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Thessaloniki
city in Greece, Central Macedonia
Europe > Greece > Northern Greece > Macedonia (Greece) > Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki (Greek: Θεσσαλονίκη, Albanian, Turkish: Selanik, Serbian, Bulgarian, Macedonian: Солун, Solun, Romanian: Salonic) is the capital of the region of Central Macedonia, Greece, and is, at about one million inhabitants, the second largest city in the country. More importantly, it is a city with a continuous 3,000-year history, preserving relics of its Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past and of its formerly dominant Jewish population. Its Byzantine churches, in particular, are included in UNESCO's World Heritage list.
Understand
Orientation
Aerial view of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki lies on the northern fringe of the Thermaic Gulf on its eastern coast and is bound by Mount Chortiatis on its southeast. The metropolitan area, with population of about 1 million, can be divided roughly in 3 parts: The northwestern, the central and the southeastern.
The central part, corresponding to the region that used to be inside the Byzantine walls and can in turn be divided in the "Ano Poli" (Upper City) region which lies on the hillside that is actually the southwest end of Chortiatis, and the part of the city located between the Upper City and the sea.
The later is the "center" of Thessaloniki, as most commercial, entertainment and educational facilities can be found here, while this part of the city remains a dense populated residential area. It is the area surrounded by the seafront to the southwest, Olibiados street to the northeast, Dimokratias square to the northwest and the University campus and the facilities of Thessaloniki International Fair to the southeast. Most places with tourist interest are either in the center or very close to it.
Most roads in the center are either parallel or perpendicular to the coastline. A simple rule that helps the visitor is that if the a street goes downhill, then following it will lead you to the sea. The biggest parallel streets to the sea starting from the sea are Leoforos Nikis, Tsimiski Ioanni, Egnatia, Agiou Dimitriou and Kassandrou. The main vertical to the sea streets, starting from northwest, are Dragoumi Ionos, Venizelou Eleftheriou, Aristotelous, Agias Sofias and Ethinikis Aminis.
Tourist information
There are tourist info and ticket booths at the central bus stations. You can get a free bus line chart there. The tourist information office is at Tsimiski 136, a few minutes from the White Tower. It is open M-F 08:00-20:00, Sa 09:30-16:00 in winter and 08:00-20:00 in summer, Su closed. If you find it closed, walk up to Aristotelous and buy a map from Iannos bookshop. You can also visit the OASTH website.
Get in
By train
Note: International trains between Thessaloniki and Belgrade, Sofia have been intermittently cancelled, sometimes - but not always - replaced by bus, due to track works. This is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. On a more positive note, this will result in faster travel times when track works are finished. More information can be obtained via the web page of TrenOSE.
Thessaloniki is an important rail hub within Greece and it i quite easy to travel here by passenger trains. TrainOSE (ΤραινΟΣΕ) operates up to six daily trains from Athens via Larissa, journey time just over five hours for the full trip. Electrification and straightening of the line is under way and a major boost to travel times is expected in 2020, with reduced travel times to around three hours. There is also one night train plying this route. Additionally, there are trains from Alexandroupoli via Komotini, Xanthi and Serres in Western Thrace region. Regional trains connect with Florina, Kilkis, Kalampaka and several other cities in Northern Greece.
For international connections, there are daily services from Belgrade and Sofia.
There are normally employees at all major stations to facilitate transportation of disabled persons.
Discounts
Ask for these discounts even if the TrainOSE employee does not mention them:
In addition, European Youth Card holders can get special discounted tickets on the Thessaloniki-Alexandroupoli and Athens-Thessaloniki lines.
By bus
Thessaloniki is connected via the intercity KTEL bus network with every corner of Greece.
Prominent long-distance bus connections
Macedonia Airport enjoys a seaside location, making approaches quite scenic
By plane
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Thessaloniki International Airport "Macedonia" (SKG IATA) (lies 15 km south of the city center). The airport sees highly seasonal traffic, peaking in the summer months. International destinations particularly well served include the major airports of Germany, as well as former Soviet Union countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan or Latvia.
 
The domestic flight network is quite extensive, with most flights provided by either Aegean Airlines or its regional subsidiary Olympic Air, an operator of subsidized public-service-obligation flights to less frequently served destinations. Domestic connections are also partially seasonal and encompass a range of Greek Islands.
Apart from those, the majority of flights are charter and seasonal flights by holiday specialists. There is also substantial low-fare traffic by pretty much all major low-fare carriers in Europe, with Ryanair having a base at the airport and the largest number of connections out of those. When it comes to traditional international airlines, the airport is mainly served by those belonging to the Star Alliance, which also includes Aegean and Olympic, such as Austrian, Turkish and Swiss.
The airport is not as well served as the Athens airport, to which it is connected by multiple daily flights taking around 50 min, provided by multiple airlines. Aegean's frequent shuttle flights are of particular interest, as they can be booked on a common ticket with an Aegean or other Star Alliance flight to other destinations in Europe and beyond.
If you are departing from SKG on an international flight taking you out of the Schengen zone, there are only four passport control booths (with one dedicated solely to EU citizens), so the queues to access the extra-Schengen gates (12 through 19) even when they are all operating can exceed 40 min at peak times, and it is 40 min of shoving and aggravation. Once you are through passport control, facilities are limited, so if you plan to eat, fill a drinking water bottle, or use toilets without queuing, do this before passport control.
A luggage storage room is available on the arrival floor. As of 2016, fees start from €3 (storing a small bag for 6 hr). However, the storage seems only operative during high season when there are people using it.
Getting there/away
A taxi ride may be a quicker, but much more expensive way to get to the city than the bus
The airport is 15 km south of the city centre.
By bus – The public transit connection is provided by bus line 01X, a 24/7 service between the airport, the New Railway Station, and the Macedonia InterCity Bus Terminal. Frequency is between 15 min and 30 min during the day. At night, the bus number changes to 01N and runs every 30 min. A ticket costs €2 for one trip (see Get around / By bus). Tickets can be bought at a vending booth at the airport bus stop or at ticket machines on the buses. However, for these exact change is needed. The ride from the airport to the city centre takes around 40 min. Buses can get very packed so do not expect a very comfortable ride.
Note that bus number 79 from the airport does not get you to the city centre but to A.S. IKEA bus terminal in the city's east side. However, from there you can take another bus (ask the counter), and the double ticket (stamped once in 79 and another time in the next bus) is just €1.20— in case you want to spare 80¢.
By taxi – A ride from the city centre costs about €15-20. It's hard to find one during peak hours (07:00-08:00, 14:00-16:00 and 19:00-21:00), so plan early.
On foot – If you'd like a panoramic trail, after or between your flights, you can spend this time on a fairly pleasant river and sea-side trail. It starts about 600 m from the terminal, where the
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airport's main access road crosses a small river. From there, a trail follows the river's right (NE) bank toward the north-west for about 1 km, until the river enters the sea; watch for water birds. From the river's mouth, the trail follows the sea coast to the NE and N for about 1 km, until it reaches the mouth of another little river. While not an official beach, swimming in the sea is possible. From that point, one can continue east for about 500 m along a small residential street named Floridas, until reaching the main highway (Leoforos Georgikis Scholis) just south of the
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Lidl store. From there, two shopping centers, Hondos Center and IKEA (both with air conditioning, soft chairs, food, and free Wi-Fi) are within walking distance. From the
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IKEA bus terminal you can take one of the bus lines to the city center (e.g. bus number 2) paying the standard one journey ticket price which is cheaper than taking the bus 01X/01N directly from the airport (see Get around / By bus). The trail takes about 1 hr one-way and of course can be done in the other direction if you are arriving from the city center at the IKEA bus terminal and have some time to kill before your flight.
By car
Finding parking is difficult: be prepared to spend a lot of time looking for a place or to pay for space in the parking lot (starting from €4 for 3 hr). Don't assume you're safe from paying a fine just because locals flagrantly flout parking laws. Traffic congestion is a problem, largely due to double-parked cars, but generally fellow drivers and passers-by are helpful in showing you the way if you're lost.
Map of Thessaloniki
Get around
An OASTH bus leaving towards the A.S. IKEA terminal
By bus
The city's bus company is called OASTH and runs a total of 80 different bus lines, which are the only public transportation within the city. Maps of the bus routes are available on OASTH's website. Bus services usually operate from 05:00 until just after midnight.
Bus number 50 ("cultural line") follows a figure-of-8 route past all the major tourist sights. There is an English speaking guide aboard, who provides you with maps and information. The whole route takes 50 min, and it departs every hour on the hour from the White Tower. The connection to the airport is provided by bus 01X, which runs as 01N in the night (the only night bus line in the city).
This being Greece, the bus drivers go on strike occasionally. Notices about strikes may appear (in Greek only, naturally) at the bus stops information panels.
Tickets
Tickets can be bought at OASTH's ticket outlets and at machines on the buses. Certain types of tickets (see below) are also available at various other sales points. There are five types of tickets available:
Students, persons aged over 65, and persons with over 67% disability get a 50% discount if they have the documents required by OASTH to prove it. Accompanied children under the age of six ride for free.
1-, 3-, 6- and 12-month cards for unlimited journeys on all lines (including the Airport line 01X/01N and the Cultural line 50) are also available. They are valid from the first day of the month they were issued until the last day of the month, third month, sixth month, or year. A photo-ID and a recent photograph are required to issue such cards. An one-month card costs €30.
By bicycle
Bicycle lanes often do not exist, even on main roads. Sometimes, there are bicycle lanes on the pavement. There is a decent bicycle lane that runs along the seafront. You should always be very careful.
ThessBike is a bike sharing system with stations mainly near the center of the town. More stations located in other areas are being planned. You can either become a subscriber or pay per hour. In general, expect to pay €1 per hour.
See
The White Tower of Thessaloniki is the city's landmark
The northernmost Byzantine walls of the city and parts of the western walls are still standing, as is the city's symbol - the White Tower. The rest of the walls are in the picturesque Upper Town which offers a spectacular view over the bay, especially in the late afternoon.
The city is also known as "the mother of Israel", due to the once flourishing Jewish community here, which existed from the Roman period and grew substantially after the Ottoman Empire took in Jewish refugees expelled Spain, Portugal, and Spanish territories in Italy; these Jews are known as "Sephardim". Sephardi Jews formed a significant percentage of the city's population and infrastructure until World War II, when, in spring 1943, almost all were deported by the Nazis to the extermination camp at Auschwitz, never to return. However, there are still two Synagogues, and you can see the Jewish Museum.
Also interesting are the Turkish public baths Bey Hamam, the Bezesteni (Ottoman closed market for jewellery and precious materials) the Alatza Imaret (Ottoman poorhouse) and Hamza Bey Camii (both restored and used for exhibitions).
Seafront and lower town
Upper town
Visit the upper town for its traditional old houses, small cobbled streets, Byzantine citadel, the Eptapyrgion fort. Next to the Rotunda, see the Arch of Triumph of Galerius and the ruins of his palace.
The Agia Sofia church
Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments
On no account should you miss the Byzantine churches built between the 5th and 14th centuries, some of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The Ancient Forum
Museums and galleries
Thessaloniki is home to many museums, mostly archaeological and ethnographic. The two big archaeological museums are in the city centre, under the OTE Tower at the CHANTH Square. It is possible to obtain a pass for €15 which allows entry into five museums (valid for three days): Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, Museum of Byzantine Culture, White Tower, Archaeological Site and Museum of the Roman Agora, and Galerian Complex. Note that Winter opening times are shorter than Summer opening times.
Thessaloniki's 'Ano Poli' (Old City)
Do
Yachting
Thermaikos Gulf is a challenging place for yachting and sailing. Many days there are strong North winds but with low waves making sailing a fun and joy for all sailors. There are three sailing clubs in Thessaloniki and world championships take place here every year. Thessaloniki has several marinas with a new one containing 182 mooring places under construction in the centre of the city and next to Aistotelous square. There are many yacht charter companies renting sailing yachts.
Buy
Clothing
For fashion, Proxenou Koromila, Mitropoleos and Tsimiski. You won't find many bargains, but the shopping area is conveniently small and full of cafes when you get too tired. For cheaper clothing, check out Egnatia street.
Books
Books and maps in various languages can be bought in stores such as:
Also in the 9th International Book Fair, that is held annually in late spring.
Food
You can buy local food products, such as olive oil, sometimes at significantly lower prices than in nearby countries.
For eating out, see the "Eat" section below
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Modiano market. The traditional central food market, with hundreds of stalls selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables (sometimes cheek-by-jowl, an unnerving experience for North Americans), cheap clothes and shoes, flowers, herbs and spices, near Aristotele Square.
(updated Jun 2017)
For food specialities, go to Modiano market and try the Terpsis and Omega delicatessens (the most famous is Kosmas, but it specialises in Asian food). Any Greek will expect you to bring back sweets from Salonica, so try tsoureki, plaited sweetened breads for which Terkenlis is famous, and desserts (baklava and galaktoboureko) e.g. or Nikiforou on Venizelou street. The most famous of the baklava joints is Hatzis, but fame has not made it any better - it's become overpriced and not as good as in previous years.
For a morning or late-night snack, try Bougatsa pies: cream (sweet) or cheese (savoury) filling.
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Kapani Market, ✉ info@kapani.gr. The city's oldest market, with a wide variety of shops. (updated Feb 2020)
Sweets and pastry
If you like sweets, there are 3 typical pastry shops you should try, typical of this city:
Best winter dessert: baked quince.
Eat
This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
BudgetUnder €15
Mid-range€15-€20
Splurge€20-€30 and up
Greeks consider Thessaloniki a gourmet city - but bear in mind that this refers to the excellent local specialities and cheap-and-cheerful ouzo taverns rather than to haute cuisine or a range of foreign restaurants. The latter are best avoided in Thessaloniki.
Budget
Go for a meal in one of the many central ouzo restaurants (ouzeri). Accompany your ouzo or tsipouro with a battery of small dishes - by far the best way to eat in Salonica. Particularly good are the fava beans, octopus either grilled or in wine sauce and mussels (fried, or in pilaff, or with a hot cheese sauce, saganaki). If you see "boiled vegetables' on the menu in wintertime, you'll be amazed at how good they taste. Another typical winter salad is politiki, a combination of shredded cabbage and pickles.
Many fast food options are found on the Dimitriou Gounari Street (between Rotonda and the sea).
Mid-range
Splurge
Drink
Thessaloniki is by far the liveliest city in Northern Greece- maybe even the whole country. Most of the trendy bars at the old sea-front (Nikis Ave.) and around, many of the tavernas are either downtown or in the old city (Kastra). You can also find numerous bars and tavernas at Krini, an area in eastern Thessaloniki. If you want to check out what the whole bouzoukia scene is all about, try the clubs Pyli Axiou and Mamounia, at Vilka. You will also find a lot of night clubs, bars and restaurants in Ladadika, the neighbourhood with the old warehouses next to the port. The student area is around Kamara (the Arch of Galerius), with many cheaper cafes and bars.
If you will be in town during summer, take a ride on the floating bars plying the harbour. Every 2 hr or so they leave from the White Tower area for a short evening trip (30 min) in the Gulf of Thessaloniki. They play mostly ethnic and alternative foreign music.
A beer would cost you €3-7, an alcohol drink €5-10 and a coffee €2.50-5.
Aristotelous Square
Among the most popular places to drink a coffee or a beer are:
A street in the Ladadika neighbourhood
Sleep
Budget
Mid-range
There are many hotels in the area a few blocks north of Aristotelous. Some of these are a bit upmarket, but if business is slack it is worth shopping around - they might give you a good discount rather than turn you away.
Splurge
Connect
As of Sept 2021, Thessaloniki has 5G from Cosmote and 4G from Wind and Vodafone. Wifi is widely available in public places.
Stay safe
Watch your pockets and travel documents as there are pickpockets, especially in buses during rush hour.
Some people may feel very uncomfortable walking in the areas near the railway station at night, as there are several brothels there.
Police number: 100
Stay healthy
Tap water is safe to drink. In some places in the city centre you might get a slight "taste" from the water. That means that the pipes in the building are getting old, so you might want to buy bottled water.
Greece is a sunny place, and if your skin is light-coloured, intense sunlight can be a serious danger. Use sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
Emergency phone number: 112
Cope
Consulates
Go next
Kavala Port & Old Town
The suburb of Panorama is well heeled and has good restaurants, and spectacular views over Thessaloniki - especially at sunset.
The classic trips out of Thessaloniki are:
Thasos, Scala Potamia

This city travel guide to Thessaloniki is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.

Last edited on 23 September 2021, at 09:08
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