Should you visit Thessaloniki?

Ingrid & Alex

Is Thessaloniki worth visiting? If you are looking for an answer, let me help you with based on our personal experience.

On our way home from a one-and-a-half-month tour of the southern part of mainland Greece, we stopped for a few days and explored Thessaloniki.

We were traveling with a small child, so we spent much time outside, walking around the city and enjoying its beautiful streets and seafront. So, we have seen enough to offer you reasons for visiting.

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Why Is Thessaloniki worth visiting?

Rich History

Is Thessaloniki worth visiting?
The Arch of Galerius / Ingrid

Thessaloniki was an essential part of no less than 6 empires: Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, Latin (Venetian), Bulgarian, and Ottoman. It even had its own Empire of Thessaloniki for a brief period. That rich history becomes apparent as you walk by the different structures from the past.

The Greek Agora and later Roman Forum date back to the ancient period, while the remains of the Byzantine Walls are reminders of medieval warfare. Fast-forward to the early 20th century, the Aristotelous Square was designed by French architect Ernest Hebrard in 1918.

The Birthplace of Modern Christianity

Is Thessaloniki worth visiting?
Hagia Sophia Thessaloniki / Ingrid

Although less known these days, Thessaloniki was the birthplace of Christianity in more ways than one.

The first book of the Christian Scriptures was written here — Saint Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians. Without the Good Book, there wouldn’t be any Christianity today.

If that is not enough, Christianity was declared the realm’s official religion by the Edict of Thessalonica of 380 AD. Before that time, Christianity was just one of many accepted religions; despite popular misconception, Emperor Constantine merely legalized it in 313 AD instead of making it the State Church.

Diverse Architecture

Is Thessaloniki worth visiting?
Aristotelous Square Thessaloniki / Ingrid

A rich history leaves behind diverse architecture. Ancient, medieval, or modern; Greek, Roman, Byzantine, or Ottoman; you name it, Thessaloniki has it.

For instance, the Arch of Galerius and the Rotunda used to be part of the Imperial district during the Roman Empire. Hagia Demetrios and Hagia Sophia are considered masterpieces of Byzantine architecture.

Finally, the city has several beautiful mosques from the Turkish period (e.g., Alkazar Mosque and Iskele Mosque).

Lively Waterfront

Is Thessaloniki worth visiting?
Thessaloniki waterfront / Ingrid

Thessaloniki has two long waterfronts. One is located in the authentic Ladidika District, a cozy Greek neighborhood with various cafes and restaurants.

The other is further south along the New Paralia ( the New Beach), a great place to watch the sunset.

Vibrant Culture

Greeks consider Thessaloniki the country’s cultural capital, and that’s not a small feat in a cultural powerhouse like Greece. The city annually holds the Thessaloniki International Fair and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

Moreover, the city is home to several interesting museums, including the Archeological Museum, Museum of Byzantine Culture, Olympic Museum, and Folklife Museum.

Gastronomic Delights

Greek food is world-famous, and there are certainly many options to choose from. In addition, you can sample local delicacies such as bougatsa, a traditional pastry with roots in ancient times.

Near Kerkini Lake

If you like nature, you can’t miss a safari-like trip to nearby Kerkini Lake. Forests and marshlands embrace the expansive lake at the foot of the mountains.

It is one of the premier places for bird watching, and it is also home to buffalo herds and other smaller mammals. Be sure to book a day tour.

Proximity to Mount Olympus

Probably one of the most iconic mountains in the world, the Home of the Gods is relatively close to Thessaloniki and can be visited as part of a day trip (look for Dion and Mount Olympus Guided Tour).

Close to Meteora

Mount Meteora / Source:

Perched on massive rocky pillars, the medieval monasteries of Meteora are a breathing sight. If you want to experience otherworldly beauty in a divine place, visiting Meteora is a must-do destination.

Have I mentioned the fantastic photo opportunities?

A Short Drive from Europe’s Best Sandy Beaches (Chalkidiki)

Dubbed the best beaches in Europe, the sandy beaches of Chalkidiki are a dream come true for those who love relaxing by the sea.

Whether you lounge in the sun and frolic in the clear waters, walk the picturesque streets of the traditional villages, or take the Blue Lagoon Cruise, you can’t go wrong with a few hours or days in Chalkidiki.

When to Visit Thessaloniki?

Due to its mild climate, Thessaloniki is an all-year destination. Still, the best time to visit is in spring (March-May) or autumn (September-October). If you can help it, try to avoid July and August due to the sometimes scorching heat.

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