After being conquered in 1430, Thessaloniki endured 482 years of Ottoman occupation. Very few of these important structures that shaped the history and landscape of the city durıng that era, such as the Lefkos Pyrgos (White Tower), survive to this day.
One of the most impressive Ottoman structures in Thessaloniki and all of Greece is the Bey Hamamı, built in 1444. It was the first Ottoman bath to be built in Thessaloniki. The restoration job was excellent and it’s worth a visit. It’s located at Plateia Dikastirion in the city center.
The baths are separated into male and female sections. Both sections have cold, warm, and hot rooms, although the male section is much larger. Incredibly, these baths remained in use all the way up to 1968 under the name “Paradise Baths”, well after the Ottoman period ended in 1912. The baths were restored after a 1978 earthquake and are now open to the public for visits and used for cultural events and exhibitions.
Nearby is the Hamza Bey Camii, a mosque built in 1460, which was undergoing restoration at the time of my visit. It was no longer in use as a mosque after the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. The minaret was removed in 1923 and it became property of the National Bank of Greece. In 1928, it was sold to private owners and converted into a cinema and shopping center. Since 2006, it has been property of the Greek Ministry of Culture.
In the city center are a couple other Ottoman structures, including the Bezesten. It was built in 1459 as a market for precious metals and stones, and also a place where important records were kept. It was badly damaged in a 1978 earthquake but there are still stores located inside. This means that it has continuously been used as a market since its creation.
Also in the port area is the Yahudi Hamamı. This bath was built in the 15th century with a name that translates to “Bath of the Jews”. It’s located in an area that was mainly populated by Sephardic Jews during the Ottoman era.
In Ano Poli (Upper Town), which served as the Turkish quarter, is the Alaca İmaret Camii. This mosque was built in 1484 by İshak Paşa, an Albanian who was Grand Vizier under Sultan Mehmet II. The minaret was destroyed in 1912 when Thessaloniki was reunited with Greece. When I visited, there was a photography exhibit, but the remnants of its days as a mosque were well-preserved.
Not far away is the Vali Konağı (Governor’s Palace). It was built in 1891 by Italian architect Vitaliano Poselli as the residence of the governor-general of the Ottoman Vilayet of Selanik and the Ottoman government building. It only had three floors when it was built and a fourth was added in 1955. This building is where the documents for the surrender of Thessaloniki by the Ottoman Empire was signed in 1912 during the First Balkan War. For many years, it housed the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace.
Finally, also in Ano Poli, is a very heavily-guarded building that holds the Turkish Consulate. Next door is the Atatürk Museum. This house, which was built in the 1860s, was the birthplace of the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in 1881. There’s a museum inside which displays authentic furniture, but my Turkish students who have been there found it a bit disappointing.