Although the city of Thessaloniki may not have a must-see attraction as major as the Acropolis of Athens, there is a rich diversity of sights to visit. From Byzantine treasures to the age-old forum, the Turkish baths or the fascinating bars, coffee shops and restaurants to explore, Greece’s dynamic second city has a lot to offer. Here is how to spend five days in Thessaloniki.
Start off the day with a visit to the Archaeological Museum, home to artifacts dating from prehistoric times to the modern day found throughout Thessaloniki and the northern region.
Luckily, you don’t have to wander far to find the second sight, the Museum of Byzantine Culture. The collection includes hundreds of finds from the Byzantine period, including mosaics, icons, paintings, religious architecture, jewelry and rare books. Take a break at the museum’s café before setting out to the White Tower, the most popular symbol of Thessaloniki. Built in the 15th century, the tower served as part of the defensive walls around the city, before being used throughout the century as a garrison, a prison and execution place. It was painted white and renamed in 1883. Today it is home to a museum and offers impressive vistas over the gulf, the city and the sea.
Once you are done, enjoy a relaxing walk along the waterfront, with maybe a small break at one of the many cafés bordering the road. When you are ready for dinner, head to the Ladadika district, a picturesque area by the port where you will find a plethora of restaurants. End your day in Valaoritou, the next-door neighborhood for a nightcap with locals.
Time to go up. The Upper City, or Ano Poli, offers a refreshing perspective over the city, and will certainly charm any visitor with its old-time charm, pretty houses and narrow roads. But there is more to Ano Poli than just pretty houses and fantastic views. The walls and Kastro make for good photo opportunities. Make sure to visit the Vlatadon Monastery, next to the imposing Portara, before making your way down back to the center.
Stop along the way at the Church of Hosios David, Prophitis Ilias and the picturesque church of Nikolaos Orphanos. Continue your exploration of Byzantine treasures with a stop at the stunning church of Agios Dimitrios, without forgetting to visit the crypt. Drop by the Alaca Imaret, a monument that dates back to 1484.
By now you’re probably starving, so head some blocks down to Nea Folia, a little place where you will find local delicacies with a gourmet twist.
Once you’ve replenished your strength, head down towards the sea to reach the Agia Sofia square, where the eponymous church awaits.
End the day exploring the area, where you will find a large concentration of cool eateries and cafés before reaching Aristotelous Square for an evening walk and some people watching.
Switch up the pace and forget the sightseeing. Since Thessaloniki has often been dubbed the gastronomic capital of Greece, take a food tour, which will allow you to explore the city’s historic markets and discover the captivating food scene.
Spend the afternoon discovering the Roman Agora, the Arch of Galerius and the Rotunda, before ending the day with some shopping fun at the busy streets of Tsimiski, Ayias Sofias, and Dimitriou Gounari. Make frequent stops at the many cafés and coffee shops along the way.
Get away from the city and visit the countryside, with a roundtrip to the archaeological Museum of Pella and the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Aigai (Vergina). This tour lasts a full day (10 hours) and takes you to the town of Pella, birthplace of Alexander the Great, and Vergina (also known as Aigai), the ancient capital city of Macedonia. The museum houses the artefacts found in the royal tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander.
If you prefer to do the trip on your own, we highly recommend you stop along the way at Ktima Ligas, one of the many wineries in the region. Given the long-lasting wine-making tradition of the area, this is a chance to visit a local winery, learn the secrets of the trade and taste some delicious wine.
Start with a visit at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art on Egnatias Street. There you will discover over 2000 works of sculpture, painting and photography by Greek and foreign artists, including Mytaras, Moraïti, Skourtis, Fassianos, Delacroix, Moralis and more.
Set out to Navarinou Square, a hub where students and young people hang out at night. The area is filled with cool cafés and restaurants. We highly recommend a quick stop at TinT Gallery, on 13 Chrysostomou Smyrnis, the mecca of contemporary art in Thessaloniki. The Zina Athanassiadou Gallery, which specializes in contemporary and modern art, is nearby.
For a delicious lunch, the neighboring Spoon deserves a mention.
Continue your artistic exploration at Artis Causa, on Mitropoleos. At this point, you can call it a day and simply wander the city. If you feel courageous, end your peregrination at Kalfayan Gallery in Aristotelous, where you will get acquainted with art from Greece and the Balkans.