A day in Thessaloniki, Greece

A day in Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki is in the north of mainland Greece. It’s placed in the middle of the Balkans and is accessible by bus from many of the other Balkan cities. I visited at the end of March (in the off season). It was already sunny and busy.

It’s the second biggest city in Greece and it was formed 300 years after Athens. Because of this it has a strong Roman presence. 10% of the population are students, giving the city has a young vibe.

I arrived here on the 6am bus from Skopje, which took 5.5 hours and cost 1,280 Macedonian denar (approximately €20). There were only 5 other people on the coach and I bought my ticket at the bus station just before it left.

Alternatively you can fly into Thessaloniki airport which is now serviced by easyjet and near the city.

 

9am : Frappé coffee

 

Start the morning with a Frappé coffee. This foam covered iced coffee drink is hugely popular in Thessaloniki and you’ll see everyone drinking it. You can have it with or without sugar (I personally like it really sweet).

 

Morning Frappé coffee
Morning Frappé coffee

 

10am : Grab a pastry on the go

 

The Greek breakfast pastry is called bougatsa. Every street has a different pastry shop with a wide selection. It’s not healthy but they taste great.

One of the key things you’ll notice in Thessaloniki is the huge amount of graffiti. It’s everywhere! Among the kids here “tagging” is a thing – to claim their territory. Hidden within the graffiti is some good street art, but the large majority isn’t.

 

Graffiti outside a school in Thessaloniki Greece
Graffiti outside a school
Vandalism in Thessaloniki
Yes it is vandalism

 

11am : Visit the churches

 

You can either go on a self guided tour or a free walking tour with Giorgos Semkos, which starts daily at 11am from Agia Sofia Square.

Something I found common in the Balkans is opening times for buildings and monuments aren’t always correct. Sometimes the person with the key might not be there or has gone home. But luckily the churches were open during the morning and all free to get into.

 

1) Church of Panagia Chalkeon

 

This is also called the red church or Virgin Mary of Copper Works. It’s a short walk from Aristotelous Square (the largest square in the Balkans) on the way to the Greek Agora Roman remains. It was build in the 11th century. This is a beautiful church from the outside, surrounded by greenery and is surprisingly small inside.

 

Church of Panagia Chalkeon, Thessaloniki, Greece
Church of Panagia Chalkeon
Inside Church of Panagia Chalkeon, Thessaloniki, Greece
Inside Church of Panagia Chalkeon

 

2) Greek Agora Roman remains

 

This Roman forum was discovered in 1966. In 1989 they began restoration. It’s due to the discovery of these sites that Thessaloniki still doesn’t have a metro.

 

Roman forum in Thessaloniki
Roman forum in Thessaloniki

 

You are able to walk around the archeological site and in August the Urban picnic festival takes place, where people gather at the forum for cinema and music.

 

3) Church of Saint Demetrius

 

Next to the Roman remains is Hagios Demetrios.
Saint Demetrius is the patron saint of Thessaloniki.

 

Church of Saint Demetrius, Thessaloniki, Greece
Church of Saint Demetrius
Inside Church of Saint Demetrius, Thessaloniki, Greece
Inside Church of Saint Demetrius
Old relics in Church of Saint Demetrius
Old relics in Church of Saint Demetrius

 

This UNESCO site is home to a crypt below the church which you can walk around.

 

Crypt under Church of Saint Demetrius

Under Church of Saint Demetrius
Crypt under Church of Saint Demetrius

 

4) Church of Panagia Acheiropoietos

 

This church’s name means Virgin Mary Not Made By Hands, not referring to the building of the church, but her immaculate conception of baby Jesus. This church is the oldest in Thessaloniki and has gone through many restorations. Including being a mosque during the Ottoman time (year 1430).

It’s impressive and light inside.

 

Church of Panagia Acheiropoietos
Church of Panagia Acheiropoietos

Church of Panagia Acheiropoietos

Walk over the original mosaics
Walk over the original mosaics

 

4) Church of Agia Sofia

 

Hagia Sophia is probably the most important church in Thessaloniki and is also a UNESCO site. From the outside it looks very plain but inside its byzantine architecture gives it a different darker mystic feel compared to the other churches.

Like the Church of Panagia Acheiropoietos, it has been reconstructed many times.

It’s one of the oldest original churches and has been standing there since the 3rd century AD. It was also converted into a mosque for 500 years.

I noticed a sign that said no pictures but people were taking them and no one seemed to care. It was more important to be quiet inside.

 

Church of Agia Sofia
Church of Agia Sofia
Inside Church of Agia Sofia
Inside Church of Agia Sofia
Look up and see Jesus on a rainbow
Look up and see Jesus on a rainbow

 

1pm : Visit the White Tower

 

Along the water front promenade in Nea Paralia is the White Tower, the symbol of Thessaloniki. For €2 you can go up to the top. On the way up are some exhibitions about the tower. These are all in Greek so unless you ask for the audio guide at the counter (they don’t automatically give it to you) you won’t be able to understand anything.

 

White Tower, Thessaloniki

White Tower, Thessaloniki
White Tower, Thessaloniki

 

The walk up to the top of the tower is fairly easy.

 

Steps up to the top of the White Tower
Steps up to the top of the White Tower

 

It has a great 360 degree view. You can see along the promenade, into the sea and up into the city.

 

View from the top of the White tower
View from the top
Top of the White Tower
Top of the White Tower
Me looking over Thessaloniki's bay
Me looking over the bay
The city of Thessaloniki
The city of Thessaloniki

 

1:30pm : Get food and Ice Cream

 

There’s plenty of places to get food on the waterfront between the White Tower and Aristotelous Square. Afterwards get an ice cream and walk to Alexander The Great Statue.

Alexander The Great
Alexander The Great – common place for skaters to play

 

You’ll see lots of people sitting out and enjoying the good weather.

 

Bars along the promenade, Thessaloniki
Bars along the promenade

 

2:30pm : Boat trip

 

By the White Tower are large boats, very recognisable with guys calling you over to get on. These boat rides are free except you have to buy a drink. I bought a Frappé coffee for €4, not bad considering you get a half hour boat trip with some beautiful views of the bay.

 

Boat trip of Thessaloniki's bay
Boat trip of Thessaloniki’s bay
Thessaloniki from the boat
Thessaloniki from the boat
Beautiful day
Beautiful day
Me on the boat
Me on the boat

 

3pm : Zongolopoulos Umbrellas

 

After the boat ride, if you carry on walking along the promenade, you’ll get to Zongolopoulos Umbrellas.

 

Zongolopoulos Umbrellas

 

This is an impressive art installation and you can stand right underneath it.

 

Underneath Zongolopoulos Umbrellas
Underneath Zongolopoulos Umbrellas

 

3:30pm : Head up to Ano Poli (Upper Town)

 

You can walk (it’s all uphill), take the number 23 bus or a taxi. Thessaloniki has lots of taxi ranks everywhere and they’re reasonably priced (less than €10 to get from the promenade to Ano Poli).

I chose to walk up as I wanted to see the narrow winding back streets. It took at least 45 minutes but it was cooling down. The walk caused me to break into a sweat so take lots of water with you.

 

Walking up the steep climb to Ano Poli
Walking up the steep climb to Ano Poli

 

Most of this district wasn’t destroyed by the fire in 1917 so it feels more authentic than lower Thessaloniki.

 

Narrow cobbled streets, Ano Poli, Thessaloniki
Narrow cobbled streets of Ano Poli
Walk up to Trigoniu Tower
Walk up to Trigoniu Tower

 

Of course there’s still lots of graffiti everywhere and there’s bits of trash around.

As you walk up higher and higher, you can see more of the city and the sparkling blue sea. The view is amazing.

Trigoniu Tower is very popular with young people who come up here to sit out on the old remains and take Instagram photos, drink beer and smoke weed. You can walk out on the highest part of the wall for the best view.

 

View of Thessaloniki
View of Thessaloniki
Benches to rest and take in the view
Benches to rest and take in the view

 

5pm : Heptapyrgion

 

Ano Poli is home to Heptapyrgion an ex Byzantine and Ottoman-era fortress. You can carry on up to see more of the Byzantine fortifications. There are white arrows on the floor showing the way. Here you’ll find more young people hanging out. It’s a great place to go to with a bottle of wine and watch the sunset over the city.

 

Arrows leading the way
Arrows leading the way
Heptapyrgion Thessaloniki
Heptapyrgion Thessaloniki
Old walls of the fort
Old walls of the fort
Young people hanging out
Young people hanging out

 

If you choose to continue exploring Ano Poli, you can walk to Osios David (The Latomou Monastery) and Archangels Church. The monastery was closed when I visited but in Greece, opening times of these places can be random.

 

Signs to Osios David (The Latomou Monastery)
Signs to Osios David (The Latomou Monastery)
Osios David (The Latomou Monastery)
Osios David (The Latomou Monastery)
Archangels Church Thessaloniki
Archangels Church

 

You’ll see hundreds of cats on the narrow alleyways, sitting in the sun. Most looked well fed and I saw people leaving food for them.

 

Cats of Ano Poli
Cats of Ano Poli
Albino cat
Albino cat

 

18:00 : Have a well deserved drink

 

After all this walking I went to Little Big House which has a rooftop terrace to relax on. As it’s attached to a hostel it has cheap prices.

 

Ouzo (a popular Greek drink) and lemonade
Ouzo and lemonade

 

I had an Ouzo (a popular Greek drink) and lemonade.

 

19:00 : Evening Meal

 

There are lots of local Taverns by Trigoniu Tower you can dive into for a warm meal. Some of them close quite early so the later you go, the less choice you have.

I hope you have a wonderful day in this beautiful city as I did. I’m already planning on retuning to Greece but to Athens next time. Please leave any comments about Thessaloniki below.

3 Replies to “A day in Thessaloniki, Greece”

    1. Thank you! Very glad to hear. I love traveling and taking photos. It’s also great to get to know people all over the world.

  1. You got to see some cool things while in Thessaloniki. I only had a afternoon there and missed out on so much. Wished I had known about your blog prior to visit.

    The boat rides sound like an absolute bargain.

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