Thessaloniki City Walks

Walking Thessaloniki

Walking Thessaloniki

Love Thessaloniki wishes you a wonderful November and a happy film festival week ! As we enter the winter months, and since the weather is still warm, it is the ideal time for visitors and locals to explore the city.  Starting today and for the next 10 days that the film festival takes place, the city will enjoy the company of visitors from all over the world.

I am often surprised to meet foreign visitors in weird places asking for directions and I am always curious to know how they found their way there, since the city itself does not offer a lot of directions besides the occasional label in english in some key spots.

Things are a lot easier these days, we live in the age of technology, where everything you think of, someone else has already thought or done it before.  So have you ever thought how great it would be to have your own personal tour guide to walk you around the city?

Here is where Walking Thessaloniki, a mobile app featuring an urban walking guide to the city comes to save all of you wondering travellers – and some of us locals who haven’t explored the city as much as we’d like!

“Walking Thessaloniki” is the first walking guide to the city of Thessaloniki. It consists of 23 routes, each with a carefully thought out scenic walk in a neighborhood of Thessaloniki. Each one has a detailed map of your walk, interest & entertainment points and a description of what you will see along the way, inlcluding historic and fun facts! Every interest point has a description website links and photographs of its own.

All the information provided helps you be as independent as possible, to save time while moving around the city like a local, and avoid tourist traps.

If you like the idea, then I suggest you visit the Greek City Walks webpage for more information, like their facebook page, and follow on twitter to stay updated.  The app is available in english and greek and there is also a print edition available for the old-fashioned travellers.

Paris and Dimitris, the two guys behind this have done an exceptional job showing off Thessaloniki’s best kept secrets and offering assistance to travellers.  The 23 routes might seem a lot for the short time traveller but I believe the aim is to visit the city again and again till you explore every last bit!


Byzantine church of Saint Dememtrius

Church of St Demetrius

Church of St Demetrius

26th of October is a big day for the city of Thessaloniki.  It is the nameday of the city’s patron saint, Saint Demetrius.  He was born in Thessaloniki in 270 AD and was executed also here in 305 AD after being tortured on the crypt below the church.  After the growth of his veneration as saint, the city of Thessaloniki suffered repeated attacks and sieges from the Slavic people who moved into the Balkans, and Demetrius was credited with many miraculous interventions to defend the city

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, dating from a time when Thessaloniki was the second largest city of the Byzantine Empire. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath.  The church was eventually reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels that survived through the difficult times the church has passed over the years, depicting St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration and with children.  Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church.   Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.

Underneath the Church of St Demetrios is the cypt, the place where St Demetrios, Thessaloniki’s patron saint, was martyred.

Crypt of St Demetrius

Crypt of St Demetrius

As the level of the ground gradually rose over the centuries, this area acquired the form of a crypt. According both to tradition and to archaeological findings, it was an old bathhouse, in which Demetrios was imprisoned and eventually martyred in ad 303. In the 5th century, when the first Church of St Demetrios was built, the site of his martyrdom was incorporated into the church and the fountain was converted into a source of holy water. In the years that followed, the fountain acquired basins, from which the faithful could collect myron, the sweet-smelling oil produced by the saint’s relics. The crypt filled up with earth during the period of Ottoman rule and was not rediscovered until after the fire of 1917. It has been restored by the Archaeological Service and was converted into an exhibition space in 1988.


Open Bus Sightseeing Tour

open busIt is only until very recently that Thessaloniki got it’s own sightseeing tour bus and I am really glad it finally did !

If you have visited Thessaloniki in the past you didn’t have the chance to view it this way before !  You would probably have to walk a lot, or try to figure you way out with the public buses, or simply miss some really important places.

The Open Bus Exclusive Touring Service Provider operating under the name Thessaloniki sightseeing offers a complete tour of Thessaloniki with its fabulous open deck bus within a tour of  hop on – hop off points of interest.  It is the ideal way for the short-time visitor to see the most important parts of the city while taking a history lesson on board !

Taking the bus tour will give you the chance to learn everything about the history of the city with free commentary in 8 different languages.  There is a lot of interesting places to visit in Thessaloniki and Thessaloniki sightseeing offers the way to visit and see them all in a very reasonable price and a very short time !

You can get a one or two day ticket depending on how much time you want to spend on each stop. The city tour runs every 40 minutes and the duration if you don’t get off is 80 minutes. You will find more detailed info on the website. 

Ano Poli

City View from Seih Sou

City View from Seih Sou

Ano Poli which actually means Upper Town is in fact the old part of the city.   It is the district north of Thessaloniki’s city center that was not ruined by the great fire of 1917 and was declared a UNESCO heritage site during the 1980s. It is Thessaloniki’s most traditional part of the city, still featuring small stone paved streets, old squares and homes featuring old Greek and Ottoman architecture.

Ano Poli also, is the highest point in Thessaloniki and as such, is the location of the city’s acropolis, its Byzantine fort, the Heptapyrgion and the city’s remaining walls, with many of its additional Ottoman and Byzantine structures still standing.  There are many things to see and do here so I recomend to spend a whole day.  Start early with the bus or on foot to explore the small streets, old churches, and great views of the city.

The area provides access to the Seih Sou Forest National Park and City Zoo.  It features amphitheatric views of the whole city and the Thermaic Gulf. On clear days Mount Olympus, at about 100 km away across the gulf, can also be seen on the horizon, as you can see on the photo.  If you are here in the summer and there is a concert or theatre performance on Theatro Dasous which is close by, don’t miss it !

Buses  to choose :

# 50 is the cultural route with live guide on board !

# 22 is the small bus that goes inside all the little steers

# 24 takes you up to Seih Sou forest, the City Zoo and Theatro Dasous

White Tower

SONY DSCA visit to Thessaloniki is not complete without a visit to the White Tower, the landmark of the city, and a popular meeting point for locals and not.

The White Tower of Thessaloniki, in greek Lefkos Pyrgos, is a monument and museum on the waterfront of the city. The present tower replaced an old Byzantine fortification which was mentioned around the 12th century and reconstructed by the Ottomans to fortify the city’s harbour; it became a notorious prison and scene of mass executions during the period of Ottoman rule. It was substantially remodelled and its exterior was whitewashed after Greece gained control of the city in 1912. It has been adopted as the symbol of the city.

The Tower was for centuries part of the walls of the old city of Thessaloniki, and separated the Jewish quarter of the city from the cemeteries of the Muslims and Jews.  The city walls were demolished in 1866. When Thessaloniki was annexed from the Ottoman Empire to the Hellenic State in 1912 during the First Balkan War, the tower was whitewashed as a symbolic gesture of cleansing, and acquired its present name.

The Tower is now a buff colour but has retained the name White Tower. It now stands on Thessaloniki’s waterfront boulevard, Nikis (Victory) Street. It houses a museum dedicated to the history of Thessaloniki and is one of the city’s leading tourist attractions. The Tower is under the administration of the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture.

Check out museum opening times If you want to visit the tower inside and as a bonus you will get the chance to enjoy the wonderful 360 view of the city !