Thessaloniki is Greece’s second city and is a major transport hub for South Eastern Europe. It is considered to be the country’s cultural capital and is renowned for festivals. There are numerous Byzantine historical sites and the city is a UNESCO world heritage site.
There is a large airport and there are trains to other cities including Athens however we arrived by sea from the Sporades Islands at the port close to the city centre.
There is an excellent local bus service and they run a Blue tourist bus from the White Tower every hour which does a tour of the main sites lasting under an hour for 2 Euros. This is a much cheaper option than the Red tourist buses.
You will be spoilt for choice of eating places in Thessaloniki, the city is packed with options to suit all budgets and the quality we found to be of a high standard in all the places we tried.
Omikron, Oplopiou 3, Ladadika, is just next door to Colors Central and we went on our first evening and had an excellent meal of see bass, sea bream, salad and potatoes with some decent house wine at a very reasonable price.
Full Tou Meze, Katouni 3, Ladadika, seems to be on the must try list of every list and we went on our last night, it was still very busy even at 10.00pm. The food was really good, the house wine just slightly better than most, and the value for money was exceptional.
Agioli, Leoforos Nikis 15, Waterfront, this is a smart, modern restaurant on the waterfront and we had a lunch of three dishes to share, all very well cooked. For the location and style of restaurant it was good value. There are many choices of bars and restaurants but we were pleased with the choice.
Ta Tria Gourounakia, Kapodistria 7, The Three Little Pigs, is just off Ionos Dragoumi, on the edge of Valaoritou night life area. The actual pedestrian area has a number of other options for eating and drinking. The food was very good, and we enjoyed the look and feel of the whole place. It was excellent value for money.
Rouga, Karipi 28, this is No. 1 on a certain web site and we didn’t choose it for that reason but because when we checked out the area it looked inviting, lots of locals, the food looked good and there was good live music. We booked for the next night and were delighted with all the dishes we tried, it was old school Greek food with lovely service.
7 Thalasses, Kalapothaki 10, this is one of the top places to eat in the city with a great reputation for fish and seafood. We passed by on Saturday lunchtime and it was very busy with a smart, local clientele. Returning for lunch on the Sunday it was quieter and we sat outside sharing a shrimp starter, then enjoying two seafood mains. The food was good, but not outstanding and I don’t think worth the price particularly as some touches of the service seemed lacking for a restaurant of that class.
Cafes & Bars
Le Nouveau, Plateia Aristotelous, at any bar café in this famous square you expect to pay slightly more but here this is made up for with complimentary small cakes with coffee, snacks with beers and wines and complimentary bottled water. Great for a break from sightseeing.
Gaspard Wine Bar, corner of Kaodistria & Paikou, a small bar with outside tables and a decent choice of wines. The staff were friendly and the prices reasonable, there seem to be varying opinions about the owner on web sites but the girls working there were friendly and helpful.
Thermaikos, Leoforis Nikis 21, Waterfront, this unique vintage style bar-café is a must for a drink when walking along the waterfront, the pavement tables are hard to get but do stop, have a drink and admire the décor.
Valoritou is the “alternative” nightlife area, nothing starts till after 9pm except Gambrinus a very popular beer bar. Later you cannot get down the streets for the crowds outside a variety of types of bars. Do go for a wander and see if any are your style.
Ladadika is another great area for bars and cafes and there is a wide selection of types of places, beer bars, cocktail bars, and cafes. Less frenetic than Valoritou unless you happen to be there for the three day beer festival in June when it is seriously busy.
Ouzo is of course probably the best known Greek drink and while still seen being drunk with meze it has apparently lost popularity presumably as people change their drinking habits and more cocktail type bars open up.
Also look for Tsiporou, similar to Ouzo but stronger and sometimes given as a complimentary drinks in restaurants and the main drink in some area of the country.
Cocktails are popular both in the cities and on the islands, and many of the island waterfront bars are great for happy hour drinks.
Lager type beer such as Mythos is very commonly drunk but there is increasingly bars focusing on small craft breweries with more ale type beers such as IPA’s.
Lastly wine, and in more informal eating places house wine by the litre is both cheap and drinkable, white, rose and red are usually available. If you are going to try more upmarket wine then it is worth doing some homework before you go to learn about grape types. Greek wines are gaining more and more admirers so check out some of the wine bars that have opened in recent years.
Ano Poli, the upper town is definitely worth a visit, take the Blue tourist bus up and walk down, or it can be reached by local bus. There are many sites to see, the castle, walls and also the original old houses.
The central area has three sites well worth a visit all connected to the 4th century emperor Galerius, there is the rotunda, the arch and the remains of his palace.
Thessalonoki also has a number of very good galleries and museums including two at the port focusing on cinema and photography.