“There is a homeland for everyone, while there is Thessaloniki,” wrote Nikiforos Choumnos, a 14th-century Byzantine dignitary and scholar.
And he was right: Thessaloniki is a gorgeous and cosmopolitan seaside city and the largest in Greece after Athens. This historic capital of the Macedonia region was founded in 315 BC by the Macedonian king Cassander and named after his wife who was a half-sister of Alexander the Great. This is the city that, in the days of Philip II of Macedon, would steal Athens’ thunder. It has so much history: Roman and Byzantine ruins, early Christian heritage (the Apostle Paul brought the first message of Christianity here in 50 AD), Pontic Greeks and Armenians, remnants of Venetian and Ottoman rule and, perhaps most movingly, a remarkable Jewish history too. Centuries of cultural diversity has also made Thessaloniki a culinary nirvana, with almost too many great restaurants and little eateries to count.
The White Tower, Thessaloniki (Photo Credit: Celestyal Cruises)
Thessaloniki’s landmark, the White Tower, is located on the seaside promenade, right by Celestyal ports. Built in the 15th century, the tower was also once used during the Ottoman rule as a place of execution. Within the tower today is a museum showcasing Thessaloniki’s history from its foundation up to 1922 and also houses a charming collection from the city’s glorious Byzantine past.
A short distance from the Tower is the Vassiliko Theatre, built in 1940, and home to the National Theatre of Northern Greece. The three-story, recently renovated 11,000-square-meter building, accommodates numerous playhouses.
The most significan and popular square in town is Aristotelous, overlooking the Thermaic Gulf, where you can see Mt. Olympus on a clear day. And along the coast, next to Nikis Boulevard, which extends from the city port on the west to the statue of Alexander the Great on east, a number of cozy cafes, bars and shops can be found.
The Palace complex of Galerius and see the Octagon building intended to be a throne hall with its impressive mosaics, the Rotonda (containing Early Christian mosaics) and Galerius Arch (aka Kamara) built in ca. 305 AD
Agora (dating 3rd c. BC. to the 5th c AD.) is where the ruins of the ancient market are found, along with the mint, a conservatory, the presumed City Archives room, public bath facilities, taverna, brothel, and more. Excavations have now revealed an ancient temple and early Christian tombs (4th-7th c.)
Get to know another aspect of the city’s history by stopping at the Byzantine Baths, near Koule Kafe square — a rare sample of baths dating back to the end of the 13th century.
Last but not least, don’t miss the nearby Ladadika neighborhood, the best place to soak up
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