On the occasion of our excursion to Lake Kerkini we were given the chance to spend two beautiful days in the city of Thessaloniki. A city with a multitude of choices when it comes to tourist attractions, artistic events, dining, coffee/drinks spots and nearby day trips. It is a beautiful mixture of sea and mountain with the air of Northern Greece filling you with hospitality.
Having the particularly welcoming space of The Caravan Bed & Breakfast as our starting point, we began exploring the city’s beauties, courtesy of the advice of George Kourtidis, one of the hotel’s owners. We started enjoying nice coffee and food and getting to know this beautiful city’s life. We created a guide, so you can spend a weekend at the North’s capital.
1. Wander around the flea market and the Roman Market, before you visit the marvellous Church of Saint Demetrius and its catacombs. The latter stands out for its architecture and interior decorations, given it is preserved in excellent condition to this day, due to maintenance work being done on the mosaics.
2. Visit the Rotonda of Thessaloniki. A building almost identical to Rome’s Pantheon, which however was never used for the initial purpose it was built for. Through the years, it has gone through several changes and kinds of use because of the wars and conquests over the city. It is now open as a museum. You can visit to admire its architecture, the mosaics and its glorious dome which is covered with light and creates a joyful rotation between the shadows and the sun’s rays.
3. The Processional Route, the main avenue, and the Arch of Galerius (or Kamara). The street that leads from the Rotunda straight to the seafront functioned as a Processional Route during Galerius’ reign and led all the way to the palace. Nowadays, only few parts of it survived, such as the arch and partial buildings of the palace. It’s a nice stroll on the pave way to the seafront that mentally takes you back at the time of Emperor Galerius.
4. The White Tower. The greatest symbol of the city of Thessaloniki. It was a part of the Ottoman defense system of the city and all that has remained of it. Built in the 15th century, 34 meters tall and with 6 floors, today it is open as a museum and links the waterfront from the New Deck with the New Beach. It’s really worth going up to the rooftop and enjoy the view.
5. Walk along the New Deck to the New Beach and Thessaloniki’s Concert Hall, most preferably at sunset, when the sky explodes with colors and you can admire the range of colors the Thermaic Gulf has to offer.
6. Walk around the old Upper Town and the Heptapyrgion. You can get there by the local bus (numbers 22 and 23 of the yellow line) and wander through the alleys with all the stores. It is better if you choose to do it towards the evening so you can also enjoy the sunset view from the Heptapyrgion, which is also known as Yedi Koule. Basically, it was the city’s fortress and has changed functions over the years, has even been used as a prison. Now, it is used as a museum by the Ministry of Culture.
7. Food at Ergon or Extravaganza, points of reference of modern cuisine in Thessaloniki but also at the excellent for more than 15 years, Local. If however, you are more of a pizza fan, you should pop in at The Las Slice or Pizza Posseli. Tradiotional cuisine, mezedes and etc. "Tsinari" in old city. For the ones who fancy late nights out, try a soup (chicken soup, tripe or stewed beef) at Tsarouhas.
8. For coffee or drinks favorite suggestions in the city of course, being Berlin and Yfilios behind the Aristotelous square. On The Road on the waterfront and Local (great food too) in Pavlou Mela str.
9. If you are lucky to come by any festival being held, don’t miss it! Locals really do know how to organize such beautiful events since they are pretty artistic by nature. We had the chance to attend “Indeed Festival” with movies about music and specifically on music artists.
10. Don’t forget to indulge to an authentic bagel of Thessaloniki, custard and cream pies from Panorama (even better if sat on the terraces in the Upper Town and Yedi Koule).
How to go:
5 hours by car via the New National Road (costs approximately 80 euros including fuel and tolls for one regular vehicle)
By plane, the airport in Thessaloniki offers connecting flights to all major European cities and more. Considerably cheaper flights compared to Athens, due to lesser tax.
5.5 hours by train, a beautiful route indeed. (costs approximately 80 euros per person.)