Top 10 things to do in Thessaloniki: activities you can’t miss out on!

Top 10 things to do in Thessaloniki: activities you can’t miss out on!

Are you going to Thessaloniki? You have to read this blog carefully then! Because you want to see the best of Thessaloniki and not get disappointed.

I was completely underwhelmed at my first visit of Thessaloniki. So many avenues full of cars right in the city center, no car-freezones and ugly flats because a major part of the city got destroyed in 1917. Don’t be fooled, this is ALSO the case in Athens, just not the very city center of Athens. And because you see less of it as a tourist in Athens, you might think that Athens is ‘way more beautiful’.

If you’re visiting Thessaloniki you must be willing to research and explore it. You will realise it is a super interesting city. It has neoclassical buildings, ruins from ancient times, Byzantine churches and more. All of this because it has a very interesting history.

Here are my top things to do in Thessaloniki – 10 activities you can’t miss out on if you’re visiting Thessaloniki (for the first time).

1. Visit the White Tower

The White Tower is the most famous landmark of Thessaloniki. It is a 15th century watchtower built by the Ottomans. It is a very interesting museum from the inside, that teaches you about the history of the city and the changes in its architecture. A must visit to be able to understand the city Thessaloniki better. The entrance fee (2023) is € 3 during low season and € 8 during peak season. Be sure to take an audio tour in a language you understand if you don’t speak Greek, cause the information inside is only written down in Greek! And do not miss out on the top of the White Tower, which has the most amazing view of the boulevard and seafront of Thessaloniki.

2. Stroll along the boulevard at sunset

Apart from the White Tower, the whole seafront boulevard is nice to stroll along. Especially at sunset. Thessaloniki has one of the best sunsets of Greece. Two artworks that you need to pass by are the ‘Umbrellas’ and the statue of Megas Alexandros (Alexander the Great).

The ‘Umbrellas’ are an artwork by Giorgos Zogolopoulos, placed in 1997 when Thessaloniki was the cultural capital of Europe for the year.

Statue of Alexander the Great

The bronze statue of Alexander the Great was made by artist Evaggelos Moustakas in 1973. He is important to (the area of) Thessaloniki because he was a Macedonian King in around 300 B.C. He was educated by the great philosopher Aristotle himself. Macedonia is and was the region (in now Northern Greece) that Thessaloniki is a part of. Back thenMacedonia was just one of the Kingdoms in the areas that we nowadays call Greece, Bulgaria and North Macedonia. Macedonians spoke Greek and participated in the Greek culture, but were perceived as weird, unmannered  and barbarian by people of other Greek Kingdoms. At the same time, Macedonians believed the other Greek folks to be slightly arrogant.

Alexander the Great though, within about 3️0 years managed to conquer  land and expand his Kingdom all the way up to India 🇮🇳 in the east (!!), and up to Egypt in the south. This makes him one of the most important persons in Macedonian and also Greek history.  His death (at age 33) therefore also marked the start of the Hellenistic period, in which the classical Greek and the Persian cultures were mixed into the Hellenistic culture , and that lasted till the Romans took over.

3. Walk up to the Ano Poli and visit the Eptapyrgio

The Ano Poli of Thessaloniki looks as if time has stood still. This ‘upper town’ (literal translation of Ano Poli ánd exactly what it is) of Thessaloniki wasn’t effected by the big fire of 1917 and has therefore mainly stayed intact, with all its Greek/Ottoman and Byzantine houses and fortifications, the ‘Castles’ of Thessaloniki. It looks more like a Greek mountain village surrounded by a castle wall, even though it is just a few hundred meters away from and above the city center.

You can walk up from the city center in 25 minutes. Or take a bus or taxi. But taking the bus would pity, cause during the walk up you already pass by amazing little streets, squares and houses. I probably took 100 photo’s! Apart from that, the Ano Poli has some traditional taverna’s with delicious food and of course an amazing (sunset) view over the city from the top or from Castra bar.


Within the castle walls you can find the ‘Eptapyrgio’. The Eptapyrgio (meaning “Seven Towers”) is an ancient fortress. It was first constructed in the 5th century. The Eptapyrgio is a symbol of the city’s rich and turbulent history, having been a site of multiple sieges, battles, and occupations. It stands as one of the most impressive surviving examples of Byzantine fortifications. The fortress is made up of seven towers, and its walls are made of stone and brick. It was last in use as a prison, which is clearly visible. The Eptapyrgio also houses a museum, which offers visitors a glimpse into the city’s past. You can buy a ticket and walk around (open every day except Tuesday till 15.30). Since this is the highest point of the Ano Poli, it offers the best views.

4. Vasilissis Olgas Avenue

One of the most emblematic streets of Thessaloniki is Vasilissis Olgas Avenue. Vasilissis Olgas Avenue or Exochon is the Avenue with a ton of neoclassical and even eclectic (think Sagrada Familia) buildings / villas  from the 19th century.

Vasilissis Olgas is 3️ km long and passes through at least 4️ areas of eastern Thessaloniki. This road in the past was of a great cultural and architectural importance. It marked the end of the old city center. The old name of the street, ‘Exochon’, therefore also means ‘countryside’. Over here many wealthy people built their (summer) residences when the city expanded.

Due to reconstructions and redevelopments that happened in the city, most of them got either demolished or abandoned. However, some wonderful buildings survived or were renovated. This picture shows a combo of both. Some can even be visited today as they operate as cafes, restaurants and bars. Or as museums or galleries. Before COVID there also used to be an Open House festival in Thessaloniki, during which you could visit even more buildings.

Literally every building has a story to tell so if you are interested and visiting Thessaloniki, be sure to google and/or discover the city with a (local) guide!

5. Take a boat to the beach!

Thessaloniki has a kilometers long seafront boulevard, but unfortunately no city beach. But they found a solution for that! During the summer months, there is a sea taxi that runs several times per day (Karavakia) between the seafront boulevard (White Tower) in the center, and the beach town of Peraia. The round trip (2023) is € 14 and a one-way journey takes 50 minutes.

6. Eat and shop at the (food) markets

Thessaloniki is also called the food capital of Greece. Food here is exceptionally good and also cheap. There are several food and flea markets you should visit for a drink, bit and for shopping souvenirs (traditional honey, tea, herbs, and more).

  • Agora Modanio recently re-opened after a renovation and is now a modern food court inside a neoclassical style hall.
  • Kapani market is the traditional and largest. market of Thessaloniki, where you can find everything that one is able to sell.
  • Bit Bazar is an outsider to the previous two. This is more of a flea market, where they sell antiques. Inside there is a square full of cheap traditional restaurants and bars that gets very vibrant and busy at times.

7. Visit all the historical ruins, buildings and churches

Thessaloniki’s city center is full of historical masterpieces of buildings. For instance, Rotunda. This is atemple built in the year 3️0️6️ by the Roman emperor Galerius. In terms of architecture it is only comparable to the famous Parthenon in Rome. So be sure to visit the inside too. During the years and occupations by various folks like the Ottomans, it has also served as a mosque and church.

Other historical buildings in Thessaloniki’s city center that are worth a visit are:

  • The Arch of Galerius, next to Rotunda and part of the same emperial complex
  • The Roman Agora, excavations of the Roman agora, bath house and theatre
  • The big Byzantine churches of Agia Sofia and Agios Dimitrios
  • The Bey Hamam & Pazar Hamam, old Ottoman bathhouses

8. Rooftops & nightlife: visit a rooftop bar for cocktails or a party

You haven’t been to Thessaloniki if you haven’t at least experience its nightlife a little bit. The area of Valaoritou is full of bars and clubs. In summer, you should at least have had some cocktails on a rooftop terrace, such as Stin taratsa. I am recommending some more in my foodie guide for Thessaloniki.

9. Try the local cuisine

Thessaloniki is seen as the food capital of Greece. So must definifely try as many places and as many local dishes as you can. I wrote a foodie guide for Thessaloniki that explains it all and gives lots of tips on where to go.

10. Seix sou: visit the forest of Thessaloniki

Just above Thessaloniki, you can find yourself in a completely different environment. An enormous green forest with viewpoints that overlook the city. The Seix Sou forest is home to a diverse array of species and habitats, including oak and pine trees, streams, and meadows. It’s also a great spot for outdoor activities, such as hiking, bird-watching, and picnicking. You need however a vehicle to get there, but if  you have one it is only a 20-minute drive from the center.

I hope this blog on the top 10 things to do in Thessaloniki was useful and that you will enjoy your visit!

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