walking tour...some history....and some useful numbers
Much of the
area you are about to cover was rebuilt after the disastrous fire
of 1917. Thus many of the historic sites that were here, the center
of the harbor area during successive Macedonian, Roman and Byzantine
days, no longer exist. However, you can still get the feel of this
2300-year-old city as you explore the path suggested below.
Start from the
intersection of Aristotelous Street with Tsimiski Street
in-front of "Terkenlis Patisserie"
(you can tell by the delightful smell of fresh baked "tsoureki"
known as "Eastern bread" in the States) Walk towards the sea-front
to meet Aristotelous Square. Nowadays, people from all over
come to enjoy an elaborate ice cream dish at one of the many cafes
here. Turn right onto Mitropoleos Street, continuing for
two blocks parallel to the waterfront, to Komninon Street.
Turn right and continue back to Tsimiski Street. Along the way you
will notice several older buildings of rather Italian design, survivors
of a previous era.
you cross Tsimiski, continue up Komninon. On the left
side of the street, you will soon notice the Yahudi Hamam,
double Turkish baths, or what remains of it. Now occupied by merchants,
it received this name because it was in the Jewish district. There
at the far corner is the flower market. There's no need to describe
the colorful place, as it does that very well on its own. Continue
on Komninon across the street and turn right. Half way up the block
is the Central Market (Agora Modiano), a large building with
aisles of stalls selling everything from fresh fish and meats, to
wines, vegetables and local delicacies. There is no bargaining here,
but you may find a tasty treat at some of the city's lowest set prices.
you can find your way through to the opposite end of the market building,
you will exit on Ermou Street. Turn left and go to the corner (Komninon
again) and continue another block to Venizelou Street. This is one
of the old roads that ran down from the upper city to the harbor gates.
Go right, up Venizelou. You will notice on your left about half way up the
block an old market building, Bezesteni. The Turkish word Bezesteni
or Bezesten is derived from the Persian word Bezzazistan which means "clothing
materials market." These markets sold silk and other expensive materials
and this is the main reason why they were always guarded. The Thessaloniki
Bezesten was built around the end of the 15th century in a rectangular design
covered by six lead domes.
the first corner, turn right. You will now enter a maze of outdoor shops
selling everything from woven baskets to T-shirts. You might try to bargain
here, except for foodstuffs which are fixed price. As you wander, you will
no doubt get lost. Just ask for Egnatia (Egg-nah-TEE-ah) as quizzically
as you can. You will eventually be pointed (or led) to the famed road the
Romans built to continue the Appian Way across Europe to Constantinople.
Cross Egnatia wherever you find a pedestrian light. You will be very close
(if anything it will be to your right) to the church called Panagia
Chalkeon (Pan-ah-YEE-a Hal-KAY-on), or Our Lady 'of the Coppersmiths'
[bellow road level]. Built in 1028 it was adorned with frescoes which no
longer exist. The frescoes the visitor can now see are from the 14th century.
This is the southwest corner of the ancient agora district. When you walk
past the church on Chalkeon Street, you will see the many copper
and bronze shops for which the church and street are named. Continue for
a few long blocks, and when you come to a dead end, turn right on Filippou
Street and then left a half block over. You will see on your right the
archeological site of the Roman Forum where famous Romans such as
Marc Anthony and the Emperor Galerius trod. Still further up (turning uphill
on Makedonikis Amynis Street) you will come to Agiou Dimitriou
the street and you will be just a little ways from the city's foremost
house of worship, Aghios
(Saint) Demetrios , dedicated to Thessaloniki's patron Saint,
who is credited with delivering the populace from an invasion by barbarians.
The first shrine was built in 313 AD. The basilica church itself was
built a century later. It burned down sometime between 626-634, but
a larger church was almost immediately rebuilt. In 1491 the Turks
turned it into a mosque. In 1912, following the city's liberation
from Turkish rule, it became once again a Christian church, but it
burned again during the big fire of August 6, 1917. It was refurbished
and began functioning again in 1948.
is open to the public daily from 07:30 to 12:00 and from 17:00 to 20:30.
Entry is free. Inside the church, and towards the front of the church is
the entrance to the Crypt
of St. Dimitrios, situated bellow the church.
is an interesting area to find older cafes and restaurants not usually frequented
by foreign tourists. Either go back toward the agora, or east down Agiou
Dimitriou Street, where there are a number of cafes. Since most Greeks will
treat you warmly, feel free to go inside to rest your by-now weary feet.
you have relaxed, take Mitropolitou Genadiou Street down the
east side of St. Dimitrious and the Roman
agora to Egnatia Street. Turn right onto Egnatia and on your right
hand side you will see Bey Hamam, the first Ottoman bath house
in Thessaloniki, built in 1444. It is open to the public from 08:00
to 14:30, Monday through Friday. Admission is free.
exiting the Bey Hamam, turn left back onto Egnatia Street. Two blocks
later you will find yourself next to Makedonomachon Square.
Turn right where you see "McDonald's" to cross Egnatia on Agias
Sofias Street. After one block, the street will open up to Agia
Sofia Square, which was one of the most important centers of religious
and social life for the Greeks in Thessaloniki. You will notice a
few architectural novelties surrounding the square, one of which is
the most notably striking "red house" built in 1926. The Church
of Aghia Sophia, or Church of the Holy Wisdom, is on your left.
This is one of the first monuments to reflect the change from Roman
to Byzantine influence, and is also the first in Thessaloniki to be
constructed with a dome. Built sometime during the seventh century,
the church served as the city cathedral until the sixteenth century,
when it was converted to a mosque. In 1912 the church was returned
to its original function for Christian worship. It is worth going
in to see the colorful mosaics on the ceilings and walls.
you exit the church, turn left, following Agias Sofias Street towards the
waterfront for one more long block until you meet Tsimiski Street once again.
Cross Tsimiski Street and walk for a block. You will meet Mitropoleos
Street. Cross Mitropoleos Street. On your left side is the Church
of Saint Panteleimon which is the Cathedral of Thessaloniki. Next to
the Cathedral, and towards the sea is a three floor house Greek neoclassical
house (19th century) home of the Museum
of Macedonian Struggle . The entrance is from the side street Proxenou
down to the waterfront. Turn left in the direction of the White
Tower. Along the way you will pass many cafes and some 1930s art
deco buildings. Before you reach the White Tower itself, you will
walk past the site (now completely obliterated) of the Roman Port
area. This is just as the strand widens. You can imagine old galleons
loading olives, grapes, nuts and wine after bringing in replacement
legions for the Emperor's army. The White Tower is a restored mid-16th
century Turkish structure (Beyaz Koule - Lion of the Fortresses) said
to be built by Suleyman the Magnificent. It is now a very interesting
museum (Summer hours: closed Monday, Tuesday-Sunday 08:00-14:30, Winter
hours: Monday 10:30-17:00, Tuesday-Friday 08:00-17:00, Saturday and
Sunday 08:30-15:00). Admission fee of about 2000 drachmas.
continue along the water-front. You will pass the newly renovated Basiliko
Theater and reach the statue of Alexander the Great riding his
horse. The floating-boat-cafes make a small trip around the port of Thessaloniki
every couple of hours. It is a great way to view the city. Walk behind the
statue of Alexander the Great. Cross through the park. Cross the Paraliaki
Avenue and continue through the park. In the summer there are plenty
of cafes and restaurants here. At the other side of the park, you will come
to a big intersection. On your left you will see the YMCA building
built in the early 1930's. Inside are a public swimming pool (heated, hair
cap required, swimming lanes only), and a host of youth activity rooms.
On a clear day, from the corner you can see the remains of the ancient seven
towers fortification, Eptapyrgio, high on the hill. On your right
you will see the famed Archaeological
Museum home to many rare Macedonian treasures. You can see for yourself
the splendors of the first Western empire. (Summer hours: Monday 12:30-19:00,
Tuesday-Friday 08:00-19:00, Saturday and Sunday 08:30-19:00. Winter hours:
Monday 14:30-19:00, Tuesday-Sunday 08:00-19:00) Admission fee around 2000
Behind the Archaeological
Museum ins the Museum
of Byzantine Culture Do not miss it
Along the way
to the museum you no doubt saw the modern tower at the entrance to the
International Trade Fair (HELEXPO) grounds. Major exhibitions are
hosted here throughout the year.
you exit, cross the street to your right and head down Tsimiski. Turn
right on Gounari Street and go up three blocks to see the remains
Palace Complex of Galerius Maximianus. On your left side, you
will see the Octagon, which was probably Galerius' throne-room. The
Palace, just north of the Octagon, was a two-story structure with
an open atrium in the middle. It was destroyed by an eighth century
earthquake. Upon passing the Palace, turn right into the pedestrian
area and you will find yourself facing the Hippodrome, which
was the recreation center of Thessaloniki until 390 AD when 7000 cityfolk
were slaughtered by order of Emperor Theodosius.
will soon find yourself on Svolou Street, on which you should
turn left. The first street you approach will be Gounari again, and
turn right to continue on toward Egnatia Street. Once you come to
Egnatia, it will be hard to miss the Arch
of Galerius or Kamara and the Rotunda,
named for its circular shape, behind it. The Rotunda has been closed
for renovations in years past, but if you find it open the mosaics
|With your back
to the Rotunda, turn right on Egnatia, which was the Christian quarter
during Ottoman rule. Thus, you will note the number of churches on
this street, which date from anywhere during the Byzantine period
to the Turkish period. On the left, you will see the Transfiguration
of Our Lord from the mid-fourteenth century and then Our Lady
"Panayouda" (Swift to Mercy), built in 1818.
you will see two bright yellow buildings on either side. The one on the
left is the oldest surviving school of the Greek community, and is still
being used as a school today. The one on the right is an old physician's
mansion, donated to the city for use by international organizations. Farther
down Egnatia are the churches of St. Charalambus, an urban dependency
of a monastery on Mt. Athos, and St. Athansius, built in 1818. Continue
down Egnatia for a few blocks until you meet Aristotelous Street, a pedestrian
thoroughfare with a variety of shops and cafes. Turn left on this street
and about three blocks later you will find yourself back on Tsimiski. This
is were we started the tour.
few words about Greece
Greece, officially known as the Hellenic Republic, occupies the southernmost
part of the Balkan peninsula and numerous islands in the Aegean and Ionian
Seas. Its total land area is 131,957 square kilometers, about the size of
the State of Alabama. The country has a highly indented coast, giving it
a total coastline of 15,000 km. Greece is a mountainous country relatively
poor in natural resources. Its highest mountain is Mount Olympus (2,917m),
which lies south of Thessaloniki. Less than one-third of the land is arable.
The most important plains are in Thessaly and in Macedonia. The population
of Greece is 10,500,000 and the annual rate of population growth is 1%.
Around 63% of the population is urban, most of which is concentrated in
Athens, Thessaloniki, and Patras. Some 97% of the people are members of
the Greek Orthodox Church, with the remainder including Muslims, Roman Catholics,
Jews, and Protestants.
THE HISTORY OF THESSALONIKI AND NORTHERN GREECE THE CITY
is Greece's second largest city with a population of about a million inhabitants.
It is located 300 miles north of Athens in the ancient province of Macedonia.
In contrast to the dry Mediterranean climate of southern Greece, northern
Greece has more rainfall, more river systems and more of the temperate-zone
appearance. Built around the shores of the Thermaikos Gulf and framed
by its acropolis and Mount Hortiatis, Thessaloniki's natural setting is
By Greek standards the city is not old. It was founded in 315 BC by Kassandros,
brother-in-law of Alexander the great, most likely in the site of classical
Therme at the head of the Thermaikos Gulf. Kassandros named the city in
honor of his wife, Thessaloniki, who was the daughter of Philip of Macedonia
the half-sister of Alexander the Great. Just two decades earlier King
Philip had staged a decisive victory for his Thessalian allies at Chaeronia.
The daughter born to Philip that year was named Thessaloniki ("Thessalian
victory") to commemorate it. When Alexander's half-sister was wed to General
Kassandros, the city, given to them as a home, was renamed after her.
Thessaloniki later came under the domination of Rome and in 146 AD was
one of the Empire's provincial capitals dominating the area from the Adriatic
to the Black Sea. During this era the famous Via Egnatia was constructed
as a through-road between Rome, on the Adriatic Coast, and Constantinople,
capital of the Byzantine Empire. This is one of the greatest commercial
roads ever in existence and is still one of Thessaloniki's major arteries,
paralleling the sea.
Thessaloniki achieved its greatest prominence during the late Roman and
Byzantine empires when it became the first city of the Greek "province,"
far surpassing Athens in commercial and administrative importance. Saracens,
Normans, and Venetians at various times later controlled the city. Venice
bought the city in 1423 AD, but it was seized by the Ottoman Empire in
1430 and progressively suffered a decline in importance under the 482-year
Turkish occupation (1430-1912 AD). Turkish rule ended on October 26, 1912,
an event commemorated yearly on October 26th, the name day of the city's
patron, Saint Demetrios.
The central part of the city is new, having been rebuilt after a disastrous
fire in 1917, on new plans drawn by the famous French architect Hebrard.
During WWII, the Germans occupied Thessaloniki for nearly four years until
their withdrawal in October 1944. Since the war and particularly in the
last twenty years, there has been a rapid expansion of the city, which
brought its population from 380,648 in 1961 to 871,580 in 1981. The character
of the city changed at the same time from a prosperous provincial city
to a booming modern metropolis with all the urban problems that plague
most large cities in the world.
is second only to the Athens/Piraeus area as an industrial center, and
Northern Greece is economically one of the most important areas in Greece.
Major industrial sectors are petrochemical products, textiles, wood and
paper products, steel, and assorted manufactured goods. As throughout
the city's history, transportation services and shipping remain significant
sources of revenue for Thessaloniki. The city dreams of regaining its
Byzantine role as a pan-Balkan commercial center. Tobacco and deciduous
fruits such as peaches, apples and pears are the most important agricultural
products in the region. Both are significant foreign exchange earners,
with tobacco going to world-wide markets and fruits, either fresh or preserved,
to European markets. Philip Morris and other American tobacco companies
maintain buying offices in Northern Greece to handle their tobacco purchases.
Another interesting and important industry is fur processing and garment
manufacturing. It is centered in the mountain town of Kastoria about 100
miles west of Thessaloniki, and its success is based on the ability and
willingness of the local people to sew together bits of fur scrap into
pieces large enough for garments.
Getting around in Thessaloniki
Taxis in the city are numerous if a bit feisty. Drivers routinely pick
up other passengers en route, and often refuse to take customers to destinations
Hail the driver by raising your hand. Before entering, tell him the name
of the hotel or the location of where you wish to go. He will tell you
if he's going in that direction. (Ask "OK?" if you're uncertain. It is
Radio taxis can be
ordered at a slight additional cost, but are sometimes unavailable at
peak hours. Makedonia 2310- 555-111 White Tower 2310-214-900 Mercedes
Tickets are a flat fare of 100 drachmas within the city. You have to purchase
them from the kiosks that sell newspapers, candy etc. before you enter
the bus. No tickets are sold inside the bus. Once you enter the bus, you
time-stamp your ticket by entering it in one of the red boxes.
Urban Bus Terminal
Filipou Street (in front of Roman agora) 2310-416-921
Macedonia Airport 2310-425-011
Olympic Airways Office 3 Navarhou Koundouriotou 2310-281-880, 2310-230-240
Railway Station Monastiriou 2310-517-517
A ticket office is also located at Aristotelous Square.
MAJOR MUSEUMS, CULTURAL CENTERS, AND ART ORGANIZATIONS
is host to an impressive array of museums and cultural organizations. A
Archeological Museum Opposite YMCA 2310-830-538
Byzantine Museum 2 Stratou Ave. 2310-868-570/4
Folklore/Ethnological Museum 68 Vas. Olgas 2310-830-591
White Tower Museum at the White Tower 2310-267-832
Museum of the Macedonian Struggle 23 Proxenou Koromila St. 2310-229-778
Macedonian Center for Modern Art 5th km Georgikis Scholis 2310-471-545
Technological Museum Sindos Ave 2, bldg 47 2310-799-773
Cultural Center of N. Greece 108 V. Olgas 2310-834-404
Municipal Art Gallery 162 Vas. Olgas 2310-425-531
Vafopoulio Cultural Center of the Municipality of Thessaloniki 3 G. Nikolaide
Industrial Design Museum 43 Mitropoleos St. 2310-263-043
Photography Museum 18 Aristotelous St. 2310-257-050
Cinema Museum 44 Andreou Georgiou St. 2310-257-050
Telloglio Cultural Center 159A Agiou Demetriou 2310-280-009
State Orchestra of Northern Greece 21 Ippodromiou St. 2310-260-620
Municipal Orchestra 17 Kountouriotou St. 2310-538-440
Offices open between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m., but many close permanently
for the day in mid-afternoon. Lunch rarely occurs before 1:30 in the
afternoon - later on the weekends - and tends to last several hours.
Dinner in private homes and at restaurants seldom begins before 9:00
p.m., and can start as late as 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. on weekend evenings.
Nightclubs and similar centers generally do not begin to fill with
people before midnight, and often remain active until dawn, even during
the week. The city's large university population (about 60,000) ensures
that such establishments are always busy.
in Thessaloniki are open:
Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday: 8:30 to 14:00
Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday: 8:30 to 13:30 and 17:00 to 20:30
(around the The Palace Complex of Galerius Maximianus...see above)
--Square "Athonos" (between the Church of Aghia Sophia,
or Church of the Holy Wisdom and Aristotelous Square)
--"Ladadika" area (across from the Port)
--"Ano Poli" (on the hill where you see the remains of
the castle...visible from the White Tower)
of Cafes can be found on "Leoforos Nikis" (Parallel to
Tsimiski Street by the sea)
the summer (late April till late September) all night clubs operate
in open-air facilities near the airport. Arrive not before 1am and
expect to stay till 4-5 in the morning. You can go by TAXI and you
will find TAXIs there when you decide to go back to bed.
the winter (early October till middle of April) clubs operate in
their "winter" facilities around Thessaloniki. "MASKES"
is on Aristotelous Square (arrive at 1am). "SHARK" is
more of a bar (arrive at 11pm) on the east side of the city 15min
drive from Aristotelous Square.
"MYLOS" (pictured above) and nearby "VILKA"
are complexes with a taverna, a cafe, a club with Greek and a club
with non-Greek music. They are in the west side of the city, 5 min
drive from Aristotelous Square.
Info about life in Thessaloniki in Greek
about the History of Thessaloniki in Greek
of Culture--Info about Thessaloniki in ENGLISH
history about Macedonia in ENGLISH (see also "Interesting Pages")