Thessaloniki Travel Guide
This is Greece’s second city, which, like the rest of the country, has suffered the hit of the economic crisis, but the streets remain full of life and vibrancy.
The different neighborhoods are little worlds unto themselves, and when you climb up to the Byzantine walls and take in the whole of Thessaloniki at sunset, you see what a sprawling, organic city it is. Old and new cohabit wonderfully: the Arch of Galerius, an intricate 4th-century monument, overlooks the busy shopping drag of Egnatia, while Thessaloniki’s most famous sight, the White Tower, anchors a waterfront packed with cocktail bars. The revamped waterfront area breathes life and is great for walking and cycling. By night, the city reverberates with music and nightlife.
“Thessaloniki Travel Guide”
Macedonia’s prehistory, Hellenistic and Roman periods are charted in this wonderful museum, home to many of the region’s major archaeological discoveries. Highlights include goldwork from various hoards and graves, and the Derveni Krater (330–320 BC), a huge, ornate Hellenistic bronze-and-tin vase marked by intricate relief carvings of Dionysos, along with mythical figures, animals and ivy vines. The Derveni Papyrus, Greece’s oldest surviving papyrus piece (320–250 BC), is recognised by Unesco as Europe’s oldest ‘book’.
The lower-floor exhibit, Prehistoric Macedonia, boasts prehistoric implements from the Petralona Cave north of Halkidiki, plus Neolithic and Bronze Age daggers, pottery and tools. The grounds, home to a rich collection of funerary monuments and a full-size floorplan of a Roman villa, are free to explore.
Combined tickets to this museum, the Byzantine Museum, White Tower, Roman Forum and Galerian Complex-Arched Hall, valid for three days, are €15/8 for adults/concessions.
Thessaloniki’s iconic landmark, the 34m-high White Tower has a harrowing history as a prison and place of execution. Built by the Ottomans in the 15th century, it was here in 1826 that Sultan Mahmud II massacred the garrison of rebellious janissaries (forcibly Islamicised elite troops). One story goes that the structure was known as the Tower of Blood until a prisoner painted the tower white in exchange for his liberty in 1883, when it was renamed Lefkos Pyrgos (White Tower).
Others say that the name was changed after the 1912 Greek reconquest. Grab a free audio guide to help navigate multimedia displays tracing the history, culture and commerce of Thessaloniki, then head to the top for sweeping views of the city, Thermaic Gulf and surrounding hills.
Thessaloniki’s New Waterfront is evidence that architecture can improve urban life through intelligent redesign of the space in which it is lived. Recipient of numerous awards for its architects Prodromos Nikiforidis and Bernard Cuomo, this 3.5km walkway extends from the White Tower to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. Completed in 2013, it has been embraced by Thessalonikans with absolute delight as the perfect place to promenade, rollerblade, bike, play, eat ice cream or just enjoy peripatetic conversation.
Previously a poorly maintained space that was largely inaccessible and unattractive, the waterfront now has a bicycle path along the entire walkway, and an arbour of 660 umbrella pine trees, serving as shade from the midday sun; waterjet fountains entertain the little ones, and there are numerous quiet spots to relax while watching the sea and the beautiful peaks of Mt Olympus in the distance. You will find it packed with locals on a daily basis. The popular Umbrellas installation by Yorgos Zongolopoulos is much photographed.