Thessaloniki – a Living Museum of Byzantine Art

Thessaloniki – a Living Museum of Byzantine Art

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The waterfront promenade of Nikis Avenue that runs from the White Tower of Thessaloniki is a perfect place for a romantic stroll and also has many shops and cafes in case you want to look around.

Sarcophagus Showing Soldiers in Battle, Thessaloniki Museum

Sarcophagus Showing Soldiers in Battle, Thessaloniki Museum

The Aristotelous Square, extending from Nikis Avenue on the waterfront is not at all a square! It is in fact shaped like a bottle and lined with tall archondika (mansions) that have now been converted to shops and hotels, and a luxurious park lies at the end.

If you have a few days to spare you could even get out of Thessaloniki. Visit Pella, the birthplace of Alexander where you can laze on the beaches or wander around the city.

Mount Athos or Agio Oros is the monastic center of the Greek Orthodox Church. Women are not allowed within its vicinity but the men who do go there are offered exotic views of monasteries, caves that still house hermits and many simple houses or kelions that house the monks. Some churches here have enormous amounts of gold donated by pilgrims. Here you will also find some pristine virgin forests, luxuriously manicured gardens and fauna found nowhere but the Holy Mountain. The seashore here is one of the most beautiful in the Aegean but rarely used for swimming since monks are the principal residents here and are not in the habit of going to the beach for a day of relaxation!

If you travel south of Thessaloniki, you will come to the peninsula of Halidiki which boasts of some of the finest beaches in all of Greece. It was at one time, the favorite destination of Germans. The long sandy stretches, the beautiful hotels and the authentic Greek life in the villages are what attract thousands of visitors here every year. And if you are not a beach person, there are still reasons to come here. Halidiki is not only known for its amazing beaches but also for its mountains, valleys and the splendid selection of wildflowers in the spring.

Eating Out
Greeks love to eat and it is evident in the variety of dishes they have. In the summers, many Greeks prefer to eat at tavernas (informal restaurants) in the cool of the late evening. Go for a meal in one of the many downtown ouzo restaurants (ouzeri). An Ouzeri is an eating and drinking establishment that specializes in serving Ouzo, an aperitif distilled from grape stems flavored with anise seed, and a wide range of mezethes (little plates of foods that accompany Ouzo, wines, and other spirits). Also try out some retsina while you are here. It is a wine flavored with resin as a preservative.

Start your day with some snack like Bougatsa pies with cream or cheese filling. Go on to have the soutzoukakia, minced meat pellets either grilled or in tomato and cumin sauce—a meat lover’s delight.

The country’s cuisine has been influenced by Turkish rule, evident by the popularity of dishes such as souvlaki (skewered meat), and doner kebab (spit-roasted meat).

Boiled vegetables and politiki (a combination of shredded cabbage and pickles) are great winter salads, and baked quince is a great winter dessert.

The OTE Tower, at the center of the Thessaloniki Expo Center, is a revolving restaurant that offers great views of the city with some excellent food.

Culture
The Thessaloniki International Trade Fair dates back to 1926 and is hosted every September at the 180,000 sq m Thessaloniki International Exhibition Center, in the heart of the city, exhibiting Greek and foreign products of every description.

The Thessaloniki International Film Festival has become the Balkans’ primary showcase for the work of new and emerging filmmakers, as well as the leading film festival in the region.

The Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, launched in 1999, focuses on documentaries that explore the social and cultural developments in the world.

The Thessaloniki International Festival of Photography takes place from February to mid-April of every year with exhibitions and events hosted in a variety of venues around Thessaloniki.

Dimitria, the three month long festival of cultural events started in 1966, is held every September through December. Named after Aghios Dimitrios (St. Demetrius), it has become an institution for the city and includes musical, theatrical, dance events, street happenings and exhibitions.

The Video Dance Festival started a dance film festival, but now includes more experiments on movement and the moving image.

Fast Facts
Getting There

By Air
The city is served by Macedonia International Airport for both International and Domestic flights. It is just 16 km outside Thessaloniki.

By Trail
Rail services link Thessaloniki with, Athens and the towns of Macedonia and Thrace. The city is a major railway hub for the Balkans

By Bus
Coaches operate between Thessaloniki and some major cities.

Getting Around
Public transport in Thessaloniki is currently served only by buses and if you prefer taxi cabs. A subway system is under works.

Currency
Euro, formerly Drachma. 1 Euro=100 cents

Climate
The climate in Thessaloniki is Mediterranean, and between November and March, the winter season, rains can be expected. In general is warmer in the south than the north, but if you travel into more mountainous areas nearby the temperature is much cooler.

Language
The native language is Greek although some speak English

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