30 Best Things to Do in Thessaloniki (Greece)

ano poli

Known as the Youth Capital of Greece, Thessaloniki is the second largest city in the country.

With a population of 1.106 million people, it is lively and diverse and is a real magnet for enterprising people with ideas.

But Thessaloniki is also a paradise for travelers, and the reasons are not one or two.

The city has a number of advantages and some of them are:

Many places to visit within the city borders;

Very good transport network;

Many of the landmarks are within a walking distance;

Most people speak English;

Affordable prices;

Great food;

Very safe.

Due to its strategic location, the city offers exceptionally good opportunities for spending the summer holidays.

It is interesting to note that there are so many places to visit within a 200 kilometer radius that even two weeks will not be enough for you to get to know the entire city and its surroundings really well.

1. Start your journey with the White Tower

white tower
White Tower by bdmundo/Flickr

No doubt, the first place that every tourist should visit in Thessaloniki is the White Tower.

Built in 1536 by Suleiman the Great (Sultan of the Ottoman Empire), this majestic stone structure is more than 33 meters high.

Situated in a small and charming coastal park, it is the symbol of Thessaloniki and is an important part of the city’s architectural and cultural heritage.

Today it houses the Byzantine Museum, which you should definitely visit.

2. Walk to Aristotelous Square

aristotelous square
Aristotelous Square by NIKOS karakasidis/Flickr

Not far from the harbor, along the coastal Leoforos Nikis blvd, you will find one of Thessaloniki’s most important landmarks.

This is Aristotelous Square, which was created in the mid-20th century.

The place is preferred by locals and is very popular with tourists as it combines beautiful architecture, green spaces, luxury boutiques, shops and restaurants as well as a number of cultural monuments.

3. Go to Sithonia and visit Vourvourou

vourvourou, sithonia peninsula
Vourvourou, Sithonia Peninsula by fourkas/Flickr

Not far from Thessaloniki, about an hour drive to the southeast, lies the coastal village of Vourvourou.

Nestled on the scenic coast of the green Sithonia Peninsula, it is considered one of the most wonderful holiday destinations in the country.

This place is well known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece.

Particularly popular because of its turquoise shallow waters and pristine natural beauty, Vourvourou is the most favourite destination amids nature lovers and people who want to find some tranquility along the coast.

4. Villa Allatini – discover the charm of the city

villa allatini
Villa Allatini by afilitos/Flickr

Thessaloniki is an attractive place for long walks because you can always find something interesting around the corner.

Built in 1898, Villa Allatini is a typical example.

Being a real masterpiece of architecture, it is one of the most famous works of the Italian architect Vitaliano Poselli.

The place is located in the central part of Thessaloniki and is one of the buildings that give a unique aristocratic appearance to this charming coastal city.

Nowadays, the building houses the Central Macedonia Administration.

5. Don’t miss the Museum of Contemporary Art

museum of contemporary art
Museum of Contemporary Art by Wikipedia/Commons

Founded in 1997, the Museum of Contemporary Art offers an extremely rich variety of collections.

The purpose of the museum is to preserve works from different parts of the world, including a large number of Greek and Russian artists.

Pictures, sculptures, decorative ornaments and many others combine together both creative thinking with wonderful colors and shapes.

The exhibits stimulate the human’s imagination and provoke strong emotions in the numerous visitors.

6. Go to the Palace of Galerius

palace of galerius
Palace of Galerius by Wikimedia/CC-BY-SA-4.0

In the city center of Thessaloniki, five minutes walk from the coastal boulevard Leof.

Nikis, lie the ruins of a majestic fortress.

The impressive building, which is about 24-by-67 meters, dates back to the early 4th century.

Much of the ruins were discovered during the mid-20th century.

Today, parts of the ruins can be seen by pedestrians, but the biggest part still remains hidden under the residential buildings in the city center of Thessaloniki.

7. Visit the Arch of Galerius

arch of galerius
Arch of Galerius by Riviera Travel/Flickr

Located in central Thessaloniki, not far from the picturesque coastal boulevard, the Galerius Arch is one of the most iconic local landmarks.

Nowadays, you can still see the rich decoration over the columns.

Completed in 303 AD, the construction is not just beautiful but is also very impressive.

The opening of the central arch of this extremely popular and visited tourist attraction rises to a height of 12.5 meters.

8. Go to Saint Sophia Church

st. sophia church
St. Sophia Church by Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Constructed and completed during the 8th century AC, Saint Sophia or Hagia Sophia (as it is better known) is considered one of the oldest existing and completely preserved churches in Thessaloniki.

Due to its extraordinary cultural and historical significance, it is under the auspices of UNESCO since 1988 (12th session).

The church is especially popular for its 9th century mosaics as well as for its richly decorated iconostas.

Very interesting fact is that another church existed at the same location since the 3rd century.

9. Visit the monument of Alexander the Great

monument of alexander the great
Monument of Alexander the Great by bdmundo/Flickr

Similar to many other city’s landmarks, the monument of Alexander the Great can be seen along the coastal boulevard, in the popular Alexander the Great Garden.

The statue was completed in 1973 and its official opening was in August 1974.

The first thing you will notice is that the statue is majestic.

Together with the piedestal, the monument of Alexander III of Macedon is 11 meters high. You should pay attention to the background as well.

The view is especially beautiful when facing the sea.

In clear weather you can see the snow cap of the impressive Mount Olympus, which is the second highest on the Balkan Peninsula (2918 m).

10. Day trip to Mount Athos

mount athos
Mount Athos by trikelef/Flickr

Mount Athos is one of the most important places when it comes to the Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Being the oldest Monastic Republic in the world, it still houses twenty working monasteries.

They are hidden in the dense forests of the mountainous peninsula.

They were built over different time periods, with the oldest of them dating back to the 10th century.

The second largest Greek city is only about 200 km away, which makes the peninsula a great idea for a day trip.

11. Visit Agios Dimitrios Church

agios dimitrios church
Agios Dimitrios Church by Dan Lundberg/Flickr

Built in the 4th century, Agios Dimitrios Church is one of the symbols of this ancient city.

In 1988, the church was added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

This early Christian Byzantine temple is an architectural and cultural gem of an exceptional importance.

The church is well-known for its richly decorated iconostasis and its exquisite 7th-century mosaics.

Although older than the popular Hagia Sophia Church, Agios Dimitrios has been repeatedly reconstructed because of fires and other devastating disasters.

12. Go to Bulgaria

melnik, bulgaria
Melnik, Bulgaria by Sabina Yankova/Flickr

Thessaloniki is located less than 100 km from the Bulgarian border, and for this reason, it is a great idea to experience an exciting day trip to Greece’s northern neighbor.

Crossing the border to the north, you will find some of the most beautiful mountains in Europe – Pirin, Rila and Rhodopes.

Here is the popular winter ski resort of Bansko, which during the summer months is a true green oasis.

In the region you will find one of the most beautiful small towns in BulgariaMelnik.

13. Visit the Roman Rotunda

roman rotunda
Roman Rotunda by Dan Lundberg/Flickr

The Roman Rotunda is one of the most iconic buildings in Thessaloniki.

It is located in the downtown, at one of the most saturated with landmarks areas of the city.

The Rotunda was built by romans in the early 4th century and is considered one of the oldest existing functioning structures in the city.

Despite its age, the building is surprisingly well preserved.

During the Middle Ages, the 30-meters high structure served as the main cathedral of this important port city.

14. Visit the Vergina Royal Tombs

vergina royal tombs
Vergina Royal Tombs by Benjamin/Flickr

Full of all kinds of landmarks, the region of Thessaloniki is a land of an incredible variety.

You can easily find a number of worth visiting treasures, as long as you are willing to leave the comfort of the city for a few hours.

Vergina Royal Tombs is one of the most recommended places.

It is located about an hour drive to the west of the city and attracts many visitors.

It is well-known for the tombs of the kings located in an archeological site called Aigai.

15. Take a short trip to Thassos

aliki beach - thassos
Aliki Beach – Thassos by Ronald Saunders/Flickr

As it is covered with lush forests, Thassos is often called the Green or Emerald Island.

In this respect, it is very different from most of the other Aegean islands and the reason is its much wetter winter season.

The one-way trip can take up to about 4 hours, which means you can return to Thessaloniki in the evening.

However, if you love white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, Thassos is a must for you!

16. Discover the charm of Ano Poli

If you want to discover the most charming areas of Thessaloniki, you should go to the Ministry of Macedonia and then walk 200 more meters to the northeast.

Here you will find the emblematic neighbourhood of Ano Poli.

As one of the oldest residential areas of the city, it has the reputation of being the most interesting spot to walk around.

Here you will find narrow winding cobbled streets, old historical buildings, many trees, old chapels, irresistible small cafes and numerous craft shops.

17. Visit the Greek Agora and Roman Forum

greek agora and roman forum
Greek Agora and Roman Forum by Wikimedia/CC-BY-SA-4.0

Among the important and recommended archeological sites of Thessaloniki are the Greek Agora and Roman Forum.

Located in the central part of the city, the ruins date back to the 2nd century AD.

The biggest part of the archeological site has been preserved in its original shape.

Some of the ruins, however, have been reconstructed so that visitors can get a better idea of their original look.

18. Go to Lake Kerkini National Park

white pelicans at lake kerkini national park
White Pelicans at Lake Kerkini National Park by Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

In addition to its many cultural and historical values and landmarks, the surrounding areas of Thessaloniki are also known for their natural beauty.

It is located at the southern foot of Mount Beles (or Belasica) Mountain, not far from the Bulgarian border.

The lake was formed during the construction of a dam in 1932, when the entire area was flooded.

Kerkini Lake has been declared a national park and is part of Nature 2000.

The park is home to a huge variety of waterfowl.

Along the coast you can see grazing horses and other animals.

19. Visit some of the local outdoor markets

kapani market
Kapani Market by CrippleHorse/Flickr

Greece is a country that offers a rarely seen variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

In addition to the wide choice, the products are really affordable.

Definitely, one of the most popular is the so called Kapani Market.

It is comfortably situated in the central part of the city, which means you can easily get there from every single point of the modern Greek city.

20. Walk to Kavala

kavala at night
Kavala at Night by Στέλιος Δ/Flickr

About 150 kilometers east of Thessaloniki is the small coastal town of Kavala.

The journey takes less than 2 hours, and the adventure is well worth it.

The town of nearly 125,000 inhabitants is lively and colorful, offering a traditional Mediterranean charm.

The most famous attractions are the fortress, which was completely reconstructed in the 15th century, the aqueduct and the beautiful beaches to the west of the town.

Kavala is a fantastic place for long walks, and you will definitely want to come back here again.

21. Visit the Church of the Holy Apostles

church of the holy apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles by Wikipedia/CC BY 2.0

Built in the 14th century, the Church of the Holy Apostles is one example of Byzantine architecture in the second largest Greek city.

It is famous for its uniquely beautiful frescoes, which also date from the 14th century.

The church is located in the central part of Thessaloniki, very close to one of the westernmost segments of the city’s still-existing fortress wall.

Since 1988, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

22. Visit the Church of Agios Pavlos

church of agios pavlos
Church of Agios Pavlos by Wikimedia/CC-BY-3.0

One of the most impressive churches in Thessaloniki is named after the neighborhood where it is located – Agios Pavlos.

You will find it in an area which offers spectacular panoramic views of the city.

Built in 1997, today it is one of the most majestic and impressive Orthodox temples built in the 20th century in Greece.

23. Short break to Paralia Katerini

paralia katerini
Paralia Katerini by Wikimedia/CC-BY-3.0

One of the most famous tourist centers in northern Greece lies on the Aegean coast, approximately 70 kilometers southwest from Thessaloniki.

Paralia Katerini is a small but lovely village which attracts thousands of tourists every year.

It is famous for its outstanding golden sandy beaches and wonderful taverns.

This is a great opportunity to enjoy both delicious local cuisine and great beaches without being too far from Thessaloniki.

24. Walk to the Bizantine walls

bizantine walls
Bizantine Walls by Wikimedia/CC-BY-SA-3.0

Like many other old European cities, Thessaloniki was surrounded by fortress walls during the Middle Ages, which was an important part of the city’s protection from enemies.

Elements of the wall can be seen even today.

A very well-preserved part of the facility marks the northeast border of the historic Ano Poli neighborhood.

The place has become an attractive spot for rest and walk of locals and tourists.

25. Visit the Archaeological Museum

archaeological museum
Archaeological Museum by Tilemahos Efthimiadis/Flickr

Being one of the largest and most important museums in all of Greece, the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki attracts numerous visitors every day.

It is located in one of the most central places of the city, a few steps from the White Tower, the park and the monument of Alexander the Great.

The museum is one of the most important places to visit if you are interested in Greek cultural heritage.

At your disposal are a large choice of collections related to the local history, culture and art.

26. Day trip to Meteora

One of Europe’s most visited rock formations is located in the northwestern part of Greece.

Known as Meteora, the natural attraction is less than three hours drive from the city of Thessaloniki.

The area is well-known for its scenic landscape, which is especially beautiful during the late spring and early summer.

Here you will find the second largest complex of monasteries in Greece after Mount Athos.

Most of the monasteries were built in the 15th and 16th centuries.

However, what they are better known for is their extremely difficult to reach location.

You will find them on the top of hundreds of meters high steep vertical cliffs, dominating the beautiful and scenic surrounding landscape.

27. Visit the Church of Saint Catherine

church of st. catherine
Church of St. Catherine by Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

Because of its exquisite and rich interior decoration, St. Catherine’s Church is one of Thessaloniki’s largest attractions.

It is a typical example of a building dating from the late Byzantine era.

Built in the late 13th century, the church is one of the most beautiful and emblematic buildings of the Palaiologan period.

Since 1988, the church has been part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

28. Go to the Folk and Ethnological Museum

folk and ethnological museum
Folk and Ethnological Museum by arxitektonas/Wikimapia

Founded in 1974, the Folk and Ethnological Museum of Thessaloniki is considered one of the most interesting in the city, especially if you are interested in the lifestyle and culture of the locals.

The museum is housed in Villa Modiano, which can be described as a true architectural masterpiece.

The location of the museum is very beautiful too.

You will find it on the coastal boulevard, along the most popular walking area.

29. Walk to the Zoo

the zoo of thessaloniki
The Zoo of Thessaloniki by Wikimedia/CC-BY-3.0

The Zoo of Thessaloniki is a popular place to visit, mainly because of its pleasant park environment.

It is located on the eastern outskirts of the city and is situated on the forested slopes of the panoramic Kedrinou Hill.

The zoo is a great idea for a place to escape the summer heat because it is easy to find some pleasant shade here.

The park is fascinating for its beautiful nature, clean air and tranquility.

Although the variety of animals is far from being very wide, a slow pace and relaxing walk will give you the positive energy and good emotions you need.

In addition the entrance is free and the panoramic view – fascinating.

30. Go to Mount Olympus National Park

mount olympus national park
Mount Olympus National Park by Wikimedia/CC-BY-SA-4.0

The holiday in Thessaloniki is a great opportunity to visit many other places nearby and one of them is Mount Olympus National Park.

Founded in 1938, the park is located just over 100 kilometers from the city, and it takes nearly an hour and a half to get there.

The National Park covers a total area of 92 square miles and the largest protected area on the territory of Greece.

It offers some of the most interesting and impressive natural beauties, including breathtaking gorges and snow-capped mountain peaks.