Updated: May 15, 2024 | Has affiliate links

12 Best Things To Do In Thessaloniki (with map)

Best things to do in Thessaloniki Greece

A large and busy Greek city, Thessaloniki, is bustling with life and things to see and do. From the gorgeous coastline to the amazing views you get from the nearby hills, Thessaloniki makes for a beautiful destination for your trip to Greece. Let’s put on some comfortable walking shoes and explore my favorite things to do in Thessaloniki.

As the second largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki or Salonica, as the locals call it, is a popular tourist attraction. Once you come to Thessaloniki, it is easy to understand why this city is such a fun tourist destination. From the gorgeous views of the Agean sea and the panoramas offered by the surrounding hills to the deep historical places, Thessaloniki is simply beautiful to visit. So, let’s go together on a walking tour of Salonica and explore some of the best things to do in Thessaloniki.

Map of favorite things to do in Thessaloniki
Map of favorite things to do in Thessaloniki
Red – see, Green – walk,
See my photos from Thessaloniki

Stay in Thessaloniki. We stayed at the very convenient Pefka Hotel on top of the hill with access to beautiful views and plenty of parking. You can also find budget hotels in Thessaloniki.

With our map of Thessaloniki in hand and comfortable shoes on our feet, let’s explore this beautiful seaside city with amazing history.

1. Statue of Alexander the Great

Statue of Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki
Statue of Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki
See my photos from Thessaloniki

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With picturesque views of the Aegean Sea and trails lined with historic statues, walking around YMCA Park belongs on the list of things to do in Thessaloniki. The Park’s most prominent statue, at the seafront, honors Alexander the Great as he rides his horse Bucephalus.

Alexander the Great was the King of Macedonia and Persia and is considered one of the greatest rulers and military commanders in history. Under his rule, Alexander created an empire that stretched from Greece to India. Most of the lands Alexander conquered maintain a Greek influence to this day. Several cities he founded continue to be cultural centers. Thessaloniki was named for Alexander’s half-sister Thessaloniki.

2. White Tower

Visiting White Tower is one of the cool things to do in Thessaloniki
Visiting White Tower is one of the cool things to do in Thessaloniki
See my photos from Thessaloniki

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The White Tower, the iconic symbol of Thessaloniki, was built after Thessaloniki fell to the Ottomans in 1430. The Tower was used by the Ottomans as a prison until 1912, when Thessaloniki was liberated. The Tower’s surrounding walls were demolished in 1911, leaving the Tower standing by itself.

Those interested in learning about the city’s history must include a visit to the six-story tall White Tower as one of the things to do in Thessaloniki, as the Tower is now a historical museum. The Tower’s ground floor gives a timeline of Thessaloniki’s history while subsequent floors are devoted to urban planning, history, people, commerce, leisure and culture, and cuisine. From the top floor balcony, there are great views of the Aegean seafront and Thessaloniki’s skyline.

Walking from the White Tower towards the Palace of Galerius, stop at Estia Bakery. Estia offers a variety of beautiful and delicious breads, pastries, cookies, and cakes.

3. Palace of Galerius

Roman ruins from Palace of Galerius
Roman ruins from Palace of Galerius
See my photos from Thessaloniki

Book a Local Walking Tour. This tour introduces you to the rich history of the place as you walk around the most beautiful parts of the city.

Seeing the Palace of Galerius should be among the things to do in Thessaloniki for Roman history lovers because it provides a look at Diocletian’s tetrarchy form of government. The Palace of Galerius was the official residence of Emperor Galus Galerius Valerius Maximianus, a Roman tetrarchy ruler who named Thessaloniki as one of the Roman Empire’s capitals. An extensive reconstruction effort made the Palace the only early 4th century AD monument to be preserved mostly in its original form.

The Palace of Galerius features several Roman-style buildings, including an octagon room housing the throne; a basilica; a central building; a two-story building; baths; the Hippodrome; and Thessaloniki’s first enclosure wall. Some of the original marble floors, brick floors, wall paintings, and plaster work were also preserved. Beautiful views of the Aegean Sea abound from the Palace.

4. Arch of Galerius

The old Roman Arch of Galerius is a favorite tourist attraction in Thessaloniki
The old Roman Arch of Galerius is a favorite tourist attraction in Thessaloniki
See my photos from Thessaloniki

The Arch of Galerius, a monument dedicated to Emperor Galerius’ victory at the Battle of Sataala over the Sassanid Persians, sits at the intersection of Egnatia and Gounari Streets. The Arch of Galerius, built between 298-299 AD, was originally an eight pillar gateway to Thessaloniki that spanned the Via Egnatia.

While only three of the Arch of Galerius’ pillars and their masonry cores survive today, it shouldn’t deter art and history buffs from placing a visit on their list of things to do in Thessaloniki. Each pillar features four vertically stacked registers of sculpted decoration, with carvings celebrating Galerius, the Tetrarchy, and the Roman Empire. To preserve the Arch, the original rubble masonry is reinforced with modern brick.

5. Rotunda of Saint George

The old Roman Rotunda is a circular Roman temple converted into Thessaloniki's oldest Christian church
The old Roman Rotunda is a circular Roman temple converted into Thessaloniki’s oldest Christian church
See my photos from Thessaloniki

The Rotunda of Saint George is a brief walk from the Arch of Galerius. Also called the Rotunda of Galerius, the cylindrical structure is Thessaloniki’s oldest church, built in 306 AD. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rotunda of Saint George is a showcase of both Byzantine architecture and Thessaloniki’s religious history, which will appeal to anyone looking for things to do in Thessaloniki.

Galerius ordered the Rotunda built. After Galerius’ death, the Rotunda became a Christian church until the Ottomans took Thessaloniki, when it became a mosque. After the Greeks captured Thessaloniki in 1912, it became a Greek Orthodox church. No longer used as a church, the Rotunda was restored in 1978 after it suffered damage during an earthquake. However, only fragments of the original mosaics remain.

The Holy Church of Saint Panteleimon, a well-preserved Byzantine church built in the 13th century, is located on the way to the Byzantine Church of Hagia Sophia. The church’s architecture is tetrastyle cross-in-square with a narthex and an ambulatory that ends in the eastern part of the church inside two chapels. The ambulatory was destroyed, but the chapels still exist. While few of the original wall paintings still exist, frescos of the Virgin Mary, Saints Peter of Alexandria, Eustathios of Antioch, and Gregory of Nyssa, and others survived.

6. Byzantine Church of Hagia Sophia

Beautiful interior of the old Greek Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia
Beautiful interior of the old Greek Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia
See my photos from Thessaloniki

The Byzantine Church of Hagia Sophia, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates back to 660 AD. The church’s architecture, with a domed Greek cross basilica, resembles the architecture of the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, now Istanbul. The architecture, along with the impressive mosaics completed at different times by people with different religious philosophies, rank a church visit as one of the more impressive things to do in Thessaloniki.

Inside the church, beautiful mosaics adorn the altar and dome. Gold mosaics embellish the semicircular recess. The mosaics on the arch and the cross were made by Iconoclasts, who believed that depicting God, Jesus, and saints in artwork was blasphemous. The Iconolaters, who believed the opposite, worked on the mosaic of Mary in 787 AD. Other mosaics depict the Apostles and angels. The dome’s mosaic represents the ascension of Jesus. The simple cross apse is covered with a mosaic of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus.

7. Aristotelous Square

Walking up the street from Aristotelus Square
Walking up the street from Aristotelus Square
See my photos from Thessaloniki

Aristotelous Square, located in the center of Thessaloniki, is both a historical site and the center of Thessaloniki city life. The Square, designed by French architect Ernest Hebrard, gives an insight into Thessaloniki’s urban planning process. Those interested in the city’s more recent history will find visiting Aristotelous Square one of the more educational things to do in Thessaloniki.

Hebrard, employed by the Greek government to re-plan Thessaloniki after a 1917 fire destroyed much of the city, had ambitious plans for Aristotelous Square, including a statue of Alexander the Great in the center of the Square. Hebrard’s plans weren’t fully implemented and a more modest square was constructed. Today, Thessaloniki’s festivals, holiday celebrations, political rallies, and speeches take place at Aristotelous Square. Gorgeous views of the Aegean Sea can be seen from the Square as well as by walking along Nikis Avenue.

8. Kapani Market

Butcher shop inside Kapani Market
Butcher shop inside Kapani Market
See my photos from Thessaloniki

The neighborhoods surrounding Egnatia and Venizelou Streets are home to Thessaloniki’s vibrant street markets, including the Kapani Market. The Kapani Market is Thessaloniki’s oldest marketplace and was the site where Turkish leaders executed Christian community leaders in retaliation for a citizens’ uprising during the 1821 Greek War of Independence.

Book a Local Walking and Food Tasting Tour. This tour introduces you to the flavors of Salonica as you walk around town.

The Kapani Market provides an insight as to how the locals live, making a visit one of the more fascinating things to do in Thessaloniki, The bustling outdoor market’s merchants sell olives, meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, flowers, wicker goods, furniture, kitchen utensils, travel accessories, clothing, shoes, and souvenirs. When making a purchase, haggling is expected. Cafes and restaurants are located throughout the Market.

9. Roman Forum & Agora

Ruins of the old Roman Agora (Marketplace)
Ruins of the old Roman Agora (Marketplace)
See my photos from Thessaloniki

Built in the late 2nd century AD, the Roman Forum was the administrative center of ancient Thessaloniki and the home to social and religious events. The Forum, also called the Ancient Agora, was unearthed in 1966 when construction workers excavated the site in preparation to build a courthouse.

The Roman Forum, whose beautiful arches, fountains, and cloisters put it among the artistic and historic things to do in Thessaloniki, has an open area with two-story porticoes formed by Corinthian columns sitting on two sides. where events took place. The Forum’s marketplace had shops lined along an ancient trade route. A largely intact Odeon, or amphitheater, hosted musical performances, gladiator games, and wild beast fights. A covered passageway leads to an underground museum where exhibits tell the Forum’s history.

10. Bey Hamam

Inside the Bey Hamman baths
Inside the Bey Hamman baths
See my photos from Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki’s oldest Ottoman bath and Greece’s most historic bath, Bey Hamam, was constructed in 1444 by Sultan Murad II. Also called the Baths of Paradise, it, like other Ottoman baths, was where residents did their personal and spiritual cleansing and purification. Due to its importance to Ottoman culture, paying a visit to Bey Hamam is one of the more interesting things to do in Thessaloniki.

Bey Hamam had separate bathing areas for men and women with cold, tepid, and hot rooms. The men’s bathing area has a painted cupola, marble basins and benches, and a cruciform room with a massage table in the center. Colorful paintings of plants are on the walls. The baths were in use until 1968 and restored following a 1978 earthquake.

A statue of former Greek prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos stands in Dikastirion Square, near Bey Hamam. During his eight terms as prime minister, Venizelos expanded Greece’s borders and instituted reforms which modernized Greek society.

NOTE: As of January 2023, Bey Hamam is only open for special events and cultural exhibitions.

11. Trigonou Tower

Trigonou Tower is one of the picturesque things to do in Thessaloniki
Trigonou Tower is one of the picturesque things to do in Thessaloniki
See my photos from Thessaloniki

In eastern Thessaloniki, best accessed by car or public transportation, the Trigonou Tower stands out among Thessaloniki’s Byzantine military fortification walls. While the Byzantine walls were constructed around 390 AD, Trigoniou Tower, located where the north and east fortification walls meet, was built in the second half of the 15th century and was used in defending the city from invaders as an armory and an artillery tower.

Photographers place a visit to the top of the Trigonou Tower high among their lists of things to do in Thessaloniki due to the views of the eastern walls and the Adriatic Sea, along with fantastic panoramic city views. From the Tower, you’ll see the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle located above a former spring where Paul drank water from when he visited Thessaloniki.

As told in Acts 17:1-9, Paul visited Thessaloniki, where he preached at one Thessaloniki’s main Jewish synagogues for three straight sabbaths, explaining why Jesus is the savior. While many believed Paul, some jealous Jews started a riot, leading Paul to leave for Berea. Paul later wrote 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians, addressed to Thessaloniki’s church and residents.

12. Acropolis of Thessaloniki

Gorgeous view of Thessaloniki seen from the old fortress
Gorgeous view of Thessaloniki seen from the old fortress
See my photos from Thessaloniki

Those with an interest in history will find a visit to the Acropolis of Thessaloniki high on their list of things to do in Thessaloniki. The Acropolis, built by former Macedonian king Cassander, sits at the city’s highest point. Part of the city’s skyline, the well preserved Acropolis was the second line of Thessaloniki’s defense with two large gates leading inside.

The Acropolis’ northern and eastern walls meet at the Tower of Trigonio, which was where the Turks invaded Thessaloniki in 1430. From 379-395 AD, during Roman emperor Theodosius I’s reign, the Venetians built another line of walls called the Eptapyrgio, or Heptapyrgion, with seven towers. Now a cultural center, the Eptapyrgio was, at one time, a prison. Visitors can walk around the walls and catch scenic views of Thessaloniki and the Aegean Sea, especially from the southern walls.

Is it Worth Visiting Thessaloniki?

Absolutely! If you’re planning to visit Greece, you should have Thessaloniki on your list of things to do in Greece. We arrived from north through Bulgaria, so Salonica was our first stop in Greece and we loved it. We strolled by the sea, climbed medieval walls and enjoyed lots of great food and sweets.

Plan Your Trip to Thessaloniki

Stay in Thessaloniki. We stayed at the very convenient Pefka Hotel on top of the hill with access to beautiful views and plenty of parking. You can also find budget hotels in Thessaloniki.

Book a Local Walking Tour. This tour introduces you to the rich history of the place as you walk around the most beautiful parts of the city.

Book a Local Walking and Food Tasting Tour. This tour introduces you to the flavors of Salonica as you walk around town.

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