Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-biggest city, has a fascinating past, evident in must-visit historic sites including castles, ruins, churches, towers and ancient baths. Thessaloniki is the second-biggest city in Greece and its position in the north meant a long and complex history of invasion that led to an abundance of fascinating historical sites. Over the years, it was taken over by many empires such as the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. The result is a melting pot of architectural styles, from Roman ruins to settle your explorative spirit; to foreboding fortresses overlooking the city, now abandoned. Visit these must-see historic sites dotted throughout the bustling city then spend the evening eating and drinking at Thessaloniki’s famous harbour for the wonderful atmosphere and even better food, just as the Greeks like it.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
This 15th-century Ottoman landmark was originally an army garrison and prison. In 1826, Sultan Mahmood II had all prisoners slaughtered, and it became known as the Red Tower. Some believe it got today’s name when a prisoner white-washed the building in 1890 in exchange for his freedom. Others say when the Greeks liberated the city from the Turks in 1912, the tower was painted white, symbolising purification. Today it’s a museum standing proudly on the waterfront on Nikis Street and is a great place to relax.
Arch of Galerius
The arch is the most popular place in the city for locals to meet, which makes for a brilliant history lesson and a buzzing atmosphere. The arch was built by Roman Emperor Galerius to commemorate his military victories against the Persians, depicted in the intricate carvings. It was positioned to lead straight through the city to his palace. Known locally as the Kamara, it sits in the middle of the old town on Egnatia. Relax in its shadow with locals and enjoy its impressive size and unusual structure.
In the first century CE, you wouldn’t hold a meeting anywhere but the forum. It was the social, religious and business heart of the city and known in Greek as the Agora. The elegant buildings and porticos of old are still visible in these beautiful ruins, testament to the prosperity of the ancient city. Head to the centre of the old town, just off main street Agiou Dimitriou, to bask in history and pretend you’re a rich Roman socialite.
Cathedral Church of Hagia Sophia of Thessaloniki
Built around the early 7th century CE, the Great Church was the main civic church of the city for much of its history. Today, the huge, freestanding building of classic Byzantine architecture is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Inside, intricate Greek Orthodox mosaics line the domes and chandeliers light the room, adding to the peaceful solemnity. The cathedral stands in green Agia Sophia Square in the old town Ana Poli, a lovely place to chill in the Grecian sunshine.
For a history lesson of the bloody kind, check out this abandoned fortress. Its seven towers were originally built by the Byzantines in the 14th century, then rebuilt by the Ottomans in the 15th century. It was converted into a jail in the 19th century and held political prisoners during the German occupation of World War II, as well as during Greece’s military dictatorship. The foreboding castle sits high on the acropolis – a staple of every Greek old town – overlooking the sprawling city.
These Ottoman baths are the oldest of their kind in the city, dating back to 1444. They were a key part of Ottoman culture where the elite socialised. A spiritual hub, they were still in use until the 1960s and are nowadays a space for cultural events and exhibitions. Get lost among the arches and passageways, taking in the impressive painted domes and marble work. The baths are positioned by Aristotelous Square and have free entry outside of event times.
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.