Greece's second largest city is hip and affordable, small and safe.
The second largest city in Greece, after Athens, Thessaloniki is hard to beat for sheer vibrancy and liveliness. Offering an amazing wealth of cultural attractions and entertainment, it is situated in northern Greece and a visit to Thessaloniki provides unrivalled access to a diversity of landscapes and the preserved attractions of its 3000-year-old history. A university city, it throngs with life all year round, with a buzzing nightlife, thriving eateries, varied shopping and an extensive choice of things to see and do.
Thessaloniki is on the eastern coast of the Thermaic Gulf at its northern edge, fringed by Mount Chortiatis to the southeast. The city covers an area of nearly 600 square miles and incorporates coastal beaches and hilly inclines. It is known for its vibrant city culture, having the most cafe's and bars per-capita than any other city in Europe as well as some of the liveliest nightlife and entertainment in the country. This is in part due to its youthful university population and multicultural feel. Trendy bars and restaurants cater to all tastes and can be found along pedestrianised streets bursting with life and thronging with the accoutrements of al fresco dining. There is always something going on here.
At its centre, surrounded by ancient Byzantine city walls, are the commercial district, the campus of Aristotle University and the historic heart where most of the attractions for tourists are to be found. The upper town, or Ano Poli, is a UNESCO heritage district north of the city centre which escaped the great fire of 1917; its traditional old houses, small cobbled streets, Byzantine citadel, and the fort remain for visitors to see today. History buffs will enjoy exploring the numerous churches to be found throughout the city - the frescoes in the church of St Nicolaos Orfanos are not to be missed - or the many museums in the city with artefacts representing the changing history and occupations of the area over three millennia.
Take any road downhill and you will reach the sea. The picturesque promenade runs from the old port to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. From the fortified White Tower dating back to 16th century - Thessaloniki’s most famous landmark - the seafront broadens out to include gardens and food stalls with youngsters cycling and skating before you; the atmosphere is lively. Several marinas are dotted along the coast, the best known being Kalamaria, southeast of the city. World Championship yachting takes place here each year, though the Thermaic Gulf offers challenging waters.
Many gold products can be found in the three coloured Cartier styles here in Thessaloniki and there are also many styles of ceramics to be found in the area. For wool products, head to Arnea in the Holoman Mountains, where you can see the ladies of the village busy spinning and weaving the handmade Flokati rugs, carpets and tapestries.
If you love exploring the reminders of times past and enjoy a wide range of entertainments, come to Thessaloniki; you’ll be spoilt for choice. It’s ideal for inquisitive young families and couples of all ages, with something to please all tastes.
The best beaches near Thessaloniki
Agia Triada Beach: Located 20 km south of Thessaloniki, Agia Triada beach is a long sandy beach with excellent connections to the city centre.
Epanomi Beach: Located 25 miles south of Thessaloniki and in between the city and the idyllic beach resorts of Halkidiki lies the popular and sandy Epanomi Beach.
Perea Beach: Perea Beach is the closest beach to Thessaloniki airport and is just 17 km south of the city. With a vibrant nightlife the area is popular with tourists and locals alike.
Things To Do
Fun Excursions for Thessaloniki Holidays
Fun Day Cruise: Sun, fun and adventure. Sample the delicious BBQ on the golden beach. Join Captain Mike and sail across the crystal blue waters to Sithonia. Once you have moored at one of the golden sandy beaches you'll be able to swim and sunbathe as the crew on board prepares the BBQ. The highlight of the day is Turtle Island where you will have ample time for cooling off in the crystal clear waters.
Alexander & Dion: Make the most of your time in such a historic part of the world. Take a trip back in time at the foothills of Mt Olympus . You will take a stroll around Dion the well preserved archaeological site and admire the colourful mosaics. You'll travel across the arid planes to the resting place of Philip II. Vergina is the only archaeological site within a museum in the world.
Petralona Caves: Mother nature's phenomenon. Visit the caves with our expert guide and amaze at the stalactites and stalagmites. These caves are believed to be the most impressive in Northern Greece.
Sightseeing and Shopping in Thessaloniki: The city that should not be missed whilst visiting this beautiful area of Greece. Visit the second largest city in Greece and witness the sights with our expert local guide. Experience the Church of St Dimitris, the biggest in Thessaloniki and visit the crypt of St Dimitrios.
Sunset Cruise: Chill out on a relaxing late afternoon cruise and enjoy a fun evening of traditional cuisine and entertainment in sublime surroundings.
Journey Across the Calm Sea: Unwind with a drink from the bar whilst your BBQ meal is being prepared. As you watch the end of a day come to a close, the sun slowly dips down below the horizon turning the sky a romantic red. Live music is played to serenade you throughout the night.
Things To See
Afitos: Thought by many to be the most attractive spot on the Kassandra peninsular, Afitos is a traditional village made up of stone houses, paved streets and an amazing view out to sea.
Thessaloniki: The second largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki has many historical sites from its Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Jewish past such as the old town and the oldest church - St Dimitrios plus it has a vibrant nightlife.
Sithonia: One of the most beautiful and unspoilt areas in Halkidiki and perhaps, best accessed by car. There are numerous traditional villages and also many secluded beaches with crystal clear waters.
Mount Athos Peninsula: The most spectacular and unspoilt place in the region. Famous for its Orthodox monasteries, women are not allowed to enter the area while men need to seek permission.
Cave of Petralona: Located near Nea Moudania village the cave which was discovered in 1959 is adorned with stalagmites and stalactites and in 1960 a human skull thought to be 700000 years old was also found there.
Lake of Polychrono: This lovely lake located west of Kassandra Village is surrounded by pine trees and is also home to a rare species of turtles.
The Tower of Apostle Paul: Built in 1407 to protect the village from invasion with a small church built next to it that sits as a monument to the 12 evangelists.
Bus: Buses are frequent, punctual and cheap although not always air-conditioned and connect Thessaloniki to the numerous towns and villages on the Kassandra peninsular and Halkidiki as a whole.
Boat: Boat trips to many parts of Halkidiki as well as to various Greek islands can be enjoyed from Thessaloniki.
Taxi: Even the smallest of villages in the Halkidiki region can be reached by taxi from Thessaloniki. All taxis are on a meter, but it might be a good idea to ask the driver for a rough idea of the price before you set off.
Car: An excellent way of getting around during Thessaloniki holidays, car hire gives you complete flexibility as well as the ability to see more of the region.