Thessaloniki was our last stop on our trip to Greece. By the time we got there, we had experienced mountains, seas, and lots of ancient sites. Neither one of us really knew what to do in Thessaloniki, but the city had some ideas. In this article I’ll take you through a little Thessaloniki itinerary, as I find these articles to be helpful in planning my trips!
- Walk Along the Boardwalk
The Thessaloniki boardwalk was my favourite place to see in the city! From any viewpoint (we visited the White Tower and loved the view) you can see all along the boardwalk and how far the city goes. As you walk along the boardwalk you’ll also come into contact with the Alexander the Great statue and “The Umbrellas,” a display of clear umbrellas that light up when it gets dark outside.
The boardwalk itself is a great place to walk and reminisce about your trip. I would recommend going up the White Tower if you’d like a great view (pictured above) but the history in it isn’t written in English. This is completely fine (and expected) except that the English audio guide doesn’t match up with the written text. So for a little bit of Thessaloniki history, it’s a great spot, but don’t expect to learn everything. The view at the end of the tower however, is beautiful. A 360 degree viewpoint, showing the city, the water, and where the two meet. Definitely worth a visit.
2. Spoil Yourself with some Fine Dining
If you travel mainland Greece like we did, it’s very easy to do it on a budget. Most of the smaller towns we went to had some great budget options for all meals, so we managed to eat pretty affordably throughout our time in Greece. Our plan had always been to find a nice restaurant in Thessaloniki, as it was our last stop and we could celebrate a great trip with a nice meal.
We ended up finding two beautiful restaurants. Our first place was a Crete inspired restaurant called Charoupi that served food and drinks from the island. Here I had a wonderful lamb risotto and Josh had a fish that was perfectly done. We paired that with a white wine that paired beautifully with both of our meals. The staff were also amazing at this restaurant and explained the different dishes, recommended wines for us, and were just overall lovely people.
Our next dinner out (yes we did two in Thessaloniki!) was at a restaurant called Sempriko. This place was supposed to have a really good squid ink pasta, so I was really excited. The restaurant itself is a little hard to find, so make sure you have Google maps ready! I had the squid ink seafood pasta, which was really good! Overall, we didn’t love this restaurant as much as the first one, but they were also very busy. A major component for me in having a great time at a restaurant is the interaction with staff, but when a place is crazy its completely understandable that they just don’t have the time to recommend everything and tell you everything about the place.
3. See the City
Thessaloniki is an amazing city to walk around and explore. The city itself is on a hill, and just by walking ten minutes in any direction you’ll find a historic site you didn’t expect. We also found exploring the newer areas of the city really fun! After coming from Athens, Thessaloniki looks a little more like what you would expect from a European city (Athens has a wonderful blend of central European city and Mediterranean- city creating its look). Thessaloniki has the traditional shopping streets, however those are surrounded by buildings that you can’t quite place in time. Basically waht I’m trying to say is: walk around the city, you won’t regret it!
4. Visit those Random Historic Sites
Thessaloniki is filled with historic sites that are situated right in the middle of the city. Our first stop was to see the Cathedral Church of Agia Sophia. This church has elaborate paintings and mosaics on the inside, making it a must-see in Thessaloniki. While the outside may not look like what you would expect, the inside is one of the grandest cathedrals I’ve ever seen! The chandeliers along the aisles definitely added to the grandeur.
We then walked past the Byzantine Baths. We couldn’t figure out if it was opened or closed for quite awhile, but eventually got to quickly look inside. I did notice that Thessaloniki doesn’t have the same amount of text or audio guides available as there are in Athens, so in many of these places we were left up to Google and our imagination to see what went on there. Walking through the city and seeing places such as the Byzantine Baths did remind us that we were in a historic city in which so much has happened. Although neither one of us has particularly studied the history of Thessaloniki, the fact that these places still stand and are so well-preserved means that they did mean something to the people before us.
One of my favourite places in Thessaloniki was the Rotunda, next to the Arch of Galerius. The Arch stands in a busy street, reminding you how old this city really is (as a Canadian, it never fails to amaze me!) The Rotunda is a large space filled with mosaics, and if you look closely you can see where the upper level would have been. As it stands today, the Rotunda is a large circular building with one level and a little outside space. But to imagine what it would have looked like and how it would have been used is amazing!
Our final historic site confused us a little. We were told to visit the Acropolis of Thessaloniki. After visiting the Acropolis if Athens two weeks prior we figured it would be somewhat similar. Maybe a smaller one? Well….the Acropolis in Thessaloniki was actually a prison. And….I don’t know much else. After climbing a hill to get to it, there ultimately was not that much information available. So, while the views are incredible, I would recommend that if you’re running short of time, you can probably skip this one.
There you have it! Thessaloniki is a really cool city that offers so much to anyone that visits. We found that it was the perfect place to end out trip, and would be happy coming back on a weekend trip one day. Ultimately we averaged about 28,000 steps getting around, but don’t let that stop you! This city is made for wandering. So when it’s safe, get a nice pair of walking shoes and get yourself to Thessaloniki!