Tours and Activities in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia. Also known as the “Bride of the Thermaic” and the “Co-Capital”, it is a city with a 3000 year old history. What to see there? For starters, relics of its Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman history, as well as reminders of its formerly dominant Jewish population. Many of its churches and other city sites are included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The structure of the city allows visitors to walk to many of its major sites, making it easy to decide where to go there.
What to do in Thessaloniki?
The “boardwalk” is one of the best places to visit, spanning close to 4.5 km, from the city port to the Concert Hall. Half way through, at the White Tower (maybe ts most symbolic attraction), the waterfront “Nea Paralia” seems never ending. Along the coastal walkway, 13 thematic parks are featured. During the summer, pedestrians flood the walkway enjoying their long evening walk known in Greek as “Volta”, a local tradition. There you will find food and beverage vendors, bike riders taking advantage of the bicycle lane, kids skating, fishermen fishing and an overall lively atmosphere. All this while facing the Thermaic and a clear view of Mount Olympus across the Gulf. There are options for a horse & carriage ride, “floating” café-bars and many other seasonal entertainment options.
Thessaloniki Sightseeing Attractions
Thessaloniki is considered to be the important cultural capital. For a city of one million people, the number of monuments and museums is astonishing: 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 29 museums with themes ranging from Archeology to Contemporary Sports.
The northernmost Byzantine walls of the city and parts of the western walls still stand, as does the city’s symbol, the White Tower, from the 16th Century AD. The city walls are located in the scenic Upper Town which offers a spectacular view over the bay, especially in the evening. The sunset is magical. Visit the upper town and admire its traditional homes, narrow cobbled streets and Byzantine citadel.
On no account should you miss the Byzantine churches St. Dimitrios (who is considered the city’s Guardian Saint), and St. Sophia, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Rotunda was originally a Roman temple of Zeus built by Cesar Galerius, and is almost as old as the Pantheon in Rome. Next to the Rotunda, see the Arch of Triumph of Galerius and the ruins of his palace. You can see them all with a private walking tour!
“Mother of Israel”
The city is also known as “the mother of Israel”, due to its once flourishing Jewish community, which existed from the Roman period and grew substantially after the Ottoman Empire took in Jewish refugees expelled from Spain, Portugal, and Spanish territories in Italy; these Jews are known as “Sephardim”. Sephardic Jews formed a significant percentage of the city’s population and infrastructure until World War II, when in spring 1943, a vast majority were deported by the Nazis to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. However, there are still two Synagogues and the Jewish Museum. Visit them all with a private walking tour!
Turkish Monuments in Thessaloniki
Also interesting are the Turkish Monuments such as the public baths Bey Hamam, the Bezesteni (Ottoman closed market for jewelry and precious materials) the Alatza Imaret (Ottoman poorhouse) and Hamza Bey Camii (both restored and used for exhibitions). Visit them with a private walking tour!
Thessaloniki is famous for its vibrant city culture and it boasts the most cafes and bars per capita in Europe. Nightlife and entertainment have unlimited options thanks to its vastly young population and multicultural identity. Built along the coast of the Thermaic Gulf, trendy bars, restaurants and other entertainment establishments are scattered throughout the city and cater to all tastes. Many are located on pedestrianized streets or along the waterfront with sea view. Countless diverse happenings and events take place throughout the city on a daily basis.
The traditional central food market, with hundreds of stalls selling fresh meat, fish, fruit, vegetables (sometimes cheek-by-jowl, an unnerving experience for North Americans), thrifty clothes and shoes, flowers, herbs and spices. The market ranges between Aristotele Square and Venizelou St. You can have the first taste of the city through its street food, delighting yourself with dishes like koulouri (a sesame bread ring, incredibly crunchy on the outside with an amazingly soft and slightly chewy centre, perfect to enjoy your greek coffee with), gyros (meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, traditionally pork, or chicken, and outside Greece with beef, veal or lamb, and usually served wrapped in a flatbread such as pita, with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce), and mpougatsa (a breakfast pie with a phyllo pastry made of flour, softened butter and oil). Let us walk you through Greek cuisine with an amazing food an culture tour!
Most roads in the city center are either parallel or perpendicular to the sea. A simple rule that helps visitors is that if any street goes downward, follow it and end up at the waterfront.You will most likely have a view of the water anyway! The longest parallel streets to the sea starting from the sea are Nikis, Tsimiski, Ermou, and Egnatia.