Fabulous food; rich cultural heritage; stunning scenery – Greece’s second-largest city has it all. We’ve rounded up the very best of Thessaloniki to make sure you don’t miss out on this seaside star.
Did you know you can travel with Culture Trip? We have a global selection of small-group adventures, including Greece, where we have an island-hopping odyssey from Athens to Santorini, a Mini Trip from Athens to the sleepy island of Serifos, and a premium Sailing Trip in the Cyclades.
Athens may get the headlines, but for food, shopping and access to the Aegean, Thessaloniki punches well above its weight. This is a year-round destination, with a youthful energy all of its own – and there’s always something to do and see. From ancient archaeological sites to contemporary art exhibitions, explore on foot and take your pick of the cafes, bakeries and independent shops and restaurants that line the streets in this bustling port city.
Like so many cities in Greece, the history of Thessaloniki can be read through the different architectural styles found throughout the city. From the Roman period, you’ve got the remarkably well-preserved Roman Agora in the center of town, as well as the Rotunda and Arch of Galerius. The signature style of the Byzantine empire is found throughout the city but especially at Agios Demetrios church and the Byzantine Baths, both protected Unesco sites and not to be missed.
You will smell bougatsa before you see it. The heavenly scent of flaky layers of filo pastry, warm custard filling, topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar fills the streets at daybreak. When you’re in Thessaloniki, you’re never too far from a bougatsa joint. Make a pilgrimage to try the famous pastry at Bantis, O Anoteron and Serraikón; they each have their own secret recipe, best enjoyed with a cup of strong Greek coffee.
In the shopping district surrounding Tsimiski Street, you’ll find a mix of big brand shops and boutiques to offer whatever you need. Seek out independent Greek designers for handbags, jewelry and unique clothing – younger shoppers will love the modern graphic designs printed on t-shirts and vintage pieces from up-and-coming artists. Meanwhile, Bezesteni Market is a great stop to load up on herbs, spices and sweets to stock your kitchen at home, or to pass on as gifts.
Arguably Thessaloniki’s best asset is its seaside location. The promenade is the place to be in the evenings, for a sunny stroll, ice cream in hand. During the day, jump aboard one of the many harbour cruises to get the magical view of the city from the sea. Or go further and take a ferry from the port of Thessaloniki to the Sporades, Cyclades, or Northern Aegean Islands. It’s a great way to fit in a Greek island on your trip.
Flamingos; wild horses; water buffalo – just west of the city, Axios Delta National Park is a wildlife wonderland. It’s a bird-watchers paradise with over 300 species migrating through the area every year, while budding nature photographers will want to keep eyes peeled for the hundreds of reptile, insect and mammal species that live here.
Thessaloniki is one of the most beautiful cities in Greece. To get a full view of the landscape head up to the Eptapyrgio Castle. It’s a fantastic spot to catch the sun setting in the sea and then watching the city lights flicker below. The White Tower is another vista spot that will take your breath away, literally! There’s hundreds of stairs to the top but well worth the view of the sea and city below.
For more to do whilst you’re there, explore the top things to see and do before relaxing with a well-deserved delicious dinner in one of Thessaloniki’s best local dining spots. Whilst you’re there, why not take a trip to nearby Halkidiki?
This is an update of an article originally by Ethel Dilouambaka.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.