An ideal city for food and culture lovers, Thessaloniki is starting to get some much-deserved popularity outside Greece. The country’s second city may not be as popular as Athens, but it offers a wealth of experiences and activities for anyone willing to explore it. However, for those moments when you need a break from this dynamic city, here is a guide to the best parks and green spaces in Thessaloniki.
Following the renovation of the waterfront in 2013, Thessaloniki gained a collection of parks located on the Nea Paralia (New Waterfront Promenade) by the White Tower. The Nea Paralia parks – 13 carefully designed, thematic parks – cover an area of 3.5 kilometres (2.1 miles) and welcome locals and visitors, offering a place to jog, bike, walk, do yoga, or simply sit by the sea surrounded by nature. The parks also have poetic-sounding names depending on their theme, such as the Music Garden, the Rose Garden or the Garden of Shadow. The proximity to several cafeterias and coffee shops make this an ideal spot to relax and enjoy the sunsets beyond the Thermaic Gulf.
The YMCA park, also known as the H.A.N.Th (or Hanth) park, is a green oasis right in front of the YMCA sports complex, established in 1921, in the centre of town. It’s common to see children and teens playing in the park, while the nearby skate park attracts teens and young adults. Ideal for a cool hangout with friends or family, the YMCA park also offers cafés with outdoor spaces.
The Gardens of the Pasha lie right outside the eastern walls of Thessaloniki, behind the Agios Dimitrios Hospital. An unknown architect constructed them around 1904. And while many of the structures of this inventive garden no longer stand, the park is often linked to Barcelona’s Park Güell, built by Gaudí, because of the unique architectural sculptures and structures still present. Today, the gardens are a relaxing oasis where visitors can sit, walk, read or relax while admiring some unique constructions, including an impressive fountain.
The vast Nea Elvetia Park lies between the districts of Nea Elvetia and Harilaou. This pine-covered green area has hosted a plethora of feasts and cultural happenings in its outdoor amphitheatre since its construction, and it welcomes a traditional dance festival every year. Spend a day under the shade of the trees for a much-needed escape from the concrete jungle.
The Seih Sou (or Seikh Sou) Forest is a fantastic verdant area covering the hills on the northern side of Thessaloniki. Whether you opt to explore it by foot or by bike, the forest is ideal for taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and spending a calming moment surrounded by nature. It’s only a 15-minute drive from the city centre. However, why not make a day out of it, and pack some snacks and drinks with you for an impromptu picnic?
For plant lovers visiting Thessaloniki, going to the Botanic Garden of Stavroupoli is a must. Located between the northern suburbs of Ano and Kato Ilioupoli, it is an atmospheric green space full of tropical and aromatic plants, cacti, seasonal flowers and trees. Explore over five acres of land, walking down small paths and into the greenhouse to discover a collection of over 1,000 plant species. While the opening hours are quite restricted, the botanic garden is worth a visit.
A large park in the city centre, the Anthokomiki Parko, also known as the Pedion tou Areos park, lies on the Leoforos Stratou (avenue of the military). Its location attests to its former use as a shooting field for army barracks positioned nearby during Ottoman times. The well-organised park is perfect for taking a stroll in nature and includes a café, a small pond, a fountain and a playground.