Thessaloniki, Greece, is a beautiful city that’s easy to fall in love with.
Though it’s the second largest city in Greece, the centre is walkable and you can see and experience a lot of Thessaloniki’s attractions on foot.
It’s a perfect destination for a weekend getaway or a short European city break.
However, I’m pretty sure that after you visit once, you’d probably want to visit again and explore more of it.
Even if you’re just going to the Greek islands and not planning on visiting the big cities in Greece, I recommend you stop at Thessaloniki for a visit.
With a multicultural history, beautiful churches, interesting museums, nice weather and the blue water of the of the Aegean Sea, a Thessaloniki holiday has a lot to offer.
It’s popular with tourists, but I personally didn’t feel it was overcrowded. The city maintains its relaxed vibe, especially when you walk along the seafront.
Wondering what to do in Thessaloniki? Here is my guide on how to make the most out of your one day visit to Thessaloniki.
Ancient Agora – The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum or Ancient Agora is an impressive archaeological site that’s hard to miss in Thessaloniki.
The ruins of what used to be the political and social centre of the city in ancient times, were discovered accidentally in the 60s.
Today it’s still used for public events, such as the Greek Opera Festival.
Church of Panagia Chalkeon
Close to the Roman Forum you’ll find a beautiful building – the Church of Panagia Chalkeon.
With charming gardens around it, this church is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It wasn’t open when I visited, so I appreciated the architecture and gardens from the outside. If it’s open you can go inside and see the wall paintings that it’s famous for.
Kapani Market in Thessaloniki
Across the street from the Church of Panagia Chalkeon is Thessaloniki’s Kapani Market.
The market is divided into two parts. One has clothing and meat stalls, the other has fruit and veg stalls and delicatessens.
It’s s great place to take pictures of the colourful produce and buy some snacks.
This massive square is the central square of the city and it’s lively and vibrant, but doesn’t feel too busy.
It’s called after Greek philosopher Aristotle and you’ll find his
statute in the square.
If you like architecture, don’t forget to look up. I loved the eclectic buildings around that area. Greek, Turkish, Arabic and European styles all mixed up together.
There is a tourist information booth conveniently located in the square, next to the (gorgeous!) Electra Palace Hotel.
From there you can head straight to the waterfront.
The Thessaloniki waterfront
When I imagined what Thessaloniki would look like before I booked my flight there, the first thing that came to my mind was the waterfront.
It’s what the city is famous for and it gives it much of it’s easy going vibe.
Walk to the waterfront from Aristotelous square, take in and admire the wonderful view.
Then you can either go right towards the Old Port of Thessaloniki, or left to wards the White Tower.
I recommend you visit the Old Port first.
The Old Port of Thessaloniki
When you take a right and walk along the water after visiting Aristotelous square, you’ll soon reach the Old Port.
It’s a renovated space with a special charm to it. Sit by the water for a marvellous panoramic view of the sea and the city.
The port is also an artistic hub, home to of the city’s museums. These include the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography , the Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki and the Thessaloniki Cinema Museum & Cinematheque.
Ladadika and Lunch
From the Old Port, head into Ladadika, Thessaloniki’s historic district, full of bars, cafes and restaurants.
It’s a good place to stop for lunch or a coffee if you’re tired by now.
After a stroll along the streets of Ladadika, head back to the waterfront.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian and want to stop for lunch, I recommend you go back to the Kapani Market for lunch at rOOTS.
It’s a popular plant-based restaurant in a quiet location. They have a menu in English and the food is fresh and delicious.
The White Tower of Thessaloniki
When you take a right at the waterfront after Aristotelous Square, you’ll start walking towards the White Tower.
This landmark is a bucket list item when you visit Thessaloniki.
Along the way, there are many opportunities for people watching and street photography. The water makes a fantastic backdrop.
The White Tower is the city’s symbolic monument.
It had many uses throughout history, from fortification to a prison, and today it’s used as a museum.
The museum inside the tower will teach you about the history of Thessaloniki, while you make your way to the top.
From the top of the tower, you’ll get a spectacular panoramic view of the city.
Next to the White Tower you’ll see a few boats offering cruises.
It’s a great way to rest your feet and relax while you watch the sea and the city from the boat.
The boat tour lasts 30 minutes and is good fun!
You don’t need a ticket to go on the boat, but you’ll have to buy a drink on board instead of a ticket.
Aghios Georgios church – Rotonda
After relaxing on the boat tour, there are more beautiful places to see.
Head to Aghios Georgios church a.k.a Rotonda or Rotunda for some impressive Roman architecture.
It’s about 15 minutes on foot from the White Tower. If you go inside you’ll enjoy some of its unique preserved mosaics.
The building has Roman origins, but it also served as a mosque during Ottoman times and later as a church.
Agia Sophia temple
A shirt walk from the Rotonda you’ll find another local landmark – the old church of Agia Sofia.
This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its architecture, wall paintings and mosaics.
Ano Poli – The Upper Town of Thessaloniki
In the late afternoon, it’s a good idea to go up to the Upper Town, so you can get to the top in time for sunset.
The views from the top are gorgeous.
I took a guided tour with Explore Thessaloniki. We went from Aristotelous Square all the way up to the Upper Town.
There were plenty of stops along the way of course, but it’s a long climb up so don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes 😉
The theme of the tour was legends and myths. Our guide told us stories from Greek mythology to more modern stories about the people of the city.
The Upper Town was the Ottoman part of the city and has very different architecture to the other parts of Thessaloniki that I’ve seen.
This district looks more traditional, with stone-paved alleys, colourful houses and no modern buildings.
The place looked so nice that I asked our guide if it was a posh district.
He explained that it looks so nice because it was not destroyed in the fire of 1917, so it has preserved an old charm.
During the climb up you will stop a couple of times and get a panoramic view of the city from above.
There were three great viewing points along the way. On a clear day you can even see Mount Olympus on the horizon.
This view of the city, especially just before sunset, is well worth the climb up!
Where to stay in Thessaloniki
I recommend staying in the city centre, because the city is walkable and you’ll be able to reach most attractions on foot easily.
I stayed at a sweet Airbnb flat, just a couple of minutes away from the Roman Forum.
Its vintage design is really lovely and it’s perfect for a solo traveller or a couple.
If it’s not available or you’re looking for a bigger place, browse more Airbnbs in Thessaloniki here.
TIP! If it’s your first time booking on Airbnb, don’t forget to use your discount! Sign up via this link to get a discount on your booking.
Thessaloniki has some gorgeous hotels in the city centre.
Here are some of the most beautiful ones with the best reviews.
The Modernist Hotel Thessaloniki
A luxury hotel with great minimalist design in a very central location.
Colors Urban Hotel
If you love funky colours and a bold design, you’ll love this place, located close to the port.
Tourist Hotel Thessaloniki
Centrally located, this hotel has a good variety of rooms with vintage architecture.