Thessaloniki (520 km. north of Athens) is the second largest city of Greece and the most important centre of the area. Built near the sea (at the back of the Thermaïkos Gulf), it is a modern metropolis bearing the marks of its stormy history and its cosmopolitan character, which give it a special beauty and charm.
Thessaloniki itself never doubted its own Cultural identity and its millennia of existence, it stands there since 315BC founded by Cassander, who named it after his wife and Alexander’s the Great sister.
Ιt was chosen as the co-reigning city of the Byzantine Empire alongside Constantinople. Τo prove just that there are several Paleochristian monuments, constituting a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Historically one of Europe’s oldest and most multiethnic cities, widely considered as the cultural capital of Greece, is truly unique in the sense that it intricately marries its thousands-year-old multicultural heritage and the architectural marvels with the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Sephardic Jew history. Festivals abound, most notably the “Dimitria Festival” coming from the”Golden Age” of the Byzantine period of the city and the “International Film Festival”, which draws hoards of buffs to the city each year. It has also produced many of the country’s most acclaimed bands, visual artists and designers as well as new waves of culture makers.
With a student-strong population of 150,000, Thessaloniki boasts an under-30s do-it-yourself youth culture-creative movement seen nowhere else in the Southern part of Europe.
The cutting-edge art performances and cinematic avant-garde, recently launched cultural sites and creative projects, Arts and Entertainment hubs all-in-one, numerous monuments, fifteen listed at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the 5km meandering waterfront, make Thessaloniki a “must-see destination”.
Geographically, due to its privileged location of land-proximity to both Europe and the East, travelling to Thessaloniki has always been a no-brainer.
Visit Thessaloniki’s Archaeological sites
- The ancient forum (dated to the late 2nd or the early 3rd century AD) with squares, porticoes, additional buildings and odeum (293-395 AD), the palace complex of Galerius Maximianus (4th c. AD), the thermae, the hippodrome, the temples and other monuments and moveable finds (among them mosaics of exquisite art) brought to light in excavations and surveys. In the south square, is the famous Stoa of the Idols, which was two-storeyed and lavishly decorated.
- The Triumphal Arch of Galerius (Kamara), built in AD 305 to commemorate his military successes in general in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire.
- The Rotunda is an early 4th century building which later was converted into a Christian church.
Visit Thessaloniki’s Byzantine monuments
Thessaloniki, with its host of Byzantine monuments (due to it’s significance during the Byzantine period), justifiably is considered an open-air museum of Byzantine art. Wandering through the city, it is worthwhile to see:
- The churches of Acheiropoietos (5th century) a three-aisled, timber-roofed basilica, the Holy Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia) (7th century), the Panaghia (Virgin) Chalkeon (1028), Hosios David (12th century), St Panteleemon (late 13th or the early 14th century), is of four-columned cross-in-square type, Ayioi Apostoloi (1310-1314),Taxiarches (14th century), Panagouda a three-aisled basilica with significant icons, Agios Ioannis Prodromos (Nymphaion),Vlatadon monastery a 14th century foundation of which only the katholikon and two cisterns within the precinct survive, Ayios Demetrios a splendid basilica dedicated to the patron saint and protector of the city, etc.
- The byzantine walls of the city.
- The archaeological site in 3 Septemvriou St., with remnants of a cemetery basilica, a martyrion and Early Christian graves.
- The byzantine bathhouse (late thirteenth century).
- The Heptapyrgion castle was raised in stages, from the early years of the Byzantine Age into the Ottoman period.
Amazing Ottoman monuments
- The White Tower (15th century), the hallmark of the city.
- The Mosques of the Hamza Bey Cami (15th century), the Aladja Imaret Cami (1484) and the Yeni Cami (1902).
- Hamams (turkish bathhouses): The Pazar Hamam (15th century), the Pasha Hamam (15th century), Bey Hamam (16th century), Yeni Hamam and the Yahudi Hamam.
- Bezesteni, a rectangular building with lead-covered domes and four entraces was built in the late fifteenth century and operated as a cloth market.
Discover neighbourhoods and focal points in the city
- The Old City (Ano Polis), in which many notable examples of Ottoman and traditional Macedonian architecture still stand, alongside humble dwellings put up by the refugees who reached Thessaloniki in droves, after the Greek defeat in Asia Minor, in 1922.
- The historical quarter of the Ladadika. In recent years, a series of interventions to rehabilitate the urban fabric have helped to enhance the Ladadika as a quarter for leisure pursuits.
- The traditional markets: the Modiano, which is housed in a rectangular building of 1922, with pedimented facade and glass roof; the Kapani or Vlalis market; Athonos Square and the ‘Louloudadika’ (literally flower market).
- Vasilissis Olgas Avenue, lined with many representative Neoclassical buildings and examples of late 19th century eclectic architecture.
- The central Aristotelous Square, surrounded by monumental buildings and open to the waterfront for a width of 100 metres.
- It’s worth seeing the Archaelogical Museum, the Museum of Byzantine Culture, the Folk and Ethnographic Museum, the State Museum of Contemporary Art, the Teloglion Foundation of Art, the Thessaloniki Cinema Museum, the Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum.
- During each year, Thessaloniki hosts significant cultural and commercial festivities, such as the Thessaloniki International Fair (every September), the International Thessaloniki Film Festival (every November) and the International Book Fair (every May).