Welcome to the beautiful and vibrant city of Thessaloniki, also known as Saloniki!
Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece, with over 1 million inhabitants. It is also the capital of the Macedonian region. The city has an impressive historical background, dating from the Roman period through to the Byzantine era and the Ottoman period, and has many interesting historical sights for you to visit.
At present, it is one of the most popular destinations in Eastern Europe, attracting visitors all year round due to its rich history, vibrant cultural life, shopping facilities, and its delicious food.
It’s remarkable that in 2013, Thessaloniki was featured in National Geographic Magazine as one of the top tourist destinations worldwide and that in 2014, the Financial Times FDI magazine (Foreign Direct Investments) declared Thessaloniki the best mid-sized European city of the future in terms of both human capital and lifestyle (source Wikipedia).
So, whether you are searching for a short city break or are visiting Northern Greece for summer holidays, make a stop in Thessaloniki and get to know this wonderful city better!
In this post, we have selected the top 10 attractions in Thessaloniki. You should not miss them regardless of the duration of your stay, the timing, your holiday budget, and the age group of the visitors in your group! Thessaloniki, especially the heart of the city, has really something for everyone! So…… let’ start!
1. The White Tower
The number one sight in Thessaloniki and the city’s distinguishing landmark is the White Tower which is located on the city’s central waterfront. The White Tower was built between 1450-70 and is a typical example of 15th-century Ottoman construction. The current tower building replaces the original 12th-century Byzantine fortification, which was, in its day, utilized as a Janissary garrison and as a death row prison.
Today, it operates as a museum and is one of the most famous city buildings/landmarks in Greece. It has 6 floors, is 34 metres high and 70 metres in perimeter. The highlight of the tower is definitely its spectacular 360degree view: you can see the port, promenade and city centre from one side and from the other, the Royal Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece. The tower is absolutely a must-see and the best starting point for your city exploration!
From 18/4 until 15/11:
Daily (Monday to Sunday) 08:00 hrs – 20:00 hrs
From 16/11 until 31/03:
Daily (Monday to Sunday) 09:00 hrs – 16:00 hrs
Closed on public holidays
From 01/04 until 31/10
Main ticket: 6.00 €
Reduced ticket: 3.00 €
From 01/11 until 31/03
Ticket: 3.00 €
For changes or updates feel free to check the following website: http://www.mbp.gr
2. Aristotelous Square
We are moving on now to the beautiful Aristotelous Square, one of the busiest places in the city! This is the main city square and is located on Nikis avenue (on the city’s waterfront), in the city centre. It was designed by the French architect Ernest Hébrard in 1918 but most of the square was actually constructed in the 1950s. Many buildings surrounding the central square have since been renovated and its northern areas were largely restored in the 2000s.
Twelve buildings make up Aristotelous Square. The two quarter-circular sides of the square are occupied by buildings which are of great significance in the city. On the left side, one can find the luxury Electra Palace Hotel with a fantastic rooftop and terrace where a morning coffee or an early drink can be enjoyed while observing the whole city from above. On the right-hand side of the square, is one of the city’s most famous movie theatres, the Olympion Theatre cinema, where in November each year, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival takes place and also annually, every March, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
This square is also the meeting point and “place to be” among the younger generation of Greeks as you can find plenty of bars, cafes, and shops here, all with beautiful sea views.
Last but not least, Aristotelous Square hosts many of the city’s major events such as concerts, festivals, cultural events, and political speeches.
3. Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
One of the most important museums to visit in Thessaloniki is the Archaeological Museum. Located in the city centre, close to the White Tower, the museum was built in 1962 but was extensively renovated in the run-up to the Athens Olympics in 2004.
The museum holds exhibits from archaeological excavations conducted in both Thessaloniki and the broader area of Macedonia. Highlight of the museum is the collection of Archaic to Late Roman sculptures, which illustrate the history of Thessaloniki and Macedonia region dating from prehistoric times to Late Antiquity. Apart from having a permanent display, the Archaeological Museum also hosts major temporary and thematic exhibitions.
Summer (15/04 – 14/11):
08:00 hrs – 20:00 hrs daily
Winter (15/11 – 14/04):
09:00 hrs – 16:00 hrs daily
During the Easter the visiting hours are:
Good Friday: 12.00 hrs -17.00 hrs
Saturday: 08.30 hrs – 16.00 hrs
Easter Sunday: CLOSED
The Museum is closed on:
25 and 26 December, 1 January, 25 March, Easter Sunday, 1 May
Price: 8.00 € (reduced: €4.00)
From November 1st until March 31st reduced ticket price (4.00 €) applies to all guests.
For more information visit https://www.amth.gr/
4. Church of Saint Demetrius
The church of Saint Demetrius is located, once again, close to the city centre on “Agiou Dimitriou” street. It takes its name from Saint Demetrius –the patron saint of Thessaloniki. The original church in this location was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica.
Saint Demetrius church belongs to the Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki and has been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1988.
Beneath the Church of St. Demetrius lies the tragic place where St. Demetrius, along with other Christians of the early Roman period, were martyred.
Rumours say that the ancient crypt under the temple of St. Demetrius is just a small part of a huge tunnel system that connects the Roman Palace of Galerius with The Arch of Galerius, Rotunda and the City Walls.
St. Demetrius is celebrated every year on 26.10 which is a bank holiday and a day of great festivity in the city.
Monday/Wednesday/Thursday: 08:00 hrs – 15:00 hrs
Friday: 09:00hrs – 13:30 hrs & 19:00 hrs – 22:00 hrs (church service)
Saturday/Sunday: 07:30 hrs – 14:30 hrs
Telephone: 0030 2310 270 008
5. Rotunda and Arch of Galerius
The Rotunda is an amazing, round, vaulted building similar to the Pantheon in Rome. It was built in the years of the emperor Galerius, around 304 AD, and was intended to function as a temple dedicated to Zeus.
Due to disuse during the Byzantine period, it was converted into the Christian church of the Incorporeal Forces and after the Liberation of Thessaloniki, in 1912, it was dedicated to Agios Georgios. Like the Church of Saint Demetrius, it is included in the Early Christian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Every day: 8:30 hrs – 15:30 hrs
2.00 € (reduced: €1.00)
Only a few steps away from the Rotunda you will find the Arch of Galerius, also known in Greek as “Kamara”, on Egnatia Street. It is a building from the Roman “Tetrarchy” era (early 4th century AD) and was built to honour the Roman Emperor Galerius when he returned victorious to the city (around 306 AD) after his wars against the Persians. It is a popular meeting place, mainly amongst the student population of the city.
6. Ladadika District
After hours of sightseeing, it’s time for a break! Ladadika district is located in the city centre, perpendicular to the famous shopping street of Tsimiski. In Greek, the word Ladadika means shops which sell oil. During the Ottoman period, this area was the central market place of Thessaloniki and was also known as the “Egyptian” market.
Here, you can find small, traditional Greek taverns, cosy cafes and bars and, later on at night, it’s the best spot in the city for nightlife! The entire area is pedestrian-only!
Stroll around the cobbled, picturesque alleys in one of the best locations in the city for street photography!
7. Kapani & Modiano Market
On the upper part of Aristotelous square on the left, down the narrow streets, lies the traditional Kapani Market which has been operating since the Ottoman years. Fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, spices, herbs, nuts plus clothing and souvenirs can all be found here! It’s definitely worth a visit even if you don’t want to buy anything. Stroll around and see locals in their everyday lives. Last but not least, it also one of the most photographed spots in the town!
Modiano Market or in Greek Stoa Modiano is the interesting, enclosed market place comprising of fish markets, butchers’ shops and various other food stalls as well as having tavernas to check out. It was built between 1922 and 1925, after the great fire of 1917, on the site of the old Talmud Tora synagogue. Today the building is currently under restoration but is expected to reopen in 2020-21.
▶ ALSO READ: All you need to know about Halkidiki (North Greece)
8. Thessaloniki Seafront promenade “Nea Paralia”
Apart from its rich history, tasty local food, and vibrant entertainment, Thessaloniki has been characterized by many as one of the most romantic cities in Greece.
The new sea front promenade, in Greek “Nea Paralia,” is the best place for a romantic walk around sunset. You can start off from The White Tower and will eventually reach the Concert Hall -approximately a 4 km walk. It is also ideal for jogging and other sports activities like cycling. You can hire from the bike shops in the area.
The magnificent statue of Alexander the Great is situated at the start of the promenade close to the White Tower and near where the Royal Theatre of Thessaloniki is also located.
Born in 256 AD in Pella, Macedonia, Alexander the Great was the son of King Phillip the 2nd of Macedon. He was educated by the greatest philosopher of all time, Aristotle, and created an enormous empire stretching from Thrace and Macedonia to the depths of Egypt and the Indian peninsula in the Far East.
The impressive statue of Alexander the Great was created by the artist Evaggelos Moustakas. It was revealed in 1973 and it is over 6m (20 ft) high.
A few steps further along and not to be missed is another of Thessaloniki’s famous features….the beautiful Umbrellas by the artist Zongopoulos – another photographic hot spot!
Last but not least, don’t leave “Nea Paralia” (the new seafront) without stopping to take a picture of the sculpture “Moon on the coast”. It was created by Pavlos Vassiliadis and, in 2019, was transferred to the seafront opposite the luxury Makedonia Palace hotel. An ideal time to visit is during sunset. You will be amazed by the colors of the sky and the sea!
9. Castle Eptapyrgio
The Heptapyrgion modern Eptapyrgio, also popularly known by its Ottoman Turkish name Yedi Kule, is a Byzantine and Ottoman-era fortress situated on the north-eastern corner of the Acropolis of Thessaloniki.
Despite its name, which in both languages means “Fortress of Seven Towers”, it features ten, and was probably named after the Yedikule Fortress in Istanbul in Turkey.
It served as the major redoubt of the city’s acropolis, as well as the seat of its garrison commander in Ottoman times, until the late 19th century. It was then converted to a prison which remained open until 1989. References to the infamous Yedi Kule prison abound in the Greek rebetika songs. Restoration and archaeological work on the fortress began in the 1970s and continues to this day.
From Eptapyrgio you can get spectacular views of the city. Traditional, quaint old neighborhoods, cafes and taverns create a beautiful nostalgic setting reminding visitors of the city in years gone by.
10. Domaine Gerovassileiou – Greek Local Winery
Concluding here, we have added a tourist attraction a bit further away from the city centre but very close to Thessaloniki’s Macedonia Airport which is definitely worth a visit.
For wine lovers, Gerovassileiou winery has been included among the 100 top wineries for seven years running and Vangelis Gerovassiliou is considered among the six best wine-producers worldwide.
At the Domaine, the visitor will have the chance:
-to visit the museum and learn about the history of wine
-to see the vineyards and factory and be captivated by the process of wine production
-and, last but not least…to taste the delectable wine!
Guided tours are available at set times on specific days of the week.
Lastly, for those who might get a little hungry, there is an attractive and elegant restaurant nearby with amazing views over Mount Olympus! Next to the restaurant, there is also a shop where you can buy beautiful souvenirs and wine straight from the producer!
For more information see our previous blog here.
Car Hire in Thessaloniki
For those who are interested in hiring a car, Potos Car Rentals deliver cars straight to Thessaloniki Airport. For prices and models click here.
Most of the sights we have included above, with the exception of Eptapyrgion and Domaine of Gerovassileiou, are within close proximity (walking distance) of each other.
Walking in Thessaloniki is possibly the best way to discover the city as parking in the centre can be very difficult. If you intend to hire a car, it’s a good idea to book accommodation with onsite parking facilities or, alternatively, check out private parking facilities nearby.
We hope you will visit Thessaloniki one day soon and that you will enjoy this vibrant city!
Have your ever visited Thessaloniki? What did you enjoy most? Let us know!
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