Thessalonica: “The nymph of Thermaikos”


Seat of the prefecture: Thessalonica
The main areas of the prefecture are: Thessalonica, Agia Triada, Asprovalta, Thermi, Kalamaria, Lagadas, Neapoli, Panorama, Perea, Oreokastro, and Halkidona.

The prefecture of Thessalonica is one of the 13 prefectures of Macedonia. The prefecture of Thessalonica is the largest in Macedonia and, also, in Northern Greece. It is situated in Central Macedonia and it borders with the prefectures of Kilkis, Serres, Imathia, Pella and Chalkidiki. The western part of the prefecture is bathed by Thermaikos Gulf, while its eastern part is bathed by Strymonikos Gulf.

The prefecture attracts a large number of tourists. The main poles of attraction are the well-organized vacation resorts, its unique natural beauty, the numerous historic and Byzantine monuments, as well as the International Exhibition of Thessalonica, which takes place every September.

The historic city of Thessalonica, seat of the prefecture, is the second largest city in Greece, second only to Athens, and, today, it is one of the main centres where the livelihood and the creativity of modern Hellenism are manifested. With a plethora of majestic Byzantine monuments, it is characterized as a Byzantine city.

Thessalonica Map

Also called the “nymph of Thermaikos” for its beauty, Thessalonica was founded in 316 B.C. by the Macedonian king Cassander (Kassandros), who gave the city the name of his wife and sister of Alexander the Great, Thessaloniki. The great number of archaeological, Byzantine, Muslim and neoclassical monuments stand as evidence of the history and the evolution of the city throughout the centuries.

Thessalonica Attractions

The landmark of Thessalonica is the White Tower (Lefkos Pyrgos), one of the most recognizable monuments in Greece. It was built in the 15th century as a fortified tower at the port and it was subsequently used to host the guard of Yenitsari and later as a prison for the condemned to death. In our days, it hosts an excellent collection of Byzantine exhibits from Thessalonica.

The city is adorned by many monuments of the Roman era. The area of the Ancient Agora (Forum) used to be the social and religious centre of the entire town. The Roman Odeon in the Agora is still used as an open-air theatre.

It is worth visiting the Galerian complex, built in the beginning of the 4thc century, which includes the Rotunda, the Triumphal Arch of Galerius, the Octagon, the Hippodrome and the Palace. The Rotunda is a circular building with a hemispheric dome, which was used by Galerius as a mausoleum. Today it is used as a place of worship and exhibition centre. The Triumphal Arch of Galerius, also known as “Kamara“, was built as a symbol of his victory against the Persians. The Octagon is a building with an octagonal perimeter, about the use of which many different views exist: a mausoleum, hall of the throne or a temple. The Hippodrome was the main place of entertainment of the citizens.

The Byzantine fortification walls, constructed during the reign of Theodosius the Great in the 4th century A.D., are among the most important points of interest in the city.

Thessalonica is home to a plethora of Byzantine churches of great historical importance, which are decorated with amazing murals, holy icons and mosaics. A visit to the Agios Dimitrios (St. Demetrius) church is a must. Built in the 7th century A.D., it was finally restored after having being sacked many times, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other important Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches are: Rotunda, Agios Georgios (St. George), Agios (St.) Minas, Agia Sofia, Panagia “Halkeon”, Agios (St.) Panteleimon, Agii Apostoli (St. Apostles), Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicolas) “Orfanos”, Achiropiitos, Osios David (St. David), Nea Panagia, Agios Antonios (St. Anton), Lagoudiani or Laodigitria, Agios Georgios (St. George), Agios (St.) Athanassios, Panagouda or Panagia Gorgoepikoos, Ypapanti, Agios (St.) Haralambos and the Monastery of Vlatades.

In the Byzantine monuments of Thessalonica are also included the Byzantine Baths, on Koule Cafe square, which were in use from 1300 to 1940 A.D.

Here you can also see many Turkish monuments from the Ottoman period. You should visit the Eptapyrgio (Yedi Koule) fortress, a fortification work from the times of the Byzantine dynasty of Paleologi, the mosques Xamza Bei (Alcazar) and Aldja Imaret, the four Turkish baths – Bei (Paradise baths), Pasha, Yahoudi (Louloudadika) and Yeni (Egli), as well as the Bezesteni, i.e. the Turkish market.

Other buildings of that period include the Villas Allatini and Bianca. In our days, Villa Allatini hosts the Prefectural offices. Villa Bianca has been restored and it is being used as an exposition facility.

Thessalonica boasts many interesting museums with important exhibits showing the rich history of the area. Some of them are: the Archaeological Museum of Thessalonica, the White Tower Museum, the Folk and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia, the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, the Technical Museum and many more. There are also galleries exhibiting works of important artists.

Besides the various historical buildings of the city, there are also many neoclassical buildings of special architectural value. You can visit and admire the Papafio Orphanage, the Army Headquarters Building, the School of Philosophy, the Building of the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace (Diikitirio or Konaki), the Customs building in the port area, the Mehmet Kapangi Residence, the 5th Boys’ High School etc.

A very important yearly event in Thessalonica is the International Exposition of Thessalonica, the greatest commercial exposition in the Balkans, with wide participation of Greek and International organizations. In the Exposition thousands of products are on exhibit every year, from the fields of industry, handicrafts, agriculture, farming etc. At the entrance of the exhibitions rises the building of the OTE Tower, constructed in 1967, while by the beach of the city lies the imposing statue of Alexander the Great, which was erected in 1970.

Also worth visiting is the historical district Ladadika by the port, the only old district saved from the big fire of 1917. After extensive restoration and landscaping works, the district has been turned into an amusement and entertainment area, as it houses many restaurants, taverns, bars, pubs, night clubs and the area is flooded by visitors almost every night.

The prefecture of Thessalonica is also endowed with a rich and beautiful natural environment with landscapes of rare beauty. The nature lovers can enjoy the rich in flora and fauna area of the Estuary of Axios River. During the winter months, in the thick vegetation of the river nest ducks, swans, and cormorants, which offer a great spectacle to bird watchers. In the Estuary of Axios River Estuary there are many taverns offering excellent seafood and river-fish dishes.

A visit to the picturesque Volvi Lake will enchant you. You will be able to see wetlands with a great variety of amphibious vegetation of plants and trees, as well as many kinds of birds, such as storks, flamingos and herons.

The prefecture is also known for its great vacation resorts offering exciting holidays during the summer months. With a variety of cosmopolitan and idyllic beaches, the prefecture of Thessalonica attracts many tourists who want to enjoy the sun, the sea and the water sports. You can swim in the well-known beaches of Stavros, Agia Triada, Perea, Nea Michaniona, Nei Epivates, and Vrasnes. Some of them have won the blue flag environmental award.

In the restaurants, dainty restaurants and taverns of the area you have the opportunity to explore the culinary pleasures of the Macedonian cuisine. You should try local sweets, such as the famous “bougatsa” of Thessalonica, the “ekmek” sweets made with recipes from Constantinople, “kazan dipi” and, of course, the “Panorama triangles”.

The prefecture of Thessalonica, with the abundance of natural beauty, the imposing monuments giving evidence of the grandeur of the Greek civilization, the attractive tourist resorts and the modern tourist infrastructure, is a pole of attraction for many visitors, who always leave with the best impressions and with a promise to return soon.

How to get there

By bus: There is frequent daily service with KTEL busses to and from Athens. Thessalonica is also connected with other big Greek cities, such as Drama, Kavala, Grevena, Xanthi, Rodopi, Chalkida, Larissa, Volos, Ioannina, Patras, Lamia, etc.

By car: You can get to Thessalonica by car:

The distance from Athens is 515 km.
The distance from Volos is 216 km.
The distance from Patras is 459 km.
The distance from Ioannina is 370 km.
The distance from Grevena is 192 km.
The distance from Xanthi is 221 km.

By Air: There are daily flights from the Eleftherios Venizelos airport of Athens to the airport Macedonia of Thessalonica. There is also connection to Herakion in Crete, Ioannina, Corfu, Mykonos, Santorini, Lesvos, Lemnos, Chios, Samos, Rhodes and Chania.

By Ferry: There is ferry service from Thessalonica to Crete, Volos, Kavala, Cyclades, as well as with the islands of Eastern Aegean and Dodecanese.

By train: There is train service from Athens to Thessalonica.

Thessalonica Photos

Thessalonica Useful Telephone Numbers (Calling code for Greece 0030)

Municipality of Thessalonica
2310 375200
Eleftherios Venizelos (Athens) Airport
210 3530000
“Ahepa” Hospital
2310 993111
Thessalonica Bus Depot (KTEL)
2310 510835
“Ippokratio” Hospital
2310 837921
Athens Bus Depot (KTEL)
210 5124563
“Papanicolaou” Hospital
2310 357602
Thessalonica Railway Station (OSE)
2310 517517
“Agios Pavlos” Hospital
2310 538021-4
Athens Railway Station (OSE)
210 5297777
Thessalonica Police Dept.
2310 388000
Thessalonica Radio Taxi
2310 550500, 214900, 551525
Thessalonica Traffic Police
2310 551118
“Aristotelio” University of Thessalonica
2310 996000
Thessalonica Tourist Police
2310 554871
Archaeological Museum of Thessalonica
2310 830538
Thessalonica Fire Brigade
2310 429701
History & Art Museum of White Tower
2310 267883
Thessalonica Military Police
2310 837500
Byzantine Museum of Thessalonica
2310 868570-4
Thessalonica Port Authority
2310 531504-7
Modern Art Museum of Thessalonica
2310 257050
Thessalonica Post Office (ELTA)
2310 263173
Thessalonica “Macedonia” Airport
2310 473212