This historic port city on the Aegean is the second-largest city in Greece. In fact, Thessaloniki is often referred to as the country’s “second city,” behind the capital Athens. However, Thessaloniki is widely regarded as the cultural capital of Greece and was once one of the most important cities of the Byzantine Empire, rivaling its capital Constantinople.
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Thessaloniki’s Byzantine past is still on display throughout the city, including its venerated city walls; the Church of Agios Demetrios, named after the patron saint of the city; and the Byzantine Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thessaloniki also has a rich Roman past, exemplified by the well-preserved Roman Forum; and Ottoman history, the best example of which is the waterfront White Tower of Thessaloniki, which was once a prison and today functions as a museum. In addition to history, culture, and architecture, Thessaloniki is renowned for its shopping and cuisine, especially bougatsa, a Greek pastry with various fillings.
What to See
Museum of Byzantine Culture – To delve deep into the city’s Byzantine past, visit the Museum of Byzantine Culture, which features 11 permanent exhibitions regarding the customs, architecture, art and more of the time.
Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki – Discover ancient artefacts from prehistoric Macedonia to Roman sculptures at one of the largest museums in Greece.
Church of Agios Demetrios – This venerated church is dedicated to Saint Demetrios, Thessaloniki’s patron saint who was a soldier of Rome that was executed because of his Christian beliefs. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the city’s largest church and is located on the presumed site of the saint’s martyrdom.
Byzantine Bath – Located in the Upper Old Town, this UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the 12th century and was used all the way up to 1940. It is one of Greece’s best-preserved ancient baths and the only surviving public bath from the country’s Byzantine era.
Roman Forum of Thessaloniki – This ancient Roman-era forum located near Aristotelous Square was constructed in the 2nd century A.D. Today, it consists of a well-preserved Odeon that is still used for concerts, an underground museum, and more.
White Tower of Thessaloniki – This monument and museum located on the waterfront is Thessaloniki’s most iconic landmark. Built in the 15th century after the city fell to the Ottomans, it was once a prison and place of execution and today a museum housing a permanent exhibition on Thessaloniki, from its founding to the present.