What to see in Thessaloniki – top attractions
For most tourists from the post-Soviet space, the acquaintance with Greece begins from here. International airport, seaport, railway station – Thessaloniki, the second largest Greek city and the capital of the region of Macedonia is a major transportation hub. But thanks to its rich history, Thessaloniki (Greece) also has its own attractions. The city concentrates monuments of three eras: Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine.
Therefore, you should not, if you come to Thessaloniki, use this place only as a transit point on your way to the famous resorts of Greece, devote a few days to it yourself. The city of Thessaloniki, where ancient excavations can be seen in the courtyard of modern residential neighborhoods, is full of interesting things. Taking advice from travelers who were here more than once, we will try to lead you through the city and tell you what you can see in Thessaloniki in 3 days.
For many, this city at first makes a contradictory impression because of the inconceivable mix of eras and architectural styles. Nearby can be a beautiful park, flowers, domes of old and new temples, ancient excavations and here – rusty fences, bad unkempt graffiti on the walls of dismal apartment buildings … and suddenly, on the wall of another house – a completely original piece of modern art! And all this alternates in Thessaloniki, block by block.
But gradually you find in this mess and kaleidoscope some special harmony. Some tourists leave Thessaloniki having understood the soul of this city and even falling in love with it a little bit.
Our journey has just begun. What to see in Thessaloniki is a must and should not be missed?
A walk along the waterfront, the White Tower, and an hour-long tour of the “Cultural Route”.
Thessaloniki is located on the shores of the Gulf of Termaikos. Take an early morning stroll along the wide and beautiful promenade, see the sea, the port, the fishermen with fishing rods. Turn to face the city and see the outline of the city’s most iconic structure, the architectural symbol and the visiting card of Thessaloniki, the White Tower with the flag flying over it.
Although it is not entirely white, but “buffalo skin color”, its history (XV century) is very interesting and deserves a story of its own. You can learn about it by visiting the museum, located in a circle on the 8 floors inside this 33 meters (23 m in diameter) impressive structure. At the very top of the tower is an observation deck with a beautiful view of the promenade, port and city.
There are so many sights in Thessaloniki that just a simple listing of the main ones would take a whole page. But there is a wonderful opportunity to see an impressive part of them even in 1 hour. Of course, this is not possible on foot, but only by getting on bus number 50 right there in the square near the White Tower. A blue sightseeing bus leaves on the “Cultural Route” every hour from 8:00 to 21:00. And for 10 euros (5 for children) in sightseeing mode you will take a trip in a time machine. And the stops (there are 8 of them) are like the different eras that the northern Greek capital has experienced in 25 centuries. Like nowhere else, the past is closely aligned with the present.
Audio, video and guide on the bus accompany the tour in English and Greek. But for the first visual acquaintance it is enough, and you can return to the most favorite places later, taking with you a map of Thessaloniki with sights in Russian not to get lost. The route begins and ends at the tower.
What will the sightseers see on the way? Not far from the White Tower there are several interesting buildings:
- The Royal Theater/National Theater of Northern Greece
- The Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Byzantine Culture
- The tower of telephone service
- International Exhibition
- Macedonian Museum of Modern Art
Further along the way alternate:
- Ancient Roman monuments – excavations of the Palace of Galerius, the Rotunda of St. George, the ruins of the Hippodrome and the Arch of Triumph, Aristotle Square, excavations of the Roman Agora
- Byzantine and early Christian temples and monuments – Hagia Sophia, the temple of Our Lady of Medes (XI c.), the temple of St. Demetrius of Thessaloniki, the monasteries of St. Theodora and Vlatadon (XIV c.); the ruins of Byzantine baths.
The route passes by Aristotle Square, the Upper Town of Ano Poli with cute colorful Macedonian houses.
We will tell you more about one of the sites on the Thessaloniki sightseeing route.
Take note! Here you can find a list of the best excursions and Russian-speaking guides in Athens.
Rotunda (Τάφος του Γαλερίου)
The Rotunda of Saint George of the late 3rd century and the Arch of Triumph (4th century) is part of the palace (or burial) complex of Emperor Galerius. In the 15th century it served as a Christian church, which was named after Gregory the Victorious. In Ottoman times, the Turks built a minaret nearby, and for almost four centuries the temple was a mosque.
At the beginning of the XX century the building was returned to the Orthodox Church, and since then it has been a museum of Christian art. The Rotonda is on the list of Thessaloniki monuments, which is included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites.
Restoration work has been going on in the complex for the past decade. Among the descriptions of Thessaloniki attractions, photos of these works are often found in the stories of travelers on forums. Indeed, even during the restoration, it was sometimes possible to enter some rooms (for free) with cameras, and it was not forbidden to take pictures. After the official opening, the entrance fee is 2 euros.
Services are held only on the great Orthodox feasts.
The Rotunda is next to the University campus, it is one of the places where students and local youth gather and meet.
The morning of the second day and the first half can be devoted to canyoning near Olympus, and in the evening you can see a play or concert in the Forest Theater.
On a side note! Read about the beaches around Thessaloniki on this page, and which resort of Kassandra (Halkidiki) to choose for a beach vacation in this article.
Canyoning at Mount Olympus
Canyoning is an extreme sport that allows traditional hikers, rock climbers and swimmers to combine all three pleasures in “one bottle”.
And it looks something like this: you jump into a mountain stream and rush it raging foamy streams without any boats, rafts and canoes. Your only equipment is your life jacket and your wetsuit and helmet. At first it will be scary: wild speed, falling down small waterfalls, dizzying whirlpools; then the river becomes wider and a measured calm drift begins, during which you are sure to pay attention to the beautiful scenery around Mount Olympus.
There are two advantages of this extreme pastime while sightseeing around Thessaloniki.
- Going down the river has a positive effect on the nervous system, because during the canyoning, the adrenaline rush is soon followed by a pleasant relaxation.
- For the basic one-day tour participants do not need special skills, just the ability to keep on the water for at least half an hour, and at a quick pace about the same time to go up or down the mountain trail. This means that the pleasure is accessible to the masses of tourists.
The tour lasts 3-4 hours, during this time the participants from the initial height of 480 meters will gradually descend to 280. But first you’ll need to make several descents on the rocks on the rope and 6 jumps down, while getting over four water slides from 5 to 12 meters high.
A group of tourists (6-12 people) is accompanied by two certified instructors, and at the beginning of the tour a half-hour safety briefing and short training on the use of equipment follows.
- The cost of the one-day tour from 80 euros, and this includes: depreciation of equipment and gear, a disc with a photo album as a memento of the trip and a mini snack during the break.
- For more experienced athletes there are two-day individual routes.
- Canyoning tours can be booked at the Thessaloniki office (16 Amfitrionos), on the official website www.baselinesports.gr online or by phone.
Forest Theatre or Theatro Dassous
This theater in the middle of the forest is one of several divisions of the NTNG, the National Theatre of Northern Greece, which also has a theater school, an excellent reserve for the troupe. Students are often involved in the theater’s productions. Seeing a production is really interesting.
Every season the schedule of Teatro Dasus includes premieres and previous productions by its own company, as well as touring performances by other Greek theaters.
In addition to the theatrical productions themselves, major conferences and festivals, concerts of Greek and visiting celebrities and various exhibitions take place there throughout the summer season. This busy schedule is due to the excellent acoustics of the stage in the form of an amphitheatre and the good technical equipment. The number of seats in the auditorium is 3,894.
There are beautiful views of the surroundings of Thessaloniki. Even if there is no show or event on the day of your visit you can have a great time outdoors in a cafe, see the scenery and take back home some beautiful pictures of the Thessaloniki sights.
- Address of the theater: Forest of Seich Sou * Agios Pavlos Thessaloniki 554 38, Greece.
- Web site: www.ntng.gr. Here you can find out the performance schedule and buy tickets online.
Devote the last day to shopping or just a tour of the Modiano Market and the evening to the famous Ladadika and Greek cuisine. And be sure to walk around the evening promenade before you leave.
Modiano Market in Thessaloniki is an attraction often seen in tourist reviews and photos, the descriptions of its “enticements” are colorful and delicious. If you have 3 days in Thessaloniki, Modiano is definitely the place to see.
Although the market is not the biggest, it otherwise resembles a typical oriental bazaar in its color and many features. Everything is just like there: the noise, the rumble, the shouting of the traders.
The rows of meat – the complete set for gourmet meat-eaters. A little further away you can try and buy the freshest cheese and butter.
A huge selection of olives: green, black, pickled, salty, with and without seasonings, in ready-to-eat and loose containers.
Seasonal fruits, sweets and spices-anyone can find anything they would like to find.
But the most interesting are the rows with seafood. You can buy fresh seafood and turn it into a delicious lunch at the nearest tavern. All the meat and fish, products, vegetables and fruits in Modiano are only local.
The market is located in the center, at the beginning of Aristotle Avenue (from the side of the ruins of the Roman forum).
Buses: #03, 05, 05A, 06, 12, 33, 33A, 39, 39A; stop Platia Aristotelous & Ermou.
- Tuesday to Friday: 9 to 13 am, 17 to 19 pm
- Saturday: 5 to 9 p.m.
- Sunday: 8 am to 3 pm.
- Monday is a day off.
There are many cafes and restaurants on Modiano, try the deliciously prepared Greek dishes and drink Greek coffee. Lunch is inexpensive, even the heartiest. And over a meal, it’s interesting to see the daily life of Greek people and get to know the city from this side as well.
Ladadika (Τα λαδάδικα)
The historic district of Ladadika is an extension of the waterfront and the architectural heritage of Thessaloniki. A hotspot and concentration of vice in the past, since the early 2000’s it has become one of the most vibrant and modern nightlife centers in Thessaloniki.
Ladadika is divided into two parts by the main street Tsimiskou. On the left is a fragment of the city wall. Take a stroll through the little ancient streets. In this area of Thessaloniki the architectural mixture of styles from the middle of the 19th century and later buildings is the main attraction for tourists. And the Greeks themselves have always loved to spend time here in idleness, resting from everyday worries.
Since 1985, the harbor Ladadika is a protected historical monument and the construction of new houses here is prohibited.
The existing houses were restored by entrepreneurs who later opened their businesses on the first floors of the renovated buildings. The lower part of the buildings is the core of the historical center of Thessaloniki. Its distinctive style: wrought-iron doors on the background of red brick. There used to be a lot of houses like this.
Half a dozen buildings of the Bank of Thrace were also renovated, warehouses and hangars were converted into stores and clubs. Many new restaurants, cafes, taverns discos and clubs opened.
During the day, locals and tourists sip coffee here rankly, and in the evening and at night, doors open all the institutions and the streets are flooded with warm yellow lanterns. Open terraces in taverns and cafes are lit. With a glass of wine or a shot of ouzo, you can spend the evening in a cozy restaurant with Greek cuisine and live folk music there are many. Or you can cross the street and open the door of any club and get into a noisy disco and listen to the same live concert, but in a heavy metal bar.
Almost every more or less major institution in Ladadik has its own website, and seats can be booked in advance online or by phone.
There you have it, the “sights of Thessaloniki Greece” program for the day is done. Although this is only a small part of what you can see in the city, memories of everything you see will go down in the memory box. And will stay with us until the next “vacation in Greece”.
A map of Thessaloniki with sights in Russian.
How to spend 1 day in Thessaloniki, what sights to see during this time and useful tourist tips – in this video.
Author: Lyudmila Bozhinskaya.
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As if I had been to Thessaloniki myself, although I was just about to go there. A real guide to the city, I’ve never seen a better description.
Hello Vyacheslav! It’s very nice that the article was useful for you. Thank you for the high appreciation!
The sights of Thessaloniki
The city is a mixture of different eras and therefore the answer to the question of what to see in Thessaloniki for a tourist is ambiguous as every visitor will find something interesting here. The city was founded in the 4th century BC during the reign of Cassandra. The city is named after his wife – Thessaloniki.
What to see in Thessaloniki in 1 day
The main sights are open to the sightseeing tourists and are in harmony with the scenery of Thessaloniki. The board of the city has done its best to make sure that tourists can see the most popular ones first, and see the famous sites as well.
The White Tower, which stands 34 meters high above the city, was used for several centuries as a defensive fortification and then as a city prison, where criminals and disobedient janissaries were executed en masse. The locals called the tower Bloody. At the end of the XIX century it was repainted white not to spoil the appearance of Thessaloniki, and the legend claims that all the work was done by its prisoner in exchange for his release.
Today, the white color has almost disappeared from the walls of the ancient structure, but the name remains.
Address: Λευκός Πύργος, city promenade area.
How to get there: Take buses 3, 10, 11, 12, 31 and 39 from the city center to the stop “Museum of Byzantine Culture”. From the western part of Thessaloniki take Routes 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 31 and 58 and from the city promenade you can walk a maximum of five minutes.
This is one of the most frequently visited places in the city, all visitors to Thessaloniki should definitely take a walk around the square to see the tourist attractions located there.
At the beginning of the last century there was a fire that destroyed almost the entire city of Thessaloniki. The Greek government set up a commission to rebuild it, and the plan for the new settlement was created by the French architect Ernest Hebrard. During the construction, the architectural innovations of the Frenchman were greatly reduced, leaving only the square, where the buildings were rebuilt retaining the neoclassical style. A flower clock was planted in the flowerbed near the Olimpion cinema, and a bronze monument to the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle was erected nearby.
This historic site, which has been preserved in spite of the fire and the ravages of time, is used as a place for festival celebrations.
Address: Aristotle Square, 2-8.
How to get there: The best way to get to the promenade is to take buses 8, 78.
St. Demetrius Basilica
The religious building, where tourists usually come to the city, was built in the V century. It was erected in honor of the patron saint of Thessaloniki. First there was a sepulchre or martirium, and later was built a basilica, where the reliquary of pure silver kept the relics of the saint. During Turkish rule, the shrine was desecrated and the ancient frescoes were plastered over. The basilica was badly damaged during the famous fire, but miraculously preserved several mosaics around the altar, dating back to the VIII century.
Address: Basilica of St. Demetrius, 92-96.
How to get there: walk from Aristotle Square, bus stop is far away.
See other places of interest:
Monument to the Great Conqueror
Alexander the Great is depicted on his favorite horse named Bucephalus and is cast in pure bronze. It is installed on the central waterfront of the city. The unique statue is the main attraction of Thessaloniki. The statue marks the pride of the ancient inhabitants of the city for the king of Macedonia. The height is 6 m, and together with the pedestal it is 11 m. Spears are embedded in the base of the platform at the back of the monument, and shields with the following symbols are mounted on them: snakes, Medusa Gorgon, lion, ox and falcon.
The monument is located on the city embankment, so you can see it on foot.
Address: Leoforos Megalou Alexandrou, 546 31.
The Arch of Galerius
The construction of this historic monument dates back to the end of the 3rd century AD and marks the emperor’s historic victory over the Persians. Originally the arch consisted of several parts: one large span and on the sides two smaller ones, with a huge dome on top. The structure was part of the galleries running from the palace, but only two spans of the Arc de Triomphe have survived, the total length of which is 29 meters. Under the high span at the beginning of the last century went streetcars, but now made only pedestrian sidewalks, where citizens and tourists love to stroll. On the walls of the powerful columns, enclosed by steel bars, there are ancient bas-reliefs with scenes from the campaigns of Galerius.
Address: 144 Egnatia.
Directions: From KTEL Makedonia station take lines 8, 12, 31, 45 and 78; from the airport take line 78; from the city center take lines 2, 2A, 17, 24, 27 and 31.
Where to go for tourists in the city? To visit the Ladadika commercial district which is a monument of ancient architecture and a historical heritage of Thessaloniki. The place got its name from the Greek word λάδι – olive oil, because since ancient times warehouses for its long-term storage and stores for sale have been built here. The unique style is distinguished by the buildings with forged iron gates and doors and beautiful streets. By day the area gathers connoisseurs of Greek cuisine and fragrant coffee, and at dusk nightclubs and discos open.