What to see in the Centre of Thessaloniki

Start with Aristotelous Square, the city’s most central square boasting monumental mansions. It is one of the biggest and most impressive squares in Greece offering a view of Thermaikos Gulf. Under clear skies, you can see the Olympus massif in the far distance from the Square.

Stroll down Nikis Avenue across the seafront, extending from the city’s Port (to the W) up to the Statue of Alexander the Great (in the E), lined with many cafés, bars and stores. It is one of the most popular promenade areas for locals and visitors alike.

The White Tower (Lefkos Pyrgos) is the city's landmark.The 33.9 m. high fortified cylinder tower measuring 22.7 m. in diameter was built under Suleiman I the Magnificent in the 16thcentury. It was part of the city’s fortification and was later used by the Turks as a place of execution (it was called Kanli Kasteli which means "tower of blood"). It goes by its current name since the 19th century. Inside the Tower, there is an exhibition on Thessaloniki' s history, from its establishment until 1922. 

Visit the Palace of Galerius, comprising the Octagon (the throne chamber) and admire its renowned mosaics, the Galerius arch, known as Kamara, built in 305 BC and the imposing Rotunda, the circular dome roofed building with impressive Early Christian mosaics (late 4thcentury).

Another site worth visiting is the Ancient Agora (Market place), a trading placefrom the 3rdcentury BC until the 5th century AD. Discoveries include the city’s Agora (Market place), the Mint, the Odeion, a hall beleived to have been housing the city archives, a part of Valaneio with baths, a tavern and a whore-house, along with many smaller finds. There is an ancient temple and Early Christian tombs (4th -7th century) located under 3rd September Street

Another interesting place to visit is the Byzantine Bath, close to Koule Kafe Square, dating back to the late 13th century, a rare discovery site of Byzantine Baths. There are also mosques worth visiting such as the Ishak Pasha Mosque (1484), situated close to Kassandrou Street and the Hamza Bey Mosque(1467) having been destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt in 1620. The latter is situated at the junction of Egnatia and Venizelou Streets. Bezesteni is located in the Market centre (Venizelou & Solomou Streets) and used to be the trading place for luxurious textiles. It is a rectangular building with four entrances, built in the late 15th century. The city’s turkish baths include Bey Hamam (1444) on Egnatia Street, Pasha Hamam(1520), Bazaar Hamam and Yeni Hamam. Go for a walk in Kapani and Modiano markets and experience the city’s scents, perfumes and colours.

Don’t forget to visit the Harbour, the Customs house and the warehouses(1910). The buildings have been modified to be used as venues forthe International Film Festival and to house the Cinema Museum and the Photography Museum.

Another very interesting place to see is the Royal Theatre, a 1940 building, nowadays the seat of the National Theatre of Northern Greece. This three-storey building boasts luxurious halls and in it there is one of the most high-tech stages in Europe. It is located on the White Tower Square. Also, the Young Men’s Christian Association of Thessaloniki (XANΘ), on the YMCA square, and the OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation) Tower(1969) are located in the premises of the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair.The view from the top of the tower is magnificent. 

Make sure to visit Ladadika, the historic neighbourhood, close to Aristotelous Square, that was saved from the 1917 fire.The renovated buildings have in the recent years been converted into restaurants and night clubs. 

The city’s central streets namely Mitropoleos, Tsimiski, Ermou and Egnatia are lined with shops, awaiting customers. As you are visiting the city centre, notice theelite art nouveau buildings and mansions located there as well as the Holocaust Victims Monument dedicated to the memory of the Greek Jews of Thessaloniki who were exterminated by the Germans during the German Occupation. 

Other interesting religious sights include: 

1) the church of Agios Dimitrios, the city’s Patron Saint, built after 313 AD on the ruins of Roman baths and housing significant Byzantine monuments, even though it was destroyed several times. The Church, (Agios Dimitrios’ place of martyrdom) is a five-aisled Basilica, with a Narthex and a Crypt under the Sanctuary and the transverse Aisle (a present day museum). 

2) Acheiropoiitos church. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was built in the 5th century. After the city was conquered by the Turks (1430), it was converted into a mosque. It is the only Basilica preserved in a very good condition in Greece. The church’s interior is decorated with 5th century mosaics and 13th century frescoes. 

3) Agios Minas church, dating back to the 5th century, having remained a Christian church even after the city's conquest.

4) Agia Sophia church, being the city’s Metropolitan Church, built in the 7th century. Part of the murals decorating its interior, its 11th century frescoes in the Narthex and the 8th-12thcentury mosaics on the Dome, still exist. 

5) Panagia Chalkeon: This is a 1028 church with frescoes dating back to the 11th and 14thcenturies.

6) Agios Panteleimonas church, built during the late 13th - early 14th century by the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, Iakovos.

7) The Agioi Apostoloi church,an imposing edifice built in 1310-1314, converted into a mosque in the period 1520-1530. The mosaics and frescoes date to the period of the Palaiologos line of emperors.

8) The Sotiras Chapel, dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ, is decorated with frescoes dating to the 14th century.

9) Nea Panagia church, athree-aisled Basilica with spaces reserved for women and a gallery at the west side of thechurch.

10) Agios Haralampos church, used to be a dependency of the Mount Athos Simonopetra Monastery, featuring 17th-19th century icons, being fine examples of the Mt. Athos religious icon painting technique.

11) Laodigitria church, built in the 14th century and renovated in 1802. Icons of the 18th and 19th centuries can be seen in this church.

12) Panagouda, being a post-Byzantine Church, dedicated to the Birth of the Virgin Mary, featuring a 16th century icon.

13) Ypapanti church, boasting small works of art and a history going back to 1531.

For more information please visit Thessaloniki’s official site.

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