Thessaloniki is the second largest in Greece and full of history. Located 502 km north of Athens, this vibrant city is situated on the Thermaïkos Gulf, making it a great spot for a beach holiday. It was founded in 315 BC under the kingdom of Macedon and was later the capital of Macedonia for many years!
Thessaloniki has a beautiful mix of modern and historical features that give it a unique beauty and charm. Whether you’re looking for a beach break or a cultural adventure, Thessaloniki is the perfect spot to explore.
Some of the best things to do in Thessaloniki include taking a stroll along the waterfront promenade, visiting Aristotelous Square and White Tower, as well as explore the Upper Town, or Ano Poli, which is a historic neighborhood filled with charming cobblestone streets and traditional houses.
There are also plenty of historical and cultural landmarks such as the Arch of Galerius and Rotunda, Church of St. Demetrios, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, and Aristotelous Square.
You can also check out the bustling nightlife at some of Greece’s best bars and clubs, enjoy delicious Greek food and local specialties, shop at the many markets, where you can find anything from souvenirs to traditional Greek items.
20 Best things to do in Thessaloniki, Greece
1. The White Tower
The White Tower is one of the best things to do and see in Thessaloniki because it is one of the most iconic landmarks in Greece and stands proudly at the edge of the city’s waterfront. It is a symbol of the city and is often used in photographs to represent Thessaloniki.
Originally built in the 15th century during the Ottoman Empire and was known as the Tower of Blood due to the executions that took place inside of it. The Ottoman rulers used the tower as a prison, and those who were sentenced to death were executed by being thrown off the top.
The tower was later renamed to the White Tower after it was renovated and whitewashed in the early 19th century and became an important symbol of the city.
You can enjoy expansive views of the city and Thermaic Gulf from the top floor, or explore Thessaloniki’s history in the Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki, located inside the tower.
2. Take a Walk Along The Seafront
Walking Thessaloniki’s waterfront is a great way to get a feel for the city. On the promenade, you will find plenty of historic monuments, amazing views, and plenty of space for sports activities like running and biking.
You can start from the Thessaloniki’s Concert Hall and it should take you about an hour to finish in the Port Warehouse or Aristotelous Square. Sunset is the best time to take a stroll along the waterfront.
On your walk, you will come across monuments like the White Tower, the Holocaust Memorial, and Alexander the Great’s statue. You will also find plenty of urban art pieces like Zongolopoulos Umbrellas and the Crescent Moon.
There are also playgrounds and gardens, such as a statues garden, and a seasons’ garden with a small amphitheater.
As you approach the White Tower, you can take a break at the cruise boat bar. After the Tower, Nikis Street is lined with bars and cafeterias.
3. Ano Poli (Upper Town) – Thessaloniki’s old town
Upper Town is the most ancient part of the city and is a must-see for visitors. It’s home to the ancient Byzantine wall and towers, as well as religious sites with stunning Byzantine mosaics and frescoes.
Start your journey at Moni Vlatadon monastery and make your way downhill, passing by the Church of Osios David and the Byzantine Bath. Don’t miss the Profitis Ilias Church, the Church of Aghia Aikaterini and the Church of Agios Nikolaos Orphanos.
The Byzantine Walls are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After exploring the sights, relax in the peaceful Tsinari neighborhood with its charming tavernas.
Make sure to visit Trigonio Tower for a stunning view of the Thermaikos Bay and Mt. Olympus. Lastly, don’t miss Yedi Kule or Eptapyrgio, a fortress-turned-prison, and St. Paul’s Church, located near Pasha’s Gardens. With all the amazing sights, Upper Town Thessaloniki is a must-see!
4. Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki is a treasure trove of ancient artifacts, sculptures and treasures from the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods.
It was first inaugurated in 1962 on the 50th anniversary celebration of the liberation of Thessaloniki. The museum initially housed the miniature art collection from the Archaic and Classical periods.
Later, in 1968, the museum was also the first place to exhibit the golden larnax and grave crown of Philip II which were found in the tombs of Macedonia.
5. Church of Hagios Demetrios
The Church of Saint Demetrios is an incredible monument to behold. This Byzantine and Paleochristian church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to many ancient artifacts.
Built over the bathhouse where Saint Demetrios was killed in 270 AD, the church has had a long history of destruction and rebuilding. After the 1917 Great Fire only nine mosaics from the 5th to 9th centuries survived.
The columns of the central nave vary in size and color, and the capitals feature Theodosian motifs, doves, rams, eagles and acanthus leaves. The crypt below the altar is now a museum and holds artifacts found during the fire.
6. Aristotelous Square
The Aristotle Square in Thessaloniki is the city’s most central and historical square. Located right in the heart of the city on Nikis Avenue, it boasts monumental mansions and stunning views of the Thermaikos Gulf and the Olympus massif.
The square was designed and built in the 1950s after the 1912 Great Fire of Thessaloniki, which destroyed most of the city.
Aristotle Square has become the most popular hotspot in the city. There are a variety of attractions, such as the flower-made clock and the statue of Aristotle. According to local legends, if you touch the toe of the Aristotle statue you will become wiser and he will help you pass your university exams! Grab yourself a cold coffee – preferably a frappe or freddo espresso – and get lost in the city’s vibrant hub.
Whether you’re a local or a tourist, a visit to the Aristotle Square is a must-do activity in Thessaloniki. With its unique architecture and bustling atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to explore the city and experience the local culture.
Ladadika is one of the oldest and most vibrant parts of Thessaloniki. It’s a pedestrianized area with countless restaurants, cafes, taverns and clubs, combining the ancient and modern.
It’s a protected cultural monument, with most buildings dating back to the 19th century. It’s also famous for surviving the Great Fire of 1917 and the 1978 Earthquake. Plus, the name comes from the Greek word for ‘oil’, due to the many warehouses that sold olive oil.
Today, Ladadika is a cultural and entertainment hub, with a range of bars, restaurants and clubs. There’s something for everyone, from traditional Greek cuisine to modern coffee houses, with smells of coffee and Greek dishes filling the air.
In the evening, the streets are lit up with romantic yellow lights and the sound of music.
8. Museum of Byzantine Culture
The Museum of Byzantine Culture is an essential stop for anyone looking to explore the rich heritage of the Byzantine era. From its award-winning architecture to priceless artifacts, it offers an immersive experience in the culture and history of the period.
Whether you’re keen to explore the sculptures, icons, artifacts and jewelry of the Macedonian and Comnenus dynasties or the twilight of Byzantium, the museum has something for everyone. Experience it for yourself – you won’t be disappointed!
The Rotunda is a stunning monument, built in the 4th century as a temple or mausoleum. It was later converted to a Christian church and then a mosque when the Ottomans conquered the city.
Today, it’s dedicated to Saint George and its interior is decorated with stunning mosaics. It stands as a unique symbol of the city, representing the changing religious influences over the centuries. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting Thessaloniki!
10. Arch of Galerius
The Arch of Galerius (Kamara) is a must-see in Thessaloniki. Commissioned by emperor Galerius to celebrate a victorious campaign, the arch is a 4th century monument that stands as a reminder of Roman rule in the city.
Its marble panels showcase the emperor’s triumph and power, depicting him mounted and with a victory wreath. The arch is also a popular destination for locals and tourists, as it is close to other interesting places.
11. Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia Temple is an incredible example of a church combining features of a cross-domed church and a basilica. Built in the 7th and 8th centuries on a 5th century church, it was converted into a mosque by the Turks in 1523.
But it was still used for Islamic worship until 1912 when Thessaloniki returned to the Greek fold. Now, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site – an incredible testament to paleochristian and Byzantine history.
12. Atatürk Museum
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is one of Turkey’s most important and historic figures. Born in 1881 in Apostolou Pavlou St, the Thessaloniki City Council gave the building to the Turkish State in 1935. It was converted into a museum dedicated to Ataturk.
The house has three floors and a courtyard and was restored in 1981 and 2013. Inside, authentic furniture, personal objects and photographs of Ataturk decorate the walls. Now open to the public, more than 120,000 people visited the museum in 2014, making it a popular destination for Turkish tourists.
13. Thessaloniki Science Centre Technology Museum
NOESIS Science Center and Technology Museum is the ultimate destination for science and technology fans! From virtual reality simulators, to digital planetariums, to cosmotheatres and plenty of permanent and temporary exhibitions, there’s something for everyone.
Learn and explore in an entertaining way through interactive exhibits, and travel through outer space in the planetarium. With breathtaking panoramic views and bioclimatic architecture, this museum is a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience the wonders of science and technology.
14. Alexander the Great Monument
The Nea Paralia in Thessaloniki is home to the imposing bronze statue of Alexander the Great and his trusty steed Bucephalus. Standing at a whopping 6.15 meters tall, it’s one of the city’s most photographed sights.
It was erected in 1973 with public donations and unveiled the following year. It’s a reminder of the Macedonian commander’s strength and courage. Definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in Thessaloniki!
15. The Roman Forum of Thessaloniki
The Roman Forum, or the Ancient Agora, was the religious, administrative, and social center of Thessaloniki during Roman times. Discovered in 1966 while building a courthouse, it features two levels, Roman baths, a theater, and plenty of ornate decorations like arches, fountains, and mosaic floors.
The Cryptoporticus semi-subterranean corridors are a highlight, leading to an underground museum with artifacts like marble sculptures and silver coins. It’s a must-see for history buffs visiting Thessaloniki.
16. Hammams & Turkish Baths in Thessaloniki
Stepping into Bey Hamam is like stepping into a different world. It’s a quiet, clean space with a rich history, having been built in 1444 during the Ottoman era, and now converted into an exhibition space.
Its beautiful ceilings, crafted with art and Ottoman architecture, make the atmosphere even more special. Nearby you’ll find Palio Hamam, a bar sharing part of the old bath house building and boasting a stunning rooftop view.
Aigli Yeni Hamam is another bathhouse that has been repurposed into a cultural and entertainment space. Visit Bey Hamam and the others to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life, and bask in the unique atmosphere of these unique spaces.
17. Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki
The museum was created to celebrate and commemorate the prosperous and creative Sephardic culture which developed in Thessaloniki following the 15th century.
Through various displays and photographs, visitors are provided with knowledge of the religious and day-to-day lives of the Jews in Thessaloniki before World War II. It is structured on two levels, containing:
- gravestones from the old Jewish graveyard in Thessaloniki,
- a photographic presentation of Thessaloniki, Sephardic Metropolis,
- an ethnographic section with holy items and mementos,
- a section devoted to the Holocaust in Thessaloniki.
Heptapyrgion, also known as Eptapyrgio or Yedi Kule in Turkish, is a fortress located in Thessaloniki city. It was originally built in 316 BCE as an acropolis, but in the late 19th Century it was converted into a prison.
It remained as such until 1989, when it was restored in 1995 and became a popular tourist attraction due to its architecture and the scenic views of the city it offers.
19. Thessaloniki’s markets
Kapani Market, formally known as Agora Vlali, is Thessaloniki’s oldest open public marke. Located in the center of the city center and full of family-owned shops that have been around for generations, it offers fresh produce, loukoumi shops, tavernas, meze restaurants.
Nearby markets include Athonos Square, which is known for its traditional small shops, Modiano Market, which was built by architect Eli Modiano, and Vatikioti Market, which hosts spice and plenty of shops and traditional tripe soup restaurants.
20. Thessaloniki’s nightlife
Thessaloniki is well-known for its vibrant nightlife, with clubs that stay open all night and a cheerful atmosphere. The most popular spots for a night out are the Beach Promenade and Ladadika, a picturesque quarter close to the port, where you will find the liveliest clubs, bars and cafeterias.
During the summer, there are even bar-boats that depart from the port and offer a unique view of the town’s night lights. Don’t forget to sample some of the delicious local food at the many taverns & restaurants in Ladadika and Ano Poli, which often have live Greek music.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Thessaloniki worth visiting?
Absolutely! This vibrant city has something for everyone. Whether you want to explore the many historical monuments, sample delicious Greek cuisine, visit lively nightlife spots, or just relax on the beach, Thessaloniki has it all.
What is Thessaloniki known for?
Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece that is known for its incredible food and nightlife, buzzing street markets and trendy cafes, and its rich history & culture. It’s also home to some of the country’s top universities and cultural landmarks such as the White Tower and the Arch of Galerius.
How many days do you need in Thessaloniki?
Thessaloniki is a cool spot. Honestly, it depends on what you wanna do there. But if you just wanna check out the main sights and chill, 3-4 days should do the trick.
What to do in Thessaloniki for 3 days?
Explore the city’s historical sites and monuments, like the White Tower and the Ancient Agora. Hang out at the waterfront cafes and enjoy the nightlife. Check out the vibrant street art too. Sample the delicious local cuisine and relax at the thermal springs. Don’t forget to check out some of the local festivals and events.
What are the free things to do in Thessaloniki?
There’s heaps of free stuff to do in Thessaloniki. Take a stroll around the city, explore the waterfront and visit the White Tower, go to the Archeological Museum, or hang out in the park. And don’t forget the nightlife – the city is alive with bars, clubs and music. Have fun!
What are the best things to do in Thessaloniki at night?
Thessaloniki has an awesome nightlife! Hit up the lively bars and clubs in Ladadika, sample the delicious Greek cuisine at one of the city’s many best restaurants, and take a romantic walk along the waterfront promenade.
What to do in Thessaloniki in one day?
Hit up the White Tower for history, walk down Aristotelous for shopping and coffee, grab a bite at a seaside taverna, and end the night with a drink at Modiano Market.
See more: Where to Stay in Thessaloniki First Time
So there you have it, the best things to do in Thessaloniki, Greece For your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.