(Photo by Nikos Koutoulas)
You’ll find everything, including street musicians, in Thessaloniki, Greece!
Thessaloniki, the Best Greek City You’ve Never Been To
History buffs will love Thessaloniki. This city is old – I mean really, really old! Try 2,300 years old! Thessaloniki dates back to 315 B.C., and it was quite an impressive metropolis in ancient Rome. Thessaloniki thrived under the Byzantine Empire, ranking second in size and wealth of the Empire’s cities. As such, there are numerous monuments and ruins from the time resting in Thessaloniki today for everyone to see. For the record, it’s also the fifth-best party city in the world, so you won’t be bored while you’re there! Why is Thessaloniki the best Greek city you’ve never been to? Here’s why!
Thessaloniki is steeped in ancient history, and you’ll find plenty of ruins and sites in this friendly and fun Greek city. Ever wonder how the citizens of the Byzantine Empire lived during its reign? All you need to do is wander through Thessaloniki to find out. Some notable sites you simply must see are:
- Roman Forums: Thessaloniki has two large Roman forum complexes ready for you to explore. Dating as far back as the 2nd century, these forums are home to Roman baths (one excavated, one still underground) and an amphitheater used for gladiator games.
- Walls of Thessaloniki: The Walls of Thessaloniki were built as far back as the 4th and 5th centuries B.C.; the structures that remain date back as late as the 3rd century. Despite their age, many of the wall structures and a few city gates remain in surprisingly good shape.
- Arch of Galerius/Rotunda of St. George: The Arch of Galerius leads to the Rotunda of St. George and both structures were commissioned by Roman Emperor Galerius in the 4th century. Enjoy the beautiful sculpture carved into the arch, then head through it to visit St. George’s amazing rotunda.
- Church of the Acheiropoietos: Built in the 5th century and located in Thessaloniki’s city center, the Church of the Acheiropoietos is a Byzantine-period structure that is one of Thessaloniki’s oldest surviving churches, with many mosaics and columns detailing the city’s complex history.
- Imperial Palace Complex: During his reign, it is believed that the Roman Emperor Galerius made the Imperial Palace Complex his home. Included on the grounds are the remains of an octagonal structure believed to have been his throne room and some beautiful mosaics.
A city as historic as Thessaloniki must have a ton of museums, right? Right! After all, there is art, culture, and history dating back more than 2,000 years. Alongside Thessaloniki’s historic sites, many of its museums are ready to teach you about the city’s diverse past. Some must-visits are:
- Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki: Established in 1962, the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki is filled to the brim with art and artifacts dating as far back as the Neolithic and Bronze ages as well as palatial splendor excavated from the Aigai and Pella royal palaces.
- Prehistoric Antiquities Museum of Thessaloniki: If you didn’t get enough of a prehistoric history lesson at Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum, check out the Prehistoric Antiquities Museum for a more complete collection of the area’s prehistoric times.
- Museum of Byzantine Culture: The Byzantine Empire was a very rich one, and people flock in droves to see its glorious and golden (literally and figuratively speaking) past. Thessaloniki’s Byzantine history is strongly represented in the artifacts on display at this museum.
- White Tower of Thessaloniki: The White Tower of Thessaloniki is an artifact in and of itself, and once you enter the 12th century tower, be prepared to spend hours perusing the artwork featured in this gallery. The White Tower features art from the 12th century to today.
- Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum: Want to appease your inner geek? Head over to the Science Center and Technology Museum to see why this complex is one of southeastern Europe’s most advanced technological facilities.
Remember when I said Thessaloniki was the fifth-best party city in the world? Countless bars, clubs, and pubs are one reason; the other is festivals. The Greek like to gather and have a good time, and Thessaloniki holds annual festivals sure to put a smile on everyone’s face. For example:
- Thessaloniki International Film Festival: Maybe not so much a wild party as a gathering of Hollywood and Europe’s film-making elite, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival began in 1960. It has seen participation from the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Catherine Deneuve, and Faye Dunaway.
- Dimitria Festival: Thessaloniki’s patron saint is St. Demetrius, so each year, the city honors the saint with a festival filled with dancing, music, and theater. You’ll also wander through exhibitions and learn all about Thessaloniki from a local perspective.
- DMC DJ Championship: Now this is a party! Included in Thessaloniki’s annual International Trade Fair is an international DJ championship. Dance until you can dance no more to spin doctors from all over the world looking for their piece of DJ history.
- International Festival of Photography: Okay, this is more subdued but still sure to put a smile on your face… and perhaps even make you think a little. View photography exhibitions from international artists who proudly feature their work annually at this remarkable festival.
- International Book Fair: Is your idea of a party curling up with a great book, a glass of… whatever you prefer… a blanket or puppy or kitten on your lap, and a fire roaring in the fireplace? No prob! Visit the Thessaloniki International Book Fair for your party!
Yes! My favorite part of these blogs… it’s time to eat! I love Greek food, and for the most part, it’s pretty darn healthy, so you can overeat the entire time you’re in Thessaloniki! Diet be darned! I’m going to have a great time with some fantastic Greek food, and so are you! What should you eat? Check out:
- Greek Coffee: When in Thessaloniki, you will be dragging yourself out of bed in the morning after a long night of partying. Your first food stop should be at one of the many coffees shops to enjoy a strong cuppa! Like yours creamy? Ask for a frappe coffee.
- Bougatsa: After you’ve charged yourself up with a little caffeine, enjoy a traditional Northern Greek breakfast. The food is called bougatsa, and it’s a cheese, custard, meat, or spinach pie. The combo of protein and carbs is sure to fuel you for your day… until lunch, that is.
- Street Food: There’s nothing better than street food! You can just go from street vendor to street vendor and pig out! When in Greece, you must have a gyro, and there are plenty of street food vendors offering great gyros, crepes, and so much more!
- Pastries: If you’ve had baklava, you know how yummy Greek pastries can be. I always like an afternoon cup of coffee and something sweet to go with it. For your afternoon snack, visit one of Thessaloniki’s pastry shops for a delectable and decadent treat!
- Taverna: What’s a taverna? It’s a fun and friendly restaurant where you can enjoy a ton of great food and wine at reasonable prices. Tavernas are a Thessaloniki tradition, and they are filled with loud and happy people there to enjoy each other’s company.
The sites, museums and galleries, festivals, and food options are just the tip of the iceberg in Thessaloniki. This city is filled with things to see and do and places to eat and drink. You will be amazed at the history; you will be amazed by the food; and you will party like a crazed animal, because that is what Thessaloniki is all about! Book your trip and get to know the best Greek city you’ve never been to!