Thessaloniki’s obsession for coffee is evidenced by the city’s plethora of cafés – the most per capita of any European city, it’s said. From old-school kafeneia to chic contemporary coffee shops with industrial flair, this city is bound to give you the caffeine fix you need.
Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, is home to a vibrant food scene, lively nightlife, rich history and a deep passion for coffee. Fresh brews are available 24/7 throughout this vibrant city, and visitors can order up any type of coffee they please. Thessaloniki is the birthplace of the renowned Greek frappe, a frothy iced coffee, which is now enjoyed worldwide. Unlike the frappe, which is made from instant coffee, a freddo cappuccino or a freddo espresso is made using the real deal – this is the order of the day, especially come the summer months. Whether it’s an ice-cold freddo espresso at Ypsilon or a history-rich Greek coffee at Loux, the best cafés in Thessaloniki will not disappoint.
Café Palermo is the secret garden of coffee shops, perched on the first floor above the grand Aristotle Square. The staircase leading up to the coffee shop transports you to another era, decorated with a rich array of antiques. Suzanna Serveta, writer for local online magazine TFC, with an emphasis on food and coffee culture, claims Café Palermo as one of her top five cafés in the city. “The small touches are what make me feel like I’ve travelled to a different time,” she says. The charming space is flooded by coloured light as the sun streams in, thanks to the vibrant stained glass.
Minimalist Ypsilon is a multicultural space, set within one of the last standing buildings from before Thessaloniki’s Great Fire of 1917. Divided into two large spaces on its ground floor, with one set apart for bookworms or working on laptops, Ypsilon is equally suited for a catch-up with friends or a quiet study session. Ypsilon offers a variation of coffee brewing methods, as well as original homemade smoothie and juice medleys. Kalliopi Chrisanidou, another writer for TFC Magazine specialising in food and coffee, states that Ypsilon is always the first place that comes to mind when she thinks about going out for coffee, no matter what time of day it is.
Youkali is a blast from the past. Just a stone’s throw away from the White Tower – the emblem of Thessaloniki – this coffee shop is a contemporary kafeneio (traditional coffee shop) with interior details including geometric tiles and antique furniture, while vintage maps and postcards adorn the walls. “The vibe and design of the space take its guests to an older, more traditional part of Thessaloniki,” says Chrisanidou.
On Proxenou Koromila, a street for high-end shopping, stands Pantheon – a classic Thessaloniki coffee spot and bar. Spread over two levels, Pantheon is characterised by minimal, industrial design, but manages to maintain a cosy atmosphere. Although all are welcome, it is best suited to a more mature clientele.
After a shopping marathon on Tsimiski Street, take a coffee break at TOMS Flagship. Renowned for its shoes and related humanitarian initiatives, TOMS also has coffee shops in a number of cities around the world. Its grand interior weds Neoclassical architecture with earthy, boho details, including colourful pillows and rugs. While its basement floor offers a cosy refuge from city life, the ground-floor space could be described as an enclosed courtyard – airy and spacious with high ceilings and balconies. The coffee shop offers a selection of coffee, teas and juices, as well as the chance to purchase TOMS accessories. It doesn’t stop there – with each purchase TOMS Flagship donates water, shoes and glasses to people in need. “I could never imagine Thessaloniki without this place,” Chrisanidou explains. “No matter how long you’re visiting, it should definitely be on your list,” she says.
The Blue Cup, found in the historical Ladadika district, takes coffee seriously. Specialising in third-wave brewing methods using a wide variety of beans, The Blue Cup is housed in a listed building, almost within arm’s reach of the city’s famous port. Apart from its expertise in quality coffee, The Blue Cup is also famed for its signature cocktails.
Tea aficionados, your sanctuary can be found on Karolou Dil, in one of the most calming places in the city. Named after its main product, To Tsai (‘The Tea’) is itself as mellow, soothing and welcoming as the tea it serves. The light green walls and warm lighting exude ‘Zen’ vibes. It is home to endless tea options – from classic matcha lattes to seasonal teas – homemade food, desserts and an assortment of unique tea accessories.
Tucked away in a narrow but lively street, just a hop, skip and a jump away from the White Tower, Efimerida (Greek for ‘newspaper’) is a coffee shop particularly popular among young adults and students. This is not least due to the very reasonable prices and relaxed vibe, making Efimerida the ideal spot to sip on a freddo espresso or two.
Loux is a traditional kafeneio and a popular spot for the papous and yiayias (grandads and grandmas) to get together, enjoy Greek coffee and indulge in a game of checkers. However, its optimal setting, face-to-face with the Roman Agora, has made it a favourite hangout for all ages. Come the evening, the space becomes a laid-back bar to enjoy a beer or glass of wine.