Karen Bryan, editor of the Europe a la Carte Blog, explains why the Greek city of Thessaloniki is a great European short break destination.
Greece’s second largest city Thessaloniki, also known as Salonica, was originally named in antiquity after the sister of Alexander the Great, King of the Macedonians and ruler of half the known world. With such lofty credentials the city has a lot to live up to and does so with aplomb. Today’s Thessaloniki is an ultra-modern city with strong awareness of the ties with its past history.. The locals pride themselves for an excellent dress and fashion sense, with items from Europe’s haute couture and top salons finding their way to Thessaloniki’s many boutiques, sometimes within hours.
Here are my suggestions for things to do on Thessaloniki short break.
Museums. For ancient history the city’s Archaeological Museum houses finds such as a gold larnax believed to contain the remains of King Philippos, the Statue of Arpocrates (end of 2nd c. B.C.), gold medals (225-250 B.C.), gold shield (from the royal tombs of Vergina), gold diadems, gold disks and gold Medusa heads – you get the picture of the wealth of this place during antiquity! The Museum of the Byzantine Culture has a permanent exhibition, regularly changing temporary exhibitions and workshops. But the whole city is an open-air museum, with archaeological excavations found throughout the centre which you can see below you as you walk, or even visit. The White Tower is part of the old fortifications and a modern day museum, highly recommended if only for the panoramic city view from the top. The fortifications extend to the hills surrounding the city, and these neighbourhoods are also some of the best places for typical Greek night life and food.
Shopping: Simply take one of the many, cheap busses to the city centre and wander around the many different shops and boutiques. Egnatia Street is the place for modernity, also criss-crossed by tiny streets with classy cafes where the fashion-conscious go to see and be seen.
Take the bus to the beach: From the city centre and many other locations in the city, you can take a bus all the way to the beautiful beaches of Perea, Agia Triada and Michaniona. It’s one chaep ticket for a pretty long distance and the buses are pretty frequent.
Food: Choose between modern/fast food in the centre and traditional in the periphery – seaside locations are excellent for tavernas. It’s usually a good idea to order a range of salads to share with your main course and of course the Greek white wine, restina.
Day trips: Thessaloniki is a very central location and the types of trips available include beautiful seaside city Kavala to the East, historic Katerini to the South-West by the foot of mount Olympus and of course the 3-pronged peninsula Halkidiki of UK package tour fame – seriously though, a great location for sun, beach and pine-tree shade.
You should take at least a week to sample the city’s delights at a relaxed pace, with Spring (late May/early June) and Autumn (mid-September to mid-October) are recommended for more pleasant weather. If you’re in Thessaloniki in September, drop into the International Trade Fair by the archaeological museum, a huge area of international trade exhibits suitable for a fun day/half-day visit for the whole family.
You can find hotel deals for Thessaloniki online at lastminute.com.