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Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki (Greek: Θεσσαλονίκη, Selanik in Turkish and Солун, Solun (Солун) in South Slavic languages), also known as Thessalonica (pron.: /ˌθɛsəlɵˈnaɪkə/ or pron.: /ˌθɛsəˈlɒnɪkə/) and Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia.
It is considered Greece's cultural capital, renowned for its festivals, events and vibrant cultural life in general and has recently been ranked by Lonely Planet as the world's fifth-best party city worldwide. More importantly, it is also a city with a continuous 3,000-year-old history; preserving relics of its Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman past and of its formerly dominant Jewish population. Many of its Byzantine churches, and a whole district of the city in particular, are included in UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Thessaloniki lies on the northern fringe of the Thermaic Gulf on its eastern... Read more

Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki (Greek: Θεσσαλονίκη, Selanik in Turkish and Солун, Solun (Солун) in South Slavic languages), also known as Thessalonica (pron.: /ˌθɛsəlɵˈnaɪkə/ or pron.: /ˌθɛsəˈlɒnɪkə/) and Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia.
It is considered Greece's cultural capital, renowned for its festivals, events and vibrant cultural life in general and has recently been ranked by Lonely Planet as the world's fifth-best party city worldwide. More importantly, it is also a city with a continuous 3,000-year-old history; preserving relics of its Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman past and of its formerly dominant Jewish population. Many of its Byzantine churches, and a whole district of the city in particular, are included in UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Thessaloniki lies on the northern fringe of the Thermaic Gulf on its eastern coast and is bound by

Mount Chortiatis

on its southeast. The metropolitan area of the city extends around an area of 1,455.62 km² (562.02 sq mi), which includes many beachside and hilly suburbs, while its densest part, which makes up the urban area of the city and what Thessalonians usually refer to as the "City of Thessaloniki", can be divided roughly into 3 parts, the northwestern, the central and the southeastern.
The central part, corresponding to the region that is inside the the Byzantine walls, forms the oldest part of the city and is divided in two parts, the central commercial and historic city center, where most tourist sites and interests, entertainment and educational facilities are located; and Ano Poli (also called Old Town and literally the Upper Town), the heritage listed district north of Thessaloniki's city center that was not engulfed by the city's great fire of 1917 and was declared a UNESCO heritage site.
The city center is bounded by the sea in the south, Olympiados street in the northeast (from which then the upper town begins), Bardariou (aka Dimokratias) square in the northwest and in the southeast by the University campus of the

Aristotle University

and the facilities of the Thessaloniki International Exhibition Center.
Most roads in the city center are either parallel or perpendicular to the sea. A simple rule that helps the visitor is that if the street goes downhill, by following it, it will lead you to the sea. The biggest parallel streets to the sea starting from the sea are Nikis, Tsimiski, Ermou, Egnatia, Agiou Dimitriou and Kassandrou avenues. The important streets leading to the sea, starting from the northwest, are Ionos Dragoumi, Venizelou, the pedestrian streets Aristotelous and Hagia Sophia and Ethinikis Amynis avenues.


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Thessaloniki, Greece: Port Information

Cruise ships dock at the city's main port. Passengers can get to the downtown area on foot. The walk is easy and pleasant.

Get around Thessaloniki, Greece

By bus
Public transport in Thessaloniki is served by buses, operated by the Thessaloniki Urban Transport Organization (OASTH) which runs a fleet of 604 vehicles on 75 routes throughout the Thessaloniki Metropolitan Area. Tickets for the buses can be bought on the bus, at a Periptero (kiosk), which are located all around the city, and at an OASTH info point. OASTH services operate from 5 a.m. until right after midnight, while some lines have expanded timetables until 1 a.m. Furthermore, OASTH has recently published an excellent app available for IOS and Android that greatly simplifies the often confusing task of figuring out what's the right bus or combination of buses needed to get to the desired destination.

Tourist lines
OASTH also operates a tourist line, (Bus number 50 (Cultural line)) and follows a figure-of-8 route past all the major tourist sights of the city. There is an English speaking guide aboard, who provides maps and information. The whole route takes 50 min, and it departs every hour on the hour from the

White Tower

. Several private tour buses also depart from the same area and follow a similar route around all major tourist sites.

By rent a car
If you want to travel by car in the city, there are a variety of car rental companies.
  • Salonica Car Rental.
  • Ride and Drive.
  • Pop's Car Rental Greece.
  • Thessaloniki Car Rental.
  • Morphis Car Rental.
  • Thessaloniki Airport Car Rentals.
  • HolidaysCAR car rental.
By private transfer
If you don't want to drive or wait for the bus, a private transfer is a way to go. Passenger cars, minivans, and minibuses are available.

What to see in Thessaloniki, Greece

The northernmost Byzantine walls of the city and parts of the western walls are still standing, as is the city's symbol - the White Tower, one of the 16th Century. AD fortified towers - which is the only surviving tower on the seafront. The rest of the walls are in the picturesque Upper Town which offers a spectacular view over the bay, especially in the late afternoon. Take a walk along the enormous seafront promenade (about 12 km altogether). See the Roman Forum excavations.
Visit the upper town for its traditional old houses, small cobbled streets, Byzantine citadel, the Eptapyrgion fort.
On no account should you miss the Byzantine churches built between the 5th and 14th century ACE, such as Agios Demetrios, (7th Century. ACE) and Agia Sophia (Holy Wisdome, 9th Century. ACE), and many lovely smaller ones in the upper town (St Nicolaos Orfanos is particularly worth a look for its frescoes (open Tue-Sun 8.30am-3pm)), which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. One of them, the Rotunda, started life as a Roman temple of Zeus, built by Ceasar Galerius, and is almost as old as the Pantheon in Rome. Next to the Rotunda, see the Arch of Triumph of Galerius and the ruins of his palace.
The city is also known as "the mother of Israel", due to the once flourishing Jewish community here, which existed from the Roman period and grew substantially after the Ottoman Empire took in Jewish refugees expelled Spain, Portugal, and Spanish territories in Italy; these Jews are known as "Sephardim". Sephardi Jews formed a significant percentage of the city's population and infrastructure until World War II, when, in spring 1943, almost all were deported by the Nazis to the extermination camp at Auschwitz, never to return. However, there are still two Synagogues, and you can see the Jewish Museum.
Also interesting are the Turkish public baths Bey Hamam, the Bezesteni (Ottoman closed market for jewelry and precious materials) the Alatza Imaret (Ottoman poorhouse) and Hamza Bey Camii (both restored and used for exhibitions).
The traditional central food market, with hundreds of stalls selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables (sometimes cheek-by-jowl, an unnerving experience for North Americans), cheap clothes and shoes, flowers, herbs, and spices, between Aristotele Square and Venizelou street.
Aristotelous Square-the biggest of the city-and the promenade with its cafes and restaurants.
The very lively and youth-oriented international film festival is held in November, the International Trade Fair in September.

Museums and galleries
Due to the city's rich and diverse history, Thessaloniki houses many museums dealing with many different eras in history. Two of the city center's most famous museums include the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and the Museum of Byzantine Culture, which also the buildings themselves serve as points of architectural interest.
The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki was established in 1962 and houses some of the most important ancient Macedonian artifacts, including an extensive collection of golden artwork from the royal palaces of Aigai and Pella. It also houses exhibits from Macedon's prehistoric past, dating from the Neolithic to the Bronze age.
The Museum of Byzantine Culture is one of the city's most famous museums, showcasing the city's glorious Byzantine past. The museum was also awarded Council of Europe's museum prize in 2005. The museum of the White Tower of Thessaloniki houses a series of galleries relating to the city's past, from the creation of the White Tower until recent years.
Other museums of the city include the Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum, in southeast Thessaloniki and is one of the most high-tech museums in Greece and southeastern Europe and the Atatürk Museum the historic house where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern-day Turkey, was born.

What to do in Thessaloniki, Greece

The city has always been known between Greeks for its vibrant city culture, including having the most cafe's and bars per-capita than any other city in Europe; and as having some of the best nightlife and entertainment in the country, thanks to its large young population and multicultural feel. Trendy bars are scattered throughout the city and cater for all tastes, with many located on pedestrianized streets or along the coast, with sea views; while daily happenings and events take place throughout the city every day.
Thessaloniki is also known for its picturesque uninterrupted promenade/waterfront, spanning for about 4.5 km from the old port to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. From the White Tower, the waterfront gets considerably bigger (called Nea Paralia) and along with the seaside walk, features 13 thematic gardens. During summer it is full of Thessalonians enjoying their long evening walks (referred to as "the volta" and is embedded into the culture of the city). There you will find people selling all kinds of food, bike riding, skating, fishing and a generally lively atmosphere with font the Thermaic Gulf and the port.
There is a free walking city tour at 18.30 starting in front of the rotunda. You will get detailed yet short explanations about the history, myths, architecture and lifestyle of the city as well as a few recommendations about hidden but noteworthy shops - and maybe a free cookie.

The Thermaic Gulf is a challenging place for yachting and sailing. Many days there are strong North winds but with low waves, making sailing fun and joy for all sailors. There are three sailing clubs in Thessaloniki and world championships take place in the city every year. Thessaloniki has several marinas, most notably in Kalamaria, southeast of the city center, while a new one is proposed to be constructed right at the city center that will contain 182 mooring places. There are also many Yacht charter companies renting sailing yachts.
  • Discovery Yachting, Thermaikou 21, +30 2310 343251,+30 6948 388098 ( Bareboat charter or skippered sailing yacht

What to eat and drink in Thessaloniki, Greece


Due to the fact that Thessaloniki remained under the Ottoman rule for about 100 years more than southern Greece, it has retained a lot of its Eastern character, including its culinary tastes. Spices in particular play an important role in the cuisine of Thessaloniki, something which is not true to the same degree about Greece's southern regions. Greeks consider Thessaloniki a gourmet city - but bear in mind that this refers to the excellent local specialties and cheap-and-cheerful ouzo taverns rather than to haute cuisine or a range of foreign restaurants. The latter are best avoided in Thessaloniki.

Sweets and pastries
For any traveler to Thessaloniki, a Greek will usually mention how they expect you to bring back sweets from the city, as it is known for having some of the best in the country. Throughout Thessaloniki anyone can find a variety of places that sell: Tsoureki, a plaited sweetened bread, desserts such as Baklava and Galaktoboureko; and Bougatsa, the most famous pastry of Thessaloniki, with cream (sweet) or cheese (savoury) filling, which was invented in the city and has spread around other parts of Greece and the Balkans as well.
Some shops, where you can find the best sweets and pasties the city has to offer, include "Nikiforou" on Venizelou street, "Terkenlis" famous for its Tsoureki and "Chatzis" famous for its Baklava, but fame has not made it any better - it has become overpriced and not as good as in previous years.
  • Chatzis is famous for its collection of Greek Asia Minor sweets (politika glyka) originating from Istanbul.  
  • Terkenlis is famous for its variety of "tsoureki", a sweet bread much like brioche but containing spices too, covered and filled with several combinations of chocolates/creams/nuts, etc.  
  • Elenidis is considered the expert in "trigona" (triangles made of sfoglia, filled with cream). 
For a carnivore's treat, places that serve Gyros and Souvlaki with pork and chicken, are scattered all around the city. This is the best calories per money option. Some of the best souvlaki meals at very affordable prices can be found at a place called "Derlicatesen".
Local specialties include Soutzoukakia, minced meat pellets that are either grilled (at the central market or rotisseries) and topped with chili pepper flakes or cooked in tomato and cumin sauce (Smyrna-style); and Patsas, a tripe soup, best tried late at night (or early morning). For seafood, in Thessaloniki, you can find Gemista kalamarakia (Stuffed squids), Mydopilafo (rice with mussels) or Mydia saganaki (mussels in tomato sauce).

Fast food and snacks
  • The traditional fast food of Thessaloniki includes sandwiches with Gyros (pork meat), Souvlaki or Soutzoukaki, offered in many stores.
  • Goody's. is the Greek fast-food chain, actually preferred by Greeks over other fast food restaurants such as McDonald's. There you can find classic hamburgers, also Gyros, pasta, and salads.  
  • Crepes can be found in many stores all around the city. The best can be found at Gounari street, near Navarinou square, that is popular with the city's student population.
  • During the winter you can try roasted chestnuts (Kastana in Greek) that are sold from carts.
  • During the summer one can buy boiled or roasted corn on the cob that is sold from carts.
  • You can try Stafidopsomo, a small bread with raisins, or Koulouri a donut-shaped small bread with sesame. You can find them sold in bakeries or on carts.
  • For breakfast, Bougatsa, can be found in nearly every pastry shop around the city and can be accompanied by cacao milk or coffee.
Most tavernas and restaurants located all around the city of Thessaloniki offer very affordable prices. Most can be found concentrated in areas listed below, that also serve as points of interest for any traveler into the city, where you can experience a lively atmosphere at night with the local population.
  • Pentaraki (ΠENTAPAKI), Sintrivianu sq.2 (Near Kamara). Small tavern with raki & meze at local prices. 
Thessaloniki's Ladadika borough is a particularly busy area in regards to Thessalonian cuisine, with most tavernas serving traditional meze and other such culinary delights. Right next to the port and around Morichovou square, it is full of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
  • Ellinikon, Ladadika (Morichovou Sq.). Offers 'appelation d'origine' local delicacies.  
Athonos Square
The area between Athonos square and Aristotelous street is full of taverns of which many are frequented by mostly young Greeks and tourists. Prices are usually low and the quality can vary greatly from tavern to tavern. Several restaurants have a small band playing local live music. Better to move around before sitting to eat, not only to choose the place but to take a look at the old shops in the area selling fruit, spices, handmade small furniture, etc. Many of the taverns in the area are tourist-traps, so choose a tavern where you see locals and preferably older people.
  • Vrotos, (Near Athonos). Ouzo restaurant (ouzeri). 25% more expensive than others in this region, but top quality.  
Bit-Bazaar and nearby streets
During the day the area hosts antique shops and cheapjacks selling anything useful or useless one can imagine. In the evening it turns into a lively (and noisy) student hang-out and can get very crowded on warm nights. Most of the shops offer cheap wine, ouzo, beers and Mezedes, appetizers that accompany your Ouzo or Tsipouro with a battery of small dishes - by far the best way to eat in Thessaloniki.
  • Evi Evan, Olympou 68-Bit-Bazzar.  
  • Glykia Symoria, Ioustinianou and Zaliki 1. 
  • Selini, Bit-Bazaar, +30 2310 221778.  
  • To floro ke to laio, Baltadorou 11 and Benizelou.  
Ionos Dragoumi
  • Agora, (Off Ionos Dragoumi). Ouzo restaurant (ouzeri) in one of the most interesting old downtown areas.  
Kastra (Ano Poli)
At Ano Poli (also called Old Town and literally the Upper Town), the heritage listed district north of Thessaloniki's city center, many quality restaurants can be found next to the Byzantine walls, and some with views overlooking the city.
  • Yenti (the name of the old Byzantine castle) there you can find one of the most popular kai traditional small restaurant (koutouki) that serves homemade ouzo and tsipouro, handmade mese (small traditional gourmet dishes for ouzo), fresh seafood and handmade Greek food. Τhere usually meet Greek musicians of all ages and sing together Greek songs.
  • Pyrgos, Kastra (Ano Poli). A brasserie.  
  • Makedoniko, Kastra (Ano Poli).  
Tsinari (Ano Poli)
An old district of Ano Poli hosting the eponymous tavern, along with some others.
  • Ano Poli, Tsinari-(Ano Poli). Tavern.
  • be*restaurant, Komninon 10, 2310 021010. stylish bar-restaurant in the heart of Thessaloniki, serving American comfort food in a relaxed environment. 
  • Pire kai vradiazei (Πήρε και βραδιάζει), Omirou 7 (Off Theagenio Hospital). Great Taverna, unique style, good food and some days (Thur-Sun) live music.
  • Tombourlika (Τομπουρλίκα), Navmachias Limnou 14 (Off Vardaris Sqare), +30 2310 548193. Great traditional ouzeri, with fresh fish and meat dishes and live rembetico music.
  • Tsarouchas (Τσαρούχας), Olymbou 78 (Off Ancient Forum). all night and morning open. is for those of you with adventurous tastes, preferably to go after a hard night's drinking, for a "patsás" (tripe) soup - a delicious way to prevent a hangover.  
  • Toicho-Toicho, Polydorou 1 (Ano Poli (Kastra)). A hipster hang-out, nice atmosphere, very expensive for the quality provided.  
  • Kamaras, (Near Rotonda). Great traditional dishes.  
  • Lila Cafe Bistro, Diogenus 23 (Ano Toumba district), 30 2310 947377. Traditional pies and sweets, croissant and dishes accompany the coffee or your drink. Porcelain miniatures and collective drinks are available for originally gifts.  
  • Pizza da Pepe, Stefanou Tatti 10 (side street of Egnatia, near the Aghia Sophia Church), +30 2310 242407. For the best pizzas in town head here.  
  • Myrsini, (behind the State Theatre Etairia Makedonikon Spoudon). Good Cretan restaurant.  
  • Apo Dyo Horia, (Navarinou Square). Cretan and Pontian restaurant. Here, order raki rather than ouzo or tsipouro. 
  • Odos Aristotelous (Lepen), Odos Aristotelous. Most Salonicans know it as the "Lepen".
  • Krikelas, Ladadika (near Morichovou Sq.).  
  • Zythos-Dore, (White Tower Square). An upmarket brasserie with a wide range of specialties and interesting ambiance.  


Thessaloniki has a very active nightlife scene and only recently it is starting to become exposed internationally, with Lonely Planet listing Thessaloniki as the world's fifth-best "ultimate party city".
Cafe-bars are scattered throughout the entire city, which create a lively atmosphere everywhere you step and you can have a drink whenever you want, while trendy bars line up along Thessaloniki's entire waterfront from the old port, along Nikis avenue and down to "Krini", a southeast coastal district of the city.
Thessaloniki also offers a wide variety of nightlife, from small to huge nightclubs with dance music, bars dedicated to rock music, jazz clubs and Bouzoukia, where you can experience Greek music and dancing. Large entertainment venues of the city include Pyli Axiou and Mamounia, at Vilka (which are housed in converted old factories). During summer, one can also find beach bars with lively music and serving drinks throughout the whole day and night, located at the city's southeast suburbs. The city's most known nightlife district is "Ladadika", there together with the many tavernas and restaurants, you will find the most known nightclubs and bars housed in old warehouses next to the port, while in the area around the Kamara (the Arch of Galerius) is home to many cheaper cafe's and bars, popular with the city's student population. Areas were most of Thessaloniki's nightlife is located at are listed below.

Aristotle Square (Aristotelous)
Being the center of the city, some of the most popular cafes and bars are located there. One can find quiet cafes or noisy ones that usually preferred by younger people. Breakfast is also served, some restaurants are also available.

Nikis avenue
Thessaloniki's central seafront avenue is full of cafeterias usually crowded around the clock, available for coffee in daytime and beer or drinks at night. Many bars also feature balconies with views towards the sea.

Ladadika district
At the west side of the center lies the picturesque district of Ladadika (meaning: oil stores). Named this way by the many stores selling oil arriving from the adjacent port of Thessaloniki. Formerly a notorious district, it is today the city's most lively and vibrant areas, were renovated old stone build warehouses host some of the most known nightclubs with all sorts of music, including traditional Greek bouzoukia. Although not the favorite by Thessaloniki’s highest class (modern bouzoukia are not considered a classy kind of entertainment), they are definitely worth a visit for any traveler. Delicate restaurants and Greek taverns serving drinks are located around Morichovou square and are also popular during lunch time.

Proxenou Koromila St
Parallel to the seafront Nikis avenue is Proxenou Koromila street and at night many cafes and bars spill out on to the streets. A few trendy jazz clubs can be found here.

Iktinou pedestrian
Another place in the city with cafes, bars and a couple of restaurants, that spill out onto pedestrianized streets. A popular hangout by many Thessalonians.

Aretsou is located in the southeast part of the city, in the suburb of Kalamaria. Home to high-end bars, cafés, and entertainment venues, most notably on Plastira street, along the coast; featuring loud music and hosting many young people.

A place in Kalamaria with delicate bars, restaurants, and pizzerias. All of them along Sofouli street, right next to the seashore and nearby the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. "Shark", one of the most exclusive nightlife venues of the city is also located in this area with views of the sea and central Thessaloniki.

Boat bars
For a drink on a boat, there are many "floating bars" that depart every 2hrs or so from the White Tower and make a short trip around Thermaic Gulf, where you can enjoy the evening views of the city. Most of them play ethnic and alternative foreign music.

Mylos and Vilka
A set of high-range café, bars, restaurants, ouzeris some with live music located at the city’s west. Also hosting concerts, events, exhibitions, music bands, famous Greek artists, etc.

Valaoritou and Syggrou
Over the last 2 years, a lot of Thessaloniki's nightlife has moved in these areas of the city center. The old industrial center has become a place for entertainment for everybody, with many bars, clubs, and cafes that may remind you of Berlin, or London.

Shopping in Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki is renowned for its major shopping streets and lively laneways. Tsimiski Street and Proxenou Koromila avenue are the city's most famous shopping streets and are among Greece's most expensive and exclusive high streets; there one can find various fashion shops of international brands, boutiques, and high-end international department stores. For cheaper clothing, check out Egnatia street.

As Thessaloniki is considered the cultural capital of Greece, the city has also become a regular fixture for the book trade and book lovers. An International Book Fair is held annually in late spring at the waterfront, there people can find books from new authors and on all topics.
Some of the city's best book stores and places where you can find maps in various languages include:
  • Ianos bookshop, Aristotelous Sq, (city center). Books & art-objects, cultural events.
  • Papasotiriou bookstore
  • Eleftheroudakis bookstore
  • Traveler map store
  • Maliaris-Pedia bookstore

Safety in Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki is regarded as a safe city, much safer than Athens, but one should watch his/her pockets and travel documents, as pickpockets are not rare, especially on buses during rush hour. Also, try to avoid the west area from the city center, and south of the Railway station, as it has become a notorious area of the city. The police number of Thessaloniki is: 100

Language spoken in Thessaloniki, Greece

Greek is the official language. English is widely spoken. 


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