I’ve been in Thessaloniki many times, so I just decided to write this Thessaloniki Guide to get you introduced to this popular pier city in Greece. Thessaloniki is about a 3-hour drive away from Skopje and Sofia, which makes a very popular destination among Macedonians and Bulgarians.
There are plenty of things to do in Thessaloniki, like visiting the White Tower of Thessaloniki, shopping at one of its top shopping malls or branded stores, enjoying the nice atmosphere at a cafe bar by the pier, or enjoying the Greek cuisine while tasting a Gyro.
Continue reading below to find out what to see and do in Thessaloniki, especially if you have one day in Thessaloniki.
This Thessaloniki guide encompasses travel information about the city from numerous times I have visited to it – from my early childhood up until now. Even though as a little child, the city seemed big, scary, and noisy as time passed I grew warmer towards the place and eventually fell in love with it.
Now, I want to share with you what I love about this city, and what you as a tourist can see and do in Thessaloniki in 48 hours or less. It’s an incredibly charming city that is worth visiting even in the winter.
Tourist Information Thessaloniki
I wouldn’t say Thessaloniki is a huge city, but it seems like it due to its busy streets. It is located on the Aegean Sea and therefore it’s a popular port, plus it has an airport; both these things make Thessaloniki a commercial center.
Sometimes the city may seem dirty and overly crowded, but this usually rarely bothers me, even though I generally hate such spots. You can explore during the day and then party through the night; lots of options for everyone.
In addition to parking zones throughout the city, there is one huge parking lot nearby the center (Eleftheriasis) and it’s often packed. So, if you want to find a spot, then I recommend going there early in the morning. The prices are reasonable for parking in a city, but you will have to purchase parking tickets from kiosk stands if you park on the street.
Well, enjoying a coffee by the sea is definitely nature-related, but there are some parks where you can take a walk as well. However, I can’t say that Thessaloniki is a top spot for nature lovers because, just like I mentioned in my Skopje review, it’s a well populated city with limited nature. But a stroll along the boardwalk is a great way to enjoy the Greek atmosphere.
Shopping in Thessaloniki
For people in the Balkans, Thessaloniki is often considered a great shopping spot; the city boasts with numerous branded stores, shopping malls (Cosmos, ONE etc.) and authentic local shops.
Everyone can find something to buy in Thessaloniki and if they come during discount seasons (Mid-July to end of August and Mid-January to end of February) they will be able to get great deals too. Tsimiski and Egnatia are known as the main streets in the city where most of the shops are located, so it’s highly recommended to shopaholics to explore them both.
My last overnight stay in Thessaloniki was in January 2016, I went there with a friend in the Hotel Makedonia Palace to just relax, enjoy the hotel’s spa and get away from our everyday obligations. This hotel is one of the closest ones to the White Tower, and located right on the Pier. Read our Hotel Makedonia Palace review.
During the Visit
You should keep in mind that the weather can sometimes be foul, lots of rain and grumpy clouds. So, if you’re hoping for a sunny adventure visit Thessaloniki during summer and you can even go to nearby beaches and make a vacation out of it.
I would also like to point out that finding a parking spot can be tricky and most of the hotels in the city center don’t provide free parking slots. That’s actually the main reason why we decided to stay at the Hotel Makedonia Palace – we had free parking in front of the hotel building and the center was a 15-minute walk from us.
Public Transportation in Thessaloniki
In terms of public transportation, you cannot expect too many things written in English on the boards. However, you can ask for help from passengers as I did, and probably find out everything you need to know. When I last took the bus to go from the center of Thessaloniki to Cosmos I paid €2 for the ticket. So, that it’s neither cheap nor expensive I’d say.
There are also taxi stops, so you can go for a taxi too; the prices are reasonable with short distances varying between 2-8 euro It’s always smart to ask for price approximate before taking the taxi.
What to do in Thessaloniki
The White Tower of Thessaloniki
Located on the waterfront of Thessaloniki, the White Tower is a must-visit monument of the Ottoman Empire. Even though one might think the tower was used for self-defense, the tower was actually a prison and it is known as a scene for executions. Today, it’s an architectural and cultural gem as well as a historical museum.
This is the main square of Thessaloniki and honestly, you can’t miss it, even if you wanted to. It is always crowded with people, it offers a nice view of the sea and it’s a great spot for relaxing after long shopping tours.
If you want to discover the true spirit of Thessaloniki, then you must take a walk through the Ladadika District – preferably at night. This walking area is a beautiful as well as popular spot where locals, tourists, and students come to have a nice time, eat local food and listen to great music.
UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 4th-century monument is another thing you can’t miss while in Thessaloniki. Both were commissioned by the Roman Emperor Galerius and are structures with inexplicable cultural and architectural values.
Church of Agios Dimitrios
Agios Dimitrios is considered the patron saint of Thessaloniki and therefore the church dedicated to him is the most important one in the city. This church was first built in the 4th century, and during the Ottoman occupation, it was one of the many turned into mosques. However, it survived the occupation as well as a huge fire 1917 and today it stands strong as a wonderful religious as well as historical site of Thessaloniki.
There are many museums one can visit in Thessaloniki, some of the best ones are: Museum of Byzantine Culture, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Folk and Ethnological Museum, Museum of the Macedonian Struggle and Noesis – Science Center and Technology Museum.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Thessaloniki is, of course, during the summer. You will avoid the high summer temperatures May through June and September to October, while the weather is still nice. Accommodation prices are also cheaper during these months instead of July and August when it’s the peak season.
But, if you want to visit Thessaloniki during the winter, you won’t be sorry. There are plenty of things to do in Thessaloniki in winter, including visiting some local beaches, or a day trip to the Petralona Cave. The White Tower, the Rotunda, and rest of the historical landmarks can be visited even in the winter.
Verdict: Sad to Leave
I have been numerous times in Thessaloniki and I always have fun there, regardless whether I’m visiting for shopping in its numerous stores or just a relaxing time by the sea. This city can be overly crowded, dirty and even too loud for some people, but those that want a truly energized and trendy atmosphere should definitely give it a try. Plus, it has an airport, so you can probably use is a stop to some more attractive spots or just as a weekend getaway.