Thessaloniki (520 km. north of Athens) is the second largest city of Greece and the most important centre of the area. Built near the sea (at the back of the Thermaïkos Gulf), it is a modern metropolis bearing the marks of its stormy history and its cosmopolitan character, which give it a special beauty and charm. It is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia.
At about a million inhabitants, it is considered Greece's cultural capital, renowned for its festivals, events and vibrant cultural life in general and has recently been ranked by Lonely Planet as the world's fifth-best party city worldwide. More importantly, it is also a city with a continuous 3,000 year old history; preserving relics of its Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman past and of its formerly dominant Jewish population. Many of its Byzantine churches, and a whole district of the city in particular, are included in UNESCO's World Heritage list.
Sprawling around the coastline of the Thermaic Gulf, Thessaloniki is filled with unique landmarks. The shore spans from the ferry harbour to the White Tower, and the many Byzantine churches and vestiges of past life sprinkled throughout the city and its historical districts make it ideal for sightseeing. With ancient ruins rooted in the middle of the city (from UNESCO sites including the Roman Agora, the Arch of Galerius, the Rotonda, the Byzantine Baths and the Crypt of Agios Demetrios), a plethora of museums – such as the Museum of Byzantine Culture, the Archeological museum and the Cinema Museum of Thessaloniki, built for the city’s status as Cultural Capital of Europe in 1997 – as well as astonishing churches (make sure to visit Aghia Sofia), you won’t have time to see and experience it all in one go. The city offers plenty of affordable accommodations and great eats to make your visit even more enjoyable.
Thessaloniki’s cuisine is known across the country for its quality and variety. Because of its historical past, the city’s gastronomy boasts flavors from Pontus, Asia Minor, and Constantinople as well as Arab and Armenian influences that infuse traditional dishes with exotic nuances.
The Ladadika district is a beautiful, walkable area is located off the Thessaloniki harbor and is a hotspot when it comes to eating and drinking. Named after the numerous olive oil shops that use to populate the area, it is the former bazaar and central market of the city under the Ottoman rule, now peppered with charming tiny tavernas, restaurants and bars and clubs that fill this lively historical landmark.
Thessaloniki has its own stunning vantage point, known as the Eptapyrgio Castle. This stunning fortress perched on the hilltops overlooking the city offers all-encompassing views that include the Gulf. Whether you visit it by day or at night (a common habit of young people), it is an attraction you shouldn’t miss. On your way back, discover the small little streets and drop by one of the small mezedopoleio to enjoy some local delicacies.