Do you love exciting metropolises? Are you a fan of places with rich historical and architectural treasures? In that case, it seems that you should add Thessaloniki, a magnificent port city in Greece, to your bucket list.
There are plenty of things to do in Thessaloniki. You can see attractions, go shopping, drink coffee by the sea, enjoy a tasty gyro, or visit a nearby sandy beach. Exciting, dreamy, and always awake, this modern city is the perfect blend of the Greek culture and the 21st century.
Are you intrigued already?
Scroll down to find out what to see and do, where to eat, and where to stay in the metropolis. Our visit Thessaloniki guide is especially useful to those who have time for a short visit only.
Thessaloniki City Guide
This guide encompasses travel information about the city from the many times I have visited it. I want to share with you what a tourist can see and do as well as what to expect when visiting.
It’s an incredibly charming place that is worth visiting even in the winter.
It is a port city, and the second-largest metropolitan area to Athens, located on the Aegean Sea in northern Greece. It is a commercial center and one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.
You can explore this Greek destination during the day and enjoy a vibrant nightlife in the evening. There are a variety of options for everyone visiting Thessaloniki.
Thessaloniki has a new parking system to accommodate the high volume of tourists it receives each year. THESi by ParkPal is a modern way for residents and visitors to pay for street parking via a mobile phone.
Each parking zone has a 4-hour limit, at €1.70 per hour. The parking hours in Thessaloniki are Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 9 PM, and Saturdays from 9 PM to 4 PM. Sundays and public holidays are free of charge. In this Thessaloniki guide, we recommend using the THESi parking system with the ParkPal mobile app as the most convenient way to park around this metropolis.
Using the ParkPal app (available on Android and iOS), you can find street parking locations and easily add credit to your THESi e-wallet. Paying for parking is as easy as entering your car’s license plate, parking zone number, and the minimum parking time you will need.
The parking zone numbers are on the street signs, or you can have the ParkPal app locate it for you using the mobile’s location (location must be enabled).
In addition to parking zones throughout the city, there is one wide, open parking lot near the center (Eleftheriasis). So, if you want to find a spot, then I recommend going there early in the morning as it often gets crowded early in the day.
In terms of public transportation, you can use a bus or a taxi to get around Thessaloniki.
Beware, most of the signs are in Greek. However, you can ask for help from passengers, as I did, and find out everything you need to know.
If you prefer a taxi, the prices are reasonable with short distances varying between €2-8. It’s always smart to ask for approximate travel price before taking the cab, so you don’t get ripped off.
On the Go Tourist Guide
If you only have one day in Thessaloniki, visit the main city sights in 50 minutes with the Cultural Bus Line 50. The pick-up point is at the White Tower (LEFKOS PIRGOS). The bus frequency is every hour starting from 8 AM until 9 PM.
The adult ticket price is €2, and a reduced price for students and senior citizens over 65 is €1.
If you want to familiarize yourself with the city, download the Thessaloniki tourist map that shows the popular tourist attractions. You can find information about the On the Go Thessaloniki Sightseeing tour in the pamphlet with recommended walking tours.
Know Before You Go
Some travel tips from us to you before you visit Thessaloniki for the first time:
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What to do in Thessaloniki
When it comes to things to do and see, this Thessaloniki travel guide will help you see the city based on what is important to you. After all, not everyone enjoys museums.
Attractions and Sights
The Old Town
No tourist guide of Thessaloniki is complete without mentioning the Old Town. Some of the old citadel walls are still present, like along Elenis Zografou street that leads to the Pasha Gardens. The Old Town radiates an atmosphere of an earlier era with its many churches and monasteries around its walls of 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 for self-defense, it was a prison. It used to be a familiar scene for executions. Today, it’s an architectural and cultural gem as well as a historical museum.
This is the main square of the city, and honestly, you can’t miss it – even if you wanted to. There are always people at Aristotelous square. It offers a beautiful view of the sea, and it’s an excellent 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 lovely and charming. Moreover, it’s famous among locals, tourists, and students who come to have an excellent time, eat local food and listen to great music.
Arch of Galerius and Rotunda
The Thessaloniki Rotunda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Roman Emperor Galerius commissioned this 4th-century monument. The structures are with inexplicable cultural and architectural values.
There are many museums you can visit in Thessaloniki, some of the best ones are:
- Museum of Byzantine Culture
- Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
- Folk and Ethnological Museum
- Jewish Museum
- Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, and
- Noesis – Science Center and Technology Museum.
If you want a tour with an audio guide, the Thessaloniki Sightseeing company offers one of the best tours in Thessaloniki.
The Byzantine era and the Turkish Ottoman occupation are few of the historical periods that have affected the look and architectural style of this vast metropolis in Greece. Throughout this densely populated city, you will find many Thessaloniki churches hidden between apartment buildings – away from prying eyes.
Don’t miss these churches in Thessaloniki:
- Church of Agios Dimitrios
Agios Dimitrios is considered the patron saint of Thessaloniki. This church dedicated to him is, therefore, the most important one in the city. The church was built in the 4th century. During the Ottoman occupation, it was turned into a mosque. Luckily, it survived the Turkish occupation as well as a massive fire in 1917. Today, it stands as one of the most important religious and historical sites.
- Church of Agia Sofia
Agia Sofia was built in the 7th century on top of an older temple. This church is one of the oldest indications of the Christian Orthodox faith.
- Church of Panagia Acheropitos
Panagia Acheropitos is a 5th-century Byzantine church near Agia Sofia.
- Church of Taxiarches
Another church that was built in the early centuries and later converted to a mosque during the Ottoman empire. The church of Archangels is still partially enclosed by the old town walls.
- Church of Panagia Lagoudiani
Built-in the 1800s this is a catholicon of a female monastery.
- Church of Osios David
The Blessed David church is the catholicon of Latomou Monastery.
- Church of Profitis Ilias
A UNESCO world heritage site, in the Old Town, built in the 14th century as the Church of Prophet Elias. It’s a unique structure because of its four-column architecture only used in a technique found on Mount Athos (the holy site of Christian Orthodox monasteries located on the Halkidiki peninsula).
- Church of Agia Aikaterini
This Byzantine church is from the Palaiologan period, representing St. Catharine, the Great Martyr.
- Church of Panagia Halkeon
An 11th-century church located near the Roman Agora and Alkazar Mosque.
- Church of Agios Nikolaos Orfanos
Even though it’s another 14th-century Byzantine church, this is one of the most beautiful churches you will see in Thessaloniki.
- Church of Agios Panteleimon
Near the Tomb of Galerius, you will find this late Byzantine church.
- Church of Panagia Dexia
Panagia Dexia is a typical modern Greek church – built-in 1952. It is near the Rotunda and Arch of Galerius.
If you want to see the Ottoman architecture, be sure to visit the following locations:
- Yei Hammam
- Alatza Imaret
- Alkazar Mosque
- Musa Baba Mausoleum
No city guide of Thessaloniki is complete without mentioning the nearby beaches.
Because it’s a port destination, you won’t find beaches in the city of Thessaloniki. But, the Halkidiki Peninsula boasts with many famed mainland beaches in Greece.
To visit these beaches, you can rent a car for less than 6 Euros/day using Rentagile.
Here is a list of some beaches near Thessaloniki:
- Agia Triada Beach (28.9 KM)
- Rivera Beach Bar (38.9 KM)
- Nea Kallikratia (45 KM)
- Sahara Resort (45.5 KM)
- Tsairi Park (47.7 KM)
- Kallithea Beach (91.3 KM)
- Nikiti (102 KM)
The Thessaloniki nightlife won’t disappoint you. On the Leof. Nikis street along the sea, you can find a lot of night bars with great reviews for late-night dinner and drinks. Some worth checking out are Tribeca – All Day & Night Bar, Kitchen Bar, and Saxofono | Cocktail Bar.
For craft beer lovers, be sure to visit The Hoppy Place, which has 18 beers on tap.
As for nightclubs in Thessaloniki, Club Division and Matter Club are one of the most popular. Matter Club is in the city center for an easy-going night out. If you want to break out on the dance floor Club Division has a vast dancefloor to accommodate a broad audience.
If you don’t know how to spend your night in Thessaloniki, go for a Bouzouki. At large venues, famous Greek singers do live performances with an orchestra where the audience gets to dance, drink, and partake in a flower fight.
Shopping in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is considered one of the best shopping destinations in Southeastern Europe. The city boasts with numerous luxury and branded stores on its main streets Egnatia and Tsimiski. There are plenty of urban and authentic local shops to choose from around the city.
The One Salonica Greece outlet mall is three kilometers from the old town of Thessaloniki. The Mediterranean Cosmos shopping mall and IKEA are 10 km from the city center – easily reachable by public bus or taxi.
Discount seasons are mid-July until the end of August and mid-January until the end of February. Most stores and shops are closed on Sundays.
Where to eat in Thessaloniki
When it comes to eating, we got you covered with our visit Thessaloniki guide! If you want to try traditional Green dish specialties, look for a tavern with live Greek music. This way, you will get to taste the local cuisine, listen to authentic music, and enjoy the great atmosphere as a native.
One of the best restaurants for fine dining is Clochad. Others to try are Grada Nuevo, Duck Private Cheffing, and B. Restaurant that offer Mediterranean, Greek, and seafood dishes.
If you want quick bites that are relatively cheap, check out The Last Slice, Judah Club, Savvikos, or Tarantino Sandwiches & Fries. For vegan options, try Elephant in the room (eleφant in the rooμ), The Saints Store, and rOOTS Vegetarian & Vegan Place.
Where to stay in Thessaloniki
Expect to find cheap hotels in Thessaloniki or luxury hotels with rooftop dining and pools to enjoy in this city. There are multiple options for every type of travel budget when it comes to accommodation.
Some Thessaloniki hotels are by the sea, including Hotel Makedonia Palace and Daios Luxury Living Hotel, while others are in the city center and the Old Town.
- Luxury: Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki, Electra Palace Thessaloniki, The Met Hotel, City Hotel Thessaloniki, and Capsis Hotel Thessaloniki.
- Moderate: Athlos Hotel, Hotel Luxembourg, Limani Comfort Rooms, Anatolia Hotel, and Anastasia.
- Low Budget: Top floor apartment with nice view (that’s the actual name), Little Big House hostel, and irini house.
Best Time to Visit Thessaloniki
The best time to visit Thessaloniki is during the early or late summer months. This way, you will avoid the high summer temperatures that hit the city in July and August. May through Mid-June and Mid-September to October is the best time to visit Thessaloniki, while the weather is still lovely.
Accommodation prices are more affordable during these months instead of the peak season.
If you want to visit Thessaloniki during the winter, you won’t be sorry. The things to do in Thessaloniki in winter stay the same as the rest of the year, including visiting the Meteora Monasteries or
a day trip to the Petralona Cave (permanently closed for reconstruction). The White Tower, the Rotunda, and the rest of the historical landmarks can be visited even in the winter.
Another day trip from Thessaloniki idea is visiting the Loutra Pozar Thermal baths in the Edessa municipality. Around the hot springs, you can enjoy hiking, outdoor swimming even in the winter, waterfalls, and ancient Greek cities.
Is Thessaloniki Worth Visiting
I hope reading through our visit Thessaloniki guide has resolved the dilemma if this place is worth visiting.
The city can be overly crowded, dirty, and even too loud for some people, but it has so much to offer to visitors. For those that want a truly energized and trendy atmosphere with lots of history and cultural sites, Thessaloniki is a must-visit destination.
Plus, it has an airport and a train station for easy transport between Athens. You can probably use it as a stop to some more attractive spots in Greece and Europe or just as a weekend getaway.