Things to Do in Thessaloniki: The 12 Best Places to Visit (All Highlights)
You want to visit Thessaloniki during your next trip to Greece?
In order to help you plan your stay, I have created this guide of the 12 best things to do in Thessaloniki, the 2nd biggest city in Greece. You will discover all the best points of interest and must-see attractions!
In addition to this list of things to do and activities, I will also give you itineraries to visit Thessaloniki in 1, 2 or 3 days as well as my selection of the best accommodations depending on your budget.
And as always, this travel guide contains all my best tips to make the most of your stay.
So, what are the best places to visit in Thessaloniki? Where to stay?
Let’s find out!
- Things to Do in Thessaloniki: The 12 Best Places to Visit (All Highlights)
- Visit Thessaloniki: the 12 Must-See attractions
- The 3 best things to do around Thessaloniki
- How many days to visit Thessaloniki ?
- 1 day in Thessaloniki
- 2 days in Thessaloniki
- 3 days in Thessaloniki
- Where to stay in Thessaloniki
- Where to eat in Thessaloniki
- How to get to Thessaloniki?
- Tourist map of Thessaloniki
- You’re traveling to Greece ? These articles will help you !
Visit Thessaloniki: the 12 Must-See attractions
1. The White Tower
Let’s start this guide of Thessaloniki with the White tower, the most iconic monument of the city.
Considered as the city’s landmark, the White Tower is clearly one of the best places to see in Thessaloniki.
Built in 1535, the tower was originally surrounded by heavy walls, as it was used as a prison during the Ottoman occupation of Greece. There, many prisoners were tortured and executed, and the Tower acquired its nickname: “The Tower of Blood”, or “The Red Tower”.
It was renamed “the White Tower” in 1890, after a prisoner entirely repainted it in white in exchange of his liberty. Another version of the story says that it was renamed by the Greeks in 1913, 1 year after they reconquered the city.
The 34-meter high tower is now hosting the White Tower Museum, dedicated to Thessaloniki’s History from the Roman Era to the present day.
During your visit, you should also go to the tower’s top floor. There, you will admire a beautiful 360° view of the city, the sea and even Mount Olympus, Greece’s highest summit.
2. Thessaloniki Waterfront
If you’re spending a few days in the city, then you should definitely take a stroll along its waterfront. It’s one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki.
There, you can walk on a 5-km long promenade on the seaside. This promenade was completely renovated a few years ago and connects the Photography Museum, the White Tower and Thessaloniki Concert Hall.
On the seaside, you will find many bars and restaurants frequented by locals and tourists alike: the place is really vibrant! It feels a bit like the Greek version of the “Croisette”, in Cannes, or the “Promenade des Anglais” in Nice.
Don’t miss “The Umbrellas”, a modern sculpture located in the park, about 500m away from the White Tower.
During your walk, on the seaside, you will also discover beautiful thematic gardens:
- Alexander the Great Garden
- The Garden of the Afternoon Sun
- The Garden of the Sand
- The Garden of Mediterranean
- The Garden of Sculptors, Sound, Water and more!
There are more than a dozen thematic gardens in Thessaloniki. If you’re traveling with children, it’s a great place to take a break and let them enjoy one of the playgrounds.
You can also ride a bike on the bicycle path along the waterfront. There are many bicycle rentals shops nearby, you can’t miss them.
It’s clearly one of the best places to visit in Thessaloniki, especially during the evening, when the weather is cooler!
3. The Archaeological Sites
If you’re a History and Archaeology lover, then you should visit Thessaloniki’s most famous ancient sites:
- The Ancient Agora: the former social and religious city centre during the Greek and Roman periods.
- The Arch of Galerius, also named “Kamara”. It was built in 305 A.D to celebrate a victory over the Persians. The only remains still standing are 2 original pillars and an arch, decorated with battle scenes.
- The Rotunda of Galerius was built as a Mausoleum for the Emperor. Then, it became a church and later a Mosque. It’s one of Thessaloniki’s oldest monuments.
- The Galerius Palace is a ancient Roman palace. Located on Navarinou Square, it was part of a huge complex, with the Arch and the Rotunda I mentioned above. There isn’t much left of it.
4. Thessaloniki’s Museums
Let’s continue this Thessaloniki travel guide with a bit of cultural tourism.
The city has many museums, and here are the best ones:
- The Archaeological Museum showcases a collection of remains found around Thessaloniki and in Greek Macedonia
- The Museum of Byzantine Culture houses more than 3000 artefacts, jewelry and mosaics from the Byzantine Empire
- The Jewish Museum: there, you will learn more about the Jewish community in Thessaloniki and its History, especially during Word War 2.
- The Photography Museum, to discover ancient and modern Greek photographs.
- The Olympic Museum, if you want to know everything about the Olympic Games History, from the Ancient Times to the present day.
- The Museum of Cinema, if you want to know more about Greek cinema and how movies are made.
- The Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki
- The War Museum and its collection of Greek weapons, medals and uniforms.
5. Thessaloniki’s churches
If you’re out of things to do in Thessaloniki, then you should take a look at the city’s many beautiful churches.
The best churches to see or visit in Thessaloniki are:
- Agios Dimitros, Thessaloniki’s most famous church, is dedicated to Saint Dimitri, the holy patron of the city. Its relics are kept inside the crypt.
- Panagia Achiropiitos, a Byzantine church built in the 5th century, with beautiful frescoes.
- Agia Sofia, built in the 8th century and based on the Hagia Sofia of Constantinople (nowaday’s city name is Istanbul, in Turkey). One of Thessaloniki’s most impressive Byzantine church!
- Nikolaos Orfanos, a small Byzantine Church built in the 14th century.
- Ossios David, erected in the 5th century. You will enjoy beautiful and well-preserved mosaics.
- Agios Pavlos, located on a hill. It’s, in my opinion, the most beautiful church of the city.
6. Ana Poli: Thessaloniki’s old town
During your stay in Thessaloniki, you really should take a stroll in the old town.
Located in Thessaloniki’s upper city, Ana Poli district is considered as the historical centre. A great fire destroyed most of the city in 1917, and Ana poli was the only surviving neighborhood!
Surrounded by heavy Byzantine walls, Ana Poli was Thessaloniki’s citadel (Kastro) during the Byzantine and Ottoman occupation. Get around the neighborhood on foot to discover its beautiful narrow paved alleys, typical architecture and a unique atmosphere!
Ana Poli’s main points of interest are:
- Trigoniou Tower. Built during the Venetian occupation, it was mostly used as an armory and artillery tower.
- The Portara Gate, in the walls’ northern part. Well-decorated with ceramics and carved marble inscriptions.
- The Eptapirgion, an ancient fortress and prison with 7 towers
- The Monastery of Vlatadon, built in 1351. Nowadays, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the monastery, you will enjoy one of the most beautiful view over the city
- The churches of Agios Nikolaos, Saint Catherine, and Ossios David I already mentioned above
- Pasha’s Gardens, a lovely garden close to the Agios Dimitrios Hospital. It’s a very nice place with fountains and a beautiful view of the city.
7. Thessaloniki’s markets
You’re spending a few days in Thessaloniki, and you want to buy the best local products?
Then, you should definitely go to Modiano and Kapani markets!
Thessaloniki’s 2 biggest markets are both located close to Ermou Street, right next to each other.
There, you will find the best local products in the city: olives, spices, herbs, traditional Greek cheeses, and even meat or fish. It’s also the perfect place to have your lunch, as there are many typical Greek taverns.
The 2 markets are open everyday except Sundays. Modiano Market is also closed in the afternoon, between 14h and 17h.
8. Shopping in Thessaloniki
You’ have already seen all the best places to visit in Thessaloniki? Then, you should take some time go shopping in the city.
And you will find everything you need!
If you enjoy luxury boutiques, go to Proxenou and Mitropoleos streets, and the perpendicular Morgenthau, Lassani or Chrysostomou streets.
You will find all the classic and international brands on Tsimiki, Ermou and Egnatia streets.
Finally, for a more vintage style, go to the city centre’s narrow alleys: Agias Theodoras, Issavron and Zefxidos.
9. Thessaloniki’s nightlife
Thessaloniki is one of the best places in Greece to go out at night!
This university city has a young population and offers an amazing nightlife.
All week long, you can go out and have a drink in one of Thessaloniki’s many bars. Ladadika and Valaoritou districts are the most lively.
There are many hip bars, night clubs or live music bars: you will always find a place to party all night long!
The 3 best things to do around Thessaloniki
You’re having a few days in Thessaloniki, and you have seen most of the city? Then, you should really explore the city’s surroundings. You can discover great ancient sites and beautiful beaches.
Here are the best places to visit around Thessaloniki:
The Archaeological site of Pella is located a 50-minute drive from Thessaloniki.
Pella was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia (don’t confuse it with today’s Republic of Macedonia) and Alexander the Great’s birthplace. On the site, the archaeological excavations have revealed a 70,000 square meters Agora with many sanctuaries, shops and mansions.
The most well-preserved mansion is the House of Dionysus. There, you will find a large yard surrounded by columns and an impressive pebble mosaic floor. You will also enjoy beautiful mosaics in the House of the Abduction of Helen.
You can admire all the ancient objects and vestiges found in Pella in the Archaeological Museum located on the site. You should definitely visit this museum to help you picture what the city looked like, and discover its rich History. You will learn more about Pella’s ancient religion, crafts and political life.
The 8€ entrance ticket includes the archaeological site and the museum. Pella is open everyday (except Mondays) from 9h.
If you’re a History lover, it’s clearly one of the major points of interest around Thessaloniki!
Together with Pella, Vergina is the other must-see archaeological site around Thessaloniki. It’s located 1 hour away from the city.
The city of Aigai (or Vergina, in modern Greek) was the 1st capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia, before Pella. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The archaeological excavations in Vergina helped to understand the ancient Macedonians’ culture and History.
You will discover many remains on the site:
- The Monumental Palace, with the royal apartments
- The Aigai Theatre, where Philip II was assassinated
- The fortified walls
- The Royal Necropolis: there, you will admire the tomb of Philip II, Alexander the Great’s father.
You can also visit the Museum of Royal Tombs of Aigai. If you go underground to the royal tombs’ entrance, you will discover this unique museum, built directly under the tumulus!
There, you will admire magnificent mural paintings and funerary objects. The most impressive pieces exposed are Philip II’s shield, armor, golden crown and a chest found in his tomb.
12. The Chalkidiki Peninsula
What are the best places to go to the beach around Thessaloniki?
The closest and most beautiful beaches around Thessaloniki are located in Chalkidiki Peninsula. This peninsula regroups, in fact, 3 peninsulas located Southeast of Thessaloniki.
- Kassandra peninsula
- Sithonia peninsula
- Mount Athos peninsula
The first two peninsulas are famous for their beautiful beaches with turquoise waters. There are public as well as private beaches where you can rent deckchairs and umbrellas.
These 2 peninsulas are also well-known for their many seaside resorts and luxury hotels. There are also Spas, casinos and golf courts. It’s the perfect place if you want to enjoy a chic and trendy atmosphere.
Mount Athos Peninsula is the farthest from Thessaloniki. There are more than 2,000 monks living here, in the Monastic State of Agion Oros. The access is highly regulated: only men have the right to enter, and you must ask at least 6 months in advance for a special permit to go there.
If you can’t obtain a permit, or for women, there are cruises going around the peninsula. They allow you to get a glimpse of some of the Monasteries.
You can also choose a full-day tour from Thessaloniki. During this day, you will take the bus to reach Uranupolis, then do a cruise around Mount Athos, with some time to relax and take a dip at one of Chalkidiki’s beaches. You need to book it here.
How many days to visit Thessaloniki ?
You should spend 2 days in Thessaloniki. You will have enough time to discover Greece’s 2nd largest city.
In fact, 1 day is enough to discover Thessaloniki’s main points of interest. It’s easy to get around the city on foot, as most tourist sites are close to each other.
If you want to visit a few museums, then you should spend 2 days in the city.
If you’re staying in Thessaloniki for 3 days or more, you can also visit the city’s surroundings.
1 day in Thessaloniki
If you only have 1 day to get around Thessaloniki on foot, here is my recommended itinerary:
- Start your day at Modiano Market, to discover the best local products
- Take a stroll in Egnatia Street and enjoy its many shops
- Go to the Roman Agora
- Visit the Church of Agios Dimitros
- Walk up to Ana Poli district to see the Church of Ossios David and the Monastery of Vlatadon.
- Walk along the fortified walls to reach Trigoniou Tower.
- Go to the Church of Agios Pavlos, overlooking the city
- Relax at Pasha’s Gardens
- Walk down Elenis Zogafrou Street, and make a small detour to see the Church of Nikolas Orfanos
- Walk by the Rotunda, the Arch, and the Palace of Galerius
- Discover Thessaloniki’s most iconic monument: the White Tower
- Enjoy a nice walk along Thessaloniki’s Waterfront.
- And if you want to go out at night, you can go to the Ladadika and Valaoritou districts.
If you don’t want to visit Thessaloniki on foot, you can take the Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing bus.
It’s the easiest way to discover the city’s main monuments! It costs 10€ per person, English audio guide included. You can book it right here.
2 days in Thessaloniki
If you have 2 days in Thessaloniki, in addition to the first day described above, you can visit some museums, depending on what you’re interested in!
You can also add 1 or 2 museums to your first day’s program. Then, finish your tour on the 2nd day and visit other museums.
Another option for 2 days in Thessaloniki is to do a day trip around the city. I am listing them below, in the “3 days in Thessaloniki” section.
3 days in Thessaloniki
If you’re spending 3 days in Thessaloniki, you should explore the city’s surroundings.
As I said earlier, it’s easy to reach the archaeological sites of Pella and Vergina as well as the Chalkidiki Peninsula by car.
If you don’t have a car, you should choose a day-trip from Thessaloniki:
- Vergina & Pella: Day trip to the Greek Kingdom of Macedonia: During the day, explore the 2 ancient capitals of the Ancient kingdom of Macedonia: the archaeological sites of Pella and Vergina. Discover the beautiful mosaics and the royal tombs. The price includes the transfer from Thessaloniki.
- Day trip to Uranupolis with Mount Athos cruise: From Thessaloniki, you will take the bus to Uranupolis, then do a boat trip around Mount Athos. During your cruise, you will admire the Monasteries and end your day relaxing at one of Chalkidiki’s beaches.
- From Thessaloniki: Full-Day bus trip to Meteora: Discover the impressive Meteora Monasteries, built on top of huge rocks. It was literally my biggest crush during my trip to Greece, it’s really beautiful! This tour includes the transfer from Thessaloniki and the visit of 2 Monasteries.
- Chalkidiki Blue Lagoon cruise with lunch: After picking you up at your hotel, the bus will drive you to the cruise’s port of departure. During your boat trip, you will see the islands of Drenia, Ammouliani and Diaporos, in Chalkidiki Peninsula. You will of course have some time to take a dip!
Where to stay in Thessaloniki
- Stay Hybrid Hostel: This youth hostel is located around Ladadika and Valaoritou districts. Dormitory rooms starting from 10€ per night only! Strong points: the price, the modern rooms, the ideal location to go out at night, the rooftop.
- Plaza Hotel, Philian Hotels and Resorts: Located in Ladadika district, only 50 meters from the seaside. The warm double rooms, with comfortable beds are starting from 60€ per night, with breakfast included. What I loved: the ideal location, if you want to get around Thessaloniki on foot, the great breakfast, the kind staff. A great choice in Thessaloniki for its exceptional value for money!
- Astoria: Located 300 meters from the port and 500 meters from Modiano market. The double rooms, with a balcony for some of them, are starting for 100€ per night, with a 10€ breakfast. Strong points: the location, the good breakfast, the kind staff.
- Electra Palace Thessaloniki: This 5-star hotel is located on Aristotelous Square, in the heart of the city. You will love its large rooms with a classical decoration and wooden furniture! The price starts at 200€ per night, including breakfast. What I loved: the swimming pool and the restaurant on the roof, with a great panoramic view, the location in the city centre, the hotel services. The best choice for a luxury stay in Thessaloniki!
Where to eat in Thessaloniki
- Faidimos: Located in Valaoritou district, this restaurant offers a typical Greek cuisine served in a modern setting. You will love the warm welcome and friendly atmosphere.
- Tripia Potiria: Located close to Agios Dimitros Church, in the flea market. You will enjoy copious and tasty dishes, made with fresh products. The staff is really kind and the prices are reasonable.
- Rouga: Located right next to Ermou Street and the Jewish Museum. There, you can share many starters and main courses. It’s ideal if you want to discover Greek gastronomy for a really reasonable price!
There are many great restaurants and taverns in Thessaloniki, and most of them are quite inexpensive.
If you don’t want to eat in a restaurant, you can also try the Gyros, a typical Greek Sandwich made with pork or chicken. It’s really easy to find one in Thessaloniki!
How to get to Thessaloniki?
Thessaloniki has an international airport. It’s easy to get there from nearly anywhere in Europe.
You can also fly to Athens, then take a national flight from Athens to Thessaloniki.
If you choose to rent a car in Greece, you have to know that Thessaloniki is 500 km away from Athens. It takes 5h15 to connect Greece’s 2 main cities!
If you decide to drive from Athens to Thessaloniki, you should take some time to discover 2 beautiful points of interest: the ancient site of Delphi (2h25 from Athens), and the Meteora (3h15 from Delphi and 2h40 from Thessaloniki).
Spend a night on each site to get some rest.
Tourist map of Thessaloniki
I have created for you a tourist map of Thessaloniki, with all the best things to do in and around the city I have talked about in this article. You can display the map legend by clicking on the top left button, the one with a little arrow on it.
And you, what do you plan to visit during your stay in Thessaloniki?
Greece travel guides
- Buy the Lonely Planet Greece guide on Amazon.com or on Amazon.co.uk
- Buy the DK Eyewitness Greece guide on Amazon.com or on Amazon.co.uk
You’re traveling to Greece ? These articles will help you !
Discover all my articles about Greece: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Greece are listed there.
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