Weekend in Thessaloniki
The huge amount of our guests, returning from their vacation, spend one or two days in Thessaloniki. It’s a bit short time to completely search and get familiar with Thessaloniki, but it’s still enough to see the most important places.
For such a short stay, we do not recommend spending most of your time in museums, although Thessaloniki is known as the city of museums, but since for this you still need to take more time, we suggest you to leave them for another, longer visit.
If you are planning to sleep one night in Thessaloniki, be sure to choose some of the hotels located in the center, or in Egnatia Street, possibly in Ag. Dimitrios Street or on some crossroads connecting these two. You can find cheap hotels from 30e per night and up for two persons on B&B basis. Among the favorable are Pella hotel, Rex and Ilisia, and if you want a better quality hotel then you can rent a room at Olympia or El Greco Hotel.
Most of the good hotels do not have their own parking, but they can direct you to the nearest parking lot with which they have cooperation. Daily parking costs is usually around 13e.
Paying parking via SMS does not work, but it is regulated via parking cards that can be purchased on kiosk. Depending on the zone, all-day parking costs from 3 to 5e. It could happen that there is no kiosk near the place where you found a free parking space - in that case you should ask someone or try to look at any shop near you, or watch that you don’t block someone with your car and enjoy a free parking.
In our experience, the controls are very rare. Parking is free on weekends throughout the city, and from Agios Dimitrios Street, parking is always free and there you can find free places. Considering that during the year 2016 there were cases of car bursting, if you have valuable things in your car, it is best to park during a city tour in one of the plenty garages in the center of Thessaloniki (price 2e per hour and up). All in all,these are the options, and in our opinion, the safest option is the arrangement with the hotel that you are staying in. Many tourists park the car right behind White Tower, but there you need to be careful because there is a large section of the street alongside the theater reserved for buses (although not best marked) and within that part the parking penalty comes within 10 minutes of parking.
What you should first visit after arriving in Thessaloniki is Zeitenlik, or the Serbian Military Cemetery. If it’s possible, you should ask anyone to get to know the guard George, who is now retired. It would not be bad to give him a bottle of home made rakija or something else from Serbia. Old man Gorge will leave an equally strong impression to you as this important monument of the Serbian past.
Zeitenlik is in the wider center of Thessaloniki, so we recommend you to take a taxi - they will charge you from the center 3.5-5e.
In Thessaloniki there are no taxi drivers without taxi licence, so you can always stop an empty taxi on the street and drive at a good price. Of course, before you enter the taxi on the street you can ask how much it will cost you, just to make sure of who you came across :).
The short rides are charged 3,5e even if the meter typed something less, this is the minimum price. In addition, an airport tax is charged, or a cellular fee (bus, railway), and it is 2-5e. Some drivers can also charge you euro-two for luggage, but not all of them.
It would be nice to visit a church dedicated to Saint Demetrius, protector of Thessaloniki. It is located in Ag.Dimitrios street, close to Aristotelous Square. This church is the most important landmark in Thessaloniki and we recommend that you visit it by 1 pm when catacombs are open to visitors.
For the rest of the day, we suggest you simply enjoy walking, eating and exploring. Thessaloniki is a city that is famous for its positive atmosphere, spirit and gourmets, so we recommend you to indulge in them :)
The heartbeats of Thessaloniki are the quay by the sea (Nikis Street), as well as the streets of Egnatia and Tsimiski. You should definitely take a walk on quay to the White Tower, but you could also try a new, expanded promenade behind the White Tower towards Makedonia Palace Hotel. The best time to walk is the evening when you can enjoy the beautiful sunset. You will see a multitude of young and old people sitting and enjoying the sea.
There are sellers of various jewelry, corn, sugar candy… Near the White Tower you can see boats that are actually bars. If you have the time, you should stop by the boat for a cup of coffee or a drink and a small cruise off the coast. The ride takes half an hour and it is not charged. You are required, as in any cafe, to order a drink. After the end of the journey, you do not have to leave the boat, but you can continue to enjoy it if you like it. Prices of drinks are the same as in other cafes in the city.
The White Tower itself was once a prison and a torture tower, and today it is a museum. Entrance to the museum costs 3e, and from the top of the tower there is a beautiful view of the city, but since the view is not spectacular, nor a museum, decide for yourself whether you will visit it or not, depending on how much time you have.
If you’re in the mood for shopping, visit Tsimiski Street where there are shops branded type - Zara, Stradivarius, Bershka, H&M, and there is also Egnatia street that has shops with less-known brands, but with very reasonable prices. Although the shops from Tsimiski Street exist in Serbia, there are frequent sales and discounts in Thessaloniki so prices are sometimes half as low as in stores in Serbia. This applies in particular to the period from August 15 onwards, as well as to the period after January 15. Monastiriou Street, which is also parallel to the streets of Nikis, Tsimiski and Egnatia, is famous for the stores of the world’s most famous brands - Armani, Versace and so on.
The most famous shopping center in Thessaloniki is Cosmos, but it’s about half an hour drive from the center, so if you do not have time, you will really not lose anything if you only visit Tsimiski and Monastiriou Street in the city center because the shops are the same. Do not forget that stores in Egnatia do not work on Wednesdays and Saturdays afternoon, or in the period from 2 pm to 6 pm on working days. Shops at Tsimiski Street work on Saturdays until 6 pm, and on Sundays all shops in the city are closed.
Walking through the streets of Thessaloniki, you’ll feel the seductive scents of traditional and world cuisine that come literally from all sides and you will notice that there are beautiful restaurants and cafes with beautiful gardens on every corner.
If you want to have a drink, while you enjoy the vibe of the city it is best to sit down in one of the most visited bars in the street by the sea. We recommend Café Essato. For coffee lovers there is a great coffee shop in Electra Palace Hotel. It’s a bar on the roof of the hotel with a magnificent view of Aristotelous Square and sea. Coffee is a little expensive, but the price of coffee also includes a view :) The hotel and the cafe are located on the Aristotelous Square.
The Greeks are not going anywhere without nes coffee or frappe, so the shops where you can buy a coffee to go are very popular. The least expensive coffee is in the chain of Todaylicious shops and you will recognize these shops easily because they are very crowded. If you want to sit down and have a coffee with the locals, then do not miss Mikel cafe. Coffee shops from this chain exist at every corner, but for the best pleasure, choose the most popular and perhaps the largest on the coast, near the White Tower.
If you like sweet coffee, order Mikelocino with ice cream and enjoy. Prices are slightly higher, so Mikelocino’s cost is about 4e.
If you take coffe to go, it’s a cheeper option. If you are not a coffee lover, you can anyway visit Mikel and order a large cup of fresh orange juice that costs 2e, and you could also order an excellent milkshake.
If you enjoy having pastries for breakfast, we recommend you to visit the bakery Paradosiako at the Aristotelous Square. It is excellent.
And what should you have for lunch? There are so many good taverns that it is really difficult for us to single out any :) Because of that, we will briefly list some of them, and in other post we will deal with taverns and food in Thessaloniki which are inexhaustible inspiration for writing.
Actually there are several quarters to be visited for lunch and dinner. The most famous is the former Jewish quarter Ladadika. It is near the sea and filled with restaurants and taverns, with the characteristic low-rise buildings with colorful facades, cobbled and romantically lit streets. Whatever tavern you visit in Ladadika you will not make mistakes, but the prices are slightly higher than in other taverns.
Other well-known spot for locals to eat is Bit Bazaar. It’a former district where once upon a time only antiques were sold, and now is popular among young people for restaurants, in fact, for ouzeris where food is more favorable and the atmosphere is very, very alive. If you are not a fan of crowds, visit Bit Bazaar just to see and feel this atmosphere. It is best to stop by about 9 in the evening, not during the day.
If you want a really solid quality restaurant, with a fantastic menu, visit the Rouga restaurant in a less popular alley (Karipi number 28), but in the very center of the city. Here you can order the best chicken wings in the world :), spinach soufflé, chicken with mushrooms in earthenware a la creme, fantastic salad with rukola and polysporos seeds, excellent salad Santorini, loaf boots and so on, and so on. This restaurant has excellent, live music in the evening. Fridays and Saturdays should be booked in advance. In the following text, we will write more and more about this restaurant, because it certainly deserves it.
If you want a nice restaurant, come to the very popular Elia Lemoni restaurant also in the city center (Kapodistrou number 9). This restaurant has great freshly cooked dishes every day except Sundays and it is really for every recommendation, especially because of the excellent price-quality ratio. On Saturdays and Sundays, you may wait a bit until a table is released, but certainly worth it. Elia Lemoni exists in Botsara, but it is different so we recommend you only that one in the center of Thessaloniki.
Ah the gyros! One of the most famous gyros in Thessaloniki is gyros on Aristetolous Square. The shop itself is called Aristotelos.
Based on our experience, there is a even better gyros located across the White Tower and called Ψισου. The gyros quality is changing over time, so we were disappointed a couple of times, but mostly it was really great.
If you want to try a true, homemade gyros, on coal, and not on an electric spit, then visit the Katsamaka tavern in the Ermou street.
And the pastry shops! I do not know a city that has more pastry shops than Thessaloniki, and the better ones are certainly not with such a great quality. They have them at every step and offer top-quality cakes. We will suggest you to visit the best. The best pastry shop in Thessaloniki is Estia. It is located near the White Tower. Every cake in this cake shop is a real work of art, and the tastes can not be described with words. Cakes cost from 2e upwards, and our recommendation is to try chocolate heart with hazelnuts. You’ll notice it in the window.
Another pastry shop is Ble, which is in quality right next to Estia and has it in two locations in Thessaloniki.
Although these two pastry shops are really fantastic, do not buy ice cream in them, but just cakes, because there is a confectionery shop from “dreams” under the name of Fregio. Fregio is on Aristotelous Square and we are sure that you will buy ice cream from here for a long time. Try the taste of hazelnuts, nonabella, nutella, cookies and so on… What you shouldn’t miss are also the waffles in the confectionery Fregio. Not waffle from the showcase, which is also good, but on the cashier you should order a waffle that they will bake for you. From the overflow, look for Nutella, then a biscuit, and one or two balls of ice cream, and you can also fresh strawberries. Of course, what you will add is best to decide for yourself, this is just our favorite combination. You will not find a better waffles :) Just listen to us and let us know the impressions. One waffle is enough for two. In the winter you can sit on the floor of a shop where the ambience is very nice, while during the summer it is a bit warm for that.
In Thessaloniki you can taste excellent chocolate souffles and chocolate brownies. In the pastry shop Fregio, they are fabulously made and after they warm them for you, do not forget to tell them that you want them served with a bowl of vanilla ice cream and you will not be disappointed, on the contrary, you will be thrilled :) You can try the souffle in the famous traditional pastry shop Terkenlis which is most famous for tsureki. Tsureki is a sweet bread, traditionally prepared for Easter, but in Thessaloniki it is consumed daily. It takes time to get used to the taste of tsureki, but once you get used to it, you will love it and you will not be able to do without it. We recommend that you try tsureki with white chocolate and chestnut filling or with milk chocolate. In addition to these popular and somewhat more expensive pastry shops, there are less known on each corner, and with fantastic cakes at affordable prices.
After lunch and dessert you can continue walking :)
In addition to streets that are parallel with the sea, and walk the streets that are crossroads and you will find a beautiful small, closed streets with beautiful gardens where mostly locals enjoy, and there are not plenty of tourists.
If you wish, you can pay a tourist bus at the White Tower with an hour drive through the city. In the audio guide that you get, you will listen to explanations about the places you pass through. A tourist bus ticket costs from 3e upwards. You can haggle a bit if you are a group. If you want, you can leave the bus at one of the stations, and pick up the next bus after an hour and a half. We recommend this to you if you want to visit a fortress above the city with a beautiful view of the city. So, get out of the bus at the fort and arrange with the driver to pick you up when he drives the next round. This option is included in the price of tickets.
They say the spirit of the city is best felt at the market. Near Aristotelous Square, from Egnatia, enters in a small market where you can always buy fresh fish and meat, as well as fruits and vegetables, clothes …
Kalamaria is one of the richest parts of Thessaloniki. It can be reached by bus (20 minutes drive). It is a settlement on the seafront, with a small harbor and marina, reminiscent of classic tourist spots in northern Greece. Here you can walk by the sea, enjoy the park or one of the cafes and restaurants with panoramic sea views. In Kalamaria you will also find a pastry shop Fregio in the street by the sea, so you can combine two nice things :) Some of the most famous restaurants in Thessaloniki are located in Kalamaria, so you can enjoy good food. We recommend the Hamodrakas restaurant that Putin visited on one occasion :), and if you are for Greek kebabs then Nea Diagonios who makes the most famous kebabs in Thessaloniki. Also visit the small square and promenade just above the street by the sea and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere.
We do not believe that you will be able to enjoy all of this in just one or two days, but make some shortlist as time goes by and leave something for the next visit :)