Thessaloniki will charm you and capture you! Here are interwoven many remnants of different influences and people. There is something of Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians, Ottomans, Jews and others. It was founded in 315 BC. by the Macedonian Tsar Kassandar, who called it after his wife Thessalonike – the sister of Alexander the Great. Today the city is cosmopolitan… It successfully combines the historical sites, the typical Greek infrastructure and the modern way of life. There is a wide choice of places for entertainment, rest and walking. On the whole… there is something for everyone! Enjoy a sunny weekend in Thessaloniki!
How to get there and where to stay?
It is located about 300 km from the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The most convenient way to get from Bulgaria is by car. I advise you to plan a weekend to feel the city. Traveling in the morning on Saturday, spending the night and return on Sunday is the perfect combination. The road after the Greek border is only a highway, you have to pay only one toll. It is very fast and easy. In many places you will read negative reviews of traffic in Thessaloniki, but it is not terrible. It is important to choose a suitable area for accommodation with parking spaces (if you are not staying in a hotel with a parking lot).
We relied on AirBnb and did not make mistakes. A 2-bedroom apartment for 4 people cost us just under 60 euro and our host was very kind and hospitable. We spent the night in the area between the military museum and the stadium. A little further from the center, but 20 minutes away from the umbrellas and parking. And with a view to the proximity to the umbrellas, our walk starts with them… For the sculpture itself I told you in an earlier post, you can find it here. It was very interesting for me to visit them during the day and at sunset…
What to see for a weekend in Thessaloniki?
The walk along Thessaloniki continues along the promenade – one of the most photogenic places in the city. There are many ships, boats and stalls. The alley goes past the Alexander the Great monument and reaches the White Tower, the symbol of the city! The tower was built on the remains of an ancient Byzantine tower in 1535 by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. During the Ottoman domination it was used for prison. Many prisoners were killed there, and it was known as the Janissaries Tower, the Tower of the Blood, and the Red Tower. In 1912, when the Greeks returned to Thessaloniki, the tower was whitewashed and painted white as a symbol of purity and freedom. Since then, it has been known as the White Tower, despite its yellowish color… Today there is a history museum of Thessaloniki, and the entrance is 4 euro. There is no way to visit the city and not to come up to the top of the city to admire the views of the coast street…
Fast lunch and the arch of Galerius
It had already been lunch time and we needed a recharge… For lunch, we decided to try Gyros and local beer! Variants were many, but we found a restaurant right next to the tower – PSISOU barbecued. Very convenient location, decent prices and delicious food. We waited a little for a table out, but it was worth it… The sauces and bread were very delicious!
A cold beer sometimes (for me always) does miracles and makes you feel rested and ready for new tours… The walk continued on the pedestrian street Dim. Gounari in the direction of the arch of Galerius. The arch is known as the Chamber and was built in 299. It is a symbol of triumph and is dedicated to the victory of Galerius over the Persians in 208. Today, this area is the center for meetings of the locals.
Rotunda, the Roman Forum and the chruch of St. Dimitar
And just a few steps from the arch is the Rotunda. It was built from Galerius in 306 and he planned it for his tomb. Over the years, it has served as a church, a mosque, and again a church. Since 1988 he has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today it serves mostly as a museum and performs servicing only on holidays. The entrance is 2 euro. An interesting fact is that after the fall of Thessaloniki under the authority of the Turks and turned into a mosque, a minaret was built there. Today it is the only surviving minaret in Thessaloniki! A great impression is made by the few remaining mosaics in the complex, which are considered to be among the best examples of early Christian mosaics. Rotunda is the oldest religious temple in Greece.
And if you are tired, is still not time for rest and coffee! There is a little more left… The next stop is the Roman Forum. Well, it’s not like the one in Rome, but it’s quite impressive… The complex is not very large, it is a two-storey terraced forum. There are two bathrooms and a small theater used for gladiatorial battles. It consider that the forum has functioned until the 6th century. Just above it is the temple of St. Dimitar, devoted to the saint born in Thessaloniki in 280.
There are two versions for building the church. One is that it was built in the place of St. Dimitar’s prison, and according to the other it was built on his grave. A small church was erected in 313-323 years, and 100th years later, in 412-413, the first great church, and then the relics of the saint, which are today preserved in the temple, were found. Over the years, the church has been plundered, turned into a mosque and burned down… In 1949 it was completely restored to open doors for visits and since 1988 has been part of the great UNESCO World Heritage. St. Demetrius is the protector of Thessaloniki and it is very interesting to visit the town during the day of Dimitrovden, when a procession takes place with his relics.
Several more churches
Two other churches are also interesting – The Church of Panagia Chalkeon and Hagia Sophia. The name of the Church of Panagia Chalkeon dates from the time of the Ottoman slavery, when the existing Christian temple was turned into a mosque called Kazancilar Camii, which means the mosque of the coppersmith (the copper merchants). Hagia Sophia is another church preserved in Byzantine times. It was built on an ancient Roman temple, but when exactly… it is not entirely certain… According to some historians, this happened in the 6th century, and according to others, it was built in the 7th century by a model of its namesake from Constantinople.
It’s time for a little rest! A walk through Aristotle Square and afternoon coffee in one of the many cafes… The Greeks love to take care of the tourists and in many restaurants you will get a glass of water, cookie, cake or muffin. Relax and admire the atmosphere of this beautiful square. This is the busiest place in Thessaloniki, here are various celebrations, and it is also a place for gathering young people. Everywhere along the streets of the square there are many bars and restaurants, but the undisputed leader is Ladadika neighborhood! The neighborhood is declared an object of cultural heritage for its 19th-century preserved buildings. A walk around is very pleasant, and literally at every step there is a bar or a restaurant.
Where did we have dinner?
Our choice was a great place – Full tou Meze! The pub is quite popular and is always full. The interior is interesting and the seafood offered… very delicious! It is located on a small square and offers a fascinating atmosphere… We tried different things – Greek salad, seafood risotto, grilled squid, etc. It was all very tasty!
And for the end… the beautiful sunset…
It’s time to end the tour of Thessaloniki… But not without the Thessaloniki’s sunset… We met it before dinner, on the alley to the White Tower towards the umbrellas… Here are some more pictures that are not in the ргevious post…