Second in size only to Athens, the Greek port city of Thessaloniki has preserved its multi-layered history with remnants of its Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past. Walking along the main drag of Tsimiski Street, one can get caught up in the bustle of the city. Museums are abundant, many displaying ancient artifacts, but also on hand are exhibit halls featuring photography, cinematography and science. In addition to its impressive number of cultural institutions, Thessaloniki has a thriving nightlife.
Thessaloniki has too many museums to list, but a few are worth highlighting. For additional information on these and many others, visit the Museums of Macedonia website for reviews of institutions and historic sites across the entire region of Macedonia.
The Museum of Byzantine Culture , on Stratou Avenue, focuses on many aspects of the Byzantine period of the city; including art, religion and history. The museum even has a permanent exhibit at the White Tower, the symbol of Thessaloniki. Admission to the museum is only four euros and is reduced for students, as well as free during many holidays.
Cultural institutions in this town move beyond history and archaeology. The Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art is located on the city’s international fair grounds and is accessible by the bus system. The museum dedicates itself to the exhibition and promotion of the visual and plastic arts.
One of the best exhibition spaces in a city full of museums is the Photography Museum of Thessaloniki . It is, in fact, the only photography museum in the whole of Greece. Beyond its impressive exhibition space, it also contains a research library and encourages the education, criticism and publication of Greek photography. Housed in Warehouse A along the Port of Thessaloniki, the museum is in a unique part of the city. After touring the current exhibits, visitors should stop for a snack in the café and sip coffee while overlooking the water.
Walking the streets of Thessaloniki, one can see ruins of former empires which once occupied the city. Some walls from the Byzantine era are still standing. Excavations of Roman sites and palaces are among other archaeological attractions.
The city has many noteworthy churches, mainly built during the Byzantine Era. Hagios Demetrios is the city’s most famous church, dedicated to Saint Demetrios, patron saint of Thessaloniki. A Roman bath once stood on the site of the church and the building also functioned as a mosque for over four hundred years.
Locals and visitors alike are drawn to Thessaloniki’s waterfront. Strolling along the promade of Nikis Avenue, one can dine at numerous restaurants and cafes or frequent the many shops lined along the water.
Shopping and Dining
The city has several shopping arteries, with stores ranging from high-end boutiques to those for the more bargain minded. Egnatia Street offers many bargain priced shops, while Tsimski and Mitropoleos streets have everything from bookstores to expensive jewelry shops to large department stores.
Aristotelous Square, a popular location for people-watching, serves as an excellent venue for music concerts and other outdoor events. And this is a great spot for a meal at any of the cafes lining the perimeter of the square.
A central market, located near Aristoleous Square, is a great place to find souvenirs, food stuffs, flowers and spices. You will also be able to find an inexpensive meal at the market or you may just want to try one of the many great restaurants throughout the city.
Sweets and sweet shops are popular in Greece, so sample a few at any of the many specialty shops or bakeries. Be sure and try hot chocolate while in Thessaloniki, as the city has some of the best drinking chocolate in all of Europe.
Thessaloniki is becoming as well known for its nightlife as it is for its rich history and plentiful museums. Bars and nightclubs are bountiful in this city as are year round cultural events, such as music concerts and theater performances. Stroll along Nikis Avenue after dark to visit the many trendy bars located along the waterfront. Aristoleous Square is as popular at night as it is during the day as bars and cafes fill up with locals and tourists.
Thessaloniki is a lively, vibrant city rich with history and is certainly worth visiting during any trip to Greece.
Written by Morgen Young for EuropeUpClose.com