11

THE 11 MOST POPULAR EXPERIENCES IN THESSALONIKI

READING TIME
As long as it takes to eat a koulouri

Unique experiences in one of the most dynamic cities in Europe.

Thessaloniki: A modern city with a centuries-old history. Regardless of the duration of your holidays, Greece’s second city will enchant you. It is a city that invites you to walk it every hour of the day, with its wide streets, tree-lined avenues, sidewalks, parks and squares. The central hub is Aristotelous Square, with a view of the sea and dozens of cafes, perfect for people-watching. Right on Mitropoleos Avenue is the impressive Olympion Cinema, built in the late 1940s and the main venue for The International Film Festival. There’s so much to do in Greece’s big-hearted city of the north. 

The iconic White Tower

Sturdy and imposing, the White Tower has been gazing over Thessaloniki’s waterfront since the 16th century. Known over the years as the Kalamaria Fortress, Janissaries Tower and Blood Tower, the one-time prison was sanctified when it was symbolically painted white in 1890 by the Ottomans. Inside, there’s a multimedia museum that narrates the city’s history.

Delve into the soul of Τhessaloniki in the White Tower

 

The Old Waterfront

Kamara - Rotunda: A modern day archaeological site

The most exciting nights start with a rendezvous at Kamara. Here the triumphal Arch of Galerius is part of a building complex from the 4th century AD that includes the Rotunda and palatial ensemble at Navarino Square. Centuries later, the area is now the domain of students, of which there are plenty in Thessaloniki.  As tradition dictates, periods of study are interspersed with lively discussions over coffee and backgammon, buzzing bar life and regular visits to the tattoo studios. Next to the ancient ruins, youngsters are playing guitar and drinking beer, making this feel like the local ‘Barceloneta’. This is an archaeological site that has been fully integrated into the modern life of the city.

A walking tour of historic Thessaloniki

Agios Dimitrios

This grand church honours the patron saint of Thessaloniki, who is celebrated on October 26. Discover the mystical atmosphere at this beautiful church with its unusual shrine. It has been on Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites since 1988. 

 

Agios Dimitrios church in Thessaloniki

Sweets like bougatsa

Thessaloniki is nicknamed ‘sweet mother’ for a reason. Here you’ll try traditional Eastern sweets, with buffalo cream and gossamer-thin phyllo pastry. In the afternoons, even the young crowds take a turn towards the traditional bakeries and patisseries.

A culinary tour of Thessaloniki

Traditional bougatsa

Shop till you drop

After you stop for a sweet, it’s time to go shopping and Thessaloniki is certainly the right place. The couture houses and designer labels are primarily located on Proxenou Koromila Street and Mitropoleos Avenue, crossed by the likes of Morgentaou, Mitropolitou Iosif, Chrysostomou Smyrnis, Lassani, Agia Sofia and Karolou Dil. For more commercial stores, head to Tsimiki, Ermou and Egnatia streets. And for more new age and alternative styles, you’ll find boutiques along all the side streets of the centre and on the pedestrian avenues like Zeuxidos in Agias Theodoras, Georgiou Stavrou in Nikiforou Foka and Isavron Street.

Ladadika: The urban hangout

Stone, brick and wood. At Ladadika, the old commercial facilities provide a retro background to a lively, modern hangout. Their renovation in 1996 marked the moment when everything went decidedly trendy. Come for a coffee, nibble or cocktail at the stylish bars and restaurants in one of the most avant-garde neighbourhoods in the city.

A meeting place for cinema aficionados

Every November, thousands of cinephiles descend upon the city for the renowned International Film Festival, which began in Thessaloniki in 1960 and became international in 1992 by including in its programme films from all over the world. The festival’s main venues are the iconic Olympion Cinema at Aristotelous Square and the warehouses at the port.

 

The warehouses at the port venue of the International Film Festival

Pulsating nightlife

In Thessaloniki, the next bar you stop at is never the last. As the music plays on and the drinks flow, you find yourself in a city that never sleeps (just saying). Vintage or industrial, 20s-era speakeasy or progressive; there are trailblazing bars and clubs for all styles.

Thessaloniki’s museums

Thessaloniki is teeming with important museums. Don’t miss the Archaeological Museum, with finds from the civilisation of ancient Macedonia, from the prehistoric to the Christian eras. The city’s ‘gem’ is the Museum of Byzantine Culture. After walking through its galleries have a coffee at its excellent cafe-restaurant. And there’s more, the Jewish Museum, the Museum for the Macedonian Struggle, the Thessaloniki History Centre, the State Museum of Contemporary Art, the Folk and Ethnographic Museum, the Thessaloniki Olympic Museum, the Art Gallery of the Society for Macedonian Studies, the War Museum and the Teloglion Foundation of Art. As you can see, this is a city that adores history, culture and modern art.

Archaeological museum, Thessaloniki

Neoclassical buildings and designer hospitality

You have plenty of excellent choices when it comes to where to stay in Thessaloniki. Large and luxurious neoclassical buildings that have been converted to hotels and are surrounded by chic cafes and stylish restaurants. Art hotels, boutique hotels and guest villas with high-standards of service and spas. Whatever your reason for travelling to the city – business or pleasure – you’re in for a treat. 

Plan your trip

Read Also

Here is a selection of stories you may also like
Nature… the true guardian of Mt Olympus

7 magical getaways just 60mins from Thessaloniki

The peak of Mt Olympus

8 mythical experiences on Mt Olympus

Litohoro village is the starting point for day trips on the mountain

7 Olympian-sized reasons to discover Pieria

Adventure teams doing rafting on the cold waters of the Voidomatis

Popular destinations for rafting & canyoning

The itinerary starts at the iconic White Tower and ends at the castles of the Upper Town

8 Authentic experiences in Thessaloniki

Holidays in Greece: Agios Sostis in Zakynthos island

Getting started with a dream holiday in Greece

Nature… the true guardian of Mt Olympus

7 magical getaways just 60mins from Thessaloniki

View of Santorini island from Thirassia

Meet the Cycladic escapes neighbouring Santorini

The most famous village in Karpathos island, with panoramic views

8 reasons to make you want to explore Karpathos

8 unforgettable highs and hidden depths in Kalymnos

Hora's famous castle, majestic views of the Aegean, windmills and whitewashed homes make up a remarkable traditional settlement

5 reasons why Astypalea will be your favourite summer hangout

A little before you reach Koumaros, you pass Exomvourgo Castle, high up on a 640m conical hill

9 steps to uncovering the authenticity of Tinos