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20 Things to do in Beautiful Thessaloniki

by Cecilie
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Best attractions and things to do in Thessaloniki blog post header

In this blog post I’m going to share all the best things to do in Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki was the very first stop in my trip to Greece, and I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found here!

Tucked away in the North of Greece and often overlooked by its big brother in the South, Athens, Thessaloniki isn’t that popular a tourist destination. And that’s a shame. Because Thessaloniki is the perfect place to spend a weekend or a couple of nights during a trip to Greece.

So in this blog post, I’m going to share all the best attractions and things you can do in Thessaloniki, which will hopefully spark your travel lust to visit this beautiful city full of UNESCO monuments.

I’ll start with presenting what to do in Thessaloniki, then I’ll share my MUST SEE favorites, and end this article with a FAQ about stuff like how to get to the city center from the airport etc.

So when you’re done reading this blog post, you should be 100% ready to book your flight tickets, pack your suitcase, and GO!

20 attractions, activites & things to do in Thessaloniki

All right! Let’s dive right into it. Here are the 20 best things to do in Thessaloniki.

1. Go for a stroll by the waterfront

One of the best ways to enjoy Thessaloniki is to head to the waterfront. Here you’ll find a promenade right next to the ocean.

Take a stroll towards the White Tower, enjoy the sound of the waves hitting the curb, and try to spot the old parts of town through the opening between buildings on the opposite side of the promenade.

The waterfront really is the best way to start your exploration of Thessaloniki.

Waterfront at Thessaloniki with white tower in the back - one of the best things to do
The waterfront of Thessaloniki with the White Tower in the back

2. Visit the iconic White Tower

While you’re at the waterfront, you’ll spot the iconic White Tower. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions and best things to do in Thessaloniki.

The White Tower was constructed by the Ottomans in the 15th century and is thought to have replaced an older tower from the Byzantine Period. Today it stands 33,9 meters tall and has a diameter of 22,7 meter.

But the White Tower is not just an impressive building, it’s also a museum, which you can easily visit on your trip to Thessaloniki. We unfortunately never made it inside the White Tower. But it definitely looks worth it as it not only provides a great exhibition inside, but also has a great viewpoint from the top deck.

White Tower Opening Hours 2021White Tower Ticket Prices 2021
Summer time 1/4 – 31/10: 8 AM – 8 PMSummer time 1/4 – 31/10: €8 for adults
Winter time 1/11 – 31/3: 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM (unsure)Winter time 1/11 – 31/3: €4 for adults
(I’m a bit unsure about the opening hours during the winter season)

3. Watch the sunset by the ocean

One of the most lively and atmospheric places in Thessaloniki is the waterfront during sunset.

By the White Tower, you’ll find many street vendors selling crunchy corn and delicious candy for the excited sunset spectators all the while happy, laughing kids are running around playing and lovers are holding hands.

It’s such a lovely place to enjoy the sunset, and I can 100% recommend it as one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki.

However, if you want to try and find a more serene and quiet sunset spot, then you might skip the oceanfront and instead head up the hill to one of the many great viewpoints in Ano Poli.

4. Watch the sunset from a boat

By the White Tower, you’ll also find a bunch of cruises and ships. These are purely made for tourism – and they’re actually bars. While I’m normally not into these things, I must admit it did look fun.

Jump on one of these boats before sunset, buy a drink, and let them take you around the bay of Thessaloniki. The sail trip is free as long as you pay for a drink. Actually a pretty cool concept.

Pirate ship in the bay of Thessaloniki, Greece
A pirate ship taking a spin around Thessaloniki Bay at sunset

5. See the Umbrellas by the waterfront

Another great thing to do in the area by the waterfront of Thessaloniki is to see the “Umbrellas”.

The Umbrellas is an art installation created in 1997 by sculptor Georgios Zongolopoulos and is basically dozens of 13 meter high umbrellas situated right by the ocean. You’ll find the art installation only a stone’s throw away from the White Tower.

We unfortunately didn’t hear about these cool umbrellas until after we had left Thessaloniki… So make sure to walk a little further than the White Tower, so that you don’t miss out on this cool art.

6. Walk around the Ano Poli neighborhood

While downtown Thessaloniki is busy and bustling, the old part of Thessaloniki is calm and quiet. Ano Poli is the name of Thessaloniki’s old neighborhood, and it’s completely different than the city center.

If you want to visit some of the greatest viewpoints of Thessaloniki, see a whole different architecture than in the city center, and explore the history of the Byzantine era, then you should head to Ano Poli.

I absolutely LOVED getting lost in the small streets of Ano Poli, and if you ask me, it’s certainly one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki.

You can either walk up the steep hill (that way you get to see more of the city) or jump on a local bus.

Ano Poli neighborhood in Thessaloniki, Greece
One of the many small alleys in Ano Poli with a hidden view to the sea

7. Find Thessaloniki’s best viewpoints

There are so many great viewpoints in Thessaloniki!

Head up the hill from downtown towards the areas of Ano Poli or Agios Paulos. Here you’ll find some incredible viewpoints over downtown Thessaloniki with its beautiful, blue bay in the back.

One of the best viewpoints are located right by the Trigonion Tower, which is also one of the more popular things to see in Thessaloniki.

One of the best things to do in Thessaloniki is visit the viewpoints - here is one out of many
One of many beautiful viewpoints in Thessaloniki

8. Check out the Byzantine city walls

Make sure to check out the Byzantine walls when you’re visiting Ano Poli.

These ancient city walls used to protect Thessaloniki from its enemies. And they must have done a great job seeing that they’ve been standing here since they were built in 390 AD.

With other Byzantine monuments in Thessaloniki, the Byzantine city walls have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. The Byzantine walls are an important part of the history in Thessaloniki – and definitely worth a visit.

The Byzantine city walls of Thessaloniki
Byzantine Walls of Thessaloniki

9. Visit the Trigonion Tower

If you want to explore more of the Byzantine walls, then you can visit the Trigonion Tower (also known as Alysseos).

The Trigonion Tower is also a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Thessaloniki, and it was built in the late 15th century to prevent invasion of the city. It was the perfect placement for an artillery tower because of its great overview of the city walls. With a tower like this, it wasn’t easy to invade Thessaloniki.

You can easily visit the Trigonion Tower on your trip to Thessaloniki. But whether you choose to go inside or not, a visit is till mandatory because of the great viewpoint you have by the entrance of the tower.

Trigonion Tower Opening Hours 2021Trigonion Tower Ticket Price 2021
Daily 10 AM – 5 PM (closed on Tuesdays)Adults: €6 (including access to Eptapyrgion)

10. Visit the Eptapyrgion

The Eptapyrgion (Heptapyrgio) is a fortress built in the 14th century as the city’s last stronghold in case of invasion.

However, it has developed a rather interesting history over the years. It became a prison in the 1890’s, which it stayed for 100 years until the prison was closed in 1989. Today it’s a museum, which you can easily visit on your Thessaloniki trip.

The Eptapyrgion is located a 10-minute walk uphill from the Trigonion Tower, and it’s one of the must things to do in this area of Thessaloniki.

Eptapyrgion Opening Hours 2021Eptapyrgion Ticket Price 2021
Daily 10 AM – 5 PM (closed on Tuesdays)Adults: €6 (including access to Trigonion Tower)
Heptagyrion in Thessaloniki
Eptagyrion – Fortress, prison & museum

11. Explore Thessaloniki’s churches

Have you ever visited a Greek Orthodox church? They’re often beautifully decorated inside and very interesting to explore.

Luckily there are several churches to explore in Thessaloniki and visiting them also happens to be one of the best free things to do in the city!

During our trip to Thessaloniki, we visited a handful of churches. But I think that I was most impressed by the interior of the Agios Dimitros. A beautiful church from the Byzantine Era and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Thessaloniki.

Apart from exploring this church, you can also visit the Church of Agia Sofia, the Church of Panagia Chalkeon, the Church of Panagia Acheiropoietos or the Monastery of Vlatadon – just to name a few.

Remember to dress appropriately when entering the churches, which means cover you knees and shoulders. And preferably wear a skirt if you’re a woman. While I found that the churches in the big Greek cities are more relaxed on dress code, you should still try your best to respect the norms of what to wear.

Agios Dimitris church in Thessaloniki
Agios Dimitros

12. Visit the Rotunda

The Rotunda is one of the most popular landmarks and attractions of Thessaloniki – and certainly one of the best things to see!

It was built by the Romans in 306 AD as a mausoleum for Emperor Galerius.

However, the Rotunda never fulfilled its destiny as a mausoleum, and it stood empty for years until it was turned into a Christian Church in the late fourth century. Which is ironic because Emperor Galerius was known for his persecution of Christians…

Today it’s an important part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Thessaloniki, and it remains the oldest church in the city.

Rotunda Opening Hours 2021Rotunda Ticket Price 2021
Daily: 8 AM – 8 PM (Closed on Tuesdays)Adults: €6
One of the best attractions in Thessaloniki is the Rotunda
A visit to the Rotunda is one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki

13. Take a picture under the Arch of Galerius

A 2-minute walk away from the Rotunda, you’ll find the Arch of Galerius. It was built in honor of Emperor Galerius in the early 4th century after his victorious return from the war against the Persians.

The Arch of Galerius is an important piece of history in Thessaloniki, plus it’s one of the best free things to see in the city – so make sure to stop by on your trip!

The Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki, Greece
The Arch of Galerius

14. Explore Thessaloniki’s 8 museums

Thessaloniki has the 8 following museums that you can visit on your trip:

  • Archaeological Museum
  • Atatürk Museum
  • Byzantine Culture Museum
  • Cinema Museum
  • Noesis – Science Center and Technology Museum
  • Jewish Museum
  • Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Thessaloniki Museum of Photography
  • White Tower

The opening hours and ticket prices differ from museum to museum. So, I suggest that you choose whichever sounds the most interesting to you and go look up the times and prices for that specific museum.

Unfortunately, we don’t have museum recommendations for you because neither Glenn or I made it to any of the museums. So leave us a comment below if you want to share your experience with us, and hopefully we can visit some of these museums in our next trip to Thessaloniki.

Atatürk museum and birthplace in Thessaloniki
Museum and birthplace of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

15. Get your Greek goods at Modiano Market

One of the best things to do in Thessaloniki, if you’re a BIG foodie, is to visit the Modiano Market. The market is located in an old building from 1922, which was designed by architect Eli Modiano.

Here you can buy spices and herbs, nuts and beans, Greek olives, fruit, Feta cheese, fresh fish, meat – and much more!

So remember to stop by the Modiano Market if you want to bring some Greek goods home with you – just make sure that you can take it with you through customs when you return to your home country… So probably DON’T fill up your luggage with fish… Just a tip.

The Modiano Market is open every day of the week except for Sundays. The opening hours differ in the evenings and afternoons of the weekdays. So if you want to make sure to stop by the market while it’s open, then you should probably visit earlier in the day.

16. Explore the Ancient Agora of Thessaloniki

One of the best historical things to see in Thessaloniki is the Ancient Agora! Also known as the Roman Forum, this was probably one of the most important places in the city during the Hellenistic time period.

Several Roman baths, a stoa, and a small theater has been discovered in the area. You can either visit the Ancient Agora by paying the entrance fee to walk among the ruins, or you can just walk by and get some great (and free!) views from the outside.

Ancient Agora Opening Hours 2021Ancient Agora Ticket Price 2021
Daily: 8 AM – 8 PM (closed on Tuesdays)Adults: €8 (including access to Galerian Complex)
Roman Forum/Ancient Agora in Thessaloniki
Ancient Agora of Thessaloniki seen from the outside

17. Have a drink at Ladadika

Ladadika is a historical and hip district located close to the harbor of Thessaloniki. This is one of the best places to go in Thessaloniki if you’re looking for some cozy bars.

The neighborhood got its name from the olive oil merchants who had their shops in the area up until 1917.

Ladadika has a different architecture and atmosphere than the rest of Thessaloniki, which gives it a permanent spot on this list of the best things to do in the city. So make sure to have a walk in the neighborhood and stop by for a glass of Retsina or a pint of beer. Definitely a must see!

Ladadika neighborhood in Thessaloniki, Greece
A walk through Ladadika

18. Go shopping

If I have to be totally honest, then I DON’T think that shopping is one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki.

Nonetheless, there are so many shops – both local and international stores, which you can visit on your trip if you want to do a little bit of shopping.

Just make sure to also enjoy some of the great attractions of Thessaloniki, which are mentioned on this list.

19. Go to the beach

Are you visiting Thessaloniki during the summer? Then make sure to take a trip to one of the many great beaches in the nearby area! I mean, going for a swim in the Aegean Sea surely must be one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki during the hot summer months.

We (unfortunately!) visited Thessaloniki during Fall, so we decided to skip the beaches this time around. So, I have no recommendations for you… But here is a link to a beach guide made by a fellow blogger: Best beaches near Thessaloniki

20. Go on a day trip

Already seen enough of Thessaloniki? Then go on a day trip!

Greece has a great train, bus, and ferry network – so you can easily go on a 1- or 2-day trip from Thessaloniki to somewhere else in Greece.

You can visit the bays and sandy beaches of Halkidiki, the incredible monasteries in the sky at Meteora, go relax in the Pozar thermal baths, or hike to the top of Mount Chortiatis.

Greece has so much to offer! You’ll never run out of things to see in this amazing country.

My favorite things to do in Thessaloniki – MUST SEE

All right. Before I put an end to this blog post about all the best things to do in Thessaloniki, I want to share my favorite places and moments in the city.

Thessaloniki has so much interesting history and culture, but it was honestly its beauty that did it for me… While downtown may not look that appealing, Ano Poli certainly is! You must not skip out on this neighborhood located on the hill. You’ll find some breathtaking views of the ocean and the city center, which are definitely a MUST SEE.

Apart from Ano Poli, I also really loved the waterfront. Walking in between the bustling city and the Aegan Sea was really nice. Especially during sunset when the sky turns orange. Just lovely!

So my advice to you is that while it’s easy to get lost in all the culture and history that the city has to offer, it’s also important that you get to appreciate the many beautiful places in Thessaloniki.

Selfie at a viewpoint in Thessaloniki, Greece
Selfie with a view!

FAQ: Things to know before your trip to Thessaloniki

Why visit Thessaloniki?

If it isn’t obvious by now, then I wouldn’t know how to convince you to visit. I think this blog post pretty much sums up all the great things to do in Thessaloniki and thus why it’s worth visiting. But in 3 words: The viewpoints, the history, and the food.

How to get to Thessaloniki from the airport?

By Public bus: Follow the bus signs when you exit the airport and buy your ticket at the bus stop. We paid €2 per person and took bus X1. The public bus took around 45 minutes from the airport to Thessaloniki city center.
By taxi: The price is around €20 and the trip takes 30 minutes.

Is Thessaloniki safe to visit?

Yes. There are criminal activities everywhere in the world – also in Thessaloniki. But don’t overthink safety issues here. We found it super safe! So as long as you use your common sense and take care of your belongings, then you’ll be just fine.

How expensive is Thessaloniki?

We paid €36 per night for a small apartment and €50 in total for food and drinks for 2 people. So you can easily live for under €100 as a couple per day. However, it also depends on how many attractions you want to see while you’re in Thessaloniki. The more sightseeing you do, the more money you spent.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about all the best things to do in Thessaloniki! I feel like we still only scratched the surface of Thessaloniki, so Glenn and I will definitely be back some day to explore more of this beautiful city and update this blog post for you.

Please do share your experience or questions in the comment section below. Thanks for reading and happy travels!

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