Thessaloniki, or ‘mother of Macedonia’ is the second biggest city in Greece. Besides early Christian, Byzantine and Jewish monuments, it is possible to find there a lot of beautiful local architecture, great food and hectic nightlife. If you are in Paralia region, definitely stop by! If you are not interested in the history, or archaeological sites, shopping in luxury boutiques will surely make up for it!
Did you know that this city is named after the wife of Macedonian king Kassandros who founded the city in 315 BC? Thessaloniki was her name and she was a sister of Alexander the Great. Under the Roman empire there was a prosperous harbor and important Jewish colony, which later became one of the early center of Christianity. The city has interesting multicultural history because of the cohabitation of Greek Ortodox, Muslim and Jewish communities. The city was all the time the business and cultural center and today is the largest student city in Greece.
Top five attractions in Thessaloniki
Church of Agios Dimitrios
Arch of Galerios
Church of Agia Sofia
Tour de Thessaloniki
If you are for a half day trip in Thessaloniki, and want to see the top outdoor sightseeing I would definitely recommend following. We choose not to go to the museums, even though Thessaloniki offers a great deal of them, because of very hot weather and limited time.
If you come to Thessaloniki by car, you can leave it at parking lot Pl. Eleftherias. Very close by is located Ladadika district famous for its special atmosphere and its full of restaurants, bars and pubs. However, we wanted to visit White Tower which was visible also from the parking lot, and therefore we just walked there along the harbor.
1. Aristotelous Square
On the way from the Pl. Eleftherias towards the White Tower you can see on the left side the Aristotelous Square where is located the statue of Greek philosopher Aristotle. Funny fact his toe is from the gold!
2. White Tower and Museum
It is a monument- symbol of the city. This round fortification from the 15th century is also called Lefkos Pyrgos. It became the symbol of oppression from the Osman empire, when it served as a scaffold and prison for those serving life sentences. After the liberation of the city from the Osman empire, locals whitened the tower during the purification ceremony. Since then it is a symbol of liberty for all Thessaloniki’s inhabitants. In front of the White Tower, few party pirate’s boats are ‘parking’, where you can get on the board for free, only you have to buy a drink. The boat will take you around the harbor. There is a small park around the tower. If you are a student, don’t forget your student ID and you will have entrance for free! Going up to to Tower is fairly easy, because of the wide stairs. It hosts the new permanent exhibition on the history of Thessaloniki from its founding down to the present. The top of the Tower offers a nice view.
3. Statue of Alexander the Great
After the White Tower on the left side is located Royal Theatre. It doesn’t look that impressive and therefore, I didn’t include in ‘must see’ list. However, walk around it from the right side alongside the harbor maybe 5 minutes and you will get to the statue of the Alexander the Great. It is really great! Or huge. With the horse of course!
4. City Hall
We visited City Hall kind of by accident. It is located on the way to Rotunda, so you won’t lose anything to have a look at it. Moreover, nearby is a park where you can chill in the shadow of the trees.
5. Triumphal Arch of Galerius
On the way to Rotunda, you’ll encounter Triumphal Arch of Galerius also known under the name ‘Kamara’. The Kamara formed part of a monumental entrance that led to the courtyard of the great palace sanctuary, which was dominated by the Pantheon of Thessaloniki, nowadays known as the Rotunda. This triumphal Arch was built by Galerius to immortalize the victorious campaigns of the Tetrarchy. Originally, there were two more pillars, all four creating a square room with vaulted roof.
6. Eastern Ortodox Church
On the right side of the Arch, you can see the Eastern Ortodox Church. It is very nice and interesting even though it is not mentioned on the TripAdvisor, I think it is worth to have a glance inside, since it is on the way and I really like churches, because they show a lot about the history.
7. Rotunda – The Pantheon of Thessaloniki
This monument was built in 306 AM and served as the temple of Zeus, or according to others, as the Mausoleum of the Emperor Galerius. It is named Rotunda because of its circular shape. Inside it’s a huge space with a cross inside. In the middle is a small circle, and if you step on it, it will make really huge noise and echo. Also, all students with a student ID has entrance for free. It reminds me the Pantheon from Rome. Very nice monument! Address is Plateia Ag. Georgiou.
8. Church of Agios Dimitrios
If you walk from Rotunda north around 10 minutes, you will find Church of Agios Dimitrios. Even though the church was burned in the 1917 fire, it still belongs to one of the most important and visited sights of Thessaloniki. However, the only preserved remains are from the church’s brilliant sculptural and pictorial decorations, such as mosaics and frescos which represents the different stages in the history.
9. Archaeological site of Roman agora of Thessaloniki
Later we were heading towards our last planned monument – church of Agia Sofia, and on the way there we found this gemstone – Archeological site of roman agora of Thessaloniki. It can be specially interesting for archaeologists or people interested in history. Construction on the agora, which was the administrative center of Roman Thessaloniki, began in the late 2nd c. AD at the site of pre-existing agora dating to the Early Imperial period.
10. Church of Agia Sofia
Our last church and sightseeing was famous Agia Sofia church. You need to have covered shoulders and not to have too short skirt in order to get in. But it is possible to borrow some scarf. You cannot film inside, but it is very interesting church with huge lamp. It has also nice garden around. On the way from the church towards our parking there is plenty of great shops and boutiques where all woman, but also man (my dad found lot of great clothes J ) can lost themselves!