Discovering any city on foot is an excellent way to experience its essence, whether you are already familiar with it or not. Thessaloniki is no exception. Embark on a leisurely walk, simply relishing the journey, and immerse yourself in the city’s wonders.
Begin your journey by visiting the iconic White Tower, situated along the scenic seaside promenade. Inside the tower, you’ll find a museum showcasing Thessaloniki’s history from its inception up to 1922, as well as an enchanting collection of artifacts from its glorious Byzantine past. This fortified cylindrical structure, standing at 33.9 meters in height and 22.7 meters in diameter, was constructed during the 15th century under the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent. In the era of Ottoman rule, it was used as a place of execution, earning the grim moniker “Canli Casteli” or “tower of blood.” However, in the 19th century, it acquired the name we know it by today.
A short distance away from the White Tower lies the Vassiliko Theatre, built in 1940, which serves as the home of the National Theatre of Northern Greece (NTNG). This recently renovated three-story building, spanning 11,000 square meters, boasts numerous playhouses.
Next, head to Aristotelous Square, Thessaloniki ‘s most significant and popular square, offering a splendid view of the Thermaic Gulf and, on clear days, even Mt. Olympus. Stroll along the coast, following Nikis Boulevard from the western city port to the eastern statue of Alexander the Great. Along the way, you’ll encounter cozy cafes, bars, and shops, perfect for a relaxing break.
Take a moment to explore the Palace complex of Galerius, where you can admire the impressive mosaics of the Octagon building, the Rotonda with its Early Christian mosaics, and the Galerius Arch (also known as Kamara), built around 305 A.D.
Continue your historical journey by visiting the Ancient Agora, dating back to the 3rd century B.C. until the 5th century A.D. Here, you’ll discover the ruins of a market, a mint, a conservatory, what is believed to be the City Archives room, public bath facilities, taverns, brothels, and other significant finds. Notably, excavations under Γ’ Septemvriou St. revealed an ancient temple and early Christian tombs dating from the 4th to the 7th century.
Delve into another aspect of the city’s history by stopping at the Byzantine Baths, near Koule Kafe square, which is a rare example of Byzantine Baths from the late 13th century.
Make sure to visit several historic mosques like the Ishak Pasha Tzami Mosque (1484) near Kassandrou St., the Hamza Bey Tzami Mosque (also known as Alkazar) (1467), situated between Egnatia and Venizelou streets, Bey Hamam (1444) on Egnatia Odos St., Pasha Hamam (1520), Pazar, and Yeni Hamam.
Besides its rich historical heritage, Thessaloniki is renowned as a shopping destination. Key shopping streets include Tsimiski, Ermou, Egnatia, Mitropoleos, and the surrounding areas. Don’t miss the charming old-fashioned food markets of Modiano and Kapani, both established in 1922. Take your time exploring the shops within the market arcades or relax at one of the delightful cafes or traditional eateries (mezedopolio).
For a unique shopping experience, venture to the 15th-century Bezesteni Textile Market (Venizelou and Solomou St.), where you’ll find an extensive array of fabrics in every color and design.
As you continue your jaunt, make your way to Thessaloniki’s port, where customs and warehouse buildings constructed in 1910 house the Photography and Cinema Museums, as well as serve as venues for the International Film Festival.
Lastly, don’t forget to visit the nearby Ladadika neighborhood, situated close to Aristotelous Square. Here, you can savor the vibrant nightlife scene of Thessaloniki, with a plethora of restaurants and nightclubs located in old restored buildings that were rescued from the 1917 fires.
Courtesy of the Greek National Tourism Organisation www.visitgreece.gr