Thessaloniki is indeed an easy place to fall in love with – it has chaos, beauty, culture and history, marvelous, vast sea views, and remarkable cuisine. It is a city with a constant 3,000-year history, preserving its Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman past and its once-dominant Jewish population.
Top Attractions in Thessaloniki
Macedonia’s prehistory, Roman, and Hellenistic eras are charted in this beautiful museum, home to many of the area’s significant archaeological discoveries. Displays include goldwork from numerous graves and hoards and the Derveni Krater (330 BCE–320 BCE), a vast, elegant Hellenistic bronze-and-tin vase marked by elaborate relief carvings of Dionysos, along with animals, mythological figures, and ivy vines. The Derveni Papyrus, Greece’s oldest surviving papyrus piece (320 BCE–250 BCE), is recognized by Unesco as Europe’s oldest surviving book.
Museum of Byzantine Culture
This charming museum has many treasures to satisfy Byzantine buffs, plus superb explanations to inculcate this long-lived empire and its culture to beginners. Over 3000 Byzantine objects, including intriguing tomb paintings, mosaics, jewelry, icons, and glassware, are displayed with characterful asides about everyday life. You’ll be positively discerning early-Christian from late-Byzantine icons in no time. Temporary exhibits might focus on anything from satirical maps to the work of mystic Nikos Kazantzakis and Cretan writer.
Church of Agios Dimitrios
This colossal 7th-century basilica honors Thessaloniki’s patron. A Roman soldier, Dimitrios, was martyred around 306 CE at this former Roman bath site by order of Emperor Galerius, notorious persecutor of Christians. The martyrdom place is now a crypt; Dimitrios’ remains occupy a silver reliquary inside. The Ottomans transformed Agios Dimitrios into a mosque and cemented over frescoes that were again exhibited after the 1913 CE Greek reconquest. While the town’s fire of 1917 was terribly devastating, five 8th-century CE mosaics survive.
Thessaloniki’s New Waterfront is proof that architecture can enhance urban life through creative redesign of the space in which it is lived. Winner of numerous awards for its architects Bernard Cuomo and Prodromos Nikiforidis, this 3.5km walkway stretches from the Thessaloniki Concert Hall to the White Tower. Finished in 2013 CE, it has been embraced by Thessalonikans with pure delight as the perfect place to rollerblade, promenade, bike, eat ice cream, play, or just savor a peripatetic conversation.
An ancient Byzantine fortress redone as a prison by the Ottomans and only decommissioned in 1989 CE, the Eptapyrgion is a harsh reminder of Thessaloniki’s punishing past, described in the Greek blues songs known as rembetika. Reached by a steep stroll to the heights of Ano Poli, it’s excellently preserved, allowing access to some towers, isolation cells, and communal blocks and revealing scattered artworks and historical information.
Top things to do in Thessaloniki
- Take a stroll along the long seafront promenade.
- Enjoy the night. Thessaloniki has a surprisingly active nightlife; it is the “Seattle of the Balkans.”
- Enjoy a concert at Thessaloniki Concert Hall.
- Sail. There are strong North winds but with low waves, making sailing joy and fun for all sailors.
- Shop at Mitropoleos, Proxenou Koromila, and Tsimiski.
What to eat in Thessaloniki?
Greeks consider Thessaloniki a gourmet city, and there are many dishes to explore here.
- Try a simple crepe in one of the many crepe shops. It is delicious.
- Try pork and chicken gyros in one of the many restaurants and eateries around.
- During the winter, you can try kastana (roasted chestnuts) that are sold from clean carts.
- You can also try koulouri, a donut-shaped small bread with sesame or stafidopsomo, a small bread with raisins.
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