Every time I visit Thessaloniki, it feels like home.
A sense of intimacy and optimism run through the city’s streets, café’s, corners, tavernas making it irresistible.
Thessaloniki is Greece’s second largest city, also named as co-capital, situated 520 km north of Athens and is built next to the sea (Thermaikos Gulf). The place combines perfectly history with cosmopolitan life. There are numerous archaeological sites and monuments to visit, as the city was both a commercial and administrative centre during Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times. At the same time, one can find amazing little places for food, coffee and of course, the city is very famous for its pastry with the queen of all being the infamous, taram-taram (sound effect) ‘Bougatsa’.
Thessaloniki, the thriving city of Greece, is walkable at its biggest part. So, let’s take a walk together and explore its beauties.
Stroll around Aristotelous Square, the vibrant and most central square of the city. At its heart, you will see Olympion, the cultural landmark, and also the landmark of the international Thessaloniki Film Festival (runs every year, mid- November). Enter Olympion and use the stairs to go up, where the cute café ‘Domatio me thea’ (translates as: Room with a view) with an amazing view lies. While going up the stairs, you will come across with famous figures of the 7th Art portraits on the walls.
Later on, head to Nikis avenue, walk by the sea and if you want to make one more stop for coffee, choose Café Nikis 35, maybe the most relaxing café of the avenue. But I warn you don’t stay too much as there is the danger of over-relaxing, when then you will turn into a local and then you have to find a house, new friends etc. (!)
Walking buy the seafront you will see the famous and imposing White Tower (Lefkos Pyrgos) of Thessaloniki, the city’s landmark with no doubt. The Tower was built in the 16th century and was used for the city’s fortification.
During your walk, you will also get to see ‘Kamara’ and ‘Rotunda’, two major archaeological sites of the city.
Once you leave behind the White Tower, keep walking by the seafront and you will see the beautiful piece of art ‘Ompreles’. This is a masterpiece of Giorgos Zogolopoulos, a Greek artist. In 1995 the art piece was situated in Biennale of Venice. In 1997 it was transferred in Thessaloniki, in a spot that combines the open horizon with the sea and the sky.
Coming to a couple of my personal favourites now, Kapani and Modiano are a must go. These are traditional markets, which will time-travel you to the old Thessaloniki, where merchants used to come from every corner of the Mediterranean flooding the streets with scents and colors and noise.
One more favourite stroll is the one around ‘Louloudadika’ (flower area in Greek), a small area of the city centre, which is named after the old florists that used to be there. You will also come across ‘Yahudi Hamami’, the old Ottoman baths, which lost most of its splendour by the 1917 fire. Now, it is restored and various cultural exhibitions take place. Moreover, at Louloudadika, you will find many restaurants and cafés.
From Louloudadika, to Ladadika district, one more place that can be described as a landmark of the city. Ladadika stand out for the cheerful and vivid atmosphere, whilst offer enjoyable walks to the paved alleys. Numerous restaurants are located there, promising the best tastes. The one I personally love is called ‘Vasilikos’, a very cute place with delicious food that pays attention to the details.
If you really like walking, I would suggest visiting Ano Polis (Upper Town/ Old City) on foot, which takes approximately half an hour from the city centre. Otherwise, you can take a taxi or the bus, but please make sure you visit. Ano Polis is the most traditional place of the Thessaloniki, located at the highest part and is also known as Heptapyrgion. After you finish your visit there, the best choice to admire a truly amazing city view is the ‘Castra’ café.
Thessaloniki is also known for the nice fashion stores, which you can find almost everywhere, whilst the most known streets are Tsimiski and Mitropoleos.
One more must visit area, is the marina, also known and called by the locals ‘Apothikes’. More specifically, ‘Apothikes’ are home to many movie theatres throughout the Thessaloniki Film Festival. Speaking of which, if you ever visit the city this time of the year (the Festival time, every November) I am sure that you will be taken by the strong vibes! The city becomes a multinational venue and people from all over the world wander around. The place to enjoy a meal there while having a nice view is ‘Kitchen Bar’.
As I told you at the beginning of this article, Thessaloniki is a city that will open your culinary horizons. That is because through time the city has been a melting pot of cultures and traditions especially from the Balkans and Near East creating an amazing fusion of tastes. Going to any price range of taverna, or restaurant you will find yourself surrounded by delicious food and even more delicious pastry and desserts, which will offer tasty experiences. At the same time, new places are popping up really often, so I am sure that you will find everything you may need. Shall we start?
- The best Bougatsa is offered by ‘Yiannis’ (Mitropoleos street). Bougatsa is a Greek specialty, basically a pastry consisting of either cream, cheese or minced meet between layers of phyllo.
- For the best ‘Trigona’ dessert, visit ‘Elenidis’( Dimitriou Gounari street and in other streets as well). This local specialty consists of layers of phyllo that are folded into triangles and they are filled with cream. Little pieces of heaven.
- Thessaloniki is also known for the ‘Terkenlis’ tsoureki. ‘Tsoureki’ is a sweet yeast bread made of eggs, milk, and butter and this pastry shop offers it in various ways. Plain, filled with chocolate or with chestnuts. You will find stores all over the city.
- ‘Savvikos’ (Aristotelous square) offers clean and tasty Greek souvlaki.
- Again in Aristotelous Square, you will find the picturesque tavern ‘Stoa tou Vosporou’. Good food in the cutest garden and environment in general.
- My favourite cafés of the city are two until now and I suggest them as I think that they have something dreamy. ‘Tabya’ or ‘Diatiriteo’ is a retro café, which used to be a house. Pay attention to the details and to the garden as well. The second one is called ‘Enohes’ and I am sure that when you enter, you will think that fairytales are really true!
- For the candy lovers, ‘Candybar’ is the place for you!
- Lastly, next to Olympion, the cultural landmark of the city, you will find the Olympion bar, a very elegant place to have a drink.
Thessaloniki… The city that combines history, vibrant life and is full of tastes and flavours!
*All images by Maria Petropoulou (Copyright)