This stunning Greek port city is often referred to as the cultural capital of Greece. With a population of a little over 800,000, the city is renowned for its festivals, inventive cuisine, and traditional architecture. To help you get the most out of this amazing city, here are my top 10 favorite things to do in Thessaloniki, Greece.
CLICK HERE FOR A FULL LIST OF MY RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Thessaloniki Promenade
The Thessaloniki promenade is where a lot of the action in this city takes place. Here you'll find local couples taking in the sunset, street performers playing a wide variety of music, and tourists lounging by the seaside. Its important you walk well past the White Tower in order to get away from some of the hustle and bustle to see the quieter, more local side of this area.
You should note the all the restaurants along this street are designed for tourists and while the food is good and the view amazing, you will be paying a premium for that. Not necessarily the worst place to grab dinner but don't expect a local experience.
Address: Thessaloniki 546 21, Greece
Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis
2. Museum of Byzantine Culture
I'm a huge proponent of starting your stay in a city with a history museum because it provides much needed context about how the people and the city behaves. Since Thessaloniki played such an important role in the Byzantine empire what better place to start that the museum of Byzantine culture.
The artifacts and history here got back thousands of years and give detailed accounts of the cities rise to prominence. I will admit that some of the translations are a bit stale but overall I think its a good stop to learn about the city itself.
Hours: Everyday from 8:30AM - 3:30PM
Address: Leof. Stratou 2, Thessaloniki 546 40, Greece
3. The Train Cemetery
This is by far the most unique (and my personal favorite!) place on this list. The Thessaloniki train cemetery is located on the outskirts of the city and is the final resting place for thousands of abandoned train cars. This of course is not an official attraction and there is no supervision of any kind so you are free to explore at your own risk.
Getting there can be kind of tricky but you can take Bus 51, 54 and 54A that leave from Thessaloniki train station towards the cemetery. Get off after the E90 highway and walk for around 10 more minutes.
Address: Kallithea 570 08, Greece
Greek food is some of my favorite in the world, and Thessaloniki's emphasis on seafood makes it that much better. Now of course trying a traditional Gyro is a must (they seem to sell them literally everywhere), but that should be more of a lunch snack not a full meal. For dinner you have to try Sempriko which is a market/restaurant combo that serves traditional greek dishes with a contemporary twist (try the stuffed peppers!).
For a FULL list of my favorite restaurants and street food spots click here
5. Modiano Market
Modiano market is the perfect introduction to local life in Thessaloniki. Stock full of meat, produce, and food stalls, the market has an electric energy that is hard to escape. Watching Greek grandmothers haggling for that nights meal is a great way to get a taste of local life. It's important to go early when the market is really buzzing because it slowly shutdowns later in the day.
For more information about the market including opening times, and location click here
6. Ladadika District
Just a 5 minute walk to Aristotle's square, this beautiful district is the bohemian area of Thessaloniki. Trees line every street, cafes can be found on every corner, it's the best area to just get lost in for a few hours exploring.
Ladadika is also the entertainment hub of the city and is where you can find most of its clubs, bars, and late night restaurants.
Address: Ladadika, Thessaloniki
Photo by Dmitry Artyukhov
It seems like there's a place for everyone here. Whether you're into sipping a beer watching the sunset, or trying to catch a greek punk show at a local venue, there's so much going on. A pretty special place that's worth checking out is ΦΙΞ in art, which is a set in an old abandonded beer factory on the outskirts of the city. It's made up of 3 different live music venues and a theater where they hold dance classes and other events. It may look sketchy at first but trust me the shows are insane fun and you won't have a better night out.
For a full list of my favorite bars and clubs click here
8. The White Tower
The White tower is located along the promenade and is one of the more popular tourist attractions in the city. It was once a notorious prison under Ottoman rule where torture and mass executions were carried out regularly. Today its been transformed into a museum and at the top you get fantastic 360 degree views of the city.
Price: 2 Euros (~$2.50 USD)
Hours: Daily from 9AM - 4PM
Address: Thessaloniki, White Tower (Leoforos Nikis)
9. Pasha Gardens
The Pasha gardens are one of the more mysterious places in the city. A small park on top of a hill with sweeping views of the city, its a great place to go relax and get away from the usual hustle and bustle of the city. The most interesting part of this park however, are the mysterious ruins.
No one knows who built them (based on an inscription they were constucted in 1904), and strange symbols can be found throughout them as well as tunnels that go nowhere and a gate leading underground. One theory is that it was where Ottoman freemasons were initiated but who knows?
Address: Elenis Zografou St, Thessaloniki, Greece
Photo by Kostas Chaidemenos
10. Ruins of Rentina
Rentina is an ancient settlement site that dates back to the neolithic period, with some of the castles walls going as far back as 321 BCE. From the early 1200's to the 1400's the castle changed hands over 7 times (rotating between Byzantine, Serbian, Greek, and Ottoman rule).
The ruins are open to the public and it takes about 20min to hike from the church below.
WHERE TO STAY?
Ladidika is the most obvious choice because of its close proximity to most of Thessaloniki's attractions. There a few hostels but Airbnb isn't too much more expensive and I would highly recommend it. Another choice is the Old City which gets you out of the tourist area's and away from the chaos of the main districts. Both are great it just comes down to a preference thing.