Thessaloniki is the second biggest city of Greece after the capital Athens. Not being a famous touristic island makes it a perfect place for exploring the real Greece which is more than just beaches and white houses of Santorini. It is a historical marvel and offers a lot to explore on that front. This is why it was the best city to start my Offbeat Greece project.
What to do in Thessaloniki
- Seep in the soulful views at Promenade: Promenade is the most lively and crowded part of the city. This long walk along the beach is a must for anyone visiting the city. You can grab a local drink at any of the bars along it and see the colorful sunset over the sea. We found an interesting Nut shop (offering a wide variety of nuts and dried fruits) along this walk. Quirky!
- Treat your taste buds at Ladadika: Ladadika narrates the party anthem of Thessaloniki. Cobbled streets filled with laughter and Ouzo! People of all ages join to enjoy the delicious food and chat through the night. The later you go, more fun it gets!
- Visit the Greek Orthodox churches:Greece is strongly inclined towards religion. Majority of people are a firm believer and hence practice Orthodox Christianity. These churches have an interesting architecture and are very different from Cathedrals in other parts of Europe like Lausanne, Bern etc. Two of the very famous ones are, Agias Sofias and Hagios Demetrios. You can also find some small churches walking around randomly on streets.
- Museums:Thessaloniki is enriched with history and has a variety of museums depicting various aspects of it. from modern Photography and cinema museum to Jewish history museum. From Macedonian struggle museum to Archeology museum. My personal favorites are the Archaeology museum and Byzantine museum. There is also a war museum with a wide range collection of arms and weapons from different wars Greece has been a part of.
- Walk up the white tower: The white tower has been a symbol of Thessaloniki since ages now. It has a small museum inside and gives you scenic view of the city and the sea.
- Walk around the old town:Away from the hustle of promenade and crowded parts of the city, old town is usually silent and gives more local feel to the place. I love those balconies, they remind me of the stunning houses around Lake Maggiore in Italy.
- Roman ruins: Take a historical dip in Thessaloniki by visiting the ruins from ancient times. From the Arch of Galerius to Rotunda. I recommend taking the long walk from the White Tower to the Ancient Agora (also known as the Roman Forum). This takes you from the sea-side promenade to the old town of Thessaloniki.
- Heptapyrgion (Also known as Eptapyrio or Yedi Kule): It is an Ottoman-era fort from ancient Greece. It later served as the prison and its horror stories are well spread. Being at a hill on the north-east of the city, it also offers a nice view over the city.
What and where to eat/drink
In a country like Greece, food and drinks will lure you easily. There is a large amazing variety of vegetarian, non vegetarian and sea food options. Stopping by at the stylish Greek cafes for the wonderful (and strong) coffee is a must.
Ladadika, is the one stop place for both food and drinks at late hours. I would recommend to be there around/after nine to see it with full swing. Sitting outside the taverns and bars, you will find locals having their after-work drinks and dinner. Negroponte was my favorite restaurant there. There is an amazing sweet shop called Terkenlis (Website, only in Greek), next to Agias Sophias square, that you have to try! I am sure they also have other branches in the city. I also recommend Mikel Coffee branches for take away coffees.
Where to stay
We have been a big fan of Airbnb since forever now. It is cheaper than hotel and even hostels (when you book for two or more people). It is one of the best and direct ways to give money to local people and communities and not big fat hotel chains (Go green, go local, remember?). If you don’t have an account yet, sign up now and take amazing cheap trips. Use this link to get 30 Euros towards your first trip (I get the same amount as well :)).
More time in Thessaloniki?
Take a regional train from Thessaloniki to Kalambaka (about 2.5 hours) and witness one of the most stunning marvels of nature. Meteora is home to many Orthodox Christian monasteries. They seem to be in the middle of sky due to their base on the spectacular gravity-defying vertical rock columns.
Larissa is the fifth largest Greek city and has a wonderful nightlife. It is a perfect city to have a layover as it is close to many magnificent sites in Greece like Mount Olympus, Meteora, Pelion, Volos etc. Regional train from Thessaloniki to Larissa takes about 2 hours.
- Student ID: Carry your student ID with you if you are a student. Most of the museums are either free or offer a reduced entry fee for students. Regional transport (both bus and trains) is also cheaper for students.
- Timings of museums: Take note of the opening hours of the museums. They vary a lot on weekdays and weekends. You can find all these details by a simple google search or on each museum’s website.
- Non-touristic time: Best time to visit Thessaloniki is after summer. I would recommend October when most of the crowd has returned after the summer break.
- Local transport: Regional transport in Greece are quite cheap (even cheaper for students) and reliable. We did most of our intercity travels with regional trains.
- Bus tickets: If you need to take a bus ride in Thessaloniki, please offer the exact amount. The ticket machines in the buses do not give change back. You can find the bus routes here.
- Museum combo ticket: There is a museum combo ticket that you can buy and save some money over each ticket.
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