Is Thessaloniki worth visiting? Well, if you love good food, enjoy history, love shopping and great nightlife, then yes, Thessaloniki is well worth visiting.
Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city and is located in Central Macedonia on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea.
Much of the original city centre was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1917. However, there are still plenty of fascinating archaeological sites from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods dotted around the city.
But for me, the absolute highlight was the food. UNESCO even designated Thessaloniki as a city of gastronomy in November 2021, so I’m not the only one who loved the food.
In a nutshell, Thessaloniki is a great city for foodies, history buffs, shopaholics, and lovers of nightlife.
Want To Know What To See In Thessaloniki?
Let’s start with the 34-metre-high White Tower, Thessaloniki’s most iconic landmark and monument.
Initially surrounded by heavy walls, the tower was built in 1535 and used as a prison during the Ottoman occupation of Greece.
Many prisoners were tortured and executed here, giving the tower its then nickname: “The Tower of Blood” or “The Red Tower”. In 1890, after a prisoner repainted the tower in white in exchange for his freedom, it was renamed “the White Tower”.
Today, the White Tower is a museum dedicated to the History of Thessaloniki from the Roman Era to the present day.
From the top of the tower, there’s a great view of the city, the Aegean Sea, and on a clear day, Mount Olympus.
Just in front of the White Tower are three boats offering free 30-minute cruises of the bay, but you must buy a drink which is, of course, twice the regular bar price. The second drink is half-price (regular price) because you have already paid for your free cruise. Nevertheless, it’s a fun activity to do when visiting Thessaloniki.
Take A Stroll Along The Seaside Promenade
Take a stroll along the Nea Paralia, the promenade down by the waterfront. The walkway is just over five kilometres long and runs from the White Tower to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. For information on what’s on at the concert hall, check here.
Along the way, you’ll discover many cafes, bars, and themed gardens. An excellent place for a drink with a view of the sea is the Ciel Bar.
And don’t miss that Instagram moment at ‘The Umbrellas”, a modern sculpture on the waterfront, about 500m away from the White Tower.
You can also rent a bike and follow the cycle path along the promenade, too.
If you keep walking along this promenade, you will reach Kalamaria, a suburb of Thessaloniki. There are some excellent dining spots here, too, such as Les Zazous.
Aristotelous Square is one of the most beautiful and biggest squares in Greece. Designed by French architect Ernest Hébrard, it was built after the Great Fire of 1917.
Surrounded by cafes and a great open view of the sea, this is a popular place for tourists, locals and stray dogs.
Modiano & Kapani Markets
If you want to pick up some local cheeses, herbs, spices, and olives, take advantage of the Modiano and Kapani markets.
The open-air Kapani market is the oldest in Thessaloniki and sells everything you could possibly need.
The two markets are very close to each other and seem to be open all hours. Located just off Ermou Street, a short walk from Aristotelous Square.
Interested in a culinary food tour that takes you through these markets? Then try this one out.
The Churches of Thessaloniki
There are several beautiful churches in Thessaloniki.
Ekklisia Agios Pavlos, (Church of St Paul)
The Church of St Paul is a huge orthodox church on the hillside. You can pretty much see it from wherever you are in the city. There are great views from here of the town and the sea.
The Agios Dimitrios is Thessaloniki’s largest church and is dedicated to Saint Dimitri, the city’s patron saint, whose relics are kept inside the crypt.
The 8th-century Agia Sofia is a beautiful Byzantine church. The first church on this spot was built in the 3rd century A.D. The present church was built in the 8th century A.D. and is based on the design of the famous Church of Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.
Agios Nikolaos Orfanos
But my favourite was the small and very pretty 14th-century Byzantine Church, Agios Nikolaos Orfanos.
Walk Up To Ana Poli: Thessaloniki’s Old Town
Ana Poli, in upper Thessaloniki, was the only surviving neighbourhood of the Fire of 1917.
Surrounded by thick Byzantine walls, Ana Poli was the citadel of Thessaloniki during the Byzantine and Ottoman occupations.
As you explore the upper neighbourhoods on foot, do pay a visit to the Heptapyrgion, an ancient fortress and prison with seven towers.
Also worth visiting is the Monastery of Vlatadon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lovely views over the city from here.
And visit Pasha’s Gardens, a lovely garden close to the large Agios Pavlos Church. It’s a very nice place with fountains, a beautiful city view, and a few cafes.
Stop and enjoy a delicious coffee at the Yaya Smells Like Home Coffee Shop. Nearby is the picturesque old church of Agios Nikolas Orfanos, mentioned in the previous paragraph.
The lovely little neighbourhood of Tsinari in the Ano Poli area is an attractive little cafe and restaurant zone with many listed buildings. Very popular at weekends, reservations for dining are recommended.
Other Important Historic Sites In Thessaloniki
As well as churches, and an ancient fortress, there are many other interesting ancient sites dotted all around Thessaloniki.
The Rotunda is one of Thessaloniki’s oldest buildings. It is believed to have been built by Constantine the Great in AD 322-323.
The Arch Of Galerius
The Arch of Galerius is a solitary monument of Thessaloniki’s Roman past. This arch was once part of the palace of Emperor Galerius, who ruled from AD297-311.
The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is located on the upper side of Aristotelous Square. It was discovered by accident in the 1960s when the area was being excavated to build the Thessaloniki Municipal Courthouse.
The Ladadika quarter is close to the port. This neighbourhood had a bit of a dodgy reputation in the past, but today it’s a trendy spot for bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
It’s a great location for dinner; you can’t really go wrong anywhere with your restaurant choice. Just go where the locals go for some of the best Greek food you’ll ever have.
Loupino Restaurant in the Ladadika Quarter was a great restaurant. Go early; it fills up quickly.
No idea what its name was (no, that’s not the name), but there’s another fabulous Greek restaurant opposite Loupino. Excellent Greek mezze; I broke my golden rule of never eating in the same place twice on a trip.
Kanoula near the Roman Forum. Great last night’s meal there.
There were also some lovely small Greek tavernas around the markets.
Honestly, everywhere I went served good food. I loved that about Thessaloniki.
Day Trips From Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is situated in the beautiful Macedonia region of Greece, famous for its incredible mountain scenery.
Here are some ideas for day trips from Thessaloniki:
Full-Day Bus Trip to Meteora.
The full-day bus trip to Meteora to see the monasteries and the landsacape was a great, albeit a long day. It takes three hours just to get to Meteora from Thessaloniki. But this tour is an excellent option if you want to avoid renting a car. Book this tour here.
Visit Mount Olympus.
For ease, you can book this highly-rated tour to Mount Olympus, which also includes a visit to the archaeological site of Dion.
But if you want to visit Mount Olympus independently and not drive, take a bus from Thessaloniki’s central bus station to Litochoro. The journey time is around one hour and 20 minutes, and the bus will drop you off in the centre of Litochoro.
Note: If taking the bus from Thessaloniki to the central bus station, make sure you don’t jump off the bus at the train station as it really looks like a bus station from the outside. Not saying I did or I didn’t do that.
However there are trains to Litochoro, but the train station is six kilometres outside town, and you will have to take a taxi into town. The station staff will happily order one for you if there are no taxis outside.
With a car, you will be able to explore more of the areas around Mount Olympus. Maybe next time! You can book your car rental for Thessaloniki here.
Other popular tours from Thessaloniki include:
Here are some other popular tour suggestions from Thessaloniki. These all get good reviews, but I personally haven’t tried these, so if you do, please let me know how they were.
Vergina & Pella: Day Trip to the Greek Kingdom of Macedonia, although the lead photo chosen for this tour seems a bit random!
Pozar Thermal Baths and Edessa Day Trip
Half-Day Sailing Cruise to Shipwreck Bay
How To Get To Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki has an international airport located 13 kilometres outside the city. To get to the city, either take a bus or a taxi. The bus is considerably cheaper.
By Train or By Bus
Coming from other towns in Greece, you can take the train or bus to Thessaloniki.
Even though Thessaloniki is a port city, ferry connections to the Greek islands are few and far between.
Where To Stay In Thessaloniki
There is accommodation to suit all budgets in Thessaloniki. Check here for hotel availability and prices in Thessaloniki.
So, Is Thessaloniki Worth Visiting?
Yes. Thessaloniki may not be as beautiful as other large European cities, but it has a certain scruffy charm. The locals were friendly, the food was incredible, and there were plenty of sites to see, and it’s an excellent base for exploring the nearby countryside.
Have You Been To Thessaloniki? I would Love To Hear About Your Experiences There.
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This is in my list of places to visit in Greece. So much history here just like the rest of the country.
It’s a lovely place to visit and the food is so good!
It sounds lovely for a visit. Would it be a good place to stay for a month?
It would certainly be a good base for a month. And you’d never run out of dining choices
Aaah I love Greece and Thessaloniki looks looovely. I love the gorgeous historical architecture. There is still so much left despite the fire! Plus foood! Count me in for the tasty grub!
Meteora and Mount Olympus both sound like fantastic day trips too (especially if we get to go hiking near the gods!!)
Greece has been a dream destination of mine for so long. This guide will definitely help when I do plan to visit! Thanks for sharing!
Looking at going in the fall-for the food of course!
The food is just amazing and you take amazing food photos. You will have a fabulous time!
I love reading about places I’ve never heard of before. Thanks for introducing me to Thessaloniki!
Thessaloniki is looking beautiful destination for holidays and you shared amazing information about this beautiful destination.