Looking for your next destination for a city break? Thessaloniki is the perfect spot for the best city break! Check out our guide for an unforgettable time.
While the islands have the market on summer holidays sewn up, cities in mainland Greece actually make perfect city breaks year-round. In fact, a few places in Greece are better for a city break than the cosmopolitan gem that is Greece’s second-largest city.
Thessaloniki may be ancient, with Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman ruins still standing between the ugly sixties and seventies buildings that dominate the center. Still, this city is very young at heart, with two of the country’s most prominent universities and an 80,000+ strong community of students.
Thus, as a richly multicultural, academic, creative, and young city, Thessaloniki is the perfect destination for a city break.
What to do in Thessaloniki
Start your trip at the famous Aristotelous Square, a 20th-century square designed by Ernest Hébrard in an eclectic style that combines Byzantine and Western architecture elements. This waterfront square is, in fact, one of the most famous places in Greece.
Head east along the seafront to the misleadingly brown White Tower, and make the most of the view from the top to get your bearings. The interior museum is a fantastic introduction to the city’s multi-layered history and its architectural and cultural influences, so this is the perfect place to kick off your trip.
Next, marvel at the nearby Georgios Zongolopoulos Umbrella sculpture, a more modern, Thessaloniki icon. Then keep walking along the waterfront as far as the statue of Alexander the Great or head to the Archeological Museum to cement your newfound understanding of the city. Close by there is the Museum of Byzantine Culture which contains several important artifacts from this era and is a must for those with a strong interest in history.
Another site you can visit during your stay in the Roman Forum, one of the oldest sites in Thessaloniki. It is a two-level forum built over the ancient Greek agora. The best-preserved ruin here is the Odeon or Odeum, an ancient theatre still sometimes used for summer concerts. Close by, you can also find the Byzantine-era church of Panagia Chalkeon and the Ottoman-era Bey Hammam bathhouse, effectively taking you through the four major layers of the city’s history.
Shopping in the city
Go window shopping and hunting for bargains along the main shopping street of Tsimiski. Or check out the beautiful boutiques and glossy designer stores along Proxenou Koromila. Furthermore, there are plenty of cute independent shops and cafes along the pedestrian side streets around this area and in Ladadika district on the other side of Aristotelous Square.
If you prefer something more local and traditional, visit the centuries-old Kapani Market, a covered market with stalls selling spices, coffee, dates, cheese, fish, meat, and other delicacies. Otherwise, visit Modiano Market, a once bourgeois deli-market built-in 1926.
Stroll up to the North-Eastern corner of the old city walls for sunset, where Alysseos Tower provides exceptional views across the city. From here, you get a great view of the Eastern Wall running down all the way to the White Tower on the seafront, marking Thessaloniki’s original boundaries. Nearby, you’ll find another misleadingly named Byzantine monument, the Heptapyrgion or “Seven Towers Fortress, “a fort that has its origins in 316 BC and is made up of ten towers.
The area of Agios Pavlos around the upper part of the city walls is a lively and bohemian place for an aperitif, with a great nightlife that’s nicely removed from the city center and therefore reasonably devoid of tourists. For dinner, delve into the historic Ladadika District for traditional taverns like those along the pedestrian Karipi Street, a favorite with locals, and more trendy modern bars like Kouziva, which is on a pretty plaza with a gorgeous central fountain.