Thessaloniki is one of those cities that I can go back to time and time again and it never gets old. It’s the 2nd biggest city in Greece and is rich with history. It also has great food, sweets, music, and entertainment. Many songs have been written about this amazing city.
Thessaloniki is an important city for Greeks, Turks, and Jews. In 1913, there were 62,000 Jews, 46,000 Turks, and 40,000 Greeks living there. The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was born there. War and other circumstances have changed the demographics dramatically, but the city’s past is still an important fabric that makes up today’s Thessaloniki.
There are plenty of things to keep you busy when visiting Thessaloniki, whether it be museums in the city center, ancient archaeological sites, Byzantine churches, Ottoman monuments, or just sitting at one of the several cafes sipping a frappe, especially along Leoforos Nikis. Thessaloniki can be seen completely in two or three days, but if you’re short on time, you can see the main sites in just a day.
Is shopping your thing? You can find high-end stores all along Odos Tsimiski, and bargains along with some souvenirs at Kapani (Agora Vlali).
If you’re into football, Thessaloniki’s biggest team is PAOK. They play at Toumba Stadium to the east of the city center. It is a great place to watch a game with a very enthusiastic fan base. Just don’t wear anything other than black and white. Other historic teams are Aris and Iraklis. They play at Kleanthis Vikelidis and Kaftanzoglio, respectively.
I’ve stayed in four different hotels on three trips to Thessaloniki. Hotel Emporikon is in a great location within walking distance to several sites, and my favorite area for dinner and entertainment – Ladadika. The room was great for the price – just €40 for a double for the night in October 2013.
Nea Mitropolis is just a block from Hotel Emporikon which also makes the location excellent. I stayed there in December 2011 and tried to book it for my stay in October 2013, but it was unavailable.
The Vergina is a bit further away, closer to the train station, but still within a manageable walking distance. It is a much larger hotel than the others I’ve stayed at. It was clean and the breakfast was good. The price was a bit high for the location and the room (€50 in February 2012), but it makes a decent backup choice.
Rent Rooms Thessaloniki is a hostel near the Arch of Galerius and Rotunda. I stayed there for one night on a trip with Tim in October 2013 and ended up paying €15 for one bed and €18 for the other. The rooms and attached bathrooms were clean, comfortable, and secure. The location is also excellent and the staff is wonderful.
Getting around Thessaloniki is pretty easy. The buses run on an honor system and you can buy a ticket on the bus. Just make sure to validate your ticket. Chances are, you won’t need to ride the bus very often because it’s a very walkable city. You can take a bus to the intercity bus terminal, KTEL, and to the airport. Alternatively, the airport is about a 25 minute cab ride from the city center. A metro system was under construction at the time of my visits.