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Find information on Thessaloniki in our Travel Guide covering sights, foods and nightlife plus more...
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Thessaloniki lying in the north of Greece in Central Macedonia is the country’s second largest city with a population of one million. Thessaloniki’s history spans three millennia and there are relics from its Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past. It is a thriving city with a busy modern port above which lies the Old or Upper Town. There is so much to do and see in Thessaloniki, with its wealth of churches, museums and historic sites, as well as its vast shopping opportunities that you will need to either prioritise your sightseeing list or promise to return.
Thessaloniki is a fascinating city with its wonderful mix of the old and the new. The wide tree-lined boulevards, parks and squares make the modern Thessaloniki a very attractive city. Modern buildings stand cheek by jowl with neoclassical structures and old churches, adding to the interest of the town. Restaurants and tavernas serve every type of menu from fast food to haute cuisine. If you tire of the city you can spend a day on some of the glorious beaches on the Kassandra Peninsula.
Thessaloniki is popular with adults of all ages and particularly with those who enjoy cultural holidays and are interested in ancient history. The large number and diverse nature of the shops, appeal to those who like a little retail therapy and there are restaurants and tavernas which cater for every possible taste.
Although the summer holiday season lasts from April until October when the temperature ranges from twenty to thirty degrees, summer is the most popular time to visit Thessaloniki. City breaks are often taken in early and late season when the weather is cooler.
Thessaloniki is a large and vibrant city and to make the most of your visit, it is important to plan your days and your routes carefully according to your interests. There are however certain attractions that are on every sightseeing list. The White Tower on the waterfront, dating from the sixteenth century, has become the symbol for the town. It is the only remaining fortification at sea level and now houses Byzantine Art. The walls of the Old, or Upper, Town remain, and here it is a delight to wander through the maze of narrow cobbled streets. The view of the city and the bay from the Byzantine Citadel is quite spectacular, especially in the evening when the sun is setting.
The seafront has a long promenade stretching for several kilometres and is well supplied with pavement cafes and restaurants. Those who enjoy visiting churches are spoilt for choice. There are many wonderful examples of places of worship throughout the ages, from the fifth century Church of Ossios David through the eighth century Agia Sofia to the many post-Byzantine churches. The changing styles are fascinating especially to those with an interest in architecture. It is worth taking a guided tour of the city as it is the extra small titbits, not found in guide books, that help you to fix the information in your mind.
There are some well preserved and interesting archaeological sites and these include the Roman Market and theatre, the Roman Baths, and the Palace of Galerius.
There are also some excellent museums including the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Byzantine Culture which was the 2005 winner of best European Museum.
When you have completed your cultural tour of the city you can relax in one of the many wonderful restaurants and tavernas or, for those with limitless energy join the nightclub trail.
Thessaloniki nightlife can be as lively or as sophisticated as you wish. There are clubs where music and dance continue until dawn, exclusive restaurants serving haute cuisine and intimate homely tavernas where you can enjoy a traditional meal.
Those who like a holiday flutter can visit the spectacular Regency Casino near the airport which lies in wonderful gardens. Visitors must be over twenty-two and there is a dress code. The casino never closes.
Thessaloniki is a shopoholics dream with a plethora of shops and markets selling a wide variety of goods. There are all kinds of specialist shops and designer boutiques. The market between Aristotelis Square and Venizelou Street has hundreds of stalls selling everything from meat and fish to clothes and jewellery. Popular holiday souvenirs include colourful ceramics, leather goods, silver and gold jewellery and alabaster figurines of the ancient Greek gods and leaders.
Thessaloniki has a vast number of restaurants and tavernas catering for all tastes. There are small family run tavernas serving traditional food; fast food outlets, pastry shops and ice-cream parlours serving between-meal snacks; first class restaurants supplying international cuisine. The long promenade overlooking the bay has numerous pavement cafes and restaurants. A good way to try traditional food is to order Mezedes, the Greek equivalent of the Spanish tapas, which includes a variety of bite-sized fish, meat and vegetables.
Children are always made very welcome in restaurants and their portion size is usually accommodated.