Despite the fact that there is a lot to do in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece is not on everyone’s radar.
For Greeks, Thessaloniki is a legendary student destination with a cool, relaxed atmosphere that sets the city apart from the rest of the country. But many tourists have not even heard of it!
This port city has 3,000 years of history and its early Christian and Byzantine architecture is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Not to mention, the influences of Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and Jews give Thessaloniki a very unique character.
Having lived in Greece for almost six years, I can confirm that Thessaloniki is a dynamic city worth visiting. It really has it all – tons of interesting history, a beautiful coastline, and an exciting nightlife.
As a traveler, you may be wondering what to do in Thessaloniki, and that’s what I come for. After reading this article, you will be surprised by the variety of things to do here.
Here are the 7 best things to do in Thessaloniki, Greece.
1. Visit The White Tower
The fortified white tower on the coast is the main attraction of Thessaloniki, where there is an exhibition on the Byzantine history of the city.
During Ottoman times, the White Tower was used as a cage and so called “Blood Tower” because of the many executions that took place there. It received the name “White Tower” after it was painted white, although today it has a yellowish color.
If you only have a few hours in Thessaloniki, the only thing you should definitely make time for is a visit to the White Tower. And because of its central location, you’ll probably want to start any trip to Thessaloniki here.
The White Tower is definitely one of the top things to see in Thessaloniki and for only, it’s quite an affordable attraction too.
The museum is open every day from 9.00 to 16.00, and in summer the hours run from 8.00 to 20.00. If you do not like to climb the tower, you can also look at it from the outside.
2. Take a walk along the coast
On the coast you can enjoy a nice walk along the promenade, one of the best places to visit in Thessaloniki.
I remember being fascinated that I had finally found a place in Greece where I could walk for hours without being disturbed by cars or motorcycles!
You can easily spend several hours on the Thessaloniki waterfront, especially if the weather is especially beautiful.
If you walk south from the White Tower along the promenade you will come across the statue of Alexander The Great who was born in Pella, about 1.5 hours from Thessaloniki. A trip to Pella is a great day trip from Thessaloniki. More information about that trip, here.
Thessaloniki’s waterfront is also home to one of the city’s most instagrammable spots — the adorable umbrella sculpture. Walking further south, you will see several small parks, such as the garden of sand and the garden of memory.
The view of Thessaloniki port from the promenade is great, and further north you will find plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants.
If you like cycling, the Thessaloniki promenade is probably the best place in all of Greece to cycle for several kilometers without worrying about cars. parents with children will also appreciate this car-free zone.
3. Explore Aristotelous Square
The city’s largest square is one of the most popular places to visit in Thessaloniki and a great place to stop for a coffee. This is the modern center of the city and an important meeting place. Several cafés and restaurants can be found in this pedestrian area.
People like to go shopping in the streets and markets close to the Square, and you will definitely pass here more than once during your time in Thessaloniki.
Aristotelous Square is one of the most famous squares in all of Greece and one of the most famous squares in the city. If you are visiting during Christmas or New Year’s Eve this is a great place to see how the locals celebrate.
Don’t forget to take a quick photo of the statue of Aristotle after whom the Square is named. But keep in mind that the Square is also famous for the fact that political opposites usually take place here. During a rally or opposite, you may want to avoid the square.
4. Learn about the city’s Jewish history at the Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki presents the history of the Jewish community in Greece’s second largest city.
The Jewish community in Thessaloniki was especially strong during the Ottoman Empire when Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal arrived, where they faced severe persecution.
Jews formed the largest community in Thessaloniki until the Great Fire in 1917, when many Jews left the country. During World War II, almost the entire Jewish population of Thessaloniki was deported to Auschwitz.
Today, only 1,200 Jews still live in Thessaloniki, making it still the second largest Jewish community in Greece. The community is very small at the moment, but its influence on the history of Thessaloniki is enormous.
The Jewish Museum on Agia Mina Street is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and tickets are an affordable. If you are wondering what to do in Thessaloniki that is not on everyone’s list, this museum is for you.
5. See the Roman Agora (one of the top things to do in Thessaloniki)
One of the best things to see in Thessaloniki is the excavations of the Roman Agora of Thessaloniki (also known as the Roman Forum). This ancient Roman market is close to Aristotle Square and houses the remains of a theater and two Roman Baths.
The best part is that it continues underground, where you can learn about the Roman Forum in its own museum. If you are interested in archeology, a visit to the museum is a must — especially since one of the two Roman Baths is still buried under the city.
6. Visit The Basilica Of Agios Dimitrios
The main church of Thessaloniki, Agios Dimitrios, is one of the top places to visit in Thessaloniki.
The Basilica burned down almost completely in the Great Fire of Thessaloniki in 1917, but the enormous efforts to reconstruct the church returned its splendor. In the church you can even find unique mosaics that survived the fire.
Agios Dimitrios church is located just a few steps from the Roman Forum so be sure to combine the two. Dimitrios is the patron saint of Thessaloniki, which explains the importance of the Basilica. You can see the place where he supposedly died in the crypt underground.
And, due to the interesting history of Thessaloniki, you can even see the remains of a Roman bathhouse on which the church was built. This church offers a great overview of the city’s history. Photography is allowed, and since it is a church, admission is free.
7. Take a walk through the Old Town of Thessaloniki: Ano Poli (Upper Town)
The most beautiful part of Thessaloniki is certainly the Old Town, or Upper Town. You can go for a walk through the cobbled alleys and see the traditional Balkan houses that date back to Ottoman times.
A walk in the picturesque upper town is one of the activities in Thessaloniki that are free and can be done at any time of the day.
This part of Thessaloniki survived the fire of 1917, and therefore retained its traditional appearance. In addition, here you can find ancient churches and towers and remains of the ancient Byzantine walls. You could spend hours exploring this beautiful neighborhood.
For many Greeks, Ano Poli is the most authentic neighborhood of Thessaloniki. Here you can find traditional taverns that play rebetiko music not for tourists, but for locals.
More fun things to do in Thessaloniki
There are so many activities in the city, I had to add a few more to the list.
Plonk and food tasting
This is one of the top things to do in Thessaloniki for foodies. Meet at a local shop and learn about Greek plonk, while tasting different types, and snacking on traditional dishes and cheeses. This is a fun and affordable experience. More information can be found here.
Cooking and dining with a Greek family
What better way to have a local experience than cooking and eating a meal together? The experience takes place in a Greek home and you will make new friends while you learn how to cook some tasty Greek cuisine.
This fun and affordable evening includes learning how to make 4 dishes (and eating them), tapas, drinks and even some Greek dances! More information here.
Discover Thessaloniki by motorcycle
See the sights of the city from the back of a motorcycle with Vasileios as your guide! Sit back and enjoy the ride. Visit the White Tower of Thessaloniki, Statue of Alexander the great, Aristotle square, Ladadika, and “Ano Poli”. This is a unique way to explore the city. More information here.