Thessaloniki in Greece
Thessaloniki, (also known as Salonika or Saloniki, ) has given Greece some of its greatest musicians, artists, poets and thinkers. It has some of the finest hotels and best restaurants in northern Greece. Thessaloniki is a very different city from Athens but no less sophisticated and (some might say) culturally superior. The influence of the east is more pronounced, not just in the delicious food, but in the relaxed lifestyle. Thessaloniki is a big... Read more...
Who’s been here?
Latest updates from our Thessaloniki travelers
Thessaloniki, (also known as Salonika or Saloniki, ) has given Greece some of its greatest musicians, artists, poets and thinkers. It has some of the finest hotels and best restaurants in northern Greece.
Thessaloniki is a very different city from Athens but no less sophisticated and (some might say) culturally superior. The influence of the east is more pronounced, not just in the delicious food, but in the relaxed lifestyle. Thessaloniki is a big city, the most important port in the Balkans, with an almost college town feel, like Boston or Austin, but Greek. The nightlife in Thessaloniki is exceptional, the bars and clubs play great music.
Thessaloniki is a lively modern city bustling with life and movement. Large avenues, parks and squares, lines of trees that frame commercial streets with showy shop windows. Old houses, neoclassical buildings, stand side by side with modern dwellings which makes a walk through any section of the city an interesting journey. The past and present merge at old taverns, "ouzeries", restaurants next to hotels and luxury bars, "bouzouki halls" (Thessaloniki is the cradle of Greek popular music, "rembetika"), cinema halls, theaters and sidewalk cafes on street pavements and squares. Small family run taverns and basement pastry shops offer a delicious variety of famous Macedonian specialties, next to stalls of ice-cream sellers for busy pedestrians.
The main squares are Platia Elefterias and Platia Aristotelous, both on the waterfront and alive with cafes and restaurants, children playing or people just strolling. This is the place to be in the summer at sunset if you enjoy people watching. Afterwards walk a few blocks to the Ladadika neighborhood, the old Red Light district (and before that the Egyptian market and later the oil market from where it got its name) which is to Thessaloniki as Psiri is to Athens, full of ouzeries, bars, cafes and bistro-style restaurants and tavernas. The old port area is being rennovated with warehouses being turned into large restaurants and clubs and even an art gallery or two. If you follow the port road of Leoforos Nikis heading east along the bay you will come to the Lefkos Pyrgos, or White Tower: is the symbol of the city and is close to the University area with its clubs and bars. Τhe International Trade fairgrounds are located is nearby as is the excellent archaeology museum. The White Tower itself is also a museum of art and history. It was built in the 15th Century and was at one time a prison for insubordinate Janisaries, the soldiers of the sultan who had been taken from their Christian parents as children and molded into his elite storm troopers. The neighborhood of Kalamaria is a modern area on the eastern edge of the city, overlooking a large marina and the Thermaikos Gulf. There is a green park above the sea and a number of ouzeries, restaurants, bars and cafes and is a hangout for the young as well as families.
Above the lively city is the world of the Epimenidou or Kastra, an area of old neighborhoods with narrow streets and lovely small gardens with children playing in front of wide open doors. Popular songs from old gramophones fill the air along with the sweet smell of flowers that emit their incredibly beautiful aromas at night. This is the old Turkish quarter of the city and is the remains of 19th century Thessaloniki and the walls that surrounded the city are still standing.
Thessaloniki is in the process of building their metro system which should do for them what the Athens Metro did for the capital, get more cars off the street and more people using public transport. The train station is also undergoing intensive remodeling in 2008.
By nighttrain from Athens (Larissa station), about 6 h. Costs 20€-31€ (depending on the train), or about 50 if you want a sleeping compartment to yourself.
Daily trains from Athens take 4h 15 min (intercity express trains), 6h(normal trains) cost about 50 euros first class. A very good option are the 500/501/502/503 trains, delivering excellent quality of travel at a low price, costing about 14 euros (11 for students and people up to 26) and take only 5h 45min. Unfortunately for smokers, smoking is banned in all but a few trains. The last train at night departs at around 01:50.
There is also a night train (sleeping car) from Istanbul, departure every day at 20.00. It arrives 08.00 next morning and costs 48€.
When you are under 26, you get a discount for 25 % on most trains.
To/From Skopje,-direct link: Skopje to Thessaloniki train is 20€ RT with young person discount, 20% more without. Train leaves for Thessaloniki at 3:10am or 4:00pm. Thessaloniki to Skopje train leaves at 9am or 7pm. Both trains take about 4 hours.
There are also direct train connections to Sofia (at 06:16 and 17:39, take 6 hours), Belgrade (12 hours), Istanbul (12 hours-every evening-arriving next morning), Budapest and Ljubljana (24 hours) via Zagreb (21 hours). But please mind: The trains from Ljubljana arrive usually more than two hours too late in Thessaloniki.
You can buy Balkan FlexiPass tickets for 50€ in the train station international office.
There is a bus every morning at 7am from Skopje's central bus station. This costs MKD1000 (approx. €16) http://www.sas.com.mk/en/timetable.php
A number of local travel agencies in Skopje also arrange transport to Thessaloniki daily by car or minibus. These generally leave around 5am, and cost around €25 for a day return (returning at 5pm) or a single (i.e. €50 if you want to come back on a different day from when you leave!) The travel agent at the back of the shopping mall by the Central Square arranges this departing from beside the Holiday Inn. Others depart from the bus station, or other locations around the city.
Note that although it is fairly easy to find a taxi driver in Thessaloniki who is willing to drive you to Skopje, the reverse is much less true, as the citizens of Republic of Macedonia need a visa to enter Greece, whereas EU citizens can enter Republic of Macedonia without one.
Thessaloniki has an International airport called Makedonia airport http://www.hcaa-eleng.gr/thes.htm, connected to Athens, Milan, Rome, Zurich, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Munich, Frankfurt, Dortmund, Moscow, London, Paris, Vienna, Larnaca, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest.
A flight from Athens costs (one way) about 80 euros-but if you book early, the two domestic airlines (Aegean and Olympic) can offer tickets as low as 19 euros (without tax).
There are several flights to Aegean and Ionian islands.
The most common international airlines are Lufthansa, Swiss air, Malev, Czech air and Easy Jet.
Connection to the City CentreIf your goal is to get out to the airport, hop on bus 78. It connects the airport with the bus station (Ktel), passing by the train station (OSE) and a ticket costs 0.50€ if you buy it from the kiosk (0.60 if you buy it from the automatic ticket vendor, exact change needed). It's about a 25 minute ride. You can take this same bus back from the airport. There is also a night bus (numbered 78N) that takes the same route, and it runs all night every half an hour, for the same ticket price.
A taxi ride from the city center costs about 10-12 euros-it's hard to find one during peak hours (7-8 am, 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm), so plan early!
From Athens about 5-6 hours (Highway). It's around 510 km.
From Istanbul about 8 hours
From Belgrade about 7 hours
One of the burdens for visitors and inhabitants alike is finding a parking place, so be prepared to either spend a lot of time looking for a place or pay for space in the parking lot (starting from 4 euros/3 hours). Don't assume you're safe from paying a fine just because locals flagrantly flout parking laws! Traffic congestion is a problem, largely due to double-parked cars, but generally fellow drivers and passers-by are helpful in showing you the way if you're lost.
The city bus company (called OASTH (http://oasth.gr/index_eng.php) runs a total of 70 different bus lines. The fee is €0.80 independent of the route's length, for a duration of 70 minutes. This means that you can actually switch buses using the same ticket (you will have to recancel it on following buses). A 24h ticket costs €4. 1, 3, 6 and 12-month tickets are also available. Maps of the bus lines are available on the company's website (http://www.oasth.gr/service/routeseng.php).
When to go
Thessaloniki is an all year round destination. The city offers many occasions. The biggest event is the International Film Festival that takes place around October-November.
Every September the International Fair of Thessaloniki takes place, attracting many people from abroad.
In the summer you can combine your visit to the city with an excursion to Chalkidiki, a place full of wonderful beaches.
The city centre is basically the beach walk with surroundings endings with the port in the west and the White tower in the east. To the east along the sea you'll find have Kalamaria with many great bars and night clubs. To the north you'll find Panorama-mostly a semi posh living environment.
Ahepa Hospital, Tel: +30 2310 993111
Address: S. Kyriakidi 1
Interbalkan medical center (private). Tel: +30 2310 400 000 Address: Asklipiou 10
Gennimatas Hospital, Tel: +30 2313 308100
Address: Ethnikis Amynis 41
Ippokrateio Hospital, Tel: +30 2313 312000
Address: A. Papanastasiou 50
Peripheral Road, Nea Efkarpia
First Aid Help
+30 2310 530530
For hospitals on duty call 166
For overnight pharmacies call 1434
Thessaloniki was first established in 316 B.C. by Kassandros and named after his wife, Thessaloniki, half sister of Alexander the Great. It means Victory in Thessaly. It is here that the Apostle Paul first brought the message of Christianity (50 A.D.) and that Demetrius, a Roman officer died in martyrdom (303 A.D.), thus becoming the holy patron of the city.
Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the Byzantine Empire, next to Constantinople, and is full of beautiful examples of Byzantine art and architecture. In the 15th Century Thessaloniki became a haven for Jews exiled from Spain, who became an important part of the culture, until they were sent to the concentration camps during the Nazi occupation, thus ending a period of four hundred years of Jewish influence both socially and economically. This period roughly corresponds with the occupation of Greece by the Ottoman Turks. See A Short history of the Jews in Greece.
It became a part of the modern state of Greece in 1913, but burned in 1917 creating a homeless population of 70, 000. Add to this mix the influx of refugees from Asia minor after the 'population exchange treaty' signed in Lausanne in 1923 between Turkey, Greece and her former allies who abandoned Greece after their defeat in Asia Minor, and you have the makings of a social revolution which took the form of Rembetika music. To this day some of Greece's the most creative musicians including Dionysious Savopoulos, Stellios Kazantzides and Nikos Papazoglou, come from Thessaloniki.
Quick Facts about Thessaloniki
Country Dialing Code
+30 2310 553450
+30 2310 551525, +30 2310 214900, +30 2310 550500
+30 2310 554871