18/06/2024

Click Travel

Easy For Anywhere

20 best things to do in Thessaloniki Greece (2023)

32 min read
20 best things to do in Thessaloniki Greece (2023)

Table of Contents

Thessaloniki, the second city of Greece, is a lively university town where Byzantine churches rub shoulders with trendy bars and cafes. We cover the best things to do in Thessaloniki, from the breezy waterfront and cosmopolitan food scene, to layers of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman history.

Things to do in Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com

This article may contain affiliate links that provide commission on purchases you make at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

An introduction to Thessaloniki’s history

Thessaloniki’s location in northern Greece made it a key city during Byzantine times. It was part of the Macedonian empire and the city’s favourite son, Alexander the Great was born nearby – his statue can be seen on the seafront.

In the last few centuries Thessaloniki was a melting pot of different cultures with people of Greek, Turkish and Jewish heritage living together. Until WW2 up to 50% of the population here was Jewish. The city was marked by a terrible fire in 1917 which destroyed most of the lower city and an earthquake in 1978 which damaged many older buildings.

But the Thessaloniki of today has a buzzing, prosperous feel. It makes an ideal city break destination or place to explore before you head to the beaches of Halkidiki.

Roman Forum Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Roman Forum Thessaloniki Greece

Top things to do in Thessaloniki – if you have just one day

  1. Walk along the seafront promenade between the Old Port and the White Tower
  2. Wander through Aristotelous Square and go food shopping at the Kapani Market or Modiano Market
  3. Visit the Jewish Museum
  4. Take a taxi up the hill to the old town of Ano Poli visit the Trigonion Tower and Old City Walls
  5. Walk down the hill through the cobbled streets of Ano Poli and pass by the Roman Forum
  6. Finish the day with drinks or dinner in the buzzing nightlife area of Ladadika
Old Port Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Old Port Thessaloniki Greece

1. White Tower of Thessaloniki

Let’s start with one of the top Thessaloniki attractions, the White Tower. It’s easily the most photographed city landmark. Sitting at one end of the seafront promenade on a busy pedestrian plaza, this is also one of the most touristy spots in Thessaloniki.

White Tower Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
White Tower Thessaloniki Greece

The tower was built in the 15th century by the Ottomans, on the spot where the Eastern city wall met a fortified wall along the seafront. It went by various names over the centuries, and in the 19th century became a prison and place of execution, known as the Tower of Blood. However in the 1880s, at a time of Ottoman modernisation, the prison was moved and the tower was whitewashed to rehabilitate its gruesome reputation.

White Tower Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
White Tower Thessaloniki Greece

You can visit the White Tower, which is now a museum about the history of Thessaloniki. As you ascend, each floor takes a different theme from the city, such as the commercial trading routes, multicultural society and historical monuments. We especially enjoyed the views from the rooftop terrace over the seafront and city streets.

The White Tower is open daily and tickets cost €6 in high season. If you plan to visit the Rotunda, Archaeological Museum or Byzantine Museum, it’s worth buying a combined ticket which is valid for 3 days and costs €15.

If you have limited time and want to get a good overview of Thessaloniki, consider taking a hop on hop off bus tour which starts from the White Tower.

White Tower Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
White Tower Thessaloniki Greece

Pirate cruise in Thessaloniki

Near the white tower you may notice the pirate ship Arabella, which is a popular tourist bar. It leaves the harbour every 1.5 hours for a 30 minute cruise along the seafront. The cruise is free but the cost of drinks is quite high, so consider your beer as the cost of your ticket!

2. Old Port and Seafront Promenade

At the other end of the seafront is the Old Port, where the First Pier has been made into a hub of arts and culture. In one of the old warehouses you’ll find MOMus, Museum of photography. An old crane is preserved nearby as a historical landmark.

Pier 1 Old Port Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Pier 1 Old Port Thessaloniki Greece

The popular and trendy Kitchen Bar has a waterfront terrace and is a great place for drinks or brunch. If you just want a coffee, there’s the Maritime Museum and cafe, with lots of seats to sit and hang out at the front of the pier.

Kitchen Bar Old Port Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Kitchen Bar Old Port Thessaloniki Greece

It’s also worth knowing that the Old Port is where you can get a ferry to the islands of Limnos, or the Sporades islands of Skiathos, Skopolos and Alonnisos.

Seafront Promenade Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Seafront Promenade Thessaloniki Greece

From the Old Port, stroll along the seafront promenade of Nikis Avenue, which is lined with trendy bars and restaurants looking out to sea. While these pavement tables are much sought after, I personally think the busy road that divides them from the sea somewhat spoils the atmosphere. But it’s a pleasant walk and there are cycle lanes to take you on to the Thessaloniki waterfront beyond the White Tower.

Pier 1 Old Port Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Pier 1 Old Port Thessaloniki Greece

3. Aristotelous Square

Leading up from the seafront promenade is the main square of Thessaloniki – Aristotelous Square. After the great fire of 1917, the narrow streets and smaller squares of the Ottoman city had mostly been destroyed.

Aristotolous Square Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Aristotolous Square Thessaloniki Greece

A new grid pattern was laid out by French architects, with the wide boulevards popular in other European cities. Aristotelous Square was part of this plan, with an expansive space and views from the sea as far as the Roman Forum.

The square, with its impressive facades built in the 1950s, is used for public event such as New Year celebrations, carnivals and protests (being Greece). Look out for the statue of the philosopher Aristotle which is close to the waterfront and gives the square its name.

Aristotolous Square Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Statue of Aristotle in Aristotolous Square Thessaloniki Greece

There are lots of cafes and patisseries around the square and it’s a popular place to hang out and meet friends. Be sure to check out the eye-candy cakes at Terkenlis patisserie and the 5 star Electra Palace Hotel with a popular rooftop bar overlooking the square.

If you want to go fashion shopping in Thessaloniki, the two streets that run at right angles from Aristotelous Square: Mitropoleos and Tsimiski, offer a wide range of clothing stores.

Electra Palace Thessaloniki Greece

The Electra Palace is a luxury hotel with rooftop restaurant and pool, in a prime position overlooking the main square

Aristotolous Square Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Aristotolous Square Thessaloniki Greece

4. Kapani Market Thessaloniki

In the heart of Thessaloniki’s lower town is the city’s main market, with fresh produce, fish, meat, deli counters and even a sections selling clothing. Kapani Market is one of the top places to visit in Thessaloniki, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

The covered market was also known as the “Turkish Market” to differentiate it from other markets nearby such as the “Greek market” and “Jewish Market”.

i Market Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Kapani Market Thessaloniki Greece

You can visit the market any day except Sunday when it’s closed. Things are busiest in the morning since the meat and fish stalls start early and tend to wind down after lunch.

Kapani Market Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Kapani Market Thessaloniki Greece

The meat and fish sections are particularly atmospheric, with stall holders joking and calling out to their customers. They seem good humoured and tolerant of those like us who were “just looking” so long as you don’t get in the way of the buying customers.

Kapani Market Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Kapani Market Thessaloniki Greece

If you want to buy some olives or other deli produce for a picnic, this is also a market where you can often try before you buy. A good way to explore the market is on a food tour like the one we took with Let’s Meet in Thessaloniki.

Kapani Market Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Kapani Market Thessaloniki Greece

Vatikioti Market – Athonos Square

If you cross Aristotelous Square from the main entrance of Kapani Market you’ll also find Vatikioti Market, leading to Athonos Square. The specialty here is herbs, spices and deli counters, with some fruit and veg stalls. There are a few basket weavers and artisan shops, with numerous restaurants which are packed in the evening but were mostly closed during the day.

Vatikioti Athonos Square market Thessaloniki Greece Photo_ Heatheronhertravels.com
Vatikioti Athonos Square market Thessaloniki Greece

5. Modiano market Thessaloniki

Formerly known as the “Jewish Market”, Modiano Market is just across the street from Kapani, but has a completely different feel. The elegant building formerly housed a traditional market, but has been renovated and filled with food businesses of a more modern style aimed at a high level of gastronomy.

Modiano Market Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Modiano Market Thessaloniki Greece

This is a place to browse, taste, buy gifts and soak up the latest foodie trends rather than to purchase the ingredients for your evening meal. Some of the stalls sell street food and there’s a whole section of tables on the upper level where you can sit down and eat.

Modiano Market Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Modiano Market Thessaloniki Greece
Modiano Market Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Cheese tasting in Modiano Market Thessaloniki Greece

The two cafes at either end of the market get busy in the evening when the music volume is turned up, and there are gastronomic events throughout the year. I can recommend taking this food tour, where we visited Modiano Market and tried some excellent local cheese, colourful Loukoumi sweets and saw the finely ground Greek coffee being made.

Modiano Market Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Modiano Market Thessaloniki Greece

If you enjoy food and want to understand the diverse food culture of Thessaloniki, we highly recommend taking this Culinary walking tour for food lovers which we enjoyed, ending with a traditional lunch at one of the market cafes.

Louloudadkia Flower Market

Just across the street from the Modiano market is a charming square with the old Hammam and several flower stalls, known as the Louloudadika market. There are a few cafes around the square so it’s a pleasant place to take a coffee break.

Louloudadika flower market in Thessaloniki Greece Photo_ Heatheronhertravels.com
Louloudadika flower market in Thessaloniki Greece

The Greek Market of Thessaloniki

Tucked away next door to Modiano Market is the “Greek Market”, which has a few stalls but seems quite run down in comparison. It’s chiefly known for the covered passage of restaurants – you can find it by locating Serraikon which is on the entrance corner and has a reputation for the best bougatsa in Thessaloniki.

We walked through the passage that runs from Vasilios Irakleiou to Ermou and found a number of interesting restaurants serving fresh fish and home cooked dishes based on market produce.

The Excelsior Small Luxury Hotels of the World Thessaloniki Greece

Stay at The Excelsior – a small luxury hotel in a neoclassical building with a central location

6. Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki

While Thessaloniki’s major museums are clustered close to the White Tower, I’ll mention the Jewish Museum here as it’s so close to Kapani and Modiano Market. The building is located in the Jewish Quarter of the city and was constructed in 1904 as a commercial arcade. It was one of the few buildings in this neighbourhood to survive the great fire of 1917 and was made into a museum in 2001.

Jewish Museum Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Jewish Museum Thessaloniki Greece

The museum covers the daily life of Jews in the city, with objects used in the home and for religious observance, musical instruments and information about work and social life. On the ground floor are headstones from the old Jewish cemetery which was destroyed to make way for the university. During the holocaust and genocide of WW2, 49,000 members of the Jewish community were deported to Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Jewish Museum Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Jewish Museum Thessaloniki Greece

Visiting the museum not only allows you to admire the elegant building but also understand the history of the important Jewish community in Thessaloniki.

From the 16th century Thessaloniki was a safe haven for Jews escaping persecution elsewhere in Europe. Until the 20th century they numbered up to half the city’s population and were fully integrated into a multicultural society that included people of Greek and Turkish heritage.

No photos are allowed inside the museum, but you can find more information on the website. The museum is open daily except Saturday until 2pm and there is a small entrance charge.

7. The Greek Agora and Roman Forum

Walk through Aristotolous Square to the point where the lower town starts to transition to the upper town and you’ll arrive at the archaeological remains of the Roman Forum.

The Romans constructed their forum (public square) on the site of an earlier ancient Greek marketplace (Agora), adding a theatre, bath house and shops along one side. Between the 1st and 4th centuries AD this was the centre of commercial life in Thessaloniki.

Roman Forum Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Roman Forum Thessaloniki Greece

The forum was only discovered and excavated in the 1960s when there were plans to build on the site. Now you can walk around the perimeter and look down on the remains of Roman buildings.

There are a few information signs but not much else to see, so it will likely be a quick visit as you are passing by. On one side of the site is a small museum, but it was closed when we were there.

The Caravan Thessaloniki Greece

The Caravan is a colourful and stylish small hotel with vintage touches close to the Roman Forum

Roman Forum Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Roman Forum Thessaloniki Greece

8. Ano Poli – the Old Town

Built on the slopes of the hillside, Ano Poli is the Old Town or Upper Town neighbourhood that survived the fire of 1917. Wandering the cobbled streets and stepped alleyways gives a glimpse of how the whole city must have looked until the 19th century.

It’s a mainly residential area where new and old buildings mingle with Byzantine churches and old mansions in varying states of repair. The winding streets tend to be narrow and although local residents do bring their cars through the area, I’d not recommend it as a visitor since there’s very little parking.

Ano Poli Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Ano Poli Thessaloniki Greece

We stayed in an apartment in Ano Poli and very much enjoyed exploring on foot and soaking up the atmosphere of real life going on around us. Many of the houses have an overhanging upper floor in the Ottoman style, which together with the cobbled lanes is reminiscent of villages in Northern Greece.

Ano Poli Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Ano Poli Thessaloniki Greece

If you want to enjoy dinner in this areas, there’s a charming cluster of tavernas and cafes in the Tsinari area of Ano Poli. Look for Ouzeri Tsinari, where we enjoyed their Meze plates, Cafe Ezrio who have a pretty outdoor terrace for coffee and Rediviva where their take on “Cucina Povera” or peasant home cooking was delicious.

7PocketHouse Thessaloniki Greece

Stay at 7PocketHouse – a charming budget guest house with vintage style in Ano Poli

Ano Poli Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Ouzeri Tsinari Ano Poli Thessaloniki Greece

From here you can just wander through the streets past the little square with a Mausoleum of Musa Baba. Make your way to the church of St Nicholas Orphanos, before heading up the hill to the city walls. I’ll cover some of the main things to see in Ano Poli later in this article.

9. City Walls and Trigonion Tower

The city walls of Thessaloniki date back to Byzantine times and once encircled the whole city, including the seafront. Large sections along the harbour and on the east and west side of the city were demolished in the 19th century by Ottoman authorities seeking to modernise and expand the city.

Trigoniou Tower Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Trigonion Tower Thessaloniki Greece

The best preserved remaining sections are now on the high ground to the north where you can visit the Trigonion (Chain)Tower and a section of wall with gateways and green space behind. Trigonion Tower is located where the northern and eastern walls met, providing additional fortification and a lookout point.

City Walls Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
City Walls Thessaloniki Greece

You can visit the tower to see the construction inside and get views from the top across the city. From here it’s easy to see where the terracotta roofed houses of Ano Poli merge into the newer apartment buildings of the lower town that were constructed after the 1917 fire.

View from Trigoniou Tower Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
View from Trigonion Tower Thessaloniki Greece

In the area around the tower are a few cafes, including a couple with rooftop bars for coffee or cocktails. For lunch we recommend walking through the park on the upper side of the wall to find the charming taverna Wall by Wall (Toixo Toixo) which serves tasty and well priced local dishes.

reek Coffee at Wall by Wall Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Greek Coffee at Wall by Wall Thessaloniki Greece

If you are short of time, take a taxi from the city centre up to the Trigonion Tower to explore the walls, then walk down through the Ano Poli neighbourhood. The tower is also a stop on the inexpensive No 50 “Cultural Route” sightseeing bus that runs in a loop from the White Tower on the seafront.

Eptapyrgio Castle – the Yedi Kule fortress

Set on the hill above the Trigonion Tower is the Heptapyrgion or Eptapyrgio castle, also known by its Ottoman name of Yedi Kule. Built in the Byzantine period, the fortress served as a garrison during the Ottoman period until the 19th century.

It was later used as a prison, especially housing political prisoners, and is mentioned in many Rebetika songs, the Greek genre of popular music that is all about the protest of the poor and downtrodden.

Your ticket for the Trigonion tower also covers a visit to the Eptapygrio castle and there are even better views over the whole city from the top of its tower.

Heptapyrgion castle Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Heptapyrgion castle Thessaloniki Greece

10. Eat out in the Ladadika District

One of the most popular parts of Thessaloniki to eat out in the evening is Ladadika, the charming old neighbourhood that’s tucked away behind the Old Port. The network of cobbled streets with neoclassical buildings are quiet during the day, but become lively at night as restaurants fill up and the tables are set out on the squares and pavements.

Ladidika Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Ladidika Thessaloniki Greece

Ladadika takes its name from the numerous olive oil shops and warehouses that stored goods destined to be exported through the nearby port. In the 1970s the neighbourhood became run down and was the city’s red light district. But its old buildings were preserved and the area’s become gentrified as one of Thessaloniki’s main nightlife districts for bars and restaurants.

Ladidika Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Ladidika Thessaloniki Greece

It’s difficult to recommend one restaurant here, as there are so many and all seem to be busy. Better to arrive a little early in the evening to wander around and see what catches your eye, as there’s a wide range of restaurant styles and prices.

Colors Urban Hotel Thessaloniki Greece

Colors Urban Hotel – a colourful modern hotel with urban style in the Ladadika neighbourhood

Ladidika Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Emporiou Square Ladidika Thessaloniki Greece

We had an excellent dinner at the upscale Charoupi / Haroupi (Doxis 4), which specialises in beautifully presented Cretan and Greek sharing dishes, and also a coffee in one of the many cafes that surround Emporiou Square.

If you enjoy food and want to understand the diverse food culture of Thessaloniki, we highly recommend taking this Culinary walking tour for food lovers which we enjoyed, ending with a traditional lunch at one of the market cafes.

11. Thessaloniki Waterfront

I’ve already mentioned the seafront promenade that runs between the Old Port and the White Tower, but there is a more extensive section of the Thessaloniki waterfront that runs beyond here. Once you pass the White Tower, a broad boulevard opens out, which is ideal for strolling and cycling as far as the Thessaloniki Concert Hall and beyond.

Thessaloniki Waterfront Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Thessaloniki Waterfront Greece

Hire a bike at the BikeIT kiosk (including 4 seater bikes) by the Makedonia Palace Hotel, or use an app to rent one of the RideMovi bikes that are found near the White Tower.

Thessaloniki Waterfront Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Rent a bike on Thessaloniki Waterfront Greece

Alexander the Great statue

Not far from the White Tower you’ll first pass the statue of Alexander the Great on his rearing horse. It was designed by the Italian sculptor Evangelos Mousatkas and represents Thessaloniki’s most famous king, who is a source of great local pride.

Alexander III ascended the throne of Macedonia at the age of 20, following the death of his father King Phillip of Macedonia. He was well educated, studying under Aristotle, and conquered a huge empire in Egypt and Asia Minor up to his untimely death from suspected poisoning at the age of 32.

Alexander the Great Statue Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Alexander the Great Statue Thessaloniki Greece

Umbrella sculpture

A little further is the best known sculpture on the waterfront of the Umbrellas by Greek sculptor Georgios Zongolopoulos. It was located on the waterfront in 1997 when Thessaloniki was made European Capital of Culture. The sculpture is a favourite spot for photographs and looks beautiful in the late afternoon and evening as the sun is setting.

Umbrellas Sculpture Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Umbrellas Sculpture Thessaloniki Greece

Gardens of the Thessaloniki Waterfront

As you continue along the waterfront, the area closest to the sea is open and paved, but further back is a shady walkway and behind this a series of gardens. Each garden has a different theme, such as the Water Garden, Mediterranean’s Garden and Rose Garden.

Thessaloniki Waterfront Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Gardens on the Thessaloniki Waterfront Greece

It’s a popular area for families, since there’s a children’s playground and a number of kiosk cafes for refreshments within the garden areas. Towards the end of the waterfront is HS Velos, a museum ship which served in WW2.

Thessaloniki Waterfront Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Thessaloniki Waterfront Greece

Once you arrive at the end of the waterfront, if you don’t want to walk back it’s easy to find a taxi if you walk onto the Leof. Vasillisis Olgas street that runs parallel to the waterfront but a couple of blocks back.

Tours in Thessaloniki

To make the most of your time in Thessaloniki, these are some of the tours we recommend:

Hop on hop off bus in Thessaloniki Greece Photo_ Heatheronhertravels.com
Take the Hop on hop off bus in Thessaloniki Greece

Hop on hop off bus tour – This tour which starts at the White Tower is ideal if you have limited time and want to get a good overview of Thessaloniki’s many sights. The hop on hop off bus stops at 8 different city landmarks with an audio commentary in 8 different languages.

Culinary walking tour of Thessaloniki – This 3 hour tour which we tried takes you around the markets and specialty food shops with multiple tastings and a lunch in one of the traditional tavernas.

Food tour in Thessaloniki Greece Photo_ Heatheronhertravels.com
Food tour in Thessaloniki Greece

Walking open market food tour and tasting – This 2 hour walking tour takes you to the open air markets of Thessaloniki to try a Greek coffee and sample some of the traditional foods and produce.

Thessaloniki Ride and Bite tour – If you like to stay active, this 3 hour tour combines cycling around some of the city highlights, with a visit to the city markets and food shops for tastings.

12. Rotunda

The Rotunda was part of a complex created by the Roman Emperor Galerius in 306AD and was thought to have originally been used as a temple. It was later converted to a Christian church dedicated to St George, during which time the mosaics depicting the saints and martyrs were created. During the Ottoman occupation the Rotunda became a mosque, and the minaret survives from that time.

Rotunda Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Rotunda Thessaloniki Greece

Entering the lofty space to visit it seems a little bare, until you turn your head upwards to admire the designs of gold and turquoise that must have once covered the whole interior. Some of the mosaics also remain on the arches of the niches where an altar stands. There is a small entrance charge and you can also buy a combined ticket that covers the White Tower and other nearby monuments.

Rotunda Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Rotunda Thessaloniki Greece
Rotunda Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Byzantine mosaics in the Rotunda Thessaloniki Greece

The Rotunda now stands in pleasant gardens and there are some great bars nearby which are popular with students, since it’s so close to the university. Check out Hippopotamus, a funky bar where we had a coffee on the tables outside in St George’s Square just behind the Rotunda.

13. Arch of Galerius

From the Rotunda a colonnaded walkway would have led down to the Arch of Galerius, through which ran a road, one of the major axis of the Roman city, as it still is today. Also built by the Roman Emperior Galerius, the triumphal arch was created to celebrate his victory against the Persians at the Battle of Satala, when considerable territory was won by the Romans.

Arch of Galerius Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Arch of Galerius Thessaloniki Greece

The figures in marble relief on the sides of the arches show the emperor himself on horseback, trampling his enemies, although there was probably a large element of artistic licence. Today the Arch of Galerius sits beside the busy Egnatia Street that runs through the city and can be freely visited.

Arch of Galerius Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Arch of Galerius Thessaloniki Greece

14. Galerian Complex & Octagon Palace

Continue a few blocks further down the hill to find the archaeological site of the palace that Galerius built, once a huge complex of which just part has been excavated. The site is surrounded on all sides by shops, cafes and apartment buildings and being so close to the university, there are numerous student bars in the area.

Palace of Galerius Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Palace of Galerius Thessaloniki Greece

Walking around the site are signs with interesting information about the palace complex that included colonnaded courtyards and reception halls, Roman baths and a Hippodrome used for chariot racing. The archaeological remains are also open to visit, with more information on this website.

Where to stay in Thessaloniki

Some of the main neighbourhoods you should consider when looking for accommodation in Thessaloniki are:

Electra Palace Hotel on Aristotelous Square Thessaloniki Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Electra Palace Hotel on Aristotelous Square Thessaloniki

The Seafront and city centre – Great for first time visitors with many mainstream hotels, an easy walk from shopping, restaurants and attractions, but also quite busy and potentially noisy. We recommend Electra Palace or Excelsior Hotels

The Old Port and Ladadika – A trendy, boho vibe with boutique hotels and apartments in some of the older neo-classical buildings. Quiet during the day but some locations may be noisy at night when restaurants and bars open. We recommend Colors Urban Hotel.

Roman Forum – This neighbourhood is set back from the seafront and a little quieter, with plenty of apartments to rent, yet easy walking distance to all the attractions. We recommend The Caravan Hotel

Ano Poli, the Upper Town – The most charming and authentic neighbourhood with mostly apartments to rent. You’ll experience local life and the area has some interesting attractions, but it’s a bit of a walk up and down the hill and there’s little parking. A good budget option is 7PocketHouse.

Kalamaria – The suburbs backing the Thessaloniki waterfront are good for longer stays or for families who want a quieter location. However it’s not ideal for sightseeing if you’re short of time as it’s a bit outside the city centre. We recommend the 5* Makedonia Hotel that’s right on the seafront.

Waterfront Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Waterfront Thessaloniki Greece

Top Museums in Thessaloniki

If you are interested in history and culture, there are some of the top museums in Thessaloniki that I’d recommend visiting. Most visitors head for the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki because of its collection of gold, but I also enjoyed the Museum of Byzantine Culture for the range of exhibits and well designed museum building.

If you have limited time I’d probably choose to visit just one of these museums and they are located very close to each other near the White Tower of Thessaloniki.

15. Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki

The Archaeological museum is one of the largest and most comprehensive in Greece, covering the history of Macedonia. This province of northern Greece was once part of a much larger kingdom. Expect to see sculpted marble figures, funeral reliefs and well preserved mosaic floors among the exhibits.

Archaeological Museum Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Archaeological Museum Thessaloniki Greece

What most visitors come to see however, is the exhibition of gold artefacts which are taken from various hoards found in the region. The array of pure gold wreaths, jewellery and decoration for clothing dating back to Byzantine times is impressive and beautifully presented.

Archaeological Museum Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Archaeological Museum Thessaloniki Greece

As a lover of fashion I enjoyed looking at ancient jewellery, wondering about the occasions on which these pieces were worn. I had fun deciding which I would choose myself if I had the pick of them! So if you have limited time, I’d skim through the rest of the museum and then head for the galleries with the gold, since this is the highlight of the collection.

Archaeological Museum Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Archaeological Museum Thessaloniki Greece

The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki is open daily, tickets are €8. The Museum is also included in a joint ticket valid for 3 days for €15, which also covers the Byzantine Museum, White Tower and Rotunda.

16. Museum of Byzantine Culture

The Museum of Byzantine Culture is contained in a building designed by Greek architect Kyriakos Krokos and is considered one of his finest works. It’s a harmonious building of brick, stone and concrete, with a central atrium and ramps that gradually spiral up through the building.

Museum of Byzantine Culture Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Museum of Byzantine Culture Thessaloniki Greece

The Byzantine Empire was the portion of the Eastern Roman Empire that between the 1st and 15th centuries AD was ruled independently from Constantinople. It was predominantly Christian, and during this period Thessaloniki was the second city of the empire after Constantinople. Across these centuries, the Byzantine Empire was the most powerful force in the Mediterranean region.

Museum of Byzantine Culture Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Museum of Byzantine Culture Thessaloniki Greece

The 11 galleries of the museum reflect the richness of daily life, with galleries covering early Christian worship, burial customs and intricate mosaic floors. During the period castles were build to maintain control within the empire and there are displays of icons and paintings from the Christian churches of the 12th to 15th centuries.

The museum gives an excellent understanding of the rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire. It helped me understand why the people of Thessaloniki take such pride in being part of the kingdom of Macedonia and the city’s place at the heart of the Byzantine Empire.

Museum of Byzantine Culture Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Museum of Byzantine Culture Thessaloniki Greece

The Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki is open daily, tickets are €8 but are also included in the combined ticket mentioned above, which is valid for 3 days.

17. Visit the Church of St Demetrios – patron saint of Thessaloniki

Another well known site of Thessaloniki is Agios Demetrios, the Church of St Demetrius, which is located at the border of the lower and upper parts of the city. St Demetrius is the patron saint of Thessaloniki, a young Christian soldier of wealthy family who lived in the city in around 300 AD. He was run through with spears on the orders of Emperor Maximian, when he refused to persecute other Christians.

Agios Demetrios Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Agios Demetrios Thessaloniki Greece

The church stands on the site where St Demetrios is believed to have been martyred. While parts of the interior date back to Byzantine times, Agios Demetrios was restored after the fire of 1917 giving it a more modern appearance. Inside, the notable thing to see is the shrine dedicated the St Demetrios to one side of the church.

Agios Demetrios Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Agios Demetrios Thessaloniki Greece

At this shrine the faithful light candles and file through the shrine to offer prayers to the saint. In the crypt, which is entered through a small staircase towards the back of the church, is a small museum containing ancient church artefacts, and the location where St Demetrios is believed to have been martyred.

Church of Agia Sophia

The other notable church in the lower town of Thessaloniki is Agia Sophia, which we did not have time to visit. Dating back to the 7th century, this is one of the oldest churches in Thessaloniki with a ground plan in the shape of a cross. The interiors are decorated with Byzantine frescoes and mosaics and the church is surrounded by pleasant gardens that can be visited at times when the church is open.

Agia Sophia Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Agia Sophia Thessaloniki Greece

Byzantine churches and museums in Ano Poli Upper Town

While the churches of the lower town are interesting, I thought that the smaller churches of the Ano Poli upper town were also charming and well worth a visit. When visiting churches in Greece it’s customary to make a small donation for a candle, which you can either light yourself or leave in the sand to be lit later during a service.

Church of Hosios David Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Church of Hosios David Thessaloniki Greece

18. Church of Agios Nikolaos Orphanos

We particularly enjoyed visiting the church of Agios Nikolaos Orphanos (St Nicholas the orphan) in Ano Poli which is surrounded by lovely gardens. You need to be aware that the opening times are limited to only a couple of days (Mondays and Thursdays) per week and then only in the mornings.

Agios Nikolaos Orphanos Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Agios Nikolaos Orphanos Thessaloniki Greece

The small church has a central area that is covered by the most stunning frescoes dating back to the 14th century, which were under restoration when we visited. In this church you get a strong sense of life in medieval times and the way in which stories from the bible were brought to life in frescoes, for ordinary people to understand.

Agios Nikolaos Orphanos Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Agios Nikolaos Orphanos Thessaloniki Greece

After your visit, spend a while to enjoy the gardens surrounding the church and look out for the wild tortoise that roam around the flower beds.

Agios Nikolaos Orphanos Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Agios Nikolaos Orphanos Thessaloniki Greece

19. Latomos Monastery – Church of Hosios David

On the upper slopes of Ano Poli is the Latomos Monastery, also known as the Church of Hosios David. It’s a little tucked away, but the walk up through the cobbled lanes of the old town is charming. You’ll also be rewarded by wonderful views from the courtyard over the city.

Church of Hosios David Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Church of Hosios David Thessaloniki Greece
Church of Hosios David Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Byzantine mosaic in the Church of Hosios David Thessaloniki Greece

The small church dates back to the 5th century and is notable for the mosaic decoration within the dome, that is unusual in that it depicts Jesus as clean shaven. There are also some beautiful frescoes around the entrance. The church is normally open daily until mid afternoon.

Church of Hosios David Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Church of Hosios David Thessaloniki Greece

18. Vlatadon Monastery

The historic Vlatadon Monastery is located in the upper part of Ano Poli, just below the old fortified walls. It’s the only monastery in Thessaloniki that is still functioning and by tradition is where St Paul preached to the early Christian church in Thessaloniki.

Vlatadon Monastery Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Vlatadon Monastery Thessaloniki Greece

The church was closed when we visited, but we were still able to wander around the complex to see the exterior of the old buildings, dating back to the 14th century. Inside the church are some beautiful frescoes and icons and there are wonderful views from the courtyard over the city.

Vlatadon Monastery Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Views from Vlatadon Monastery Thessaloniki Greece

At the entrance of the complex is a small gift shop selling religious materials and icons. Also interesting was the aviary with birds and white peacocks who strutted and displayed their tail feathers for our entertainment!

Vlatadon Monastery Thessaloniki Greece Heatheronhertravels.com
Vlatadon Monastery Thessaloniki Greece

19. Ataturk Museum

Although we didn’t have time to visit, another interesting place worth visiting in Ano Poli is the Ataturk Museum. This house which is now part of the Turkish Consulate, is the birthplace of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey.

The museum is furnished as it would have been when Ataturk grew up there and contains many artefacts and photographs from his life. It’s interesting to better understand the close connections between northern Greece and modern day Turkey, previously united under the Byzantine Empire and Ottoman occupation, until the Greek revolution of independence in 1921.

The museum is open daily and entrance is free. As it’s part of the Turkish consulate you may have to press a bell and show ID to be admitted.

20. Getting arty in Thessaloniki

If you enjoy all things arty, here are a few more things to see in Thessaloniki.

Art museums in Thessaloniki

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMus) runs several museums in Thessaloniki

MOMus – Museum of Modern Art- Costakis Collection – this is a little out of the centre of Thessaloniki and includes the Costakis collection of Russian avant-garde art.

MOMus – Museum of Contemporary Art – Located close to the White Tower in the centre of the city, the museum contains a collection of Greek and international contemporary art from the state’s collection.

MOMus – Museum of Photography – Located in a converted warehouse of the Old Port the museum runs changing exhibitions from contemporary Greek photographers.

Teloglion Fine arts collection – The foundation houses a private collection of modern Greek art, as well as art and sculpture from the 18th to 20th centuries.

Selfie Museum Thessaloniki

A fun rainy day option or for those who love photography and social media, the Selfie Museum offers room sets for taking the ultimate selfies or group photos. There are 30 colourful themed installations where you can go wild with your mobile camera.

Museum of illusions Thessaloniki
The Museum of illusions Thessaloniki

Museum of Illusions in Thessaloniki

Another good option for fun and photography is the Museum of illusions, with interactive holograms and illusions that are are designed to entertain and trick the eye.

Our top picks for hotels in Thessaloniki

Electra Palace Thessaloniki Greece

The Electra Palace is a luxury hotel with rooftop restaurant and pool, in a prime position overlooking the main square

The Excelsior Small Luxury Hotels of the World Thessaloniki Greece

Stay at The Excelsior – a small luxury hotel in a neoclassical building with a central location

Colors Urban Hotel Thessaloniki Greece

Colors Urban Hotel – a colourful modern hotel with urban style in the Ladadika neighbourhood

The Caravan Thessaloniki Greece

The Caravan is a colourful and stylish small hotel with vintage touches close to the Roman Forum

7PocketHouse Thessaloniki Greece

Stay at 7PocketHouse – a charming budget guest house with vintage style in Ano Poli

Day trips from Thessaloniki

Personally I think Thessaloniki is such a lively and diverse city that if you have limited time it’s better spent exploring the city’s attractions. But if you have a few more days, or want to make the city your base for exploring further afield, here are a few places to visit near Thessaloniki that you could consider.

Meteora Monasteries

A visit to the monasteries of Meteora will make a long day trip from Thessaloniki, so if you want to do it in a day it’s probably better to go on an organised trip. Personally I think that it’s more relaxing to travel by train, so I’d recommend this train trip to Meteora and monastery tour, with a guided tour around 3 of the 6 monasteries by mini bus once you arrive in the area.

Meteora Monsteries by Peggychoucair on Pixabay
Meteora Monasteries by Peggychoucair

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus, home of the ancient Greek gods, can be seen in the distance from Thessaloniki. It takes around 1.5 hours to reach the national park, and if you enjoy outdoor activities, you may like to try this half day canyoning adventure on Mount Olympus.

For a combination of culture and hiking, take this day trip to Dion and Mount Olympus, with a visit to the Dion archaeological park and museum, followed by a couple of hours hiking on Mount Olympus in the Enipeas Gorge to see the waterfalls.

Halkidiki beach by biancaunduli on Pixabay
Swimming on a Halkidiki beach by biancaunduli on Pixabay

Halkidiki

Since Thessaloniki does not have any city beaches, the best place to go for some beach time is to the Halkidiki region that’s south of the city. There are three main peninsulas in Halkidiki: Kassandra, Sidonia and the most easterly Mount Athos.

If you just fancy a day of swimming and beach time you are probably best to take an organised trip like this Chalkidiki Blue Lagoon cruise with lunch. Due to the driving time, expect a long day if you decide to head to Halkidiki.

Mount Athos monasteries by David Mark on Pixabay
Mount Athos monasteries by David Mark

The Monasteries of Mount Athos peninsula are only open to men and this needs to be arranged months in advance. However, anyone can take a cruise around the peninsula to see them from the water, so check out options like this trip to Ouranoupoli and Mt Athos cruise with time for swimming.

Kerkini Lake

Nature lovers may enjoy a trip north to Kerkini Lake which is around 1.5 hours drive from Thessaloniki. The manmade lake is a wetland habitat for migrating birds, with a visitor centre where you can hire bikes, kayaks or take a boat trip. You can also take an organised day trip to Kerkini Lake, with walking, horse riding and a boat trip near the lake’s dam and lunch in a local taverna.

Kerkini Lake by Jim Black on Pixabay
Kerkini Lake by Jim Black

Pozar Thermal Baths

Around 1.5 hours drive from Thessaloniki are the Pozar Thermal Baths, with natural heated springs and cascades, feeding indoor and outdoor pools where you can swim for a small charge. If you want an organised trip, try this Pozar Thermal Baths and Edessa day trip, which also includes a visit to Edessa for some stunning waterfalls.

Pella Archaeological site

Pella was the ancient capital of Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great, with an archaeological site and museum to visit. Take this Pella, Edessa and Naousa tour to visit the archaeological site as well as the famous waterfalls of Edessa and a wine tasting at Naousa.

White Tower Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
White Tower Thessaloniki Greece

FAQ about Thessaloniki

If you’re all set to plan your trip to Thessaloniki Greece, we’ve covered some of the frequently asked questions below.

How to get to Thessaloniki

Many visitors will arrive directly into Thessaloniki’s Macedonia airport, located 30 minutes from the city. Direct flights from the UK and Europe into Thessaloniki are available with easyJet, Ryanair, TUI, Wizz Air and British Airways among others. When flying in from the US or destinations outside Europe, you may need to transfer via Athens.

If you are already travelling in Greece, there are multiple ways to travel from Athens, by bus with KTEL (7 hours), high speed train (4 hours) or plane (1 hour). You could also hire a car, but if travelling from city to city we recommend using public transport as the distances can be quite long and you won’t need a car once you arrive in Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki can be reached in summer by ferry as part of an island hopping itinerary from the Sporades Islands, Lesvos and Lemnos. There are also direct internal flights with Aegean airlines to Thessaloniki from Kalamata and a few other destinations in Greece.

View from White Tower Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
View from White Tower Thessaloniki Greece

How to get from Thessaloniki airport to the city centre

Thessaloniki airport Macedonia is located 13km to the south of the city centre. The best way to get there is on the public bus 01X (daytime) or 01N (nightime). Buses run 24hrs a day, take 40 minutes and cost around €2 one way. The airport bus runs from outside the airport to the city centre, bus station and railway station and on your return picks up in the centre on Egnatia Street, close to the Roman Forum.

An alternative to get to and from the airport is by taxi, with driving time of around 25 minutes.

Waterfront gardens Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Waterfront gardens Thessaloniki Greece

How long should I spend in Thessaloniki?

Thessaloniki makes an ideal weekend break destination and in 3 days you can see many of the main sights and have some fun. There’s plenty of to see, so if you want to take things at a slower pace or see more, 5 days will allow you to a deeper dive into Thessaloniki’s attractions.

If you only have one or two days, limit yourself to visiting the places that interest you most, combined with enjoying some excellent food and relaxing on the waterfront.

When is the best time to visit Thessaloniki?

Thessaloniki is a great city for sightseeing so the best time to visit is in spring (March-June) and autumn (September – November) when the weather is sunny but not too hot. July and August can be unbearably hot in the city, as locals head to the closest beaches of Halkidiki and being in northern Greece, winters can be cold and wet.

Ladadika district Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Ladadika district Thessaloniki Greece

How can I travel sustainably in Thessaloniki?

Sustainability can be a challenge in a large city like Thessaloniki with issues of high population, traffic pollution and rubbish collection. As a visitor you can do your bit:

  • Choose accommodation that has a sustainability accreditation such as Green Key or check on Booking.com what level of their Travel Sustainable badge a hotel has attained before you book.
  • If self catering use the appropriate recycling bins on the street: Green is for general rubbish, blue for recycling and glass recycling bins are also available.
  • Water in Greece is drinkable from the tap in most places, so avoid buying bottled water and refill from any safe supply in your accommodation.
  • Thessaloniki is a very walkable city so there’s no need to rent a car. For bigger distances use the bus or taxi or have fun on the waterfront by renting a bike.
  • Support restaurants that feature locally sourced, seasonal produce and dishes and take a food tour to understand the local food culture.
Cycling on the waterfront Thessaloniki Greece Photo Heatheronhertravels.com
Cycling on the waterfront Thessaloniki Greece

Can I island hop from Thessaloniki?

In summer it’s possible to island hop from Thessaloniki with ferries leaving from the Old Port. Popular destinations include the Sporades islands of Skopelos, Skiathos and Alonissos. You can also take direct ferries from Thessaloniki to the islands of Lemnos and Lesvos. Be aware that ferries may not run every day so for exact routes and timetables we recommend checking a ferry booking website such as Ferryscanner.

Read Next

Discover all the fun things to do in Volos – Gateway to the Pelion

Things to do in Volos Greece

More places to visit in Greece

Visit Skopelos Greece – a guide to the Mamma Mia Island

A guide to the Pelion Greece – from the mountains to the sea!

Food in Athens – 23 dishes and food experiences you’ll want to try!

Photo credits: All images by Heatheronhertravels.com except hotel images from each hotel featured and Meteora by Peggychoucair on Pixabay, Mount Athos by David Mark on Pixabay, Kerkini by Jim Black on Pixabay, Halkidiki beach by biancaunduli on Pixabay.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com

Subscribe to Heather on her travels newsletter

clicktravel.my.id | Newsphere by AF themes.