The port city of Thessalonica, the second biggest city in Greece has a well documented history of more than 2300 years. It was built by the Macedonian king Cassander in 314 BC, who named the city after his wife Thessaloniki, the sister of Alexander the Great. The city was the second most important city during the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople, the capital. Its importance is manifested in the numerous churches and impressive fortifications still visible today. During the Ottoman times, the city experienced a new lease of life with the influx of thousands Sephardic Jews escaping persecution from Spain. The Ottomans modernized the city and resided predominantly in the Upper Town, where one can still admire fine examples of Ottoman architecture. A major fire destroyed most of the properties and businesses in the city centre in 1917. However, reconstruction took place immediately and the city became the first major town planning experiment of the 20th century. As a result the city centre has wide tree lined avenues with an impressive business and shopping area and beautiful neoclassical buildings. To many, Thessalonica has more similarities with other European cities than Athens.


Thessalonica is a very lively city and its inhabitants have a reputation for being laid back. There are a lot of historical sites in the city centre, like the Arch and Tomb ruins of the Roman Emperor Galerius, the White Tower, the old Church of Rotunda and the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius, the “protector” of the city according to local tradition. In Thessalonica one can also find a few remaining mosques that are remnants of the city’s Ottoman past. Most of them have been recently renovated and they are being used as art exhibition centers, like Hamza Bey, on Egnatia Avenue, Alatza Imaret, on Kassandrou Street and Bezesteni on Venizelou Streer.

The city fortifications in the Upper Town and the fort of Yedi Kule, a former prison recently restored as an Arts Centre is definitely worth a visit. Tsimiski Avenue has a selection of impressive early 20th century buildings, housing major banks and other businesses. There are some late 19th, early 20th century mansions in Themistocleos Sofouli Avenue to the South East of the city.

The city is also home to an International Trade Fair and the biggest university in Greece. The combined grounds are set in a large area of the city centre and they are interconnected with parks. For a great view over the city make sure you visit the Telecommunications Tower in the International Trade Fair grounds, where there is also a restaurant at the top floor.

Thessalonica was the European Capital of Culture in 1997 and a lot of disused buildings were renovated and new ones were built to house the many cultural events that took place. Catch theatre and music performances if you can at the Eteria Makedonikon Spoudon, the new City Music Hall (Megaro) or the former monastery of Moni Lazariston. Furthermore, there are frequent concerts on the grounds of Milos, a former factory restored as a cultural centre with lively bars, restaurants, exhibition spaces, a concert hall and a cinema.

Every November the city is home to an International Film Festival , the biggest in Greece, where many foreign, Balkan and Greek films are showcased and the city is buzzing with visitors who debate for hours over numerous cups of coffee about the prevailing movies.

In addition, Thessalonica benefits from its proximity to Khalkidhiki, a half hour drive from the city. Khalkidhiki is one of the most popular Greek tourist destinations where there are beautiful beaches and forested mountains and lots of varied sized hotels and resorts to cater for every budget. If you are male and interested in medieval history, a visit to the monasteries of Mount Athos south of Thessalonica may reconnect you with your spirituality. Unfortunately this experience is not available to women, as tradition claims that the only woman ever to visit the Athos peninsula was Virgin Mary.


The city offers a lot of choice for shopping. If you are interested in upmarket boutiques and designer clothes, then Tsimiski avenue is your destination. Make sure you also check the nearby Mitropoleos avenue and Agias Sofias avenue, cutting between the former two. For more shopping options, the affluent suburb of Kalamaria is worth a visit. Finally, all the major shopping centers are located on the way to the airport.

Nightlife and Eating Out

The Upper town is home to traditional small family run restaurants. The main seafront thoroughfare, Nikis Avenue is lined with many bars and cafés as well as restaurants, offering beautiful views of the sea with Mount Olympus in the background. The former Jewish business area of Ladadika underwent a massive face lift in the early 1990s, was pedestrianised and today houses many restaurants, bars and cafes, while retaining its restored early 20th century architecture. This part of the city is buzzing with people every evening. If you have time while strolling in the city centre, check the restaurants in the covered old Modiano market. To sum up, the seafront of the suburb of Kalamaria has a good selection of bars and cafes and the city’s best fish restaurants.

In Thessalonica there are many clubs and late night bars, where music usually stops when the last punter is out. Most nightclubs are located on the way to the airport and in the western exit of the city. Choices in music are plenty catering for every taste.

Tourist Information

Hellenic Tourist Organisation (EOT)136 Tsimiski Avenue Thessalonica, Greece Ph +30 2310 221100

Hellenic Tourist Organisation (EOT)Macedonia Airport,Ph +30 2310 471170


Macedonia Airport, Thessalonica’s airport is located about 15 kms south east from the City Centre, under 30 minutes by car and services both domestic and international flights. However, because of the length of the runways, it cannot service long haul flights. There are plans for expansion of the runways to the sea in the near future

All car hire locations in Greece