How to spend 72 hours in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is a city exuding such a zest for life that you’ll find it impossible to resist. It’s a lodestone of enlightenment and culture, easily reached via its international airport. With students fanning the flames of its eternal youthfulness, you’ll fall in love with it as naturally as sipping a frappe or raising a glass of ouzo to Greece’s big-hearted city of the north.
Stride through the eras
There can be no better start to a 72hr city break in Thessaloniki than an open sights walking tour. You can see its importance to the Romans in the UNESCO-protected buildings of the Galerian complex, and to the Byzantines in churches and monasteries and the imposing towers and fortifications of the Upper Town. The finishing touches are buildings restored along neoclassical lines, echoing Baroque and Ottoman influences.
Meanwhile, the city is nowhere more atmospheric than when strolling along the waterfront, with the ageless Thermaic Gulf for company – ending (or beginning) with a visit to the fascinating museum in the White Tower.
Laid-back and loving it
Your morning starts with a choice: Sweet or savoury? Bagel, spinach pie or a creamy bougatsa pastry? After all, Thessaloniki is known as a culinary cornucopia, where traditional and modern cuisine coexist harmoniously and wines, beers, spirits and cocktails are served by award-winning bartenders. It is a city where vibrant days morph into exuberant nightlife, with entertainment options aplenty. The settings vary from bohemian to industrial and the music from electronica and ethnic to rock’n’roll.
Culture lights the way
For a city at the centre of a rich Macedonian history, you would expect Thessaloniki to maintain the beating heart of culture. The Archaeology Museum invites you to relive the everyday lives of the Macedonians, from the dawn of prehistory to late antiquity. Meanwhile, the Museum of Byzantine Culture features artefacts and interactive displays from the Middle Ages and beyond.
Bringing things up to date is the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art. Or you could dive headfirst into the future at the Science Centre and Technology Museum, with hands-on displays, a virtual reality simulator and a Planetarium and Cosmotheatre.
Spruce up the wardrobe, spice up the menu
The motto of Thessaloniki’s citizens to enjoy the best things in life is reflected in its top-quality stores, many conveniently gathered in central shopping streets. Its sense of self-confidence will rub off on you too, as you see everyone making a point of always looking their best, no matter the hour.
Take your place among them, then join in the coffee culture and taste the sweet treat of trigono Panoramatos pastries or loukoumades (little honey-topped doughnuts). In the university town said to boast most cafes per capita, you’ll find coffee is more than just a drink. It’s an integral part to the social scene and something to be enjoyed slowly.
And evening brings the opportunity to make your appearance in one of the restaurants and tavernas serving delicacies, courtesy of the cultural melting pot flourishing here.
Mountain, sea and history
Within a one-hour radius around the city, different worlds await as diverse as they are enchanting. The ancient site of Vergina, with the tomb of Philip II, Alexander the Great’s father, will send a tingle down your spine as you stand at the birthplace of one of history’s greatest empires.
You’ll find no exaggeration in the locals’ claim that there is no place like exotic Halkidiki. Experience the natural beauty of the fork-like peninsula, its award-winning accommodation hugging blue flag-awarded beaches both cosmopolitan and secluded, as well as the opportunity to try your hand at any sea sport you can think of.
While enjoying the endless blue of sea and sky, the mountains beckon in the distance. Skiing in 3-5 Pigadia Ski Centre on Mt Vermio is a winter option and when it comes to the mythical experiences of Mt Olympus… the gods have spoken, you should take heed.
Festivities that never let up
Raising its cultural banners proudly aloft, Thessaloniki welcomes you with a procession of annual festivals and events. Put yourself in the frame for screenings of the latest releases at the prestigious International Film Festival and enjoy the Dimitria Festival, deepening your understanding of the creativity that binds the city. Roll on a few months and March offers a special lens on the world of documentary making, with a festival full of workshops, conferences and masterclasses from directors whose clapper boards have a distinctly cutting edge. And then there’s the Food Festival bringing sustenance to all this artistic endeavour.
Not to be outdone, wine producers present their craft at Thessaloniki’s International Wine & Spirits Competition each February. Or better still, head to the vineyards around the city for a wine tour of the region.
Thessaloniki: Getting to the heart of the city
Vibrant, youthful and historic. Thessaloniki is all these things and more! With a nightlife worth staying up for, a wide selection of shops, tastes and culture to enthral and stylish and friendly residents, Thessaloniki entices you into its rhythms. Now add nature and exciting nearby resorts into the mix… Told you, you wouldn’t be able to resist.
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