Thessaloniki was our first mainland destination in Greece. After spending a few weeks in the Cyclades and on Crete, we were looking for a mainland Greece experience off the tourist pathway to Athens. Sitting all the way up in the north of the mainland, Thessaloniki was exactly what we were looking for. We hadn’t even heard of it until already on the road, and chose to add it in hopes of finding something unique. As it turned out, Thessaloniki became on of our favorite places in Greece – it gave us a refreshing take on the Greek and Turkish cultures, as well as a twist on the food and nightlife we had down south.
The city is strategically built around ancient ruins, which pop up almost around every corner. Some boulevards are built with ruins in the middle, some parks and courtyards are built with ruins as the centerpiece. There are also historic buildings like arenas and churches that are still in tact and are integrated into the flow of the city. Whether you are out to see history, to go shopping , or to spend the afternoon at a sidewalk taverna, Thessaloniki feels a little modern, a little ancient, and a little relaxing.
One of the things I liked most about the city was the fusion of European and Middle Eastern styles, in both cuisine and architecture. The city has long boulevards, wide walking streets, Parisian style building facades and trees lining the sidewalks. All of these embody European style. In the same block, you’ll see archways, patterned tiles, and geometric shaped gratings and windows. Somehow it all works together and creates a whole new aesthetic. This is something I’m looking forward to seeing even more of on our upcoming trip to Turkey.
In the food, we found more middle eastern influence, with an abundance of new (and more) spices, sesame, and pita breads. Another thing I’m looking forward to in Turkey. (well, maybe not the sesame for Matt)
At nighttime, parts of the city wake up and turn into hubs for late night eating, drinking, and dancing. In the pleasant weather, clubs and bars have patrons spilling out into the narrow side streets, music wafting over your head as you walk from bar to bar in search of the right kind of place. You could spend all night on a short block and visit ten bars before going home in the early hours of the morning. Nightlife down south hadn’t proven to be as much of a party as we had had hoped, so finding an unexpected street party only blocks from our hotel was another surprise that made Thessaloniki such a jewel in our eyes.