The White Tower on the waterfront is one of the most dominant landmarks in Thessaloniki and is often used to promote the city. But its name is confusing – because this sturdy 150ft tall stone building isn’t white.
It was called the Lion Tower when it was built about 500 years ago after the city was captured by the Ottomans. Then it was surrounded by defensive walls – no longer there - and was part of the port’s fortifications. At first it was a fortress that became a garrison and then a prison.
In those grim times it was known as the Red Tower because of the amount of blood shed in the prison. It was a place of torture and mass execution.
When the Greeks re-gained control of Thessaloniki they had the tower cleansed to symbolise an end to its ghastly history. The stones were painted with whitewash and it became the White Tower. It kept the new name after the whitewash wore off and the natural buff colour of the stone was revealed.
It is now a museum and exhibition centre focussing on Thessaloniki’s history. The viewing platform for visitors at the top of the tower provides fantastic picture opportunities.
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