A Guide to Ano Poli in Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki is a wonderful city to explore
Thessaloniki is a wonderful city to explore | © Andrei Bortnikau / Alamy Stock Photo
Ano Poli is the oldest part of Thessaloniki and the heart of this great city. Get lost in the winding streets and enjoy the best of Greek history, architecture, food and more.

Ano Poli is known as the Upper or Old Town, which perfectly describes the ancient winding streets filled with restaurants, historical sites, churches and unrivalled viewpoints. It’s the only part of Thessaloniki that remains following the 1917 great fire, so it’s very different to the rest of the city with its beautiful houses and stone-paved streets. It’s the focal point for the blending of the city’s tumultuous and colourful history, with its many churches and interesting Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Ano Poli is the heart of Thessaloniki, boasting the city’s acropolis where tourists and locals, old and young, all join together to relax under the Grecian sky. There’s nothing better than exploring and enjoying these traditional streets. Here’s the best of what Ano Poli has to offer.

Historical sites

Thanks to its preservation, Ano Poli is steeped in history. The town is surrounded by the city’s old walls, standing to remind you of times passed. The Heptapyrgion Fortress, with its seven towers, is a must-see. Not only is it a sight to behold, it’s high up on the city’s acropolis, meaning fabulous views of the city, bay and even Mount Olympus when the weather’s right. It’s perfect to catch the famous Greek sunset.

Coffee

A day in the life of a Greek will certainly involve a long sit in a little café, and Ano Poli is the best place to achieve that dream. Head to Tsinari, the area where the locals go for their coffee buzz. It’s packed with pretty cafés where you can perch on an outdoor table to people-watch, as you sip on Greek coffee traditionally made in a pan or a frappe if it’s a hot day. Yamas!

Churches

Ano Poli is famous for its beautiful historic churches. The stone structures often hide grand intricate interiors with beautiful mosaics and chandeliers to admire as you pay your respects. Some are even listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Vlatadon Monastery (14th century) and Church of Osios David (5th century). The latter has a beautiful courtyard with a view of the city and the inside is religious art at its finest. The churches are paleo-Christian and Byazntine, giving an insight into the religious history of this lovely town.

Museum

Ana Poli and Thessaloniki’s rich and interesting history is best understood with a trip to the Ataturk museum. It was the birthplace of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. The museum will teach you about the man himself and his influence on Thessaloniki, bringing the streets outside to life with history. Pepper your learning with drinks and snacks from the town’s many excellent eateries.

Dinner

Next, our favourite Greek pastime: eating! Though the waterfront boasts many seaside restaurants, our favourites for affordable, traditional food are mostly in Ano Poli. Much of the cuisine is Minor Asian and Macedonian, influenced by the area’s history. There are so many tavernas to choose from. Stroll and pick a pretty spot for an atmospheric night of al fresco dining, with the sound of music and chatter all around. We like ivy-covered Igglis, for fresh takes on classic dishes.

Houses

Ano Poli is a neighbourhood of preserved houses and mansions, partially-timbered and wonderfully colourful. The locals make it even more vibrant, as they hang out in narrow alleys and chat across the street through windows. Combine this with the natural beauty of surrounding pomegranate trees – views of a full woodland just beyond, in fact – and the result is the joyful atmosphere. Exploring the cobbled alleys and watching Ano Poli unfold each day, as an area of the city both ancient and modern, is a true Thessaloniki highlight.