Bougatsa is a delicious filo pastry pie made either sweet with semolina-cream filling and dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon or savoury with fillings such as cheese or mince.)
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A foodie guide to Thessaloniki

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Welcome to our foodie guide to Thessaloniki, where you’ll get to know all about what and where to eat in one of the best culinary getaways in Greece.

Brunch, fish & seafood, vegetarian & vegan, ethnic and everything from traditional tavernas to modern Greek cuisine and fine-dining … whatever you’re looking for as you plan a city break or stopover on your way to the beaches of Halkidiki, you’ll find it here. And this being Thessaloniki, you can start getting excited about the street food – perfect for a snack on the go or an inescapable part of the city’s legendary nightlife. The only question is … just how hungry are you? 

Thessaloniki food scene: Brunch

Perhaps you’ve already heard about the locals’ habit for a koulouri or bougatsa for breakfast. Both come from Thessaloniki and are firm foodie favourites. (If you haven’t been introduced, koulouri is a sesame seed-covered bread ring sold on street corners and bougatsa is a delicious filo pastry pie made either sweet with semolina-cream filling and dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon or savoury with fillings such as cheese or mince. The truth is, however, that the locals don’t really need a time of day to enjoy these two classics. In fact, they don’t need a time of day for breakfast in any form. Which is why the brunch scene in Thessaloniki has caught on in a big way. You could say they’ve turned it into an art form. There are so many places serving imaginative brunch dishes throughout the day. You get all the international favourites … but more often than not, they’ve been given a Mediterranean upgrade with Greek ingredients. 
 

What you’ll eat

Here goes… brunch in Thessaloniki could involve sweet pancakes with chocolate or Greek honey or a whole variety of savoury crepes. It could be tsoureki-waffles (creatively using the sweet bread originating in Thessaloniki) or an energy bowl with Greek yogurt and superfoods. It could be a whole range of egg recipes: avgofetes (a kind of eggy bread) scented with mastic from Chios or a classic omelette with a Greek spin (spinach, herbs and feta), local cheeses (like katiki domokou), synglino (a cured pork from Mani in the Peloponnese) or locally sourced buffalo mince and mushrooms. Strapatsada is a classic Greek variation on scrambled eggs, with chopped tomatoes. Or perhaps you’re an eggs Βenedict kind of person on holiday. You’ll find that too … alongside a whole range of bread options based, aside from tsoureki and koulouria. And you’ll discover that locals have developed a penchant for bagels with all sorts of fillings, such as avocado, salmon and country sausage. 

Where you’ll find it

There are brunch restaurants and cafes all around Thessaloniki, in squares or down side streets where the tables spill onto the pavement. Some of the most atmospheric are found in renovated neoclassical houses and flower-filled courtyards. And some are brunch cafes by day that transform into wine or cocktail bars at night (so you’ll have the bonus of doing some scouting for your night out). 

A few pointers are to head to Mitropoleos St and its nearby streets (Karolou Dil, Proxenou Koromila), around the White Tower (Dimitriou Gounari, Ethnikis Aminis), by the coast road (Vogatsikou, Proxenou Koromila), in Agia Sofia Square (Iktinou, Pavlou Mela, Skra), Emporiou Square (Katouni, Agiou Mina), the Ladadika (Egiptou) and Louloudadika districts and in the streets around the Rotunda. For seaside options, head to Kalamaria.
 

Thessaloniki food scene: Fish and seafood

In a city with such a strong connection to the sea, there’s no way you’re leaving without trying the seafood, mostly sourced from the fish market just outside town. There’s no end to the seafood options, whether you’re looking for a fish meze and ouzo to put you in a summer mood, a fish taverna with the freshest grilled dish, upmarket restaurants with creative seafood meals or good old fish and chips. 

What you’ll eat

Eating seafood in Greece starts with the appetisers – called ta prota (or ‘the first’) and designed to be grazed on while your main course is being prepared. The classics are horiatiki (Greek salad) or dakos (a classic Cretan salad with barley rusk topped with chopped tomatoes and crumbled feta or mizythra cheese) and a selection of appetisers you’re probably familiar with – tzatziki, dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), taramosalata (cod roe dip), grilled aubergines with feta – and other light and tasty dishes.

And for the main meal? How does chargrilled octopus or whole pelagic fish sound? Or perhaps prawn spaghetti, seafood in orzo or mussels steamed or cooked in a pilaf? Shrimp saganaki (a rich tomato sauce with feta) is always a favourite. As is the classic kalamarakia (or kalamari) – fried squid finished with a generous twist of lemon. More sophisticated options include seabass carpaccio, anchovies marinated in lemon juice, avgotaracho (preserved grey mullet roe from Messolongi), cod fishcakes, risotto with cuttlefish cooked in its ink and shrimp kataifi (vermicelli-like pasta). Don’t forget the ouzo (made with seafood in mind) or tsipouro, or a Greek wine that pairs perfectly with seafood. There’s a wide selection of wines from Thessaloniki, Halkidiki and around Greece (Santorini, Lemnos, Nemea etc).
 

Where you’ll find it

Some of the best seafood and fish tavernas in Thessaloniki are in Kalamaria (a 10min taxi ride from the centre), where the views into the Thermaic Gulf will make you feel like you’re on an island. And if you prefer to stay in the city centre, there are options around the Old Port (Paleo Limani) and its surrounding streets (eg Kalapothaki), around Aristotelous Square and along the coast road from the White Tower to Nea Paralia, Megaro Mousikis Concert Hall and the Sailing Club of Thessaloniki. A few more options are in Christopoulou St (a short walk from the Rotunda) and in the Ladadika district (eg Politechniou, Katouni, Rogoti streets).

Thessaloniki food scene: Traditional Greek tavernas, koutoukia & ouzeries

The traditional Greek dining scene is found everywhere in Thessaloniki: in classic grill houses, ouzeries serving Mediterranean meze and koutoukia (family-run restaurants offering authentic food and often live Greek folk music). The atmosphere is half the experience, especially when you order food ‘gia ti mesi’ (for the middle) to be shared by everyone. Most have kept their identity, with wooden tables and chairs or coffee shop-style metal tables and vintage decor resembling an original town or village kafeneion, where locals would have coffee or a snack and pick up provisions in the days before supermarkets. Catching up on local gossip was another important ingredient.

You also get traditional restaurants with modern touches. But they’ll all have one thing in common: good old-fashioned Greek cuisine and homemade food with pure ingredients where taste and family atmosphere trump presentation every time. You’ll typically end the meal with something sweet on the house… perhaps one of Thessaloniki’s famous trigona panoramatos pastries (triangular-shaped folds of filo pastry, baked until golden and hollowed out when cooled and dunked in syrup) or kazan dipi (a milk pudding-style dessert). 
 

What you’ll eat

Pride of place at a Greek table goes to the meat dish: keftedakia (meatballs), paidakia (lamb chops), kebabs, pancetta, tigania (fried pork), soutzoukakia (spicy meatballs in a tomato sauce), bekri meze (‘drunken’ stewed pork) and souvlaki (meat on a skewer) or gyros are just a few examples. But don’t underestimate the place of vegetables in time-honoured Greek cooking, from slow-cooked beans in the oven (fasolia fournou), seasonal greens and stuffed courgette flowers to fava (split pea puree), grilled mushrooms, piperies Florinis (stuffed peppers from Florina) and tirokafteri (spicy cheese). Speaking of which, cheeses can be served fresh or in a number of different ways (try fried saganaki) or as an extra ingredient in so many dishes. For a totally authentic experience, order an ouzo or tsipouro or try the local wines.

Where you’ll find it

For traditional Greek restaurants in Thessaloniki, head to the Ladadika district (Morichovou Square and Katouni or Vaiou streets) or Ano Poli (Upper Town), where there are grill houses with a great view of the city and the Thermaic Gulf (Alexandras Papadopoulou, Leoforos Ochi, Irodotou, Andokidou, Athinas streets) up to the Pasha’s Gardens and Toumba (Imvrou, Solonos streets). There are great options at Kapani Market (which should also be on the to-do list of any self-respecting foodie, whether you’re on a food tour or exploring on your own) and in the streets around the White Tower (Stratigou Kallari, Mavromichali, Nikiforou Foka) and Emporiou and Navarinou squares. 
 

Thessaloniki food scene: Modern Greek restaurants

By calling them ‘modern Greek’ it sounds like a new language and, to be honest, that’s what it will feel like. We’re talking about new-age meze eateries (mezedopolia) and recently opened restaurants bringing a breath of fresh air to the city in taking classic Mediterranean recipes and giving them delicious twists. The best part is that they are typically very affordable and you’ll appreciate the elegant decor, whether the theme is industrial or classic. We’re talking about dishes you’ll want to photograph before eating. 

What you’ll eat

There’s no limit to the imagination that’s gone into creating Thessaloniki’s modern Greek cuisine. To give you an idea: Steak with truffle oil and grape must mustard and melitzanosalata (aubergine dip) with yogurt, tahini (sesame seed paste) and mint; savoury cheesecake with olive paste, cream of feta, capers and tomato marmalade; Graviera cheese from Ioannina with paprika in kataifi (vermicelli-like pastry) with honey and pistachios from Aegina; pilaf with wild mushrooms from Grevena; and handmade ravioli with pork and ginger and sweetened with grape molasses. If you want to go to foodie heaven, order imam bayildi (slow-cooked aubergine) enriched with egg yolk, cheese and truffle oil. 

Where you’ll find it

Modern Greek dining is found in streets all around Thessaloniki, with favourites centring on the Ladadika district (eg Fragon, Salaminos, Ionos Dragoumi, Doxis, Egiptou), Megaro Ermeion, Dodeka Apostolon Square, around the statue of Alexander the Great (Episkopou Amvrosiou, Paikou) and Mela St near Agia Sofia Square, as well as the wider area of Emporiou Square (Verias St) up to Valaoritou St and the Rotunda.
 

Thessaloniki food scene: Fine dining

In a city that takes its food very seriously, there’s no way the fine-dining scene wouldn’t come up trumps. Many restaurants and chefs have been given local and international awards, not just for the technical level of their food (with French and Italian influences) but for their delicious tastes and inventive combinations and commitment to using only the freshest Mediterranean products. 
 

Fine dinning in Thessaloniki

What you’ll eat

Let’s get you in the mood with a few choices hand-picked from the menus of some of Thessaloniki’s fine-dining restaurants: Tuna tartare with herring roe caviar, chives, soy and hazelnut oil vinaigrette; fillet of Rougie duck with a green apple puree, quince and a clove sauce; lobster and crayfish; hand-cut hylopites pasta with honey ragout and slow-cooked veal; and risotto with blue crab.

Where you’ll find it

Thessaloniki’s fine-dining restaurants mostly extend from the city centre towards the east side of the city, especially around Aristotelous Square, along the coast from Nea Paralia to the Megaro Mousikis Concert Hall, and in Kalapothaki and Proxenou Koromila streets. Thessaloniki’s leading hotels serve exquisite food and, if you’re looking for something outside the city centre, try Panorama, Kalamaria (eg Nikolaou Plastira street) and the area towards the airport.
 

Thessaloniki food scene: Ethnic

Being multicultural is something that comes very naturally to Thessaloniki. Going back, it was occupied by the Franks and Ottomans and has been influenced by Arab traders and its once-vibrant Jewish population, as well as Greeks crossing from Asia Minor in the early 20th century. All of these cultural influences – as well as those of more recent demographic inflows – have made it onto the table of restaurants, meaning that Thessaloniki is one of the best places in Greece for ethnic food. 

Being multicultural is something that comes very naturally to Thessaloniki.

What you’ll eat

It’s time for some globetrotting as you head to Mexico (fajitas), India (vegetable samosas and curries), Japan (sushi) and the Middle East (falafels). Or maybe after some Chinese noodles or Syrian souaf (meat skewers served with Arabic bread) or tastes from the Caribbean, Brazil, Russia and Armenia.

Where you’ll find it

When it comes to ethnic food, you’ll find places for eating in or grabbing a takeaway from all around Thessaloniki. Just walk down Mitropoleos St and around the White Tower or the Arch of Galerius and the Roman Agora and you’ll understand. You could also head to Navarino Square, the Ladadika district or up the coast road towards the Megaro Mousikis Concert Hall.
 

Thessaloniki food scene: Vegetarian & vegan 

The vegetarian and vegan food scene has been growing in Greece, although in reality it’s always been there. Just look at all the choices based on seasonal Mediterranean vegetables and extra-virgin olive oil. There are some specialised vegan restaurants in Thessaloniki and, especially in the more modern restaurants and cafes, vegetarian and vegan dishes are clearly marked on the menu. Other restaurants may have buffet options that will help you choose your food. If you are vegan and in a taverna, it’s worth checking the ingredients of vegetable-based dishes with the waiter as cheese and honey are common ingredients in Greece.

 

You will find many vegetarian dishes and restaurants

What you’ll eat

There’s no end to vegetable-based options in Greek restaurants, especially amongst the appetisers. Whatever’s in season will be the star – tomatoes in a Greek salad in the summer or carrot and cabbage (with lemon juice and olive oil) in the winter, with courgettes, green beans, aubergines, beetroot, boiled greens etc, each taking their turn. And you’ll enjoy a variety of pulse-based dishes (chickpeas, black-eyed beans, lentils etc). In the exclusively vegan restaurants, you’ll find inspired dishes such as burgers handmade from kidney beans and mushrooms; moussaka, souvlaki or gyros made from soy; and even sausages from fava (split peas) and dishes with bechamel sauce made from walnut oil and rice flour. 

Where you’ll find it

There are plenty of vegetarian options on the menu at traditional and modern Greek restaurants. Exclusively vegan restaurants are found in central Thessaloniki, such as on Balanou St above Aristotelous Square, by the Rotunda and in Georgiou Papandreou St near the Megaro Mousikis Concert Hall.
 

Thessaloniki food scene: Street food

As a city that loves to live life to the full (especially at night), Thessaloniki has lots of street food options, from all-time classic souvlaki and gyros to new ethnic eateries, pizzas and much more. Take to the streets and whatever the hour you’ll see what we mean. 
 

What you’ll eat 

The local favourite is souvlaki (chicken or pork on skewers or gyros in a pita with chopped tomato, tzatziki, onions and fries). The same goes for bougatsa (sweet and savoury) and you’ll pass plenty of pop-up stores for burgers, hotdogs and pizzas made to order. Ethnic food and street food go hand in hand, so you can enjoy falafels and burritos and even bao bun bars. There’s no set time when it comes to eating street food in Thessaloniki – so it could be a cheeky snack to fuel your walk, lunch on the go or (if you fancy a taste of Thessaloniki’s famous nightlife) after a few drinks at night. And there’s no need to direct you to the best street food venues in Thessaloniki. You’ll find street food in literally every district of Thessaloniki. 

A taste of summer in Halkidiki

The final bonus in our foodie guide to Thessaloniki isn’t in Thessaloniki at all. But if you’re visiting in the hotter months, it’s a tip about how to have the full summer experience whilst on a city break. There are seaside fish tavernas just outside Thessaloniki that you can reach by taxi but why not hire a car and drive to Halkidiki? You could be ordering seafood in a taverna by the beach at Afytos, just into Kassandra (the first peninsula leg of Halkidiki) in a little over an hour, or even get as far as Possidi (one of the sandiest beaches in Greece, down Kassandra’s west coast) in 1hr30mins. Or if your main holiday destination is Halkidiki, you could easily slip in some foodie experiences in Thessaloniki even if you’re heading as far as Sithonia (the second leg) or Ouranoupoli (at the start of the third leg). 
 

All streets and neighbourhoods in this guide are indicative. You’ll find examples of some food scenes in other neighbourhoods of Thessaloniki and on other streets in each neighbourhood.

 

FAQs about Thessaloniki, Greece

  • How do you get to Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki has an international airport that is around 20km (20-25mins) from the city centre. There are also domestic flights to Athens (50mins), Crete (Heraklion & Chania) and other mainland and island destinations in Greece. The port is 3.5km from the city centre, with ferry connections to islands in the Cyclades, Sporades and North Aegean as well as to Crete. Many routes are seasonal, so check before making any plans. There is also a good road network around the city, with motorways leading to border points into North Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey.

  • What is Thessaloniki famous for?

Thessaloniki is known as Greece’s most multicultural city, with influences from the Roman, Ottoman and Venetian occupations, as well as the Jewish communities that fled persecution from Spain and elsewhere in Europe, Arab traders and Greeks returning from Asia Minor in the early 20th century. Thessaloniki is famous in Greece for its food (with tastes from all of its cultural influences), creativity and nightlife – especially as a thriving university city.

  • What are popular day trips from Thessaloniki?

Thessaloniki is well-positioned for many day trips or overnight stays in northern Greece, including Mt Olympus (91km to Litochoro, from which many adventures on the mountain begin) and Lake Kerkini (100km). In Vergina and Pella (70km & 45km), you can explore the legacy of the ancient Macedonian kingdom by visiting two of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, including the Royal Tombs of Aigai. For a selection of getaways around 60mins from Thessaloniki, see here

  • What are the best beaches close to Thessaloniki?

The best beaches close to Thessaloniki are in Kassandra, the first leg of the Halkidiki peninsula. Nea Potidea and Nea Fokea (on Kassandra’s east coast) and Sani (on the west) are around 1hr15mins away and are well organised and shallow, ideal for couples and families. Further down the west coast of Kassandra is Possidi and to the southeast are Pefkochori and Glarokavos. Closer to Thessaloniki, Agia Triada is 30mins from the city centre and Potamos, Nea Kallikratia and Flogita/Nea Plagia are up to 60km away along the Thermaic Gulf.
 

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