There aren’t many cities around the world quite like Thessaloniki as its unique position upon the Aegean Sea gives it an excellent trade position. Bound by the administration of the Central Macedonian region (Greek Macedonia) and the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace, it used to be the second most important city after the mighty Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) – it was literally called a co-capital back then.
Today, Thessaloniki’s metropolitan area harbours just over 1 million people and stretches over 1,285 square kilometres of land. See the fun-fact? Yes, the city does not have skyscrapers and other such fancy structures and for this particular reason, its population is extremely stretched out. Thessaloniki is big, yes, but that does not make it any less alluring. The more the space, the more to explore!
Located upon the liminal boundary between the humid subtropical and the Mediterranean climate zones, Thessaloniki does not suffer from extreme temperature fluctuations. In fact, it is generally warm all year long with temperatures dropping below 0 degrees Celsius only for about 30 days a year. Summers are warm to hot due to the presence of the sea and its regulatory effects while winter are mild and a bit rainier. To put the gentleness of the weather into perspective, we’ll tell you that the record-low temperature in Thessaloniki was -14 degrees (and even that is quite unheard of nowadays). If you wish to avoid the tourist flux of summertime, you might want to grab a poncho or an umbrella, though (wink)!
Thessaloniki and its surrounding area are served by the Thessaloniki International Airport “Macedonia” and it funnels more than 6 million passengers annually. While this makes it a bulky airport by all means, it does not mean that you are bound to get caught up with queues. As soon as you land, you can grab buses to the Macedonia Intercity Bus Station, Chalkidiki, Lefkada or even Zakynthos. If those places do not encompass your target, then, by all means, hit the train station or the port directly from there. Taxis are also found in the vicinity but you should always keep an eye out for pirate cabs as they tend to lurk around public transportation hubs.
As soon as you enter the inner bounds of Thessaloniki, you are going to notice that the driving is quite hectic. Streets are narrow and moody and there isn’t much parking space to land your vehicle at. Additionally, if you do not pay for your stay in about 5 minutes, you are going to wake up with a nasty ticket. Thessaloniki has an extremely potent and versatile law-enforcement – and yes, this extends to parking. Standing 3 minutes on any corner in the inner city will reveal more than 4-5 traffic warden teams patrolling the area. Intending on parking illegally in Thessaloniki? You have no chance!
What you might want to know about the co-capital of ancient Constantinople is that it has quite a wide-spread scooter and motorcycle culture. Parking spaces specially designed for two wheels litter the streets and locals braving the space between lanes are not at all unheard of. If you feel light, you might want to consider renting one of those babies and hit the road yourself. Just make sure you park them legally (wink)!
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES:
Thessaloniki has one of the most exquisite ports in all of Greece: large, cared for, and populated by lovers. Yes, you are going to see kissing teenagers all the way but isn’t that what amplifies the glory of a flourishing city? You definitely want to explore the seaside promenade and walk along its length. Yes, it is long but if you catch the sunset, you are not going to regret it at all. Additionally, you are going to be surprised by how much the locals enjoy balconies – each and every residential block has countless of them – one for each apartment. Oh, and let us not forget about the statue of Alexander the Great that you are surely not going to miss along your journey.
Walking the seaside promenade is fun in and of itself but when it comes to the local culture, you can find more than just souvenir shops. For example, at a certain point during your walk along the sea, you are going to run in a queer work of art called “Umbrellas”. Designed by master artist Giorgios Zoggolopoulos, it definitely is something that you want to photograph yourself with. And yes, there is a down-reaching hilt that you can clutch to look cooler (wink)!
The main attraction of Thessaloniki and its vicinity is most definitely the infamous White Tower. Appearing on most post cards and fridge magnets, it is used as a Museum nowadays and it can be scaled for just a few Euros. Inside, you are going to find ancient artefacts and interactive screens to teach you about the local culture. If you reach the top, however, you are going to be amazed by the sight that it provides. Take your photos by all means but do not forget to bask in the moment as well for it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Oh, and did we mention that it is also located by the sea, next to bar-ships (wink-wink)?
Moody, colourful, inviting and flourishing – these are the words that describe Thessaloniki the most. Prices are a bit cheaper than those pertaining to First World standards but do not expect Eastern Europe. Plan your budget well and enjoy your stay for Thessaloniki is not going to let itself be forgotten anytime soon!