Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece, located in the north of the country. It is the administrative center of the decentralized administration of Macedonia – Thrace and a major seaport. Thessaloniki is a beautiful city with a pleasant cosmopolitan atmosphere where you can find many ancient monuments, admire the ancient Byzantine churches listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, sit in cozy cafes and enjoy traditional Greek cuisine.
Therefore, you should not, having arrived in Thessaloniki, use this place only as a transit point on the way to the famous Greek resorts, devote several days to it yourself. There are more than enough interesting places in Thessaloniki, where ancient excavations can be seen in the courtyard of modern residential quarters. Using the advice of those travelers who have been here more than once, we will try to guide you around the city and suggest what you can see in Thessaloniki in 3 days.
For many, this city initially makes a mixed impression due to the unthinkable combination of eras and architectural styles. Nearby can be a beautiful park, flowers, domes of old and new temples, ancient excavations and rusty fences, unsuccessful sloppy graffiti on the walls of dull high-rise buildings, and suddenly, on the wall of another house – a completely original work of modern art! And all this alternates in Thessaloniki, quarter after quarter.
But gradually you find some special harmony in this quagmire of young and old. Some tourists leave Thessaloniki having found the soul of this city and even falling in love with it a little.
Below is a list of all that you must see in Thessaloniki.
Day 1 – Walk along the embankment, the White Tower and an hour tour along the “Cultural Route”
Thessaloniki is located on the shores of Thermaikos Gulf. Take an early morning walk along the wide and beautiful promenade, look at the sea, port, fishermen with fishing rods. Turning to face the city, you will see the outline of the most iconic city building, the architectural symbol and the visiting card of Thessaloniki – the White Tower with a flag over it.
And although in fact it is not completely white, the history of the sights (XV century) is very entertaining and deserves a separate story. You can find out about it by looking at the museum, spanning 8 floors inside this 33 meter (23 m in diameter) impressive circular building. At the very top of the tower is an observation deck. From here a beautiful view of the embankment, port and city opens up.
There are so many attractions in Thessaloniki that just a simple listing of the main ones would take a whole page. But there is a wonderful opportunity to see the most impressive ones even in 1 hour. Of course this is impossible on foot. So just get on bus number 50 right there, on the square near the White Tower. A blue sightseeing bus leaves for the “Cultural Route” every hour from 8:00 to 21:00. And for 2 euros in overview mode, you will travel back in time. And the stops (there are 15 of them) are like different remnants of eras that survived over 25 centuries.
An audio, video and tour guide accompany the tour in English and Greek. But for the first visual acquaintance, this is enough, and you can later return to places you especially like, taking along a map of Thessaloniki so as not to get lost. The route begins and ends at the tower.
What will you see along the way? There are several interesting buildings near the White Tower:
- Royal Theater / National Theater of Northern Greece
- Archaeological Museum and Museum of Byzantine Culture
- Telephone service tower
- International Exhibition
- Macedonian Museum of Modern Art
Further along the way you can see:
- monuments of the era of Ancient Rome – excavations of the palace of Galerius, Rotunda of St. George, ruins of the hippodrome and Arc de Triomphe, Aristotle square, excavations of the Roman Agora
- Byzantine and early Christian churches and monuments – Agia (Saint) Sofia, Church of Our Lady of Mednikov (XI century), Church of St. Demetrius of Solunsky; Monasteries of Thessaloniki – St. Theodora and Vlatadon (XIV century); the ruins of the Byzantine baths.
The route passes by Aristotle Square, the upper town of Ano Poli with cute colorful Macedonian houses.
Day 1 – visit Rotunda (Τάφος του Γαλερίου)
The rotunda of St. George, built at the end of the 3rd century and the Arc de Triomphe (4th century), are part of the palace (or funerary) complex of Emperor Gaius Galerius. In the 15th century, it served as a Christian church, which was named after Gregory the Victorious. In Ottoman times, the Turks built a minaret nearby, and for almost four centuries there was a mosque in this building.
At the beginning of the XX century, the building was returned to the Orthodox Church, and since then there is a Museum of Christian art. The rotunda is on the list of monuments of Thessaloniki which are included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
For the last decade, restoration work has been carried out on the territory of the complex. Among the descriptions of the sights of Thessaloniki, photos of these works are often found in the stories of travelers on the forums. Indeed, during the restoration, it was sometimes possible to enter some rooms (free of charge) with cameras, and it was not forbidden to take pictures. After the official opening, the entrance fee is 2 euros.
Church services are performed only on the more important Orthodox holidays.
Address: 1 Vassou, Thessaloniki 546 35
The Rotunda is located next to the University campus, it is one of the gathering and meeting places for students and local youth.
The morning of the second day and its first half can be devoted to canyoning at Olympus, and in the evening to watch a performance or concert in the Forest Theater.
Day 2 – go for Mount Olympus Canyoning
Canyoning is an extreme sport that looks something like in the picture below. You jump into a mountain river and rush through it with stormy foaming streams without any boats, rafts and canoes. Your only safety is a life jacket, and the only equipment needed is a wetsuit and a helmet.
At first it will be scary: wild speed, falling down from small waterfalls, dizzying whirlpools. Then the river will become wider and a measured calm drift will begin, during which you can spare attention to the beautiful landscapes around Mount Olympus.
There are two advantages of this extreme pastime while exploring the nearby attractions of Thessaloniki.
- It’s a unique and a challenging way to explore the nature in Thessaloniki.
- For the basic one-day tour, participants are not required to have special skills, only the ability to stay at least half an hour in the water, and at a fast pace for about the same time, climb up or down the mountain trail. And this means that almost all tourists can indulge in it.
The tour lasts 3-4 hours, during which time the participants will gradually go down to 280 meters from the initial height of 480 meters. But first you will need to make several descents on the rocks on a rope and 6 jumps down, while sliding down four water slides from 5 to 12 meters height.
A group of tourists (6-12 people) is accompanied by two certified instructors, and at the very beginning follows a half-hour safety briefing and a small training on the use of equipment.
The cost of a one-day tour is from 65 euros, which includes: rental equipment, a disk with a photo album to remember the trip and mini snacks during a break.
For more trained folks, there are two-day routes available.
Canyoning tours can be booked at the Thessaloniki office (16 Amfitrionos) on the company’s official website www.baselinesports.gr online.
Day 2 – visit the Forest Theater (Theater Dassous)
This theater among the vast expanses of forest is one of several NTNG (the National Theater of Northern Greece) divisions, and includes a theater school, an excellent reserve for the troupe. Students are often engaged in theater productions. Look at a play is really interesting.
Each season, the Dassous Theater schedule includes premieres and previous performances of its own troupe, and touring performances by other Greek theaters.
In addition to theatrical performances themselves, major conferences and festivals, concerts of Greek and visiting celebrities and various exhibitions are held here throughout the summer season. Such a busy schedule are due to the excellent acoustics of the forest scene in the form of an amphitheater and good technical equipment. The number of seats is about 3894.
Even if there is no performance or other event on the day of your visit, you can still have a great time outdoors, in a café, see the surroundings, admire the scenery, and bring home beautiful photos of the sights of Thessaloniki.
Theater Address: Forest of Seich Sou * Agios Pavlos Thessaloniki 554 38
Devote the last day to shopping or just a tour of the Modiano market, and the evening to the famous Ladadika and Greek cuisine.
And be sure to walk before leaving along the evening promenade.
Day 3 – visit Modiano Market
Modiano Market in Thessaloniki is a tourist attraction often found in reviews and photos of tourists. If you have 3 days in Thessaloniki, Modiano is the place that is definitely worth a look.
Although the market is not the largest, in its color and many features, it resembles a typical oriental bazaar. Everything is there: color, smell, noise, buzz, screams of merchants.
Rows of meat – a complete set for gourmet meat-eaters. A little further you can try and buy the freshest cheese and butter.
A huge selection of olives: green, black, pickled, salted, with and without seasonings, in a ready-made convenient container sold by weight.
Seasonal fruits, sweets and spices – everyone will find everything they would like to find.
But the most interesting are the rows with seafood. You can buy fresh seafood and immediately, in the nearest tavern, turn them into a delicious lunch. All meat and fish, food, vegetables and fruits on Modiano are locally sourced.
The market is located in the center, at the beginning of Aristotle Avenue (from the ruins of the Roman Forum)
Buses: No. 03, 05, 05A, 06, 12, 33, 33A, 39, 39A; Platia Aristotelous & Ermou stop.
- Tuesday-Friday: in the afternoon from 9 to 13, in the evening from 17 to 19
- Saturday: from 17 to 21 hours
- Sunday: from 8 to 15 hours.
- Monday is a day off.
Modiano has many cafes and restaurants; try deliciously prepared Greek dishes and drink Greek coffee. Lunch will be inexpensive, even the most satisfying. And at a meal it is interesting to look at the daily life of the inhabitants of Greece and to recognize the city from this side.
Day 3 – visit Ladadika District(Τα λαδάδικα)
The historical area of Ladadika is a continuation of the promenade and the architectural heritage of Thessaloniki. Today, the old warehouses of Ladadika and brothels have given way to bars, clubs, taverns, restaurants and most modern nightlife centers in Thessaloniki.
During the Ottoman rule, the Ladadika area functioned as a meeting place for local residents of the city and for establishing business contacts between them and foreigners.
After the middle of the 19th century, commercial and shipping companies developed on the area of Ladadika, and after the construction of a new port, oil, grain and other products were traded here.
At the end of the 19th century, the so-called Europeanization of the city came. Banks began to flourish here, offices and modern shops opened. Roads were widened to create more space for new services. The area narrowly escaped a fire in 1917. Wholesale transactions were carried out here, and subsequently only oil sellers remained. So, the area got its name Ladadika (“ladi” – is Greek for oil) because of the warehouses and shops located here, in which olive oil was stored.
During the First World War and later there were brothels in the lanes of the region. The area remained a developed center after the Second World War, but fell into decline after the 1978 earthquake: wholesale trade stopped, abandoned warehouses of the 80s created a tragic appearance. The neighborhood has earned a bad reputation, and rarely anyone dared to walk here at night, despite the fact that the area was in the city center.
In 1985, the Ladadika area was declared a historical site, a protected monument by the Ministry of Culture where the construction of residential buildings was prohibited. It was decided to preserve and restore the buildings with the money of people who wanted to open their new business here. Thus, 60 private houses were repaired, five buildings belonging to the Bank of Macedonia – Thrace were restored, and other buildings were not left without repair.
At the end of the 20th century, Ladadika became synonymous with fun in Thessaloniki. It is the top evening and night entertainment destination for residents and visitors of the city.
The area of Ladadika is an integral part of the daily life of Thessaloniki. During the day, it becomes the main destination for coffee lovers, and in the evening, the taverns are filled with those wishing to have a good time with a glass of wine and enjoy traditional Greek cuisine. At night, Ladadika opens the doors of its clubs and offers a variety of nightly entertainment from discos to heavy metal bars with live concerts.
The historical charm of the area and its unique character have turned Ladadika into the center of the cultural life of the city, where life is in full swing around the clock.
Some popular Ladadika restaurants:
- “Krikel” (Krikelas, 6 Salaminos) – Family restaurant. The best wine list in Thessaloniki: wines from all Greek to the rarest vintage. The cuisine is traditional Greek and any seafood dishes: “Nail” menu – game and snails from Crete.
- “Zifo” (Zifo, 5 Katouni) – Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, nice design, reasonable prices.
Almost every more or less large establishment in Ladadika has its own website, and places can be booked in advance online or by phone.
And although this is only a small part of what you can see in this city, the memories of everything you see will surely fall into the memory box. And they will stay with us until the next “vacation in Greece”.