Aug 15, 2019

Thessaloniki: the charismatic and chaotic Greek city that also conquers by gastronomy

Thessaloniki is known as the gastronomic capital of Greece and I assure you that this is a completely deserved title. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of the offer and the quality of the restaurants in this city.


My love for Thessaloniki began even before I saw it. How? Let me explain: a few years ago, I read a book by Victoria Hislop entitled "The Thread" (published in Portugal under the title "The Ark") which takes place in this city and which tells the story of a Greek family, over the years and for several generations.

The author's descriptions of Thessaloniki, its steep hills and narrow alleys and its wide seafront that kisses the Aegean Sea were so impressed on my mind and imagination that when I arrived there it seemed to me that I had already known the second largest city in Greece for a long time.

I must say that it is not an "easy" place to like. It's chaotic, noisy, disorganised, but just like Naples in Italy, it's full of charisma and has a fascinating history. As a bonus, it also has excellent restaurants at super inviting prices.

Ruins, churches and walls

This city played an important role over time and was very important during the domination of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires and during the two Great World Wars.

The vestiges of this rich history are found all over the city and can be easily visited. A stop at the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Byzantine Culture is essential for a better understanding of this Greek city.

Even if you don't visit the museums it's easy to discover Roman ruins and Byzantine churches simply by walking through the city. They are everywhere: close to shops, at the foot of markets, restaurants and cafés.

Religion has always played an important role in Thessaloniki, shaping, along with other factors and traditions, the architectural identity of this Greek city. Some of the most interesting Christian churches, such as Agios Dimitrios, Agios Athanasios, Panagia Trani, Agios Antonios and Agios Minas, date from the period of Turkish occupation.

Thessaloniki has a unique setting. The whole city points to the Aegean Sea and the seafront is full of bars, restaurants and esplanades. It is a wonderful place for walking or cycling and is always full of tourists and locals. It has some of the city's best known attractions such as the White Tower, the sculpture of umbrellas and the statue of Alexander the Great.

The old city

In the hills is Ano Poli, which means "high city". It is the oldest part of Thessaloniki and the only area that survived the great fire of 1917 that almost destroyed the city.

What then emerged from the ashes is very different, from an architectural point of view, from old Thessaloniki, because it was designed by a French architect and has wide streets and open squares.

Ano Poli is a very interesting area to visit. It has traditional old houses, narrow alleys and patios. Around it is the wall of a Byzantine fortress dating back to 209 AD. The fortress itself, Heptapyrgion, is situated at the top of the ancient city and has a spectacular view of Thessaloniki and the sea.

Markets and beaches

Kapani and Modiano, the two main markets of the city, are located in the center, very close to each other. The Modiano market was designed between 1922 and 1930 by the architect Eli Modiano and Kapani is so old that nobody knows for sure how long it has been there (it is thought that since 1498).

Like all markets, they are colourful and ideal places to get to know the daily life of the locals a little better. They are full of spices, vegetables and products typical of this Greek region.

To escape from the city, those who like the beach can spend the day in Perea or Agia Triada.

Thessaloniki is an excellent option for holidays. It's much less touristy and much less expensive than other similar coastal European cities. The food is excellent and the nightlife is vibrant and lively. In summer there are always a lot of people on the streets and on the terraces. The atmosphere is young and carefree and the sunsets are memorable.