Friday, 10 February 2012



Thessaloniki is the capital of Macedonia and second largest city of Greece. It was first established in 316 B.C. by Kassandros and named after his wife, Thessaloniki, half sister of Alexander the Great. Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the Byzantine Empire, next to Constantinople, and is full of beautiful examples of Byzantine art and architecture. 

It became a part of the modern state of Greece in 1913, but burned in 1917 creating a homeless population of 70,000. The city was rebuilt in the 1920s and today Thessaloniki is a lively modern city bustling with life and movement. Large avenues, parks and squares, lines of trees that frame commercial streets with showy shop windows. Old houses, neoclassical buildings, stand side by side with modern dwellings which makes a walk through any section of the city an interesting journey. The past and present merge at old taverns, "ouzeries", restaurants next to hotels and luxury bars, "bouzouki halls" (Thessaloniki is the cradle of modern Greek popular song, "rembetika"), cinema halls, theaters and sidewalk cafes on street pavements and squares. Small family run taverns and basement pastry shops offer a delicious variety of famous Macedonian specialties, next to stalls of ice-cream sellers for busy pedestrians.

The main squares are Platia Elefterias and Platia Aristotelous, both on the waterfront and alive with cafes and restaurants, children playing or people just strolling. This is the place to be in the summer at sunset if you enjoy people watching. Afterwards walk a few blocks to the Ladadika neighborhood, the old Red Light district (and before that the Egyptian market and later the oil market from where it got its name), full of ouzeries, bars, cafes and bistro-style restaurants and tavernas.


Ano Poli (also called Old Town and literally the Upper Town) is the heritage listed district north of Thessaloniki’s city center that was not engulfed by the great fire of 1917 and was declared a UNESCO heritage site by ministerial actions of Melina Merkouri during the 1980s. It consists of Thessaloniki’s most traditional part of the city, still featuring small stone paved streets, old squares and homes featuring old Greek and Ottoman architecture. 

The old port area is being rennovated with  the warehouses being turned into large restaurants and clubs and even an art gallery or two. If you follow the port road of Leoforos Nikis heading east along the bay you will come to the Lefkos Pyrgos, or White Tower is the symbol of the city and is close to the University area with its clubs and bars, and the International Trade fairgrounds are located is nearby as is the excellent archaeology museum.  The neighborhood of Kalamaria is a modern area on the eastern edge of the city, overlooking a large marina and the Thermaikos Gulf. There is a green park above the sea and a number of ouzeries, restaurants, bars and cafes and is a hangout for the young as well as families. 

A must-visit place is Moudiano, the meat market, in a restored old building full of energy, smells, and some of the most famous old ouzeries in Thessaloniki, some of them with live rembetika music and spontaneous parties.

Thessaloniki is in the process of building their metro system which should do for them what the Athens Metro did for the capital, get more cars off the street and more people using public transport.

The Rotunda

Thassalkoniki’s Top 5:

  1.  The White Tower.   The White Tower is a defensive structure dated to the 15th century. Later, it was used as a guard's quarters by the Janissaries and as a prison for those who were convicted to death. It was built on the place where an older, Byzantine tower once stood. This Byzantine tower connected the east wall of the fortification of Thessalonike (the part preserved today) with the sea wall, which was demolished in1866. The museum in the White Tower contains various collections of sculptures, frescoes, fragments of mosaic floors and wall mosaics, icons, coins, inscriptions, pottery, glass and metal items.  There is a small cafe with a great view at the top.                                                              
  2.  Vergina. The ancient site of Aigai and the first capital of Macedonia has extensive ruins including the tomb of Phillip and the summer palace of King Antigonas Gonatas. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 to 3:30 but stays open until 7 in the summer. Most of the best findings are in the archaeological museum in Thessaloniki.
  3. The Rotonda. A domed building of early 4th century A.D., served as a Pantheum or as a Mausoleum for emperor Galerius. Now the church of Saint George. Was a mosque during the Turkish occupation and the minaret still stands.  
  4.  Arch of Galerius.  The Arch of Galerius, stands on what is now Egnatia & Dimitrios Gounari Street. The arch was built in 298 to 299 CE and dedicated in 303 CE to celebrate the victory of the tetrarch Galerius over the Sassanid Persians and capture of their capital Ctesiphon in 298. The structure was an octopylon (eight-pillared gateway) forming a triple arch that was built of a rubble masonry core faced first with brick and then with marble panels with sculptural relief.
  5.  The City Walls. Erected during the time of Theodossios the Great to guard the city from Democracy Square of nowadays across Eptapyrgio up to the site later occupied by the White Tower, a work of the architect Sinan (first half of 16th century).
Arch of Galerius


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