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Greece : TRAVEL DIARIES – A Travel Guide for Two Days in Thessaloniki

Greece may be best known for its islands, but the fact that its big cities are way more than just a location for a flight connection is something I discovered the last time Daniel and I paid Greece a visit. We decided to spend a few days in Athens during our trip to Zakynthos, and fell in love with a whole new side of Greece we never knew before. Which is why we decided to weave in a different city during this trip too – Thessaloniki!

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

Greece travel guides

The city of Thessaloniki, capital of Macedonia, is an important crossroads in Greece. It is the second largest city in Greece after Athens and is the main city of northern Greece, a starting point for many tourists who often begin their tour of northern Greece, and from where they catch a connecting flight to other destinations in the country.

Like Athens, Thessaloniki is an eclectic city that combines ancient history with modernisation. A mixture of Greek, Armenian, Ottoman and Jewish traditions, where ruins and ancient structures sit naturally among modern buildings.

Although I find Thessaloniki and Athens very different from each other… Athens is like a charming and beautiful woman, the kind you can’t not fall in love with, while Thessaloniki is the kind of woman that’s hard to decipher at first, but once you get to know her – sparks all around!

 

 

What do I mean? Well, Thessaloniki doesn’t make the greatest first impression… kind of old fashioned, not the cleanest out there, and nothing seemingly special about it. Let’s just say not your classic European city. Once you start walking around though, wow, that’s when the city’s magic is revealed. Thessaloniki is a university city with a huge student community, causing it to be particularly young and vibrant, despite its ancient roots. The streets are full of people at almost every hour of the day, most of them young students, which is why I wasn't surprised to see how many cool places there are to hang out in. Like anywhere else with a large concentration of young people, Thessaloniki is a dynamic city with a growing scene of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs, and is also home to a street art scene. Basicallyת if you’re planning a trip to northern Greece, don’t miss out on a couple of days in Thessaloniki.

Here’s my guide to 48 hours in the greatest city in northern Greece…

Click here to download my map of Thessaloniki

{Click here to watch my Insta-stories published while in Thessaloniki}

 

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

STAY

 

When it comes to staying in urban cities, small boutique hotels are totally my cup of tea. So the moment Daniel and I found this little hotel with the beautiful blue facade, we immediately knew this was where we’d like to spend our urban part of the trip to northern Greece.

Antigon Urban Chic Hotel is located in the heart of Thessaloniki, a short walking distance from the city’s main attractions, and meets all the criteria of a luxurious boutique hotel. Design with attention to detail? Yep! Amazing shower and a bed you wish you could take home with you? Definitely! Excellent breakfast? Check! Good service at every hour? Absolutely! And they even offer a special treat I have yet to see anywhere else… details to come 🙂

 

 

We arrived at the hotel after a relatively early morning flight, a few hours before check in … Immediately after one of the hotel staff had parked our rented car {yes, there was parking at the hotel! Most important in a dense urban city, like Thessaloniki}, we were warmly welcomed with cold drinks and told by the staff that they would do everything they can to provide us with our room as soon as possible.

We entered our room not long after. The Double Room with Balcony, though typically to an urban hotel not very large, was delightfully designed and scented. With a lovely little balcony with a street view, the room was pretty quiet during the day, probably due to the intelligent use of soundproof windows, very important when waking up late is easy since breakfast is served till the late hours of the morning.

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

 

And speaking of breakfast, one simply cannot disregard the room where it is served. The hotel's bistro is a unique space with a glass floor that allows diners to see the remains of the street from the time of the Roman Empire, exposed during the restoration of the building. And if that’s not enough – the building's roof is electric, and from time to time, weather permitting, guests are seated in this amazing space right under the open sky. The breakfast buffet itself is no less impressive than the space, a delicious spread of fresh foods – from savoury pastries baked on location, through fresh produce, sausages, cheeses, and a wonderful muesli stand {topped with various dried fruit, nuts, and a honeycomb}. The hotel offers a menu a-la-carte as well, because how could you not, from which guests can order special dishes like eggs Benedict, traditional egg dish with feta cheese, pancakes, and more.

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

The cherry on top, and the X- factor in this hotel, is the jacuzzi room – reservations can be made for a private hour in the room during your stay. The very thought of such a feature is wonderful to me, but what is even more wonderful is this couple’s room … Let's start with the jacuzzi itself- I have never seen a Jacuzzi of this size, certainly not when the Jacuzzi is reserved for only two people. Aside from the pampering Jacuzzi, the room also has comfortable seating areas and a basket with towels, slippers and clean robes. Oh, and before I forget – the roof in this room can also be opened and closed … if you already have a private jacuzzi, why not splash around under the open sky?

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

I highly recommend Antigon Urban Chic Hotel, and have no doubt that we would be back if we visit Thessaloniki again ♥

 

EXPLORE

 

Aristotelous Square  The ideal starting point for exploring the city is the city's main square, which opens to the sea and is a central part of the life in the city. The large square is surrounded by beautiful buildings, and is packed with restaurants, cafes and little shops. By the way, on a clear day, you can even see mount Olympus.

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

White Tower of Thessaloniki  Every city has its symbolic structure. If in Paris it’s the Eiffel, in Thessaloniki it’s the White Tower, topped with the Greek flag. When strolling on the Nicos promenade near the sea, this tower cannot be missed. A round tower with six floors and  winding staircase, it was built during the 15th century and was intended to guard the city by the sea. During the Ottoman conquest, the tower was called the “blood tower” because it served as a prison where many prisoners were brutally executed. After the city was liberated by the Greeks, the historic tower was painted in white, with the aim of purifying it of its evil past, giving it its name. As you can see in the pictures, the white paint has pretty much faded {and from what I read they say it has been cleaned of it past}, but it has remained an iconic symbol of the city, and from the top you can see the city from above.

The tower is also home to the Museum of Byzantine Culture, where documentation and research on the development of the Byzantine culture in the Macedonia and Thessaloniki region is showcased.  Among the displayed are coffins, wall paintings, art objects, sculptures and more. However, the tower’s interactive exhibition is not particularly accessible to people who do not understand Greek {for a small fee, a headset with a very minimal English explanation can be rented}.

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

Alexander the Great Statue  Close to the White Tower, on the city’s promenade, stands the statue of Alexander the Great, who was the king of Macedon, and one of the greatest warlords and statesman in ancient history.

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

Georgios Zongolopoulos Umbrella  A few meters away from Alexander the Great Statue stands Georgios Zongolopoulos’s Umbrella Statue, considered a modern symbol of Thessaloniki.

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

Modiano Market  The city's main market is the place to experience the special flavours and aromas of Greece, and particularly of Thessaloniki. Basically anything that comes to mind when you think of Greek cuisine can be found in this market – fresh fish, pastries, coffee, olives, marvellous cheeses, and of course authentic market restaurants.

Kapani Market  Near Aristotelous Square, Kapani Market is a smaller, more local market. This guide includes a recommendation to a restaurant in the market you shouldn’t miss!

 

 

Louloudadika Flower Market  The city's flower market is not very big, but it is a must-see for any flower lover 🙂

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

Arch of Galerius  This gate was built in order to glorify and celebrate the victory of Emperor Galerius in a battle held in the year 297. Its construction was completed in 305 CE. The remains of the gate are decorated with engravings and sculptural elements depicting the battles won by the emperor.

 

 

The Roman Forum  One of the most ancient sites in Thessaloniki is the two-story Roman-era forum.

 

 

Rotunda  The dome-shaped building is decorated with mosaics and is one of the oldest buildings in all of Greece, built by the Romans at the beginning of the fourth century CE and designed to serve as a mausoleum for the Emperor Galerius. The history of the building illustrates the story and history of the city – in the Byzantine period the building became a church and during the Ottoman occupation it was converted into a mosque.

 

 

Churches  Most of the churches in Thessaloniki were built in the Byzantine period and some are included in UNESCO's World Heritage List. The most famous of them all is Agia Sofia Church, named after the iconic Turkish temple of Constantinople. Another famous church of the city, and the largest church in Greece, is the church of Aghios Dimitrios. The church was burned down, and restored, and inside there are remarkable mosaics and also a burial cave for Demetrius, the saint of Thessaloniki, who was imprisoned and executed there by the Romans.

 

 

Three more attractions we didn’t visit, though they might be of interest to you….

The Archaeological Museum  One of the most important museums in Greece, where works of art and findings from different periods in the history of Thessaloniki and the region of Macedonia are on view.

Trigoniou Tower  A 15th-century tower in the upper town of Thessaloniki, with its most spectacular view of the city.

Cruises from Thessaloniki Port  Right next to the city’s white tower, boat tours set off on a daily basis on wooden boats that resemble pirate boats, for a one hour tour of the bay, at the cost of buying at least one drink on board.

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

 

SHOP

 

As a big city, Thessaloniki is not disappointing in terms of shopping. ? The city offers plenty of possibilities for shopping enthusiasts – from well known fashion chains, through intimate and special boutiques, to luxury brands. Keep in mind that although it is a big city, this is still Greece we’re talking about, and the stores tend to open at 9am, are closed for an afternoon break from 2 or 3 pm until 5 pm {and some don’t even open in the afternoon, so it’s worth checking with Google}. However,international chains are usually open all day until 9 pm.

Tsimiski Street  The city's main street has all the famous chains, such as H&M, Zara, Mango and Pull and Bear.

Proxenou Koromila  Parallel to the main street you will find accessories and shoe stores, small boutiques and luxury brand shops, along with cute cafes.

Of course there are more stores around the city but this area is worth focusing on if you want to avoid running around 🙂

EAT

 

Greek cuisine is one of my favorite in the world, and the food in Thessaloniki even has a certain advantage over the rest of the country thanks to the complex history of the place. The many years of occupation the city has known left a mark on the food as well, and aside from the traditional Greek food known to me so far, the city also has a lot of pastries with a Turkish flavour that are really good 🙂

 

Restaurants

Foul Tou Meze  Every trip to Greece has got to start with simple, authentic Greek food… The recommendation for our first meal was from the hotel, after we asked for the name of the best most traditional tavern in town. And this indeed matched all of our expectations! This excellent tavern is in the historic Ladadika district of the city, filled with colorful buildings with traditional taverns next to modern bars, where you can find all the Greek dishes you ever dreamed of. The rich menu made the selection rather difficult but we ended up going for the classics -Greek salad, vine leaves and tzatziki, fava spread and amazing kebabs. Everything was fresh and finger lickin’ good 🙂 Do not skip this one.

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

Modigliani   Another wonderful tavern we reached by chance wandering around Kapani Market, is Modigliani. A much smaller restaurant than the tavern mentioned above, though it is as charming as only a true market restaurant can be. We first passed by this place when we were full from souflaki we grabbed right before, but promised ourselves we wouldn’t leave the city without eating here. And so it was. Our last Greek meal was spent here and it was an absolute pleasure! One of the things we enjoyed most about this restaurant (besides the great food) was the option to order smaller appetizers for only two Euros a piece. We had a large filling meal {with no room for dessert!} for only 20 euros.

 

 

Antigon hotel Bistro  In the Antigon Hotel lobby, in the very same magical space where the hotel breakfast is served, every evening a fine bistro serves a mix of Greek dishes and dishes from different cuisines from around the world along with quality wines. A meal at the bistro begins with a fresh bread basket, right out of the oven, served with a side of delicious dips and olives. To start, we ordered an amazing salmon ceviche and quinoa salad, and we also shared a mushroom risotto {which was by far the best risotto I have ever tasted}. For the main course Daniel ordered the sea-bass with cauliflower puree, and I pickef the Picanha with gnocchi. A delicious red velvet cake was our dessert. This is a quite a prestigious restaurant, its dress code and prices accordingly.

 

 

Kitchen Bar  At the port, right on the dock, is one of the most fun places in town. Whether you’d like a full meal or just a drink, at the Kitchen Bar you can enjoy a vibrant atmosphere, a perfect view of the sea {especially if you catch a good table}, excellent service, and a fusion menu. Not all the dishes we ordered were amazing {hamburgers and Greek cigars were great, less great were the pizza and dessert}, but the cocktails are good and the atmosphere and location also make up for it all. We even went back there again for an afternoon coffee 🙂

 

On the Road

Olive Oil & Oregano  Thessaloniki has a ton of shish-kebab joints, where you can grab a giros, souvlaki, or kebab, and I'm pretty sure most of them are good… after all, it’s like looking for a good falafel in Israel {hard to find a bad one}. But if you still don’t want to risk it, we enjoyed ourselves at Olive Oil & Oregano, in Aristotelous Square. Pita was great, salad and tzatziki were fresh, and the meat was seasoned and tasty.

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

The Last Slice  A short walk from Aristotelous Square is this little pizza shop. A cool place that serves great pizza with a variety of toppings.

 

Sweets

A Charming Bakery  Right at the entrance to Kapani Market , on the left, is an amazing bakery with the best most perfect pastries I have ever tasted. Unfortunately I didn’t manage finding its name {sign was in greek and Google search didn’t supply me with reasonable results}, but it cannot be missed. We tasted a large apple pie pastry, which tastes better than any pie I’ve had in many boutique bakeries around the world, and the prices are super inexpensive!

 

A Guide For Planning A Trip To Thessaloniki - Things to do in the capital of Macedonia {2 day itinerary, including food & restaurants tips, shopping and sightseeing}

 

Terkenlis 1948  Another great pastry shop with branches scattered all over the city is the old Terkenlis {by the way, it turns out they have branches in Athens and several other places in Greece}. This pastry shop offers a crazy amount of baked goods and cookies, chocolates, ice creams, sandwiches, and whatnot… If you somehow managed to miss it during your visit, look for their stand at the airport {and don’t forget to buy yourself a souvenir 🙂 }.

Choureal  A little sweets shop whose specialty is roux dough and cream puffs baked on location filled with the most delicious cream. Their flagship dish is small little bowl rich with puffs served with an insane amount of flavored creams. Perfect for over the top dessert lovers.  

 

 

 

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Know more interesting things to do in Thessaloniki? Leave me a comment below

 

 

 

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2 Responses

  1. You’re incredible. According to your review seems like you were born there. You’ve discovered and described more and better then any of Thessaloniki tourists guide. Who is your editor🙂. I’m older guy who is researching that place lately but I haven’t see anything better. Also I am looking for local people in order to accomplish my search. I’ll be there in next couple weeks. BTW you look great.
    Ed

    1. Thank you!! I love Greece so much and I’m happy that it shows through this travel guide 🙂 Enjoy your trip!

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