Thessaloniki is my hometown and one of my favorite cities in the world. Today I am writing this post for visitors that have never been to Thessaloniki before. There are various posts out there to read but I hope you will find useful also this one. Let me know in the comments if you need more – specific – information about the city’s life.
Now, if you are about to have your first visit in Thessaloniki (or if you are thinking to go there some day) let me give you some highlights. Important: If you are visiting the city and you don’t have much time to discover it but you want to see some nice parts of Thessaloniki, take the bus 50 and with 2 Euros ticket (per trip) you can see many cultural highlights. On the other hand, if you have time to walk a bit, don’t miss the following:
White Tower (Lefkos Pirgos): You will see it in almost every post-card or fridge magnet in souvenir shops. It is located on the city’s beach (street by the sea). Years ago it was a prison, nowadays it is a museum. The entrance cost is 2 euros. If you are not a big fan of museums just get inside and walk upstairs until you reach the highest level. The view of the blue sea and a big part of the city will get you really excited!
Right and left of the White Tower you see the seaside or what we call “Paralia” (The beach). If you go right you will end up in the port of Thessaloniki. If you go left you will have the chance to walk by the sea for hours if you like. I suggest you to walk at least 5-10 minutes until you reach the statue of Alexander the Great.
Kamara (Arch of Galerius): One of the most central spots of the city. Here all the young people meet to hit the bars in the city centre.
Keep in mind that you are in the historical centre of Thessaloniki. In this area you will see a lot of parts of the ancient Thessaloniki, monuments that exist even from Macedonian period.
In your one hand, up on the hill, you will see Rotonda, the building that is considered as the twin brother of Pantheon which is located in Rome.
It was built at 304 A.C. to be the mausoleum of Caesar Galerius but in the end it was not used like that.
During the years was used as a Christian Church and later as a mosque by Muslims.
Today, Rotonda is a museum.
If you take the opposite direction in Kamara and you walk across the Egnatia street you will meet Navarinou square. It is also a significant part of the old ancient city and it is the place to find some of the cheapest and tasty junk food of Thessaoniki: Greek gyros and any type of Greek meat, salty and sweet crepes (not at all like the French ones!), mpougatsa with cheese/spinach/beef/vanilla crème = the famous snack of Thessaloniki, a variety of sandwiches (that you could also fill them with anything you wish and it is available of course), many different kinds of Greek pies and of course dozens of bars and coffee places to taste Greek frape coffee, Greek cold chocolate with flavours, juices and sodas.
Aristotle’s Square (Platia Aristotelous): Maybe the most famous square of the city. Start walking from Egnatia street (and the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos in your back) all the way down until you reach the sea and the statue of Aristotle on your left hand. We – the locals – always make fun of this square since we say that it has the shape of a bottle. If you see it from above, maybe it’s true! :)
In/close to Aristotelous street & square you will find banks, a post office, one of the most famous malls of Thessaloniki ( in Tsimiski street), many coffee places, restaurants, shops with clothes and shoes and one of the most luxurious hotels of the city, Electra Palace (in the hotel’s terrace there is a pool and a bar-restaurant where you could drink coffee or eat a snack and have a magnificent view of Aristotle’s square and the sea).
Food market “Kapani”: You will find it close to the top of the bottle, in other words in a corner of the narrow part of Aristotle’s street. It is a relatively big food market and you will find inside every type of local food products you can imagine in very good prices. If you want to take something home, try something that doesn’t need to be put in a fridge either permanently or at least for some hours.
Port of Thessaloniki: If you are in Aristotle’s square then you need less than 10 minutes on foot to reach the port of Thessaloniki (the part that is open to visitors). In this place you will find the Museum of Cinema of Thessaloniki where you will find photos and videos of the International Film Festival of Thessaloniki (it started in 1992 and it takes place every year, on November).
On the left of the Museum of Cinema you will find the famous “Kitchen bar”. If you get lucky you could have a cold drink there and the water of the sea in front of your feet. Just remember that prices are slightly higher here, since this bar-restaurant is considered somewhat of a gourmet place and it is located in a unique spot!
Upper Town (Ano Poli):
Maybe the most beautiful and well conserved area of older Thessaloniki. Here you will love the architecture of the houses, the trees, the flowers and you will feel that you are in a different time period.The mainly reason people and tourists come here is the unbelievable view since here you will find the Acropolis of Thessaloniki and the remaining Macedonian walls which were protecting the ancient city from the enemies. You will also find the most beautiful old Christian churches of the city and little cute squares to drink coffee or eat delicious meals. Frankly you need a map to find your way here because there are dozens of small streets that lead in different nice places.
To reach this neighbourhood from the city centre you will have to walk 20-30 minutes (depending on where you are). You will know that you are in the right direction of the feeling of climbing rather than walking to reach this specific area. If you don’t want to keep sweating while the sun is burning your neck, take one of the buses (e.g. 23) that reaches this area.
The place you must visit for the ideal view is Pyrgos Trigoniou (Trigoniou Castle). You can thank me later!
Most popular streets to buy clothes, shoes, underwear, accessories are Egnatia street and Tsimiski street (two parallel streets in the city centre). If you want souvenir shops have a walk in Navarinou street (close to Kamara) and definitely look around when you are in Upper Town.
Here they are the two decent ways to reach the city of Thessaloniki if you just landed in the local airport:
– By taxi: Dozens of blue taxis will expect you outside of “Makedonia Airport” to transfer you wherever you like. If there is no traffic you will be in the city centre in 20 minutes. The normal payment from the airport to the city center (and vice versa) is 20-25 euros. If there are more people who want to take a cab to the city centre, maybe you could share the taxi and split the money.
– By bus: Buses 78 & 78A take you every 30 minutes from and to the airport day and night. By bus you will be in the city centre in 45-50 minutes if there is no traffic (depending on the time of the day). The normal ticket costs 2 Euros and you will buy it from a blue machine inside the bus.
General information about buses in Thessaloniki: BE SURE THAT YOU HAVE COINS WITH YOU! If you don’t buy bus tickets from mini-markets in your neighbourhood you have to buy the ticket when you are inside the bus from the 2-3 blue machines you will notice. Be sure that you have the exact amount of coins (for example 1 way ticket costs 1,10 euros) because if you give extra money to the machine you won’t take money back!
Here are the prices to know better which ticket you need to choose:
-1 trip ticket: 1.10 Euros
-2 trip ticket: 1.30 Euros (The whole duration of the 2 trips should be shorter than 70 minutes)
–3 trip ticket: 1.50 Euros (The whole duration of the 3 trips should be shorter than 90 minutes)
– 4 trip ticket: 2.00 Euros (The whole duration of the 4 trips should be shorter than 120 minutes)
Instead of an epilogue:
Guys, there are much more to see and do in Thessaloniki since it is not exactly a small city (of course it is not New York either), but we guess for a non-experienced person of Thessaloniki these suggestions are more than enough.
You must remember that Thessaloniki is a place for everyone. It is mentioned as the gastronomy Greek capital and also one of the most famous Greek party cities (not exactly like Mykonos but short-of). Also, Thessaloniki is called “ftoho-mana” (φτωχομάνα) which means “mother of poor people”. It is generally known that Thessaloniki is a city of immigrants since people always could find something to eat and a place to stay in the area. That’s why even nowadays it is considered as one of the cheapest Greek destinations depending on Athens or some Greek islands where food, accommodation or various activities could be sometimes much more expensive.
Thessaloniki is a travel destination for low-budget travelers but obviously “low-budget” is defined differently by everyone. If you want to save money for your trip, then you should know that for 2-3 days you will need approximately 100-150 Euros in order to eat and drink decently, to pay buses and/or taxis, to visit museums/exhibitions (every-day life expenses). Of course your accommodation costs could be high or low depending on your personal choices.
Useful Links (My favorite is the third one!):
– 11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Thessaloniki & Easy Day Trips: Written by Lisa Alexander http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/salonica-gr-mac-salon.htm
– 48 Hours in Thessaloniki: Written by Simon Calder http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/48-hours-in-thessaloniki-8649137.html
– SuperFast Walk in Thessaloniki Greece by Happy Traveler on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58xHRindeY0&ab_channel=HappyTraveller