Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and the capital of Greek Macedonia.
With excellent transport links nationally and internationally, it is a prime destination for any visitor interested in experiencing superb archaeological ruins, Byzantine churches, good restaurants and historical museums.
The White Tower is Thessaloniki’s most prominent monument in a waterfront location and was built to guard the city’s sea walls after which they were demolished in the 1860’s. The tower is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, and you can enjoy views from the top and discover a small museum which details the city’s history.
The UNESCO World Heritage listed Church of Ayia Sofia (Hagia Sofia) is modelled after the immense church of the same name in Istanbul, Turkey. Inside, you can admire beautiful frescos and stunning mosaics including the Ascension.
Thessaloniki has a number of fantastic historical museums you can visit including the Museum of Byzantine Culture (with exhibits on various aspects of Byzantine art and culture, as well as of the following era, after the fall of the Byzantine Empire), and the unmissable Archaeological Museum (with superb findings including ornamental art, Greek weapons and tomb artefacts dating from the Neolithic period through to Roman times).
Thessaloniki has a network of underground passages that were used by Christians to hide and bury their dead. If you want to venture underground to learn about these catacombs, seek out the Crypt of the Church of Agios Dimitrios or the Crypt of St John Baptist. The best times to visit fall on holy days when locals head there to drink holy water and celebrate with festivals.
Work up an appetite sightseeing so you can make a stop into a Greek bakery or pie shop where you can buy bougatsa (Greek custard pastry), tiropita (cheese pie) or spanakopita (spinach pie).
Expect the unexpected and put on your dancing shoes for an evening at a bouzoukia (a Greek music live club). Take some money for drinks and enjoy a show where spectators often throw flowers at the performers, dance on tables and sing loudly.
Vergina, is 90 kilometers from Thessaloniki and is a popular place to visit as it has a UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site – Aigai. It is the burial site of the kings of Macedon, including what is claimed to be the tomb of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. The site includes a museum to protect the tombs and the archaeological finds.
Tourists familiar with Greek mythology, will want to drive 100 kilometers from Thessaloniki to Mount Olympus. Known as the place where the Greek Gods reside, Mount Olympus is an excellent place to go hiking in the Olympus National Park that is home to several endemic species of flora and fauna. If you plan to climb the mountain, you should know that the road starts in the picturesque town of Litochoro where you can first wander the town with Macedonian buildings and enjoy lunch at a tavern before your hike.