Thessaloniki – Have You Heard of It?

We had never heard of the city of Thessaloniki, Greece before planning this trip. We were looking for somewhere to relax for a few days between the business of Istanbul and Athens and Thessaloniki popped up. It was a great choice!

We travelled from Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. I must give an endorsement to this airline. We also used it for our Budapest to Istanbul flight. That trip was just over two hours long and we were very surprised when we were served a nice lunch on the flight. Our trip to Thessaloniki was only 1 hour 20 minutes so we felt there would be no food service – after all, in Canada you can fly from Alberta to Newfoundland, a 5 hour flight, and only get a miniature bag of pretzels. So we ate dinner in the Istanbul airport – where we encountered the most expensive food we have ever seen in an airport – $46 for 2 small burgers and a small order of fries.

Then we hopped on the Turkish Airlines flight and we were hardly in the air when they started passing out our meals. Kudos for flying as it used to be!

Our driver met us at the airport in Thessaloniki – again, an easy option for an evening arrival.

Thessaloniki is located on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea, approximately 500 km north of Athens. It is the second largest city in Greece with a metropolitan population of about one million people. The city was founded in 315 BC and was an important part of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. In 1912, it became part of the Kingdom of Greece.

The Elisabeth Boutique Hotel has an excellent location in central Thessaloniki. We were very impressed with the facility, the rooms and the friendly and helpful staff.

There are a number of significant archeological sites in Thessaloniki. The Ancient Agora or Roman forum was found during archaeological excavations in 1966. This complex was the administrative centre of ancient Thessaloniki and it is believed that it dates from the second century with use until at least the sixth century. The site includes a small theatre, which was likely the site of gladiatorial contests.

Another important archaeological site is the Palace of Galerius, the imperial palace complex which Roman emperor Galerius commissioned in the late 3rd century when he made Thessaloniki the capital of his portion of the Roman Empire. The large octagonal area at Navarinou Square is believed to have been an imperial throne room. Historians believe that the complex was in use as an imperial residence until the 11th century.

Near the palace is the Triumphal Arch of Galerius. The arch was built to commemorate the emperor’s campaigns against the Persians. Originally, the arch had three arches but only two full arches and part of the third exist today.

The Thessaloniki waterfront stretches for more than 8 km and strolling along a portion of it is quite delightful.

The Port of Thessaloniki is one of the Eastern Mediterranean’s largest ports and serves as a gateway to the Balkans and southeast Europe. It handles shipping containers and cargo and also is one of the Aegean Sea’s largest passenger terminals.

The White Tower stands 23 meters tall and is a Thessaloniki landmark. It was built by the Ottomans around the 15th century and was part of the old city’s walls. Originally it was called the Lion Tower to honour the Ottoman’s victory. In the 17th century it was renamed the Tower of Kalamaria and used as a garrison. It then became a prison and was known as the Tower of Blood or the Red Tower. Finally in 1891, it was painted white and named the White Tower. The tower served as an Allied force communication centre during WWI and Thessaloniki’s air defence operated from the tower from 1912 to 1983.

A sculpture aptly named ‘The Umbrellas’ stands 13 meters high along the waterfront. One of the most photographed sculptures in the world, this stainless steel structure was designed by George Zongolopoulos and installed in Thessaloniki in 1997, the year that the city was named the European Capital of Culture.

Aristotelous Square is the main city square and leads from the waterfront to Nikis Avenue in the city center.

In 1988, fifteen monuments of of Thessaloniki were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A number of churches were included on the list and we visited a few of them.

The Church of Saint Demetrios is the city’s largest church. It is dedicated to the city’s patron saint. A five aisled basilica was erected in the 7th century on the site of an earlier church that had been destroyed by fire. This basilica was again destroyed by fire in 1917. The current building was restored in line with the original architectural plans and started functioning once again in 1949.

The Church of Panagia Chalkeon, or Our Lady of the Coppersmiths, was built in 1028 and was related to the coppersmith’s workshops that were found in the area. This Orthodox Church follows the architectural tradition of the Byzantine era.

The cathedral and pilgrimage church of Agia Sophia is at the historical centre of Thessaloniki. The church was founded around 783 AD.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Agios Georgios is also known as the Rotunda of Galerius or Rotunda of Saint George. The structure was built around 306 AD and was intended to be the mausoleum for Galerius. It was converted to a church in the late 4th century. It is the oldest of Thessaloniki’s churches.

The Walls of Thessaloniki are the fortification structure that once surrounded the city, originating in third century. Originally 8 km long, large segments of the walls were demolished during Ottoman rule. Today about 4 km of the walls remain. They are up to 10-12 meters high and 4.5 meters wide and consist of ashlar masonry mixed with bands of brick.

As always, while visiting the city’s sights, we had a number of delightful refreshment breaks.

Beet Root Café

Titania Bakery


Beverly – we didn’t actually stop here, but I liked the name! 😉😃

The Kapani Market is a traditional market that has been serving customers since the 15th century. The array of items for sale is incredible. We learned that no part of a butchered animal goes to waste!

We enjoyed the street art and fountains in the city. Here are just a few street scenes.

For my Red Cross friends!

The Ladadika area was originally the central market and bazaar area. After the Great Fire of 1917, it began to decline, eventually becoming fully abandoned. In 1985 it was declared a historical monument by the Ministry of Culture in order to preserve its original style and character. It soon was revitalized and today is the centre of Thessaloniki’s restaurants and nightlife. We ate dinner in the area each night we were in the city.

Tiganies & Sxares – delicious lamb chops and salad with a special dessert for Debbie’s birthday!

Thessaloniki was a great choice for a few days to relax, enjoying the local sights, waterfront and food! We are very glad we found this jewel of a city.


Bev & Harvey

One thought on “Thessaloniki – Have You Heard of It?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s