I have a reunion with some of my dear girl friends in Thessaloniki. It is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of Greek Macedonia. I lived in Greece for 14 years and have visited this amazing city before, but I always had in mind to go back and see the city properly (since the first time it was all about visiting friends).
Today I have taken an early morning flight with Transavia from Amsterdam. The flight is on time, it actually arrives early in Thessaloniki and I take the X1 bus from the airport to city center. I am extra excited since this trip is pretty special. I am meeting my dear friends from Rhodes and Kos; we have a small reunion. Since my friends will arrive late afternoon I have a bit of time to myself. After arriving in the center, I get out at bus stop Kamara and immediately I see a city that is a combination of old between the new. Time to see all the amazing highlights later.
Since I am carrying a small trolley with me, I walk to the apartment I have rented for us this weekend. It is called Chapter I on Tsimiski 135 and the location is perfect! It is on the 8th floor and there is an amazing view of the White Tower. I found this accommodation through one of the partners we work with at the travel agency. Because I arrived too early I leave my luggage inside, take the key of the friendly owner Makrina and head out to the seaside for a cup of tea. Where it was a bit chilly upon arrival at the airport, the sun has come out now and it is starting to get warm (especially for this time of year).
Being so close to the White Tower, this is where I go to first. It is a Saturday and busy and full of life. I want to visit the tower, but will do it together with the girls, once they are here. I walk around for a bit, soak up to the sun and sit down on a terrace and enjoy of cup of tea. After a while I walk around to get to know the area where the apartment is situated before going back to take a nap; I am a bit tired (work has been busy the last few months and I lost some sleep last night having to get up early for the flight). I put the alarm clock to make sure I am awake once the girls arrive and drift off for about an hour.
After a short nap I find a message that the girls have arrived at the airport of Thessaloniki. I get up, go and get some groceries and then I walk to bus station Kamara, where I will wait for them. We arrive at the same time: I cross the street and the bus stops and they get out. One of the girls I have not seen in 9 years and it is great seeing her and of course the others as well. After lots of hugs and kisses and a reunion photo we walk to the apartment, get some wine and crisps and catch up for a few hours.
Later at night we decide to go for a walk. We pass by the White Tower, which is our point of recognition during this trip (we can see it from our balcony at Chapter I). We pass the beautiful statue of Alexander the Great and walk towards the famous umbrellas, artwork by Giorgos Zongolopoulos made in 1997. We take lots of photographs (luckily I am not the only one who takes too many).
We decide to find ourselves a place to drink and eat something. We end up at The Greek (Kallari Street 9), an amazing restaurant where the atmosphere is great and the interior lovely. The staff is friendly, the food and wine delicious and we talk about how lucky we are to be here all together.
The next morning we have a small breakfast in our comfortable apartment. We decide to visit the highlights of the city today. The sun is shining; the weather is amazing for this time of year; what a gift! We walk to Egnatia, where next to bus stop Kamara the beautiful church Panagia Dexia just finished Sunday’s church service. We have a look inside and the interior is beautiful. Thessaloniki has so many churches, small and big… there will not enough time to visit them all, but for sure we will do our best!
On the other side of the little square that lies in front of the church we find the Arch of Galerius; a triumph arch. Thessaloniki to me is a open air museum. Between the modern buildings you find old ones, ancient ones… And that goes as well for this arch; it is situated in between the modern buildings of the city. The remains of the arch (there were 3 in Roman times) are beautiful and many stand in front to have a look at the sculpted decorations. Along with the Rotunda it was part of the impressive Roman Palatial Complex.
About 125 meters from the Arch lies the Rotunda. It reminds us a bit of the Pantheon in Rome. The Rotunda is a majestic building that is the oldest of Thessaloniki’s churches. Once inside you see the history of this amazing building, that also served as a mosque (there is a minaret just outside the entrance). There are remains of old mosaics, fresco’s… it is stunning and there was no entrance fee today (or maybe there never is)!
From Rotunda we decide to walk to Ano Poli and Eptapyrgio. It is actually quite a climb and we stand still now and then to catch our breath and to look down on the city and the amazing views. We walk alongside the ancient wall that connected the castle all the way through to the White Tower (if I read the signs well). We reach Alysseos Tower and need a break. We enter Propylean Café for a coffee before we continue our walk up to the castle.
Just like in the Rotunda we do not have to pay an entrance fee today and we walk inside to see the remains of the castle that had many functions throughout the ages. In the 19th century it was converted into a prison and the prison closed in 1989 (not too long ago actually). The years after it was restored. The view from the castle is great, we can see the entire city in front of us. We visit the part that was the prison, which is a bit depressing, but an important part of history. Not all area’s in the castle are accessible, but for sure it was worth the climb!
Time to lunch… well: a very late lunch. We head down to the city again and stop at restaurant Nea Folia; a tip one of the girls got from a friend. It is packed as expected on a Sunday afternoon and we need to wait for an hour to get a table. We decide it is probably worth to wait and we agree to come back in about an hour.
Not too far away from the restaurant is the Ataturk museum. It is only a short walk to Apostolou Pavlou 17 where the museum is located and it is in this late 19th century and traditional Turkish house where Ataturk was born. He is the founder of modern Turkey and the museum is dedicated to his life and achievements. We read about Ataturk’s history, see personal belongings and I enjoy the visit. Situated next to the museum is the Turkish Consulate and on the other side a Turkish coffee house.
We head back to Nea Folia: our table is free and we sit down and order food and wine. The table next to us is filled with loud speaking Greeks and we laugh; this is typical in a Greek restaurant, especially after they enjoy a good meal and drink plenty of wine. We order dolmades, spicy feta and other mezedes and again the food is amazing and so is the wine!
It is late in the afternoon, but we decide to do a bit more walking. From the restaurant we go to the Agios Dimitrios church, which is considered the most important church of Thessaloniki. The church is dedicated to Saint Dimitrios, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. The church has beautiful fresco’s and other typical Greek Orthodox decorations. The building is half old half new and very impressive; it is a must see!
We walk further down towards Leoforos Nikis, passing other historical sites that we will visit tomorrow. We want to catch the sunset from Leoforos Nikis. The sun briefly appears between the clouds before disappearing behind mountains in the distance and once the sun is gone, we want to find ourselves a place for a hot drink.
We pass a bakery, where it is extremely busy. Apparently this bakery is very famous; it’s called Terkenlis. We go inside and if you have a sweet tooth, this is the place to be! Their most famous product is the Tsoureki bread! It’s the most delicious brioche bread that has secret ingredients and chocolate icing on top. One of the girls is already at the counter to buy one and me… I look at all the other delicious products they sell.
On Mitropoleos Street we find Greco Espresso bar and order (as it turned about to be an expensive, but delicious) hot chocolate and coffee. We sit quietly outside on the terrace, take in the day and all we have seen. We go back to “our” comfortable apartment and have to have a slice of the Tsoureki bread; it is really delicious. We manage to keep some for breakfast, have some more wine and call it a day.
Tsoureki bread for breakfast; what a great start of the day 😉 it goes extremely well with a hot cup of coffee or tea. We cannot believe our eyes when we see the sun is shining again. We get ready to discover more of Thessaloniki! We want to go back to the famous umbrellas to see them by daylight and walk through the YMCA park to get there. Alexander the Great looks like he is enjoying the sun too… and the umbrellas shine bright and I take pictures from every possible angle. It is a special work of art.
We also go back to the White Tower, but this time we go inside. The entrance is only 2 euro and you can get an audio guide to guide you through the 6 levels of the tower. The girls listen to what the audio guide has to say. Me… I prefer to slowly walk around, read the writing on the wall and go to the roof top to enjoy the amazing sea view and to soak up the sun! The song “such a perfect day” is in my head because that is what it is: a perfect day!
Time for a coffee break. Another place we heard of is Thermaïkos on 21 Leoforos Nikis, so that is where we go. The terraces are full everywhere along this busy road and once we arrive at Thermaïkos we have to sit inside, but we do not mind. The interior is full of color and paintings on the wall. The music is dreamy and relaxed and lovely seats and sofa’s invite you to sit down for a drink. The weather is too beautiful to inside stay too long, but we enjoyed being here.
We are at Aristotelous Square, the main city square of Thessaloniki. The square is designed by a French architect. There are numerous of bars and cafes and the square is a gathering place for social life, events, festivals and celebrations. Two famous buildings are situated on the quarter-circle sides of the Square: the 5star Electra Palace Hotel and the Olympion Theatre cinema: the buildings are pretty impressive! The square is full of pigeons which are being fed by both locals and tourists.
We pass by tourist and gift shops and the Terkenlis Bakery (again, but this time we contain ourselves). We visit Kapani markets where you can buy really anything from meat, fish, vegetables, mountain tea, olives, sweets, herbs, souvenirs and so much more. It’s an explosion of colours.
We cross Egnatia and want to visit the beautiful church of Panagia Chalkeon. It is situated in a little green oasis in the middle of this busy city. Unfortunately it is closed and we have to settle for some pictures taken from the outside. The Aristotelous Park is not very inviting to sit down and relax, so we continue our walk towards the Roman Agora (market). We do not go inside since it is about to close, but we enjoy the view of the ancient Agora Square and walk half way around it to have a good look.
From the Roman Agora we pass by the Bey Haman and go to the Agia Sofia church; one of the most impressive churches of Thessaloniki. It is based on the Agia Sofia in Istanbul (or Constantinople as the Greeks still call it). Like many Thessaloniki churches it spent a period as a mosque. The exterior to me does not look so spectacular, but the interior is really amazing: beautiful decorated wall, fresco’s, giant chandeliers and carved wooden chairs.
It is late in the afternoon again; we are ready for another late lunch. We walk back to a small tavern we saw on our way to Agia Sofia. To Dichti is a typical Greek style tavern in blue/white. We are lucky to still catch some sun, so we sit outside and order food and wine. The girls still live in Greece, but me… I left Greece 9 years ago and I need to eat my favorite dishes before I go back home tomorrow. We order mezedes, some calamari and mousaka… a bit of everything. The mousaka is simply delicious and we order another one and realize: this is the good life! Good food and wine while visiting a great city with being in good company, my dear friends who I love very much. It does not get much better than this!
At the end of the afternoon we walk back on Tsimiski street and have a look in the shops. It is probably a good thing we only carry hand luggage otherwise we would do some serious shopping. We go back to the apartment with the intention to go out for a drink and maybe a snack later at night. Thessaloniki has so many great restaurants: we need to try at least one more and want to go to Ouzeri Lola. Some take a nap and later in the evening 2 of the girls still feel like going out, but we end up staying in and chat away while drinking our last bottle of wine. Another beautiful day comes to an end!
Day 4… it is not even a full day. Unfortunately our flights leave around 2pm which means we only have the morning left. We decide to take it easy. We get dressed, pack our bags and since we have nothing left to eat in the apartment, we go out for breakfast. On this last day the sun is shining again. The girls get to go back to their sunny Greek islands and me… I get to go back to Holland, where it is a lot colder and probably not so sunny! So I soak up the sun and warmth during our short walk.
We have our breakfast at Tre Marie, just a short walk of the apartment on the corner of Mitropoleos and Eth. Aminis. We sit inside because the traffic is a bit noisy. We order coffee, fresh juice and I have to have a tiropita (cheese pie) before I get back on that plane! The atmosphere in this Italian restaurant is easy going. So far Thessaloniki has not let us down! So many great places where you can have a good meal or go for a drink. And all very affordable! We go back to the apartment to pick up our trolleys, write on the kitchen wall that is a black board meant to write on and leave the key behind. We enjoyed staying at Chapter I, felt very comfortable here and the location is just perfect.
We walk back to Kamara bus station and on the way I buy some baklava and kataïfi at one of the many bakeries. I ask them to wrap the box really well, since I want to take it back home to treat my colleagues at the travel agency where I work. The sweets contain a lot of sirup, so I need that to stay inside the box. The girls buy some trigona’s: sweet triangles of puff pastry, filled with delicious cream. I realize I have not even eaten a bougatsa yet…. Another famous treat you have to eat at Thessaloniki. I will save that for the next time I visit this city (and I am pretty sure the girls will join me again).
Once we arrive at the airport we drink our last coffee together and the trigona’s do not make it to the plane. We discover there is another Terkenlis bakery at the airport and if I did not already buy baklava I would have taken a Tsoureki bread back home. We all agree that Thessaloniki is a great city, there is lots to do and see and there’s all that delicious food, the sweets, the wine… This friendly city deserves a spot light between all those popular city trip destinations in Europe! It is all very affordable and the atmosphere in the city is good and the people are friendly.
I say goodbye to the girls and try to keep it together; it’s always emotional leaving this country, my friends… Greece will always be home, no matter where I find myself in this amazing country! Back to The Netherlands… In 12 days I am off to a new destination!
Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller
March 5, 2019