Known as the capital of the Central Macedonia region in Greece, Thessaloniki is an undiscovered gem that offers endless things to enjoy. Be prepared to explore various remaining monuments from the Roman era, spend a great tasting night out at a seaside restaurant and explore modern street art all over the Upper Town, which is surrounded by a fortress. The so-called cultural centre especially offers a wide variety of events and some of the best parties in the world. But Thessaloniki is more than just the city’s nightlife. Here are the top 5 things for you to experience in Thessaloniki.
1. Lounge by the seafront promenade
From the symbolic White Tower of Thessaloniki, walk along Proxenou Koromila following the seafront and indulge yourself in a bunch of cafes and bars located along the street. On sunny weekends, these cafes and bars are filled with young people drinking beer while listening to loud music being played by the establishments. The city’s atmosphere is also lively throughout the week and can be loud.
2. Explore the Upper Town - hike along the fort
Climb up to the highest part of the Upper Town (Ano Poli) to the Heptapyrgion (also spelled Eptapyrgio), which is located inside the Acropolis of Thessaloniki. The Heptapyrgion is a fortress with seven towers. Here you can enjoy a spectacular view of the city below. Many young people gather around here to hangout drinking beer in the summer. From here, walk around the Upper Town and explore various historical monuments including the Rotunda and churches such as Agios Demetrios and Agia Sophia.
3. Eat and drink in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki offers lots of local specialties with some of the best seafood dishes in Greece such as kalamarakia gemista (stuffed squid), mydopilafo (rice with mussels) or mydia saganaki (mussels in tomato sauce). You can also find great typical sweets as well as pastries such as tsoureki (a cake containing spices and filled with chocolates/creams/nuts) and trigona (triangles made of phyllo dough filled with cream). Greece is also well-known for its traditional fast food including gyros or souvlaki (seasoned meat cooked on a stick) offered for as low a price as 3 EUR (roughly 3.5 USD). The Ladika area is one of the best locations in town to taste Greek cuisine. Between Athonos Square and Aristotelous Street, there are a bunch of taverns or restaurants, some of which offer live music
4. Experience the vibrant nightlife
This city full of students is also famous for its top-rated nightlife. Some of the most popular districts with abundant cafes and bars are Aristotle Square, Nikis Avenue and Ladadika. One of my favourite areas is Proxenou Koromila, which has a couple of jazz clubs. From the symbolic White Tower, you can take a boat, departing every 2 hours, to experience the ‘floating bars’ throughout the late evening.
5. Relax at the parks and beaches
There are many parks located around the White Tower and the Roman Forum (Ancient Agora). These are great green areas to hang around, enjoy a picnic and sunshine whilst getting away from the busy city life and active nights of Thessaloniki. Get away from the town centre a bit and wander around Agiou Dimitriou or Pasha’s Garden to enjoy the green and quiet atmosphere of Thessaloniki. If you are traveling by car, drive a bit further out of the city (about 20 kilometre / 12.4 mi) to the south, to Agia Triada Beach or Epanomi Beach. These are the nearest beaches you can find from Thessaloniki with beautiful resorts and hotels along the seaside.
How to reach and get around Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is well connected by the OASTH public transport system with KTEL trains or OSE trains run by the Greek Railway Company. The Upper Town is small and can be easily explored on foot. If you need to take the bus, make sure to bring coins to purchase tickets directly on board from the automatic machines. You can reach Thessaloniki by plane (cheap connections with Ryanair) or by bus from bordering countries (Bulgaria (Sofia), Macedonia (Skopje) and Albania (Tirana)).
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