A Weekend in Thessaloniki

white-towerMore than a year ago, we’ve talking about spending a weekend in Athens and somehow, never managed to write about spending a weekend in the other incredible Greek city, Thessaloniki .

Both towns can be visited during the entire year and you are guaranteed not to get bored. However, if you happen to come to Thessaloniki during summer, a day trip to the Halkidiki area is an excellent way to add some diversity to your trip (but more about this later).

The first thing to do after you’ve laded in Thessaloniki (or arrived at the train station) is to buy a map. Make sure to get one with both Greek and English characters. It will be your best friend for the next weekend. Then, get to the hotel. If it hasn’t provided a shuttle service for you, use the public transportation to save some money. Check in at the hotel and be prepared for the trip of your lifetime.

Let’s start our weekend in Thessaloniki on Friday at 5 p.m. (assuming you already checked in and got the map).

Friday

5 p.m. Late Lunch / Early Dinner

Thessaloniki is dotted with excellent restaurants and you really should start your vacation here by sampling some of the Greek food . Close to Aristotelous square, in the port area, there is Kitchen Bar, an interesting restaurant located in a renovated warehouse. Get a table by the sea and make sure to arrive here before 9 p.m. (it gets packed in the evening, especially during summer).

9 p.m. Greek music at a taverna

What better way to spend the night than listening to traditional Greek music? Since you are already in the port area, go to Kastra area and look for Kreonidis. It’s a taverna which plays Greek music, although not live. Another choice is Negreponte Taverna, a hidden jewel of the city, near Ladadika.

Enjoy the night out and then head to the hotel to catch some sleep. The next day will be packed!

Tip: since tavernas always offer incredible food, you can spend the entire afternoon in such a lovely taverna, or going from place to place.

Saturday

8 a.m. Breakfast by the sea

greek-foodRise and shine everyone! You are going to enjoy breakfast in Nea Krini area, in front of the sea. The restaurant is called Miami and it’s probably one of the best in the town. It specializes in seafood.

10 a.m. Roman Market and Theatre

It’s time to start exploring the incredible archeological sites in the city. It is located in Dikastiria and dates from the 2nd century AD.

11 a.m. Church of Agios Dimitrios

This is one of the stunning places in Thessaloniki which can be visited for free. Located on Aghiou Dimitriou, the church is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Demetrios. It is the largest church in Greece. The church was completely rebuilt in 1948, sticking to the original plans. Beneath the church there is the crypt of the martyr St. Demetrios. The crypt contains sculptures from the 3rd to 5th centuries and Byzantine artifacts.

>>read more about Free Things to do in Thessaloniki

12:30 p.m. Roman Baths

Just north of the church, you’ll find the Roman Baths.

1 p.m. The White Tower

It is, without a doubt, the landmark of Thessaloniki. It stands on the waterfront. It houses the Byzantine Museum (open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.), which is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in the city’s history. Built in the 15th century, the tower was part of the defensive walls and later became a prison.

3 p.m. Kamara (The Arch and Tomb of Galerius)

Located in Sintrivaniou Square, the Arch belongs to the Galerian group of buildings. It was built in 305 AD and depicts scenes from the battle. Later, connections to the Galerius Palace and the Rotonda were made. Only part of the monument remains standing and no one knows why the rest of it was destroyed.

3:30 p.m. The Rotonda

rotondaIt is one of the oldest churches in Thessaloniki, built in early 4th century AD. It served as a Mausoleum for Emperor Galerius. After serving as mosque during the Ottoman rule, today it is the Greek Orthodox Church of Agios Georgios and houses Christian art exhibitions.

5:00 p.m. Late lunch / early dinner

Stop for a bit and sit down to enjoy a meal in one of the city’s restaurants. If you are in a hurry, you can always grab a souvlaki to refuel.

6:00 p.m. Agia Sofia

Built in the 8th century AD, it is one of the oldest churches in Thessaloniki. It was modeled on the magnificent church of Agia Sofia in Istanbul. The huge dome, the incredible wall paintings and the large mosaic of the Ascension are some of the things you should not miss seeing here.

7 p.m. A walk in the Old Town

Want a free history lesson? Then head to the Old Town. It used to be surrounded by the Byzantine walls and was inhabited mainly by Turks. The narrow cobbled stone streets and interesting houses create a unique atmosphere.

9 p.m. Clubbing

Thessaloniki is a cosmopolite city and many swear it offers better nightlife and entertainment than Athens. Might be because it’s a students’ city and students really know how to party, right?

On your last night in Thessaloniki, try some of the nightclubs. In the heart of the city you’ll find Colonial. It also doubles as a restaurant so if hunger strikes, you are in good hands.

Enjoy the night out, sip some ouzo and then head back to the hotel and catch some sleep.

Sunday

8 a.m. Breakfast in town

How about breakfast in a taverna in the Ladadika area to start your last day in the city? Istin Polin serves traditional Greek food with a hint of Turkish influence.

10 a.m. Road trip: Vergina

Just 90 km from Thessaloniki you’ll find Vergina, a small town home to the burial site of the kings of Macedon. The ancient site of Aigai was the first capital of Macedonia and comprises extensive ruins, including the summer palace of King Antigonas Gonatas.

During the low season it’s open from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., while during summer it remains open until 7 p.m.

>>read more about Day trips from Thessaloniki

Alternative trip during summer:

10 a.m. Round trip: Halkidiki peninsula / Fourka

Once upon a time, Halkikidi was the prime hotspot for Europeans. The war in Yugoslavia led to a drop in the numbers of tourists but the peninsula is currently very popular among Eastern Europeans looking a cheap vacation at the sea side.

Fourka is one of the resorts in western Halkidiki. It’s located just 105 km from Thessaloniki and there are direct buses connecting the city with the area. Aside from soaking up the sun, you can also visit the historical sites: he Roman temple of Agiou Athanasiou and the Byzantine Temple of Agios Ioannis.

5 p.m. Back in Thessaloniki

…and preparing for the trip back home.

Additional reading:

>> Thessaloniki: Budget Hotels near the White Tower
>> Best Hotels in Thessaloniki for under €100
>> Getting from Athens to Thessaloniki
>> Museums in Thessaloniki

Photo credits: White Tower ; Greek food ; Rotonda

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