Thessaloniki – Cultural Hub and Beautiful, Festive Co-capital of Greece

Thessaloniki is nestled in the heart of the Thermaic Gulf. It is the commercial and cultural centre of Northern Greece. It is the second largest city in Greece, after Athens, and it has a long, interesting history and a rich cultural heritage.

What is Thessaloniki famous for?

Where is Thessaloniki?

Map of Thessaloniki, Halkidiki and Pieria

Thessaloniki – What to see?

What to do there?

Thessaloniki Beach Guide

Where to stay?

How many days to stay?

How to get there?

Thessaloniki – Weather and Climate

How big is Thessaloniki?

Commercial Hub in Northern Greece

Cultural Capital of Greece

Shopping and Entertainment

Who founded Thessaloniki?

History of Thessaloniki

Modern History of Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki Port

Thessaloniki – Earthquakes and Fires

View of the Church St. Paul on top of the Thessaloniki city at sunset, Greece
View of the church St. Paul on top of the Thessaloniki city at sunset

What is Thessaloniki famous for?

Thessaloniki waterfront, beautiful sunset, Macedonia Greece
Thessaloniki waterfront, beautiful sunset

If you are planning a holiday in Macedonia Greece in either Halkidiki, Kavala, or Pieria a stop in Thessaloniki for a day or two should be on your bucket list. The city of Thessaloniki is a remarkably interesting city, and the long waterfront is the most popular spot during the summer months. Both tourists and locals enjoy long walks, to take in the sea view and beautiful sunset. Along the waterfront you will find Aristotle Square, right at the city centre. Around this huge square is the commercial centre of Thessaloniki with shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and the famous pastry shops. It is also here at the waterfront you will find some of the best hotels in the city of Thessaloniki.

Where is Thessaloniki?

Thessaloniki is the capital of the geographic region of Macedonia, the administrative region of Central Macedonia and the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace in Northern Greece.

Map of Thessaloniki, Halkidiki and Pieria

Map of Halkidiki (Chalkidiki) Macedonia, Greece
Thessaloniki Coordinates: 40°37’39.3″N 22°56’52.8″E – Click to enlarge map

Thessaloniki – What to see?

Arriving in Thessaloniki you soon realize that this great city has an exciting history. Wandering around town, you will come across several monuments dating back to the Byzantine and Roman eras. Find a list of the most important sights in Thessaloniki here:

  • The White Tower – is the most important landmark of Thessaloniki and the most photographed one. You will find it at the port.• Kamara, the Arch of Galerius – is yet another popular site in the city. It is an arch constructed by the Roman general Galerius in the 305 century A.D. to commemorate the final victory over the Persians. The victory is the main theme of the carved scenes on the arch, connecting the Palace of Galerius and the Rotunda.
  • Rotunda Monument – is an impressive circular building in the city centre. The rotunda was also constructed by the Roman general Galerius around 300 A.D. During history, the rotunda has served as a Christian church, as a mosque, and today as a sculpture museum.
  • The Roman Agora (Market) – is located close to the city centre. It was functioning for 8 centuries, from the 5th century B.C., when the town was founded until the early Byzantine times, in the 5th century A.D. Excavations have revealed a theatre, an arched street, a square, a mint, and a marketplace.
  • The Church of Agios Dimitrios – is the most famous church in Thessaloniki. Saint Demetrius is the patron saint of the town and its celebration day on October 26th is a local holiday. It was built in Byzantine times on the exact location where Saint Demetrius martyred, specifically in the basement of the church where he was tortured for his faith and died.
Saint Demetrius Basilica in Thessaloniki, Greece. It is the most important Church of Thessaloniki, dedicated to the Patron Saint of the City, and a fine sample of Byzantine Religious Architecture.
Saint Demetrius, the most important church of Thessaloniki, dedicated to the Patron Saint of the city
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Thessaloniki – What to do there?

Man on top of Mount Olympus, Macedonia, Greece

Thessaloniki Tours

TICKETS, ACTIVITIES & THINGS TO DO:

Thessaloniki has much more than sightseeing to offer. It will spoil you rotten with its great food at the many beautiful restaurants. The city waterfront especially has a lot to offer when it comes to relaxing at coffee shops, pastry shops, and restaurants while enjoying the sunset and the city coming to life. Have a coffee at Aristotle Square and visit Ladadika to taste the local delicacies! Do not miss the opportunity to go time travelling in Old Town, Ano Poli on top of the city. Thessaloniki is perfect for endless strolls, shopping, and city exploration.

View of a narrow street in the old town of Thessaloniki, Greece
View of a narrow street in the old town of Ano Poli Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki Beach Guide

Near Thessaloniki you will find hundreds of stunning beaches in Halkidiki as well as in the Olympus riviera, but if you want to spend just a few hours at the beach going for a swim, you will find a few beautiful beaches really close to the city of Thessaloniki. We have picked 3 beaches for you below.

Seascape of Peraia beach, suburb of Thessaloniki, Greece
Seascape of Peraia beach, suburb of Thessaloniki
  • Perea beach – Organized, sandy and family friendly beach located 17 km south of Thessaloniki. It is a beautiful seaside town with a lively nightlife, attracting locals and tourists. Perea is situated close to the airport of Thessaloniki.
  • Agia Triada beach – Organized, sandy and family friendly beach located 20 km south of Thessaloniki on the way to Halkidiki. It is frequently connected to the city centre by public transport.
  • Epanomi beach – Organized, sandy and family friendly, located 25 km south of Thessaloniki on the way to Halkidiki.
Beautiful sunset in Agia Triada, suburb of Thessaloniki Greece
Beautiful sunset in Agia Triada, suburb of Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki – Where to stay?

Holiday resorts near Thessaloniki

Beautiful Talgo beach on the east coast of Sithonia peninsula, Halkidiki, Greece.
Beautiful Talgo beach on the east coast of Sithonia peninsula in Halkidiki

Near Thessaloniki you find Halkidiki. Halkidiki (or Chalkidiki) is the most popular summer holiday destination in all northern Greece. Halkidiki peninsula is famous for its cosmopolitan seaside resorts, exotic beaches, and the stunning green landscape. The peninsula is divided into three smaller peninsulas, often referred to as ‘fingers’. Staying in Halkidiki you have a perfect opportunity to explore Thessaloniki for a day or two.

Panorama view over the coastal town of Paralia Katerini, Greece at sunset. Located about 8 Km from the city of Katerini in Pieria, central Macedonia, Greece
Paralia Katerini at Olympus riviera at sunset. Located about 8 Km from the city of Katerini in Pieria

Following the National Road Athens-Thessaloniki south you will soon reach Mt Olympus to your right and the Olympus riviera to your left. This is yet another perfect opportunity for staying in beautiful seaside resorts near gorgeous sandy beaches and exiting activities in the mountains.

Thessaloniki – How many days to stay?

You should at least stay two or three days if you want to see the most important sights and enjoy an evening or two in this festive city with its beautiful waterfront and tempting delicacies in the many restaurants. You could also stay in nearby Halkidiki or Olympus riviera and go to Thessaloniki on day trips.

Thessaloniki – How to get there?

Aristotelous Square decorated for Christmas, Thessaloniki Greece
Aristotelous Square decorated for Christmas

The location of Thessaloniki in the northern part of Greece makes it a perfect base for excursions in northern and central Greece. The location of Thessaloniki in the Thermaic Gulf in Northern Greece makes it a perfect hub for excursions in Macedonia Greece. There are several ways to reach Thessaloniki, depending on where you are coming from and what kind of holiday you prefer, you can choose between the options here:

By plane

You can fly directly to Thessaloniki Airport “Makedonia”, which is located just 20 km away from the city centre. The airport is operating domestic as well as international flights all year. At the entrance of the airport, you will find taxis for your transfer.

By car

You can also reach Thessaloniki by car from the National Road Athens-Thessaloniki from any part of the Greek mainland. The distance between Thessaloniki and Athens is approx. 500 km. If you do not have your own car you can choose to rent a car for your local trips.

By bus

Another way to reach Thessaloniki is by bus. The KTEL buses to Thessaloniki are arriving from various locations in Macedonia and from Athens several times daily. Find further information about the timetables and the routes

By train

It is also easy to reach Thessaloniki by train from many places in mainland Greece and from other Balkan countries. Trains from Athens depart from Larissa station. Get information about routes, timetables, and ticket prices

By ferry

Finally, you just might reach Thessaloniki by ferry or choose to leave for the Aegean islands from the port of Thessaloniki. It is the largest port in Macedonia and one of the largest in all of Greece. You will find ferry connections to both the Sporades islands as well as the Cyclades archipelago.

Thessaloniki – Weather and climate

Situated next to the sea, the climate of Thessaloniki is directly affected by it. The city has a Mediterranean climate that borders on a semi-arid climate. Snowfalls are sporadic but happen about every winter. Fog is common in the city, with an average of 193 foggy days in a year.

Thessaloniki aerial panoramic view. Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and the capital of Greek Macedonia
Thessaloniki panoramic view. Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and the capital of Greek Macedonia

Summers in Thessaloniki are hot with rather humid nights. Maximum temperatures usually rise above 30°C, but rarely go over 40C°. Rain is seldom in summer, and mainly falls during thunderstorms. In the summer months Thessaloniki also experiences strong heat waves. The hottest month of the year in the city is July.

JanFebMarAprilMayJuneJulyAugSepOctNovDec
Day12°15°20°25°29°33°33°28°21°16°11°
Night13°17°20°20°17°13°
Average day and night temperatures in Thessaloniki in °C

How big is Thessaloniki?

Thessaloniki, historically also known as Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece, with over 1 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. Its honorific title is “Symprotévousa”, literally “co-capital”, a reference to its historical status as the “Symvasilévousa)” or “co-reigning” city of the Byzantine Empire, alongside Constantinople.

Commercial hub in Northern Greece

Thessaloniki Umbrellas monument in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Thessaloniki Umbrellas monument at Thessaloniki waterfront

Thessaloniki is Greece’s second major economic, industrial, commercial, and political centre, and a major transportation hub for the rest of southeastern Europe; its commercial port is also of great importance for Greece and the southeastern European hinterland. The city is renowned for its festivals, events, and vibrant cultural life in general, and is considered the cultural capital of Greece. Events such as the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival are held annually, while the city also hosts the largest bi-annual meeting of the Greek diaspora.

Cultural capital of Greece

Thessaloniki is not only regarded as the cultural and entertainment capital of northern Greece but also the cultural capital of the country.

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Shopping and entertainment

Thessaloniki waterfront by night, Macedonia Greece
Thessaloniki waterfront by night

Thessaloniki is renowned for its major shopping streets and lively laneways. Tsimiski Street and Proxenou Koromila avenue are the city’s most famous shopping streets and are among Greece’s most expensive and exclusive high streets. The city is also home to one of Greece’s most famous and prestigious hotels, Makedonia Palace hotel, the Hyatt Regency Casino and hotel (the biggest casino in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe) and Waterland, the largest water park in southeastern Europe.

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Who founded Thessaloniki?

Statue of Alexander The Great at Thessaloniki waterfront, Greece
Statue of Alexander The Great at Thessaloniki waterfront

The city was founded around 315 B.C. by the King Cassander of Macedon, on or near the site of the ancient town of Therma and 26 other local villages. He named it after his wife Thessalonike, a half-sister of Alexander the Great and princess of Macedon as daughter of Philip II. Under the kingdom of Macedon, the city evolved to become the most important city in Macedon.

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History of Thessaloniki

Aerial view of the White Tower square, in Thessaloniki, Greece
Aerial view of the White Tower square in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is home to numerous notable Byzantine monuments, including the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures. With a history of over 2,300 years, it is one of Europe’s oldest cities. The city’s main university, Aristotle University, is the largest in Greece and in the Balkans.

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Modern history of Thessaloniki

After the war, Thessaloniki was rebuilt with large-scale development of new infrastructure and industry throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Many of its architectural treasures remain, adding value to the city a tourist destination, while several early Christian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1988. In 1997, Thessaloniki was celebrated as the European Capital of Culture, sponsoring events across the city and the region, while in 2004 the city hosted several the football events as part of the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Thessaloniki port

Today Thessaloniki has become one of the most important trade and business hubs in southeastern Europe, with its port, the port of Thessaloniki being one of the largest in the Aegean and facilitating trade throughout the Balkan hinterland. The city also forms one of the largest student centres in southeastern Europe, it is host to the largest student population in Greece.

Thessaloniki – earthquakes and fires

Central Thessaloniki burning during the Great Fire of 1917
Central Thessaloniki burning during the Great Fire of 1917

Thessaloniki lies on the northern fringe of the Thermaic Gulf on its eastern coast and is bound by Mount Chortiatis on its southeast. Its proximity to imposing mountain ranges, hills, and fault lines, especially towards its southeast have historically made the city prone to geological changes.

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