for everyone.
As you can see these areas all offer different insights into both modern and old Thessaloniki and at very reasonable prices. Where ever you see this blog add a comment about other interesting places to see in Thessaloniki and your experience there.