5 good reasons to go to Thessaloniki
To see / do
Culture and History
The Archaeological Museum
This museum exhibits the greatest archaeological finds discovered throughout Macedonia, which was an independent Hellenic kingdom from the 8th century BC until 146 BC, when it was conquered by the Romans. The museum preserves remarkable items such as the Derveni Krater, a large jar made of tin and copper weighing more than 40 kg and depicting the wedding of Ariadne and Dionysus, and the Treasure of Sindos with its many royal jewels.
Fifteen or so early Christian and Byzantine monuments in Thessaloniki have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage, testifying to their importance. With their remarkable architecture, spectacular mosaics and religious icons, each one has its own charm as well as its own opening hours! It is also worth noting that most of them were converted into mosques for nearly five centuries, which only increases their interest.
The Upper Town
Unlike the centre, which feels more like a modern city (with more than one million inhabitants), the Upper Town has retained its age-old charm as an authentic Balkan city. After ascending numerous steps, you will discover beautiful Ottoman houses surrounded by Mediterranean gardens, and picturesque streets where small cafes have opened.
The White Tower, symbol of the city
This fortification is closely linked to the city’s Byzantine history. Originally used as a prison and an execution site, its walls were later whitewashed with lime by the Turks to “cleanse” its reputation. This was also how it got its current name, although the bare stone can now be seen on the outer walls. Inside, there is a museum tracing this period of history while the top of the tower offers a panoramic viewpoint of the port.
The northernmost Greek island was colonized very early on (680 BC), when Greek settlers found marble and gold there as well as an abundant supply of wood. As a result, the island is now the site of exceptional archaeological remains of temples, theatres, an agora, and an acropolis. It is a peaceful island that is perfect for a few days’ break between the sea and mountains.
This district near the port is almost the only one to have survived the great fire of 1917, despite the fact it was home to a large number of oil factories. Today, the brick warehouses have been restored and converted for the most part into bars and restaurants and it is now the ideal district to go to for a drink and dinner, especially since it has been fully pedestrianised.
Pella was the second capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia and was also where the famous Alexander the Great was born. You can still see vestiges of the palace and superb mosaics and colonnades preserved on site. As you stroll around it is easy to imagine the wealth and level of comfort of the time, which easily rivalled that of Athens and Sparta. The neighbouring museum will help you understand the history and importance of this city, which played a major role in the diffusion of Greek arts, democracy and philosophy.
When the Greco-Turkish war ended in 1922, thousands of exiles living on the other side of the Bosporus (sometimes since Antiquity) were forced to flee Turkey and Asia Minor to return to their country of origin, Greece, and mainly to Thessaloniki. They brought their instruments with them and created a new musical style to express their suffering. Rebetiko is a mix of nostalgic melodies, oriental rhythms and Greek folklore. Some bars in the old town still resonate to the sound of these soulful songs telling stories of the past and daily life, composed of joy, love and hardships.
Northern Greece benefits from a favourable climate for growing vines. It is the largest wine-producing region in the country. International grape varieties are blended with indigenous varieties such as Xinomavro, which produces dry red wines that are high in tannins.
Zaharoplasteia are pastries of Turkish origin made with different nuts and regional honeys. There is also of course the famous Baklava, as well as Vizier’s fingers, cakes filled with cream and dipped in syrup, and Hanoum Bourek, a sweet treat made with raisins, peanuts and cream.
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