If you’ve never heard of Thessaloniki until now, you might want to keep the secret to yourself. When travellers think of Greece, they tend to think of Athens, the country’s capital, or islands like Crete or Rhodes – and that suits the residents of Thessaloniki just fine.
Often Thessaloniki is referred to as the cultural capital of Greece, Thessaloniki offers visitors some of the best that the country has to offer: a storied history, delicious cuisine and stunning beaches only a stone’s throw away. Whether you’re wandering through the mouth-watering aromas of the city’s open-air markets or tanning by the seaside, Thessaloniki makes a perfect getaway.
It’s not for nothing that Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, is increasingly being recognized as a prime vacation destination. The city is a stunning blend of ancient and modern; the iconic White Tower of Thessaloniki that stands on the city’s harbourfront serves as a perpetual reminder of its ancient roots even as life continues to change and evolve all around it.
The city’s unique cuisine will keep you fortified throughout your stay. Thessaloniki has a very different culinary culture than Greece at large, employing a unique myriad of spices and flavours. Honey-soaked loukoumades, refreshing frappés and fresh Mediterranean seafood are only some of the tantalizing treats travellers will fall in love with. Whether you’re looking to treat your taste buds, expand your mind or just stake out a spot in the sand and work on your tan, visit Thessaloniki. Book a flight to Thessaloniki now.
When is a good time to visit Thessaloniki?
As with other Mediterranean locales, Thessaloniki’s weather tends to be quite hot in the summertime and rainy and wet in the winter – meaning that the best time to go is typically in the fall or in the springtime, when travellers can enjoy more mild, pleasant weather while avoiding the peak tourist season. Regardless of weather, travellers may also choose to plan their vacations around annual events taking place in the city. November, for example, sees the annual Thessaloniki International Film Festival, attracting plenty of talent from around the world, while December hosts the Map of Flavours wine and spirits festival.
How do I get around?
Thessaloniki has a dependable bus service that allows travellers to access the train station, the main bus terminal and most areas around town. English-speaking travellers will be pleased to know that stop announcements are made in both Greek and English, making it easier to navigate. For travellers looking for slightly more direct transportation, Thessaloniki does have a fleet of taxi cabs, though it is not uncommon for taxis to pick up multiple different passengers if they are heading the same direction, and fares go up between midnight and 5 a.m.
What kinds of food or drink should I try?
The best way to enjoy yourself in Thessaloniki is to approach your stay with an open palate. For main courses, local specialties include gemista kalamarakia, a stuffed squid dish served with rice and raisins and mydia saganaki, mussels in a tomato sauce. Once main courses have been finished, Thessaloniki’s traditional desserts include bougatsa, a sweet, flaky pie with cream, and tsoureki thessaloniki, a delicate, plaited brioche bun. And to drink? One can’t forget about frappé coffees, a refreshing, sweet coffee beverage served cold.
Thessaloniki is versatile
Many Greeks recognize Thessaloniki as the country’s cultural capital: a young population, a vibrant arts scene, and the highest number of cafes and bars per capita of any city in Europe all contribute to giving Thessaloniki a unique energy. Travellers looking to appreciate the city’s history can wander the narrow alleyways of Ano Poli, a fortified section of the city dating back to Ottoman and Byzantine times, or explore the multitude of archaeological sites and monuments that lead some refer to Thessaloniki as an “open museum”. And, of course, any trip to Thessaloniki would be incomplete without a few days spent soaking in the sun on one of Greece’s many pristine beaches.
Most recommended attractions
Thessaloniki’s culture is unique, even in Greece, and that has led to it being recognized by many different tastemakers as a culinary and cultural hotspot. From outdoor theatres to waterparks, from ancient architecture to lively nightlife, the city always has another trick up its sleeve.
- Hit the waterpark
- Tour Ano Poli
- Catch a sunset on the beach(es)
Hit the waterpark
Tired of getting sea salt in your hair? No problem. Water Land is one of Europe’s largest waterparks, with plenty of slides, pools and even a zoo. Travellers with children – or those who are young at heart – will love spending the day here.
Tour Ano Poli
The oldest part of Thessaloniki, Ano Poli is a walled section of the city that features architecture dating back to the Ottoman and Byzantine eras. Wander through the narrow cobblestone streets and keep an eye out—on clear days, it’s possible to see all the way across the gulf to Mount Olympus.
Catch a sunset on the beach(es)
Thessaloniki provides access to a number of pristine beaches. Spend a day in Perea, a beachfront town just south of the city, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, make a trip to the renowned coves and beaches of Halkidiki.
Greece’s cultural capital has so much more to offer: to learn some more, see our Thessaloniki guide.
Experience the unique flavours of Greece’s gourmet city
If you want to take full advantage of Thessaloniki, find yourself a seat at one of the city’s numerous local cafes or ouzeries, small taverns that serve small plates and ouzo, Greece’s traditional anise-flavoured aperitif. Thessaloniki always has been at the crossing of several trade routes, so traditions from the Mediterranean, the Balkans and Asia Minor come together to create a unique local cuisine that is said to be the best in Greece.
Thessaloniki for foodies
The modern day city of Thessaloniki has numerous restaurants that serve the local cuisine, especially in the historic old town, in Ano Poli (Upper Town) and on the waterfront. Traditional Greek delights are souvlaki, cut meat with a generous helping of Tsatsiki, a sauce from yoghurt, garlic and cucumber. Lovers of fresh fish and anything else the sea can provide are also in culinary heaven. Typical for the city is filled octopus and filled squid, fresh from the Mediterranean. The most famous of the many sweet pastries of Thessaloniki are Bougatsa, a puff pastry filled with cream.
Shopping in Thessaloniki
A visit to Thessaloniki wouldn’t be complete without a shopping trip to one of its many markets or shopping streets. Shop for trendy clothing, souvenirs or a local delicacy to tide you over while you continue your journey through the city. Located right next to the city’s central square, Modiano Market has been a central part of life in Thessaloniki for nearly 80 years. Even if you’re not planning on buying anything, the sights, smells and sounds of this open-air market alone are worth a visit. Extending out from Thessaloniki’s International Fair grounds, Tsimiski Street features a multitude of boutiques, cafes and high-end shops, as well as Fokas, a major Greek department store.
To find out more about what awaits you in this Mediterranean destination, check out our guide about eat and drink in Thessaloniki.