Thessaloniki, Greece Review
I’ve been in Thessaloniki many times, so I just decided to write about my last stay there, but also include some general knowledge of the city, too. Thessaloniki is about a 3-hour drive away from Skopje; therefore, it’s a popular destination among Macedonians for its top shopping malls, branded stores, and generally nice atmosphere.
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During my last stay 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. As usual, we had a great time there, even though we were surprised by terrible weather i.e. tons of rain.
Obviously, these aren’t my first impressions of Thessaloniki. I went there first as a little child and at the time it seemed too big, too scary, too noisy; however, in time I grew warmer towards the place and eventually fell in love with it.
When I think of Thessaloniki I think of the color grey; it has lots of buildings, shops, and streets. Yet, I still find it incredibly charming, especially when I get lost in the green market or take a glimpse towards the sea. I have never considered myself a tourist there, possibly because I’m there often, but I think it can be fun to visit this destination.
The place in general – 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;
Parking – 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 I’d say, but can’t give a precise information;
Nature – 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 just a regular city;
Shops – 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 ad Mid-January do 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.
During the Stay
You should keep in mind that the weather can be foul sometimes, lots of rain and grumpy clouds. So, if you’re hoping for a sunny adventure visit Thessaloniki during the summer season 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.
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 euro 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.
Things to see in the area:
White Tower – located on the waterfront of Thessaloniki, the White Tower is a must-visit monument of the Ottoman Empire. Even though White, the tower was used as a prison and it is known as a scene of executions. Today, it’s an architectural and cultural gem as well as a historical museum;
Aristotelous Square – 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;
Ladadika District – if you want to discover the true spirit of Thessaloniki 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;
Arch of Galerius and Rotunda – 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;
Various museums – there are many museums one can visit in Thessaloniki, some of the best ones are: MuseumofByzantine Culture, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Folk and Ethnological Museum, Museum of the Macedonian Struggle and Noesis – Science Center and Technology Museum.
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.