Known as the megalopolis of northern Greece, Thessaloniki is filled with ancient monuments, landmarks, and museums. But Greece’s second city is also home to a plethora of bizarre, unusual and underrated sites, which also deserve to be explored. Buckle up, we are taking you on a virtual tour of unusual and alternative things to visit in Thessaloniki.
The train cemetery of Thessaloniki, located in the suburb of Nea Ionia, attracts curious visitors and photography enthusiasts who enjoy taking pictures of the decaying trains. In this graveyard lie over 1,000 decommissioned trains, some of which have been stranded for over 30 years. The place is eerie and quiet, and offers quite a spectacle as nature has gradually invaded the space.
Outside the eastern walls of Thessaloniki and behind the Agios Dimitrios Hospital, the Gardens of the Pasha is a stunning park, constructed in 1904. The green oasis is perfect for a morning jog, an afternoon picnic or a relaxing moment away from the hustle of the city. It’s also worth visiting for its unique architecture. The space used to be enclosed by high walls, and included fountains and other decorative structures. It’s slightly reminiscent of Park Güell in Barcelona but less colorful. Check out the remains of the central fountain enclosed by a tunnel, a cistern used to collect rainwater, as well as a gate leading to an underground space and a raised seating area.
In Thessaloniki, everyone you cross paths with will tell you that the house on 263 Vasilissis Olgas Street is haunted. Rumor has it that screams and strange noises can be heard at night, and that anyone who has tried to live in it, or even demolish it, has come to a mysterious end. Vasilissis Olgas Street was once one of the most elegant areas of the city, where many aristocratic families lived. It is bordered by a collection of meaningful historic buildings, including the Haunted House, built in 1919. But even before its construction was complete, the second floor collapsed twice for unexplained reasons. Countless stories surround the Haunted House, which makes it a fun landmark to visit. Many tour operators, including Guru Walk, organize tours of the house, some for free.
The Ancient Forum of Thessaloniki sees hundreds of visitors daily, but one area that often goes unnoticed is the 2000-year-old brothel adjacent to a bathhouse, uncovered in 1997. The brothel was housed in a two-story building and communicated with a bathhouse next door, which includes a circular bath. On the ground floor, something that looks like a taverna was discovered, and archaeologists assume the second floor was reserved for rooms. While at first glance the building resembles a simple hotel, the discovery of a plethora of phallus-like vases, jars with phallic-shaped openings and even a clay dildo reveal the true use of the place. The brothel was destroyed by fire, most likely caused by an earthquake in the last quarter of the first century CE.
A huge structure that was the heart of Thessaloniki entertainment in Roman times, the Ancient Roman Hippodrome was built by Roman emperor Galerius. Today, only the foundations are left, with a square named after it. The place still bears importance as it was the scene of a massive massacre under Byzantine emperor Theodosius, where more than 7000 people were killed. The reason for the massacre is that people were dissatisfied with the heavy taxes they paid to cover Theodosius’ war efforts. When the commander of the guard imprisoned a well-loved charioteer, the people rebelled and murdered him. Angry, Theodosius discovered that the act was collective and tricked the people of Thessaloniki into coming to a horse race at the hippodrome, where his guards gruesomely murdered the spectators. Legend has it that every year, on the date of the massacre, blood poured from the memorial built by survivors, and that the area is now haunted. It is said that those who intend to live or conduct business in the area must acknowledge the massacre or be cursed.
The White Tower is one of Thessaloniki’s most emblematic landmarks, but the Red Tower? It’s actually the same building. During Ottoman rule, the tower was used a jail. It is said that the blood of tortured prisoners covered the walls, earning its name. After its decommission as a jail, the tower was wiped clean and whitewashed in an attempt to forget its history, and its name became the White Tower.
Originally known as Yeni Camii (‘new mosque’ in Turkish), this building was the last mosque to be built in the city under the Ottoman rulers. Dedicated to the Dönmeh, an Islamic community of publicly converted Jews who retained Jewish traditions, it was used as a place of worship by the community until its minaret was removed in 1922. Then, it served as a home for Greek refugees. Today, The New Mosque is an exhibition center.