Best Things to Do in Thessaloniki: Sights, Activities, and Cultural Experiences

Whatever your travel style is, you’ll find a wealth of interesting things to do in Thessaloniki, famous for its culture, lifestyle, and rich history. This beautiful Mediterranean port city has over two millennia of history. Thessaloniki has been an important urban center for a full 23 centuries. There are beautiful historical sights from its Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman eras, as well as fantastic examples of Belle Epoque architecture. We’ll explore here the top 10 historic sights of Thessaloniki. But it’s not all about history – this city also has a reputation of being one of the most fun cities in Europe, famous for its 24 hour a day lifestyle. Enjoy it like a Mediterranean, by experiencing 10 of the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki. Besides the incredible history and enviable lifestyle, Thessaloniki has a dynamic contemporary cultural scene. Explore it through some of the 10 best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki, an Easy City Break Destination

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This is a very easy city to get to know. Thessaloniki has all the makings of an ideal, hassle-free city break. It’s very easy to get into the city center from the airport. It’s also now very easy and inexpensive to get from Athens to Thessaloniki. The city has an excellent reputation for gastronomy, from classic to creative. Also, the city has a long history of hospitality. The historic caravanserai and hans have given way to some luxury hotels with style and personality. There are also several excellent boutique hotels in Thessaloniki, expressing the city’s unique character and architectural heritage.

Related post: The Best Boutique Hotels in Thessaloniki

An Ideal Base for Exploring a Fascinating Region of Greece

Thessaloniki is in the center of a region rich in every kind of attraction. My. Olympus is less than an hour away, and the museums of Pella and Vergina are also very close to the city. Even closer, on the city’s periphery, there are famous wetlands, natural thermal spas, and first class wineries (here’s more on our absolute favorite – Ktima Gerovassiliou).

Thessaloniki is also just an hour from Halkidiki and its gorgeous and glamorous beaches. It’s very easy to get to Halkidiki from Thessaloniki.

Related post: How to Get From Thessaloniki Airport to Halkidiki by Public Transportation

There are even fine beaches in the eastern suburbs of Thessaloniki. After a day of sightseeing, you can cool off with an evening swim and some fresh seafood and ouzo in the sand.

Related post: Best Beaches in Thessaloniki by Public Transportation

There are many easy and excellent day trips you can make from Thessaloniki, whether you’re a swimmer, a hiker, an oenophile, a bird-watcher, or a devoted fan of history.

Related post: Day Trips from Thessaloniki – Discovering Northern Greece

Best Things to Do in Thessaloniki: The Top 10 Historic Sights in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki has a rich, complex urban texture. Those 23 centuries of history have played out in a compact area. This means that within the same square you can, for instance, find a Roman Agora, a Byzantine Church, and a luxurious 15th C Hamam. Or you can see a famous Ottoman Market with a glamorous Belle Epoque apartment house right next store, all just steps from the site of the Caravansarai. Sightseeing in Thessaloniki is effortless – it’s just part of the everyday experience of the city. Here is a selection of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki. They represent different periods in Thessaloniki’s centuries of history. Most of them are within a short walk of one another.

1. The Top 10 Historic Sights in Thessaloniki: The Byzantine City Walls of Thessaloniki

The Byzantine Walls are one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
The Kastra – or Byzantine City Walls, are a UNESCO World Heritage sight and popular monument – a symbol of the city

The Byzantine city walls are Thessaloniki’s most obvious monument. They crown the city – glowing golden by night. The Byzantine walls are often called the “Kastra” – the Castle, or Fortress of Thessaloniki. Many of the original walls remain, principally in Thessaloniki’s charming Old Town – “Ano Poli.” The Byzantine city walls once extended to the sea. They also went along the sea front, from the White Tower to the harbor in the west. The Byzantine Walls are in part additions to earlier fortifications. Walking along the city walls brings you to the impressive Eptapyrgio – the Castle of the Seven Towers – which is also called by its Ottoman name ‘Yedi Kule’. below this and to the east is Trigonio Tower – one of the best places in Thessaloniki to enjoy the sunset. From here, you have a spectacular view of the Thermaikos bay and even Mt. Olympus beyond.

The Byzantine city walls themselves are a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. In fact, they’re one of 15 UNESCO World Heritage Monuments in the city. This was a significant center during the Byzantine Era. Among the UNESCO World Heritage sights of Thessaloniki, there are 13 glorious Byzantine Churches, and the Byzantine Bath of the late 12th/early 13th century. This beautiful bath closed in

2. The Roman Agora

The Roman Agora is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
The Roman Agora is in the center of one of Thessaloniki’s most interesting neighborhoods for contemporary culture

Exactly in the center of one of the most dynamic and creative contemporary neighborhoods in the city is the Roman Agora. It makes a fascinating historical counterpoint. The Roman Agora is one of the most engaging Roman sights in Thessaloniki – definitely one of the most fascinating of the top 10 historic sights of Thessaloniki.

The Roman Agora of Thessaloniki was the administrative, cultural, and commercial center of the city from the 2nd century, with much of it in use until the 6th century. The agora – or Roman forum – was built on the site of an earlier agora. Its ruins tell a lively story. We can clearly see an elegant Odeon, the baths house, the mint, and the shops. There were stoas – arcades – along three sides of the Roman Agora. An elegant cryptoporticus on the south side takes advantage of the natural slope of the site.

There’s a museum underground, in the northwest corner of the archaeological site. Here, artifacts and text narrate the history of Thessaloniki from the Roman era until the 20th Century.

One of the most interesting facts about the Roman Agora of Thessaloniki though is perhaps the fact that it’s “new”. The Roman Agora was only discovered in the 1960’s, during excavations for a new courthouse. Now, it’s impossible to imagine the city without it.

3. The Church of St. Dimitrios – Agios Dimitrios

Agios Dimitrios is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
The Crypt of Agios Dimitrios – a former Roman Bathhouse – is now a museum

Agios Dimitrios is the church of the patron Saint of Thessaloniki. According to tradition, this military saint was martyred in the Roman bath house that is now the crypt of the church. Agios Dimitrios is Thessaloniki’s most revered saint. In fact Thessaloniki celebrates liberation from Ottoman rule on October 26th, the feast day of Agios Dimitrios. Because of its cultural and spiritual importance, the church of Agios Dimitrios is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki. The church we see today, a large five-aisle basilica, dates from the 7th century. It has several wonderful mosaics.

The great fire of 1917 destroyed much of Agios Dimitrios. It remained in ruins until its reconstruction, which finished after WWII. The plaza outside the church has a dark history – tombstones of Thessaloniki’s Jewish Cemetery pave the outside. Other building projects during the reconstruction also used tombstones from the Jewish Cemetery as raw materials.

4. The Bey Hamam

The Bey Hamam is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
The Roof of the 15th century Bey Hamam is one of the most exotic places in Thessaloniki’s complex urban landscape

Thessaloniki was conquered by the Ottomans in 1430. For nearly five centuries this was an important port city of the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman influence in the city, and the centrality of the sight rank the Bey Hamam among the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki.

The Bey Hamam, one of several exotic Ottoman monuments in the city, was one of the first built. The luxurious hamam is close to the present Church of the Panagia Achieropoietos. This is because the church became a mosque as soon as Thessaloniki was conquered. The hamam was therefore essential for preparing for worship. It was built in 1444, and has extraordinary architectural details, like the ornate muqarnas above the main door. This magnificent hamam long outlasted the Ottoman empire. In fact, it functioned all the way until 1968.

The Bey Hamam of Thessaloniki now sometimes hosts exhibitions. Also, it has a beautiful cafe. You can enjoy a glass of wine on the roof amid the tiled domes of the hamam – one of the most interesting and intimate settings in Thessaloniki.

Related Post: Ottoman Thessaloniki – An Exotic Heritage

4. Aristotle Square

Aristotle Square is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thesslaoniki
Aristotle Square is the heart of the city, a lively cosmopolitan plaza on the bay of Thermaikos.

This beautiful plaza with its surrounding colonnaded arcade defines the city. Aristotle Square – or Plateia Aristotelou – looks like it’s always been here. But actually, it’s a relatively new addition. Much of the downtown of Thessaloniki was lost in a great fire in 1917. As a result, the formerly dense Byzantine and Ottoman city was re-imagined. Thessaloniki adopted the character of a European capital, with grand public spaces.

The architect and urban planner Ernest Hebrard was in Thessaloniki during WWI as part of the Entente forces. He designed an urban plaza that expresses Thessaloniki’s distinctive Byzantine character. The cream and Bordeaux color scheme, as well as the incorporation of Byzantine decorative motifs, join the classical rhythms and proportions of the buildings surrounding the square. The plaza opens at the sea to embrace the gulf of Thermaikos. Moreover, it perfectly frames Mt. Olympus.

Although the plaza only took shape over the middle of the 20th century, it is so definitive of the city that it definitely ranks among the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki.

5. The Top 10 Historic Sights in Thessaloniki – The Modiano Market

Thessaloniki’s covered market is a glorious example of industrial architecture. Eli Modiano, of the prominent Jewish Modiano family, designed the market in the 1920’s. In this lively marketplace under its soaring glass and steel roof, people shopped for produce, meats and poultry for generations. The Modiano Market – just steps away from Aristotle Square – is undergoing an extensive restoration to become the hub of the commercial center once again.

6. Agia Sophia

This Constantinople-style Cross-in-square church with a dome, is one of the most famous churches of Thessaloniki. Agia Sophia, defining the heart of downtown in its own plaza, dates from the 8th century. The interior is magnificent, like a cool drink of water on a scorching day. Painted in quenching shades of blue and green, it features botanical motifs and tromp l’oeil marble. Interestingly, much of this dates from the Ottoman era, when the church was a mosque. More interesting still are the original mosaics, because they represent so clearly different theological periods. In the apse over the altar, a simple Cross represents the iconoclastic period (726 – 787), while the central dome has an elaborate mosaic of the 9th century.

7. The Rotonda

The Rotonda of Thesaloniki - one of the top10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
The Rotonda, Thessaloniki’s oldest building, is a dramatic and beautiful space.

Among the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki are definitely these famous Roman sights, defining the cityscape for centuries: the Rotonda, and Kamara – part of the Galerian Complex. You can;t miss the Rotonoda – it’s Thessaloniki’s largest and oldest building. The magnificent Rotonda of Thessaloniki dwarfs the surrounding buildings. At 30 meters high and 25 meters wide, it’s massive. And the uninterrupted space under the soaring dome is extraordinary. After their recent restoration, the splendid mosaics of the Rotonda glow.

The Rotonda of Thessaloniki is unique in that it expresses the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman eras. It was built by Roman Tetrarch Galerius in 306 AD. Soon after, in the late 4th century, it became the Church of St. George. In 1591, the Rotonda became the mosque of Hortaz Effendi, acquiring its minaret, the only one remaining in Thessaloniki. Additionally, you’ll see an iscription in Arabic Turkish above the door, and if you walk around the Rotonda, you’ll see the tomb of Hortaz Effendi.

8. Kamara

Emperor Galerius won a great victory against the Persians in the battle of Satala (present day Armenia). The relief sculpture on this glorious triumphal arch tells the story of the great battle. The surviving arch was once part of an impressive 8-pillar gateway spanning via Egnatia – still Egnatia street. One of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki, Kamara is also one of the most popular landmarks, a meeting point for centuries.

9. The Palace of Galerius, the Octagon, and the Roman Baths

The Galerian Palace - one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
As you wander In the ruins of the Galerian Palace, you can find beautiful original details.

If you continue from the Rotonda, past Kamara, and cross Egnatia, you are following the ruins of the great Galerian complex. Today, this is a lively pedestrian zone that is the heart of the student quarter, with the partially excavated ruins running through its center. The Galerian Complex culminates in the Palace of Galerius. This is one of the most significant Roman sights of Thessaloniki. A large excavation reveals the foundations of an impressive palace complex. This includes the Octagon – once a throne room, wit a magnificent mosaic floor. There are also the foundations of a grand Roman house. Additionally, you’ll see the ruins of the original Roman Baths. Beautiful original mosaics survive. But perhaps mot interesting of all are the engravings of game boards in stone – a pleasant echo of the backgammon you will hear students playing at the cafes all around the ruins.

10. The White Tower

The White Tower is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
Landmark and symbol of the city, the White Tower is now also an excellent museum of the history of Thessaloniki

More than just chief among the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki, the White Tower is the undisputed symbol of the city. It’s on the postcards, refrigerator magnets, and souvenir coffee cups. However, it’s anything but kitsch. This magnificent round tower was once the easternmost bastion of the city walls.

The popular symbol was not always so beloved, nor was it even white. Built in the 15th century, it had many names over the years. It was the Lion Tower, then the Tower of Kalamaria. Finally, when the tower was used as a prison, the tower was called the “Kanle Kule” – the Tower of Blood.

It finally became the “Beyaz Kule” – White Tower, in the 1880’s. This was part of a campaign of the Ottoman Empire to rebrand its image. Clearly, it worked.

Today, the White Tower has a museum of the history of the city. The displays are primarily in Greek but there is a great free audio guide. The interior spaces are fantastic, and so it the view from the roof.

If you would like to learn more of the story of the White Tower and information about visiting, please see this related post: The White Tower of Thessaloniki

Top 10 Locals’ Favorite Activities in Thessaloniki – Enjoy the City Like a Local

Set among monuments from many centuries of culture, there is a playground of a city. Thessaloniki has a lively Mediterranean temperament. This is a city made for pleasure. Join the locals at their top 10 favorite activities in to get the true flavor of Thessaloniki lifestyle.

1. Enjoy the Seafront Promenade of Thessaloniki

A walk along the seafront promenade at sunset is among the top 10 locals' favorite activities in Thessaloniki.
A walk along the seafront promenade at sunset is among locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki has one of the most impressive seafront promenades of all Europe. In every season, and especially at sunset, you’ll find Thessaloniki’s waterfront promenade jammed with locals. Pretty much all of the city – plus their dogs – enjoy an early morning or an evening stroll here. The stroll begins at the “Palia Paralia”- Old Seafront – stretching from the pier in the west to the White Tower. From here, the promenade widens into a parkland. The skateboarders practice their jumps at the statue of Alexander the Great, while both tourists and locals line up to take instagram shots at the famous Umbrellas sculpture. This has been topped the list of the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki for generations.

A walk along the seafront is essential. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki. The promenade is quite long. So to explore more, you can rent a bike or a scooter, or just enjoy a leisurely sunset walk towards the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. It’s a little over 3 kilometers to the east.

2. Shop Like a Local at the Kapani Market

Shopping for food is one of the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki? Oh, you bet. First, Thessaloniki has a serious reputation for excellent food. And besides that, Mediterraneans in general are not one-stop convenience shoppers. In the central market, shopping for food is more like a sport. It’s also one of the liveliest and best things to do in Thessaloniki. The marketplace is pure pleasure, and it’s also serious business. Join the locals at the Kapani Market, supplying the city since the Ottoman era.

Fish scales fly, vendors shout, customers haggle, and meats swing from hooks. The best of the season’s produce glistens in heaps. Cheeses, poultry, eggs and dry goods are at the edges of the marketplace, and housewares – including religious articles, are in the eastern plaza. After you browse around the marketplace, you can stop for a coffee right amid the chaos. You’ll find a cafe across from the olive vendors. A visit to the marketplace is one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki.

3. Have a Koulouri in Aristotle Square

Thessaloniki is famous for “Koulouri” – a simple bread ring covered with toasted sesame seeds. Although they don’t look like anything special, they’re actually really delicious. Vendors sell them in the mornings, and especially around Aristotle Square. Enjoying a koulouri in the square, humble as it sounds, is one of locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki. Do like the old men, and share the crumbs with flocks of pigeons as you stroll along the colonnade and gaze out at the sea – it’s like a little Greek Venice, via Angelopoulos.

4. Have a Very, Very Leisurely Coffee by the Waterfront

Thessaloniki loves leisure as much as it loves caffeine. And besides, everyone loves a view. This is why the seafront, from the port to the White Tower, is lined with cafes. First find the one with the mood you like best, then stake out a table. No one will rush you as you sip on your Frappe or thick Double Greek coffee. How is something as simple as drinking coffee one of locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki? Because here, coffee is not a beverage; it’s an event.

5. Explore Ano Poli

Hiking up to the Byzantine City Walls for the sunset view of one of local's favorite activities in Thessaloniki
Hiking up to the Byzantine City Walls for the sunset view of one of local’s favorite activities in Thessaloniki.

The Old Town of Thessaloniki – “Ano Poli” (upper town) is the most charming area of the city, with its authentic historical character intact. One of the locals’ favorite activities is hiking up along the Byzantine city walls to explore the Kastra and catch an amazing view. First, get lost in the winding alleys, and admire the traditional architecture. Then discover the some of the hidden historic sights of the city, including several UNESCO World Heritage monuments. One of these is the Byzantine Baths. These baths served the community from the late 12th/early 13th century all the way until 1940 (but you can still bathe in an authentic Byzantine bath in the nearby Loutra Lagada).

Old Town Thessaloniki is an essential destination. For everything you need to know about Ano Poli, including a complete list of things to do and a map, please visit this related post: Things to Do in Old Town Thessaloniki – Ano Poli.

6. Eat Fried Salt Cod and Drink Retsina

Having Salt Cod off of a sheet of grease paper, accompanied by chilled retsina and conversation, is one of locals' favorite activities in Thessaloniki.
Having Salt Cod off of a sheet of grease paper, accompanied by chilled retsina and conversation, is one of locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki.

After your hike in Ano Poli, you’ll have an appetite. This traditional dock workers’ lunch is just the thing – a Thessaloniki specialty. Even though there is so much fantastic fresh fish and elegant meze, this classic meal remains a favorite. Tender salt cod is fried in a crisp and fluffy batter. On the side are “skordalia” – a spread with an indecent amount of raw garlic – and a searingly hot fried pepper, zingy with vinegar. The bold combination is delicious, and one of the classic tastes of Thessaloniki.

This is the perfect time to get to know retsina, because its clean aroma of resin stands up perfectly to the bold flavors. You enjoy this fabulous meal in the alleys near the harbor. Service is no-frills – you eat right off of a piece of grease paper. Salt cod in the afternoon is one of the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki, and definitely one of the best things to do.

Related post: The Fabulous Food Specialties of Thessaloniki

7. Have a Beer on a Mini Cruise

A cocktail cruise of one of the top 10 locals' favorite activities in Thessaloniki
The view of Aristotle Square is very fine from the sea

By the White Tower, there are several boats lined up that offer harbor cruises for the price of a drink. They look like a tourist attraction, but locals love them. In fact, having a cocktail on a mini sunset cruise is one of the local’s favorite activities in Thessaloniki. Choose the boat with the music you like best. Then order your drink, and enjoy a 30′ – 40 minute cruise around the Bay of Thermaikos. The schedules for departures, as well as the drink prices, are posted outside each boat.

8. Enjoy a Film Under the Stars

Catching a film at a summer cinema is one of the top 10 locals' favorite activities in Thessaloniki
Catching a film at an outdoor summer cinema on a hot summer night, with the scent of jasmine in the air, is one of locals’ favorite activities

Between May and October is the season of the Outdoor Summer Cinemas. Thessaloniki was once full of many “Therina” Cinemas (“therino” is summer), and a handful remain – still very popular. This has been one of locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki for decades. In these fragrant gardens open to the sky, you can see a first run film or a classic, in its original language with Greek subtitles. There are light refreshments, snacks, and even hard liquor available.

9. Join the Locals for the Nightlife of the Kato and Ano Ladadika

Because Thessaloniki is so famous for nightlife, one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki is to ignore the hour like the locals do and join them for some late-night culture. A typical Thessaloniki evening out starts with a long and festive dinner. Then there’s some bar hopping, followed by dancing as night turns to dawn. A late night out is an essential – one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki. You can start in the Ladadika. This is a historic neighborhood of converted warehouses right by the port. This area is now full of lively restaurants, places for ouzo and meze, and popular bars.

Across Tsimiski street is the now extremely popular “Ano” (upper) Ladadika – with more chic restaurants, bars, and multi-purpose spaces. Further up is a younger and slightly louder crowd gathers along Valaoritou street. Enjoy the fray, then escape to one of the rooftop bars for cocktails and starlight. This is definitely one of the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki, especially on a hot summer night.

10. Enjoy a Nightcap, Thessaloniki-style

An after-hours bowl of Patsas is one of the top 10 locals' favorite activities
Having a bowl of patsas, a soup of tripe and trotters that’s famous for preventing hangovers, is a classic Thessaloniki after-hours ritual.

No one goes home hungry in Thessaloniki. There are two favorite after-hours’ meals. One is the cult ritual dish “patsas”- a tripe and trotter soup. Patsas is served with garlic and hot red pepper. With its high collagen content, it has the reputation of healing joints, banishing crow’s feet, and – most importantly – warding off hangovers. An after-hours bowl of Patsas ranks for locals among the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki, and it’s definitely one of the best cultural experiences. However, this potent, strong-smelling brew is definitely not for everyone. Don’t worry though, because no one goes hungry after hours in Thessaloniki. There’s a tasty alternative. Around 5 or 6 am, the Best Bougatsa shops start opening. This hot flaky pie from Asia Minor comes with fillings of sweet cream, minced meat, cheese, or spinach, It’s a delightful bedtime snack – or early breakfast.

The 10 Best Cultural Experiences in Thessaloniki

This city has an incredible contemporary cultural scene. There are many unique museum experiences. But there is more going on in Thessaloniki’s cultural scene. Here are the 10 best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki:

1. Visit the Port of Thessaloniki for the Excellent Museums

Visiting the port and its museums is one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki
The Port of Thessaloniki is an essential destination for leisure and culture.

There are many things to do in the Port of Thessaloniki. The beautiful brick warehouses of the port are now some of the most exciting cultural venues in Thessaloniki. Some serve as screening rooms for the international film festival and the documentary festival. Also,there are three excellent museums here. There is the MOMus Experiemental Museum, where you can experience avant garde art encompassing various media and performance. There is also the MOMus photography Museum, the only museum on Greece solely exhibiting photography. Lastly, Greece has a strong affinity for cinema and an impressive history of cinema – get to know it at the Thessaloniki Cinema Museum.

These are just three of Thessaloniki’s many excellent and diverse museums. Please refer to this related post for more: Museums in Thessaloniki : Archaeology to Contemporary Art.

2. Go to a Concert

Thessaloniki has a very active contemporary music scene. One of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki is to enjoy live music with the locals. For international concerts, check the calendar of the Principal, a large and comfortable venue with excellent facilities and the best concert calendar in town. Smaller alternative clubs in town and even some bars have live bands several nights of the week – check posters around town.

3. See Local Contemporary Art at Thessaloniki’s Art Galleries

To see what’s going on in the contemporary art scene and some of the best works of local artists, go gallery hopping. Some of our favorite spaces for art include Nitra, Lola Nikolaou, and Zina Athanassiadou.

4. Experience Live Theater

Yes, of course it will be in Greek. But you will enjoy some top quality productions for a very reasonable price. If you pick a classic ancient Greek tragedy or comedy, you’ll enjoy one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki, especially if it is at one of the outdoor venues. Check out the program of the National Theater of Northern Greece.

5. Discover Centuries of History of the Jews of Thessaloniki at the Jewish Museum

Thessaloniki was home to one of the largest communities of southern Europe, until the mass deportations during World War II. The city is currently building a very large new Jewish Museum. Until then, the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, in a historic commercial arcade, will absorb you with a moving story. The Jews of Thessaloniki have been part of the city from the founding of the of Thessaloniki until the present. The Jewish contributions to the culture, architecture, and society of Thessaloniki tremendous. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn about this precious and vital part of Thessaloniki’s rich heritage. This is much more than simply one of the best cultural experiences of Thessaloniki. Visiting the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki is an essential human experience.

6. Glimpse the Mystery and Beauty of Ancient Greece through Music at Seikilo

Fans of music and fans of ancient history will find Seikilo absolutely fascinating, and so will anyone else. A visit to Seikilo, whatever your interest or age group, is one of the 10 best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki. This family of musicians and scientists have realized an incredible project, reproducing ancient instruments by uniting science and archaeology. The instruments themselves are things of beauty. Get to know the Chelis – the original lyre formed of a turtle shell (of course at animal-friendly Seikilo, they are a beautiful replica) – the invention of Hermes as a gift to his older brother Apollo. Come for an experience to immerse yourself in a world of ancient music, mythology, and universal artistic values. A visit to Seikilo is among the very best things to do in Thessaloniki.

7. The Olympion Cinema

Seeing a film at the Olympion is one of the top 10 cultural experiences in Thessaloniki
The Olympion Cinema is in one of Thessaloniki’s most beautiful buildings, curving around Aristotle Square

Thessaloniki is a serious cinema town, and seeing a movie with your fellow cinephiles while you’re here may be one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki. The Olympion Cinema of Thessaloniki is in one of the defining historic buildings that curves around of Aristotle Square. The building is from 1950, by architect Jacques Moshe. This venue has had the city’s largest theater and screening room since its opening, and is now the main screening room for the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. This is where all the first quality international films and art films screen. It’s an excellent space to enjoy a film.

8. Visit the Villa Bianca

The Municipal Art Gallery of Thessaloniki has three intimate exhibition spaces. Each of them is historic and beautiful. Because of both the setting and the exhibitions, visiting the Municipal Art Gallery is among the 10 best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki.

The main space of the Municipal Art Gallery of Thessaloniki is the eclectic mansion Villa Bianca, a work of the architect Vitaliano Poselli. In this Belle Epoque wonder, you can see excellent contemporary exhibitions. Additionally, there is an excellent collection of the works of Nikolaos Gyzis, a late 19th century artist of the Munich school. It’s a beautiful collection of paintings, prints, and sculpture. And it has an extraordinary space to match. There’s a pleasant cafe in the garden. After your visit, enjoy a stroll, because this neighborhood east of the center is beautiful for exploring.

9. Visit a Dynamic Cultural Center at the Bensousan Han

Visiting the Bensousan Han is one of the top 10 cultural experiences in Thessaloniki
The Bensousan is one of the most atmospheric spaces in Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki was once full of “Hans” – inns for travelers and merchants with space for their pack animals and goods. The Ano Ladadika district had several. The Bensousan Han operated until the 1930’s, and then was abandoned for decades The inspiring space was then used occasionally for avant-garde theater productions, concerts, and other arts events. Now, it’s an active cultural space with a full calendar of events throughout the week in its diverse, extremely atmospheric spaces. When you are exploring the city in the evening, stop by for one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki. You may even get an impromptu tour – the director of the space is warm and dynamic.

10. Have a Unique Experience of History with Thessaloniki Walking Tours

A tour with Thessaloniki walking tours id one of the 10 best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki
On a tour by sailboat with Thessaloniki Walking Tours, our guide Tassos Papadopoulos narrated a series of fascinating events from throughout the history of Thessaloniki

Of all the ways to get to know Thessaloniki, this is one of the very best. The team of Thessaloniki Walking Tours is the most engaging group of scholars in town. They presents fascinating views of history. With a complete historic context, and attention to vivid details, their thematic tours cover a broad range of topics. Thessaloniki Walking Tours delve deeply into various aspects of the city’s history. These tours are a combination of solid history, spellbinding performance art, and meaningful dialogue with the past – one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki. Here’s another excellent experience with Thessaloniki Walking Tours:

Related post: Kinda Blue – Exploring the Roots of Rebetiko

The Best Things to Do in Thessaloniki – Just Wander and Let the City Happen to You

Of course should should see the top historic sights, and taste the best dishes, drink coffee with the locals, and experience the city’s culture. And you will – Thessaloniki is so compact, so dense with fascinating activities, sights, flavors, and experiences that you cannot help but have a great time. Be on the lookout for these highlights of Thessaloniki, and you are sure to run into them as you just enjoy getting lost in the beautiful urban tapestry, take-out frappe in hand.

Amber Charmei
Amber Charmei
Hi, I'm Amber Charmei - I left Manhattan, my hometown, about 20 years ago to live in a city with a much longer backstory and a prime location in the Mediterranean. Thessaloniki is is one of my favorite cities in Europe. Roman ruins, Byzantine glories, Belle-Époque mansions, and plenty of mid-century style set a compelling urban stage for contemporary life. Thessaloniki's multi-cultural heritage gives it an international quality, a zesty cuisine, and a peerless nightlife. I love the museums and the beaches, the Rebetiko and the chaotic public markets, and everything else. Thanks for stopping by - I hope I can help you discover what you're looking for, and fall a little in love with the city, too.

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