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Things To Do In Thessaloniki, Greece (As Well As How To Get There & Where To Stay)
Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece after Athens. Despite the endless historical places in the city, Thessaloniki also has a modern vibe to it with its vibrant nightlife, culinary delights, and stunning views. The city even made its way to the New York Times “Top Destinations” in 2016.
But with so much to see and do along the way, you’re likely to miss out on the important destinations. To steer you in the right direction, we’ve rounded up the top things to do in Thessaloniki in just a few days or a week.
How To Get To Thessaloniki From Athens
You can get to Thessaloniki from Athens by flight, car, or even by public transit options like buses and trains.
If you want to stop and take in the gorgeous views on the way, renting a car is a good option. This would take about five hours, but it depends on how much time you spend exploring Greece on the way.
Another option is to take public transit such as a bus from the Kifissos Bus Terminal or a train from Athen’s main station. A bus would take about seven hours and train nearly four hours to reach Thessaloniki.
Best Time To Visit Thessaloniki
The best time to visit Thessaloniki is from June to Mid October due to the pleasant temperature and events taking place during this period. The highest temperature in Thessaloniki is 32°C in July, and the lowest is 8°C in January.
Read on to know the perks of visiting Thessaloniki during different seasons:
Thessaloniki In Summer (June to August)
Thessaloniki sees a large number of tourists in the Summer season. Although the temperature is hot during this season, tourists come for the festivals held here during the summer months. These include the Street Mode festival, the Urban Picnic Festival, and many others. With music, dance performances, open-air cinema, and good food, summers in Thessaloniki are quite a big deal.
Thessaloniki In Fall (September to November)
Like Summer, the Fall season in Thessaloniki is also known for its vibrant festivals. The International Trade Fair, the Thessaloniki Mystery Festival, and the Reworks Music Festival are some of the popular ones. The temperature is around 25°C in September, but it drops to nearly 15°C in November. You can also expect rainfall during this time.
Thessaloniki In Winter (December to February)
Unlike the harsh winters in the upper part of Greece, winters in Thessaloniki are mild and easy to deal with. You can expect occasional rain and snow during this time. The average temperature is around 6°C, so that it can be quite chilly at night, and you may not be about to explore the nightlife. However, if you’re looking for a Greece winter getaway, the breathtaking view from Ano Poli and the snow-covered churches and museums will make your time here worthwhile.
Top Things To Do In Thessaloniki
From visiting the archeological sites and museums to experiencing the nightlife in cool eateries, Thessaloniki has a variety of activities in store for its visitors. Below, see all the main attractions in Thessaloniki and the things to do in Thessaloniki.
Visit The White Tower Of Thessaloniki
Considered the city’s landmark, the White Tower is one of the top places to visit in Thessaloniki. This iconic monument was formerly called the Tower of Blood or The Red Tower as it was used as a prison during the invasion of Ottoman in Greece.
The tower later became known as the White Tower after a prisoner painted it white in exchange for his freedom. If you’re here, go to the top floor to enjoy the gorgeous 360° view of the city along with its beautiful beaches and mountains.
Go For An Evening Walk Along The Thessaloniki Waterfront
To delve deep into the culture and the everyday life in Thessaloniki, take a stroll on the 5-km long promenade along its waterfront. Destinations on the way include the Photography Museum, the White Tower, and sculpture known as “The Umbrellas” located near the White Tower.
If you prefer biking to walk, rent a bike and ride along the waterfront bicycle path. You can also check out the cool bars, restaurants, and beautiful gardens on the way.
Visit The Archaeological Sites In Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki has several archaeological sites. Here are a few of them you can visit while you’re here:
Situated in the center of Thessaloniki, Rotunda was turned into a Christian church after it was constructed in about 300 AD. With the Ottoman occupation, the church was turned into a mosque. Once it was liberated, Rotunda was again turned into a Christian church and later into a sculpture museum.
Arch of Galerius
Known as Kamara, the Arch of Galerius was originally constructed to commemorate the victory of Roman general Galerius over the Persians. Kamara is currently a passageway and a famous meeting point in the city.
The Roman Forum, also known as “Ancient Agora,” was constructed by the Romans. Situated near the Aristotelous square, the building was the center of the political and public life in the city.
The Galerius Palace
The Galerius Palace is an important monument in Thessaloniki. It has received awards from the European Union in 2008 for the exceptional conservation of its ruins that turned into an educational site that is now a major attraction in the city.
Visit The Fabulous Museums In Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is famous for its museums, owing to its history dating back thousands of years. In fact, this city holds some of Greece’s best ancient artifacts. Here are some of the best museums you can visit in Thessaloniki:
- The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki houses an extensive collection of thousands of years old artifacts and is a must-visit if you’re interested in ancient Greek history.
- The Museum of Byzantine Culture showcases more than 3000 artifacts, mosaics, and jewelry from the Byzantine period. If you wish to learn about the Byzantine culture and life during the Byzantine era, this museum is worth visiting.
- The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki presents the history of Sephardic Jews and the Jewish life in the city. It houses several monumental stones, inscriptions, and series of photographs, explaining the history of the Jewish people who lived in Thessaloniki.
- The Thessaloniki Olympic Museum was established to preserve the sporting heritage and is a great place to learn about the history of the Olympic Games.
Other museums in Thessaloniki include:
- The Photography Museum
- The Museum of Cinema
- The Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki
- The War Museum
See The Beautiful Churches In Thessaloniki
There are several churches in Thessaloniki dating back thousands of years. Most of these churches are among the best instagrammable places in Thessaloniki. Here are some of the best churches that are worth a visit while you’re in Thessaloniki:
- Hagios Demetrios, also called The Church of Saint Demetrius, is dedicated to Saint Dimitri.
- Hagia Sophia is one of the oldest churches in the city. This Byzantine church is included as a World Heritage Site on the UNESCO list.
- Agios Pavlos is located on a hill and is a beautiful church in the city.
- The Church of Panagia Chalkeon is an attractive Byzantine church with a gorgeous garden.
Walk Around The Thessaloniki Markets
Visiting Thessaloniki’s markets is a great way to experience the local culture and purchase some of the best local products in the city. Modiano and Kapani are the two biggest markets in Thessaloniki and are situated right next to each other on Ermou Street.
From spices, olives, herbs to fish and meat, the markets have everything you need to take a bit of Thessaloniki back home. You can also have lunch from one of the Greek taverns in the markets.
Visit Ladadika To Experience The Nightlife
Ladadika district is one of the best Thessaloniki attractions where you can experience the amazing nightlife. Located in the central area near the Port of Thessaloniki, Ladadika is popular for its beautiful, walkable cobblestone alleyways, colorful buildings, great food, lively music, bars, clubs, and traditional taverns.
Grab a drink from one of the bars in Ladadika and walk through the pretty streets at night. Valaoritou is another lively district with great Thessaloniki nightlife.
Visit The Old Town: Ana Poli
Considered as the historical center of Thessaloniki, Ana Poli is a must-visit district if you find yourself in this city. When most of the city was destroyed by a great fire in 1917, Ana Poli was the only surviving neighborhood.
Tourists love its narrow paved streets, unique architecture, and beautiful views of the city. Ana Poli was the city’s citadel during the Byzantine and Ottoman occupation.
Here are some of the Thessaloniki points of interest in Ana Poli:
- The Kipoi tou Pasha, also known as The Pasha’s Gardens, is a beautiful garden located near the Agios Dimitrios Hospital. If you’re in Ana Poli, this is a great place to relax by the fountains and enjoy the beautiful views of the city.
- Vlatadon Monastery, built in 1351, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in Ana Poli. You can see gorgeous views of the city from the monastery.
- Churches like Profitis Ilias Church, Church of Aghia Aikaterini, and Church of Aghios Nikolaos Orphanos are major tourist attractions in this district.
- Trigoniou Tower is one of the best spots in Ana Poli. It offers stunning views of the forest and the Thermaikos Bay beneath the tower. You can also see Mt Olympus from here. The best time to visit Trigoniou Tower is in the evening, so you’ll also get to enjoy the breathtaking sunset views.
- Sheikh Sou Forest that borders the district’s northeastern edge, is a good place for hiking.
- The Byzantine Bath of the Upper Town is one of the best-preserved Byzantine baths which has survived all these years, right from the Byzantine period.
See The Ancient Hamams In Thessaloniki
There are several hamams (Turkish baths) in Thessaloniki which were constructed during the period of the Turkish occupation. Yahudi Hamam (Bath of the Jews) and Bey Hamam (Bath of Paradise) are the most attractive ones in the city.
These are popular attractions because these bathhouses are among the few remaining Ottoman buildings left in Greece. Visit the hamams to see the Ottoman architecture and the cultural interactions that have taken place in the city ages ago.
Explore The Best Beaches On Thessaloniki
Here are some of the best beaches around Thessaloniki:
- The Agia Triada beach is perfect for a quick getaway as it is nearest to the city. You will find a wide variety of restaurants and bars stretching along the beachside.
- Angelochori beach is in the coastal town of Angelochori. Along the sandy stretch, you will find restaurants that serve Greek and international dishes.
- Potamos beach is a beautiful beach with stunningly clear waters. You can also see the beautiful Mount Olympus over the horizon.
- Afytos beach offers views of the Toroneos Gulf. Tourists love its crystal clear waters and the clean sandy beach.
Best Places To Visit In Thessaloniki To Taste Local Food
Let’s face it: wherever we go, we always turn to food. And to taste the local food of another place is a whole different experience. Some of the best Greek food you have to try in Thessaloniki include a kind of pie called Bougatsa, Frappe, Sesame Bagel, and the Thessaloniki style lunch – and of course, Greek coffee.
Whether you’re looking for Thessaloniki-special dishes or the best new condiments, here are the best restaurants in Thessaloniki that can satisfy the foodie in you.
Situated by the Aegean Sea, this restaurant at Omilos serves delicious seafood and the best varieties of Greek wines. You can sit close to the water and literally touch the waves while eating! With the stunning views of the sea, delicious food, and great music, Opsopoion Maganeiai is an amazing dining option in the city.
Located in the heart of the Ladadika district, Negroponte is a charming restaurant that runs in a building from the 1880s. The atmosphere is cheerful and lively, just like the nightlife in this neighborhood. The chefs pick fresh ingredients every morning and prepare a daily menu. The superb service and the generous portions are other pluses. Overall, it is a great dining option in Thessaloniki.
Situated right on the waterfront, next to Aristotle Square, Agioli is a popular brasserie-bistro in the city. With a good selection of wines and tsipouros, it is a great place to taste both Greek food and Mediterranean culture. The restaurant has two levels, interior seating as well as a balcony. The balcony offers gorgeous views of the sea and is a hit among tourists.
Where To Stay When You Visit Thessaloniki
Although there are a large number of hotels and guesthouses in Thessaloniki, here are our top picks:
Located in the heart of the commercial center of Thessaloniki, Mediterranean Palace offers 5-star facilities with magnificent views of the Thermaikos Gulf. The hotel is best suited for families of 4 or 5. Nearby tourist attractions include the White Tower, the Archaeological Museum, and the Byzantine churches.
Hotel Capsis Bristol Boutique Hotel
If you’re planning to stay in the Ladadika district, this hotel is an excellent option. It is a 5-star boutique hotel located in the heart of the Ladadika district. The rooms are spacious and comfortable. Visitors also love the Persian carpets, the paintings, and the unique antiques. Bicycles are available for free at the hotel so that you can ride to the nearby commercial markets and the seashore.
Situated in the center of Thessaloniki, Park Hotel offers spacious and modern rooms with stunning city views. Visitors love the delicious buffet breakfasts and the refreshments served at the cafe bar. The hotel is just one kilometer away from the seafront. Commercial markets and nightlife hotspots are also within walking distance from the hotel.