Thessaloniki is an ideal destination for proper holidays or a short weekend break. Due to its size, it’s quite feasible to explore it even in two days while its proximity to some of Northern Greece’s most stunning locations, like Halkidiki, it makes it a convenient destination for your entire vacation. Our tip: make your holiday in Greece count and arrange a 5-day stay in Thessaloniki and another 5 days to Halkidiki!
Even if your stay in Thessaloniki is really short, worry not. You still have time to enjoy many of its marvels and explore the multi-faced personality of this extraordinary city. Our travel-expert team has put together a superb plan for you to make the most of your 48 hours in the city.
Start your day with a famous “bougatsa”. One of the most characteristic things about Thessaloniki is its fantastic bakeries. There, you shall find one of locals’ favorite meals, “bougatsa” (pie filled with cream, cheese or even chocolate in its modern alteration) and also a “koulouri” (Greek bagel), another famous and typical delicacy of the area. Grab a coffee to wake you up and you are all set and good to go!
Take a long walk along “Paralia”
Walk along Nikis Avenue from the port and its buildings, which acquired new life during the last years, hosting Thessaloniki’s Film Festival and other cultural activities and events and have become a meeting point for Thessaloniki’s youth during the evenings, all the way to the White Tower. As the noon comes closer, you shall encounter bikers, walkers, students, workers, literally everyone enjoying the same walk, a trademark of Thessaloniki. Visit the interior of the White Tower to learn more about the city and its history.
Time for a quick snack
From the White Tower, make your way up the parallel of Nikis Avenue, Tsimiski Avenue and start heading towards the center. You are now in Thessaloniki’s commercial street, filled with shops of all kinds. You can make a stop at Elenidi’s for the famous local delicacy called “trigona panoramatos” (triangular pastries) or head straight to Aristotelous Square where you can enjoy the neo-classical buildings surrounding it and head all the way up to the 5th floor of Cine Olympia to enjoy the stunning view and have a quick snack or coffee. Make your way to the impressive and atmospheric open-air Modiano market, dating back to the 12th century, an explosive mixture of colors and smells and stroll around the narrow streets around it.
Lunch time is a great time to visit Bezesteni market and its Byzantine sight where the variety of restaurants and taverns offers plenty of choices.
After refilling with energy, start your evening walk from Bit Bazaar, another historic hidden square with a cozy atmosphere and make your way up to Agiou Dimitriou Street where you will find the homonymous church that belongs to the Thessaloniki’s patron saint with his bones entombed for viewing in galleries under the church. Head towards the remainings of the Roman Agora, passing by the marvelous Bay Hamam and make your way towards the Galerius Arch and the Rotunda.
Choose any of the innumerable cafes at Iktinou, Pavlou Mela, Navarinou Square, a location full of antiquities and ancient ruins and the surrounding streets, to enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee.
Restaurants covering all kinds of tastes, from traditional to experimental, await at the Jewish quarter of Ladadika where olive oil storehouses have been converted into atmospheric restaurants and bars.
If you still find yourself with energy after this full day, Ladadika or nearby Valaoritou Street are the vivid and vibrant places to be for your night drinks.
Tsoureki is a sweet bread made with flour, milk, butter and sugar. It is usually eaten during Easter time in the rest of Greece, but in Thessaloniki you can try it all year round and is considered one of the tastiest delicacies of the city.
Walk the New Promenade
The New Promenade is actually an extension of the old seafront right after Nikis Avenue. Along the way, a statue of Alexander the Great, street performers, themed micro-parklands, ice-cream vendors, contemporary installations such as the famous “Thessaloniki Umbrellas” by Georgios Zoggolopoulos and the Concert Hall of Thessaloniki located in a stunning building with endless sea views, create a sweet mixture of Barcelona temperament with a liberating and relaxed Greek style walk.
Coffee Recharge & Museum Time
On your way back, make a stop to enjoy a cup of coffee at “Pedion Areos”, a cafeteria placed inside a beautiful park with water turtles running around, before visiting one of the nearby museums, depending on your energy and taste. The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, depicting the long and rich history of the city throughout the centuries. The Museum of Byzantine Culture, hosted in a Le Corbusier-inspired, filled with Byzantine era treasures, such as wood-panel paintings. Contemporary art also has a home here since 1979, when Alexandros Iolas, a renowned Greek collector, donated his collection to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The area around the White Tower is full of restaurants of all kinds and tastes, that allow you to enjoy your meal while overlooking at this emblematic city monument.
Visit the Ano Poli
If you have the energy, you can take the uphill walk that leads to the upper part of Thessaloniki, called Ano Poli (Greek for Upper Town) and if not, buses 22 and 23 will take you there. The busy city streets disappear and give way to small houses, making you feel like you have just time travelled to Thessaloniki’s older days. Enjoy the view from the 15th-century Trigoniou Tower, wander around the old castle walls and Heptapyrgion, the fortress part that was once used as a prison. Take your time while going down, it may not seem like it at first, but small cafes and restaurants are hidden all around this exciting neighborhood.
Enjoy your dinner in one of your Ano Poli discoveries or head down towards the center to enjoy your evening delights in one of the numerous restaurants around P. Mela and A. Svolou streets.
Drinks at a Hamam
Who would have thought a traditional Hamam could be transformed into a bar and nightclub and still serve its purpose perfectly? This is the case of the 16th century Aigli Geni Hamam, which was built during Thessaloniki’s Ottoman occupation and is now an indoor-outdoor bar with stunning views and a nightclub decorated with disco balls and full of life. Enjoy!
If you are lucky enough to enjoy more than 2 days in Thessaloniki, we have prepared some suggested itineraries filled with unique local experiences and exciting activities.
Your official welcome to the city is the famous “mpougatsa”, a salty or sweet pie, and a nice coffee to give you energy for the rest of the day. Actually, Thessaloniki holds a high C.P.C. (cafes per capita) ratio, so finding good coffee is not a hard task at all.
Seafront Walk – “Paralia”
Thessaloniki’s charm is largely enhanced by the city’s proximity to the sea. We suggest you start your walk from the port, where old warehouses have been converted into modern cultural venues, hosting the Cinema Museum, the Center of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Photography. Every year, Thessaloniki hosts an International Film Festival and a Documentary Festival as well. Walking along the seafront with one of the busiest streets in town, Nikis Avenue, on your left hand, you will come across people of all sorts of ages and countries, as Thessaloniki is a popular destination. Take a deep sea breath and enjoy the emblematic view of the White Tower. Climb up to visit the place that is now a museum, but was used as a fortress and a prison in the old days. The viewing platform, 34m above ground level, will give you a great view. Right after the White Tower, the New Waterfront, a redeveloped part of the promenade begins. Completed in 2013, it gave the city a 3.5k-long pedestrian zone, that you can enjoy on foot or even by bicycle, as the city also hosts a bike-sharing system), featuring countless places for relaxation, enjoying street performers and vendors and modern art, such as the “Umbrellas” sculpture, by George Zongolopoulos and the Concert Hall of Thessaloniki in the far end of the walk.
Return to the land
From the White Tower, make your way up the parallel of Nikis Avenue, Tsimiski Avenue and Visit Aristotelous Square, a large pedestrian area packed with shops, cafes and neoclassical buildings. Have a well desired coffee break to recharge. Pass from Kapani and Modiano Markets, to explore the most traditional part of the city and have a look at the variety of local products for sale, alongside the taverns and spice shops. Komninon street will make you day brighter with its flower shops. Athonos street is a great place to have lunch, before leaving the traditional market behind and starting your contemporary shopping walk, in Tsimiski, Mitropoleos and Proxenou Koromila streets.
Some rest & Dinner
Return to the apartment, take some rest and enjoy your dinner in Ladadika, a neighborhood that was the entertainment heart of the city during the 90s and is now re-emerging as a gastronomic destination
Koulouri is the word!
Start your day with the local delicacy called koulouri, a type of bread, so well toasted and yummy that became famous all over Greece as Thessaloniki’s Koulouri.
The Urban Walk: Rotunda / Kamara / Agios Dimitrios /Roman Agora
Visit Rotunda, the round church, that was also used as a Roman mausoleum and a mosque, reminds of Rome’s Pantheon and is open to the public. An amazing monument that is the living history of the Thessaloniki’s complex past. Stand in interior beneath the 30m high dome and contemplate on the remaining minare from the outside, a remnant of the Ottoman period, the only one to have survived in the city. A few steps further, check the Arch of Galerius, or as the locals call it, Kamara, to discover a part of the emperor’s palace that survived up until this day and has become a meeting point for the locals. The Church of Agios Dimitrios, patron saint of Thessaloniki, holds an underground crypt, right where Saint Dimitrios martyred and buried. The Roman Forum or Agora, is filled with remnants from Thessaloniki’s Roman past. Don’t stay on the surface. A passageway will lead you to an impressive underground museum.
Live the mix: Hammam / Bit Bazaar / Jewish Neighborhood
Thessaloniki was a melting pot of cultures and civilizations for a long time and this interesting mixture has left it marks and wonders all over the city. When was the last time you had coffee in an Ottoman-era bathhouse? In Thessaloniki, you can do that as well. Make your choice between Aigli Geni Hamam, Bey Hamam or Palio Hamam. Sounds and smells welcome you to Bit Bazaar, a flea market operating since 1928. Take a stroll around the benches and view some of the city;s recent past, before heading to its Jewish era remnants. The Jewish Museum can be a great start for that, with a hall dedicated to the Holocaust. The Bensousan Han, is a 19th-century motel that once hosted travelers and merchants and is now used for cultural activities and events and exhibitions.
Dinner & Drinks!
The nightlife of Valaoritou Street and the surrounding alleys, as well as the historic neighborhood of Frangomachalas, offer a variety of options for a great dinner and a well deserved drink. Cheers!
Have a good start for your day by heading to P. Mela street and check out all the wonderful places that serve brunch.
Explore the Museums
The main museums’ neighborhood is located close to the White Tower. Start your tour from the award-winning building that nests the Museum of Byzantine Culture. Εarly Christian exhibits, Byzantine icons and prints, sculptures, pottery, books, silver and gold surround you and give you a perfect image of what Thessaloniki looked like during the Byzantine Empire.
Continue to the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, where the history of thhout the centuries, passing from the prehistoric era to the birth of the city, the rise of its rich culture and civilization, the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. Finally, head off to the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art to leave the past behind and return to the modern days. More than 1,800 paintings, sculptures and works of video art are hosted in what is also the main venue of Thessaloniki’s Biennale of Contemporary Art.
visit to Ano Poli
If you thought you saw everything Thessaloniki has to offer, you are in for a big surprise. The great fire of 1917 destroyed the city almost completely. However, a part of it was left untouched and that part is the Upper City or Ano Poli in Greek. A 20 minute uphill walk from the centre (alternatively, buses 22 and 23 will take you there) bring the visitor to the most authentic and colorful part of the city. Narrow streets, little houses, small squares, the ancient fortress and Heptapyrgion, another part of the castle, used as a prison, alongside the amazing view from the top, will make your walk to Ano Poli a well worth experience. You can also have lunch and coffee in the cozy little places scattered around the neighborhood.
Since you have explored the heart of Thessaloniki and got to know it so well, you can now enjoy a boat ride to Pera and Kalamaria, seaside suburbs of the city. Small “pirate” boats, await you at the seafront. Working as cafeterias and bars as well, they allow you to enjoy your drink while traveling across the calm waters of the Thermaic Gulf. Enjoy your fish and ouzo, while your feet dive in the sea sand in one of the numerous tavernas in Perea. Return to walk Vasilissis Olgas Avenue, a street filled with Neoclassical buildings and 19th century architecture.
You can also choose to take a day trip to the archaeological sites of Pella or Vergina, or, if the weather is really nice, go to Chalkidiki to take a swim in its crystal clear waters that truly remind you of Greek island. More info here.
Other monuments and buildings in the city you might find interesting: