Pink sunsets, orange sunsets, burning flame-colored sunsets, rainbow sunsets… You are walking down the Paralia, having a mind-blowing, peaceful view of the sun slowly hiding behind the sea’s horizon to your right, and a street full of packed coffee shops and bars to your left, and you already know that you could take this walk every day and never get enough of this city. There are dozens of seagulls invading the sea’s surface in circles, and there are hundreds of students on the other side, some of them lucky to have found empty chairs outside the coffee shops, others rushing to find them so they can order their coffees and enjoy this gorgeous view. As you’re walking, you see people desperately trying to take good enough pictures of this experience, and you become slightly sad because you realize that no camera is good enough to record what’s in front of you. The day is not gone yet, but you already sense the crowds are ready to go mad crazy to loud music in a few hours.
The land of Gods and Goddesses
Everyone knows that Greece is famous for its culture and history. Wherever you go, it is a given that you will have a great sightseeing experience, the “taking a step inside history” kind of one. However, what makes the city of Thessaloniki so special is that, historical spots are spread around the city like bus stations! You could be walking between stores or coffee shops, and bump into an ancient ruin, or a small church or monument that was built back in the times of the Ottoman Empire. For this reason, some people are calling it an “open museum”. These unexpected historical encounters make tourism in Thessaloniki extra sweet, so make sure to always have you camera battery full before leaving your hotel! Of course, for those who want to go one step deeper, there are museums that teach about how the Greeks used to live during the five centuries under the Turkish invasion, and even back when Thessaloniki was a wealthy and influential Byzantine town. You will not only arrive home with an inventory full of pictures and souvenirs, but you will also bring back very useful and interesting knowledge about history and civilization!
And talking about souvenirs… get ready, because this city screams “shopping”. You will stumble upon people’s shopping bags and find it hard to understand where this economical crisis the news keeps talking about is. It is something that people there just can’t live without, and it is no wonder why, since there are stores literally everywhere in the city. If you are coming around holidays, then you are lucky, because you will find really good deals everywhere.
Pleasure comes through the mouth
First, a piece of advice to all the big food lovers: It wouldn’t hurt packing a size-up piece of clothing or to with you. Because it is known – one of the best food experiences you will ever have is going to happen right here in Greece. Greek people love their food and they take huge pride in it! A popular food spot in downtown Thessaloniki is Ladadika, a lovely historic district covered with pavement stone, that was probably the most important market place of the city for centuries. A real greek feel, though (and where I personally enjoy eating the most) can be found in Plateia Athonos (Athonos square), where along with the irresistable smell and taste of food comes the romantic sound of bouzouki, the traditional greek instrument that will always take your focus away from the conversation. You will hardly see dining tables that are less than full, so if you want to assimilate, have fun and live like a Greek during your stay, don’t forget to order at least tzatziki, Greek salad, pita bread and feta cheese along with your main course. Also, most tavernas give you a free desert after you order your check. It can’t get better than that!
For those who are on a budget or just love meat, gyros or souvlaki in a pita is the tastiest treat that you can find on almost every corner in the city. And if you still prefer enjoying a long course in a taverna, but you want to explore the city outside the city center, restaurants in Nea Krini provide the loveliest view on the Thessaloniki marina. There you can also find numerous coffee shops, bars and pubs, all lined up and going hard until early morning hours!
If you are the type of tourist who loves having it all in one – historical sites, good food, scenery and nightlife – and you probably are, then Thessaloniki is a perfect traveling spot for you! It is a middle-size city (around 1.300.000 citizens), but all the fun and experience revolves around the center of the town. This means that all museums, restaurants, clubs, and other places worth visiting, are within walking distance, so you will hardly need to spend money on public transportation!
Whether you are 25 or 60 and you are considering visiting Thessaloniki, I guarantee you unforgettable time. After all, this is Greece! If you are just passing by, make sure to spend at least a night or two, because this is very dynamic town that has been awarded the European Youth Capital in 2014. One of my favorite things about it is its variety – the fact that I can walk down the street and see both people wearing dreadlocks, and people wearing fancy heels. The fact that I can pick a party according to my mood. Whether I want hard rock, house, techno, trance or domestic music, there are always options in Thessaloniki, due to the fact that this is simple a student life paradise with a lot of international students. Aristotle University is the biggest university in the Balkans, so that should tell enough about the atmosphere there. And there is nothing better than having to travel only 20 minutes to get to an amazing beach and cure your hangover…