15 ways to explore Thessaloniki
Iconic monuments, rich cinema history, unique gastronomic identity, design innovation: Thessaloniki challenges you to listen to the upbeat rhythm of a city that knows how to live life to its fullest.
Built in the 15th century, the monument that has become the landmark of the city, has acquired several names in its long history, among which the “Lion’s Tower”, “Kalamaria Tower”, “Janissaries’ Tower” and “The Tower of Blood”, since it once functioned as a jail and a place for the execution of convicts, whose blood has stained its walls. In 1883, by order of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, it was whitewashed and given the name “White Tower”. The permanent exhibition it has housed since 2008 is a true tribute to the city’s history, while the view from the terrace is riveting.
The list of tasty temptations in Thessaloniki is simply mouth-watering. It’s quite possible that, at some point, you’ll find yourself with a crunchy sesame bagel in one hand and a fragrant, fresh piece of tsoureki (sweet bread) in the other, while making your way to the Panorama area for the famous Elenidis Panorama triangles!
The city rightfully wears the crown in the entertainment department. Starting with the bar-less Cin Cin, the city’s famous boat bars board behind the White Tower and promise to take you on an unforgettable cruise in the Thermaic Gulf. The rotating Skyline Cafe-Bar in the OTE Tower or the famous bar terraces are also ideal for a cocktail under the star-studded city sky. Do not miss a visit to the night clubs, where the best representatives of the Greek music scene carry away patrons into an endless flower war.
Like every large city, Thessaloniki has a series of “mysteries,” that comprise an intriguing puzzle of urban legends: to name a few hark for the voices coming at night from Yedi Kule (a prison from 1890 to 1989) and look for the Monster of the Seych Sou Park, or the underground labyrinthine catacombs and tunnels and, if you dare, why not pay a visit to the haunted Red House.
The city of writers
Great names of the intellect and the spirit, born in Thessaloniki or other parts of Greece, Greek or foreign, writers of the previous century, and representatives of the younger generation, were seduced by the city’s charm, leaving through their texts a special imprint on its cultural identity; A. Papadiamantis, G. Kitsopoulos, T. Kalatzis and N. Christianopoulos, as well as the British historian Mark Mazower are all literary figures that have left their mark on the city.
The city of museums
Apart from the imposing Rotunda, a domed, round structure of the 4th c. AD, that can be compared to Rome’s Pantheon and holds a well-deserved place among the 14 UNESCO World Heritage monuments, strewn across the city are also the Archeological Museum, the Byzantine Culture Museum, the Photography Museum, the Jewish Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art, as well as Thessaloniki Science Centre & Technology Museum (NOESIS), Northeastern Europe’s top technological centre. Thessaloniki challenges you to a live tour of its rich multicultural past.
Standing at the crossroads of wine routes of Northern Greece, Thessaloniki serves the big and small secrets of wine-making, with an assortment of warm hospitality, local flavours and traditional products, during an enchanting wine journey through Gerovasiliou Estate in Epanomi, Babajimopoulos Estate in Ossa Lagada, and all the way to Kechri Winery in Kalochori.
Soaring to an impressive 13 meters, the unique artwork by acclaimed sculptor Giorgos Zogolopoulos at the New Waterfront seems to be reaching for the sky. Next to a series of small water fountains, a wooden platform invites you to move inside the artwork, touch it, play around and have your picture taken with the Thermaic Gulf spreading in the backdrop.
With 59 events and tributes to national filmographies and retrospectives on influential Greek and international artists, the Film Festival invites cinephiles to this living cinematic organism that has become fertile ground for innovation and creativity. The Documentary Festival and the Forest Festival organized under the auspices of the National Theatre of Northern Greece are also experiences you should not miss.
You can only experience a city when you walk around its neighbourhoods, they say. Noisy, colourful and full of life, they derive their charm from the magical coexistence of old and new. Wander around the famous Ladadika, a quaint neighbourhood, full of Turkish-style houses and cobblestoned streets, as well as old oil warehouses that have been transformed into restaurants and dozens of bars. The booming Emporio square in the heart of the recently renovated Fragomachala is an area that claims a large part of the dining and nightlife entertainment industry.
Thessaloniki, a city that knows what great food is all about, could not fail to find a place on the list of top gastronomic destinations. Apart from its numerous mezedes (appetizers) and its traditional Northern Greek delicacies, for which it’s famous, its gourmet restaurant scene includes new and old award-winning gustatory suggestions that aspire to reach top level gastronomy. To name a few, check out Aficionados, Duck Private Cheffing, Clochard, Anfan Gate, Nea Folia, Mavri Thalassa and Thria.
Culture, artistic creation, food, shopping and entertainment meet each other multipurpose venues and become points of reference for the city’s creative residents. Apart from the alternative Bord de l’ Eau Design Factory, which, since 2011, has combined art with entertainment, you should try the new and versatile Ypsilon, featuring halls for coffee, cocktails, dining and art shops and rooms for workshops, seminars and meetings. Reserve a table at the Looney Bean with its tropical landscape and have the ultimate shopping experience at the Mediterranean Cosmos, Northern Greece’s largest mall.
Award-winning architectural firms Nikiforidis & Cuomo and Urban Soul Project have established clothes designers and brands (Ancient Kallos and TILT!), charismatic handmade jewellery designers (Yiannis Gounaridis), as well as restless creators of innovative board games (My Greek games) and together they comprise a dynamic design scene, opening a new chapter in the wider world of design.
The award-winning project signed by the architectural firm of Prodromos Nikiforidis and Bernard Cuomo is one more reason to visit Thessaloniki. A breath of fresh air and culture, the 5 km expanse from Thessaloniki Concert Hall to the container cranes is adorned with verdant, themed gardens, and it’s actually all yours for walking, reading, fishing, running, cycling, playing, picnics, dancing, performances or just a relaxed chat with friends.
New era in transportation
The Athens-Thessaloniki route will be shortened to only 3 hours and 20 minutes after the new high-speed double rail line is completed. This major project is bound to change the railway transportation status quo in Greece.
*At present, many of the sites mentioned above are closed following government measures aimed at protecting public health.