Thessaloniki took me by surprise and I’m still not sure that I’ve got my head around it. It was on our originally itinerary for this trip in 2020 when we were coming in to Greece from Bulgaria and Andy wanted to keep it for the 2022 version. To be honest, I knew nothing about it and wasn’t bothered whether we went or not. First impressions were that it was a lot bigger than I expected, it’s the second biggest city in Greece and the capital of Greek Macedonia.
Thessaloniki has been destroyed and re built a number of times and is laid out in a grid system. The main roads have a real city vibe, wide roads, lots of traffic and all the usual high street stores. In between the main roads there are tiny back roads with a completely different feel, lots of boutique shops, apartment buildings and coffee shops. Thessaloniki also has an old town as well as the newer city and then there is the ruins from the various historic eras. You can walk around the corner from Zara and find Roman ruins.
Thessaloniki also has a sea front, no beaches but lots of bars and cafes that you can sit outside of and watch the waves or sun set from.
As a city it definitely grew on me. I don’t think I know anyone else who has been to Thessaloniki but it seems to be a really popular place for lots of Europeans to take a weekend break to.
What we did:
We had two and a half days in Thessaloniki. Not enough time to explore everything the city has to offer but enough to get a feel for it.
The White Tower
The White Tower is Thessaloniki’s most iconic building. Each floor takes you through a different part of Thessaloniki’s past which has been very varied. It has been part of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires and the displays in the tower walk you through each of these periods as well as the music, art, and culture of the area. The climb takes you up to top of the tower with amazing views across the seafront of Thessaloniki.
Entrance to the tower costs 6,00€ (3,00€ for children). You can also get a combination ticket for the White Tower, the Museum of Byzantine Culture, the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and the Rotunda for 15,00€. There is also a free audio guide for the exhibitions in the tower.
Museum of Illusions
This was a lot of fun, really child friendly and great for instaphotos. The museum show cases a number of illusions, some of which you can look at and some you can participate in. Each has an explanation of how and why they work. Staff were on hand throughout the museum to advise of the best place to stand to get the most out of the illusions and take photos (I’m not sure we have ever met such friendly museum staff).
The museum isn’t huge so only takes about an hour to go round and was a great way to fill the evening before bed.
Entrance is 9,00€ for adults and 6,00€ for kids (4-15). Museum details can be found here.
Day trip to Lake Kirkini
We searched day trip options from Thessaloniki and let Pip pick something she wanted to do. She chose a day trip to lake Kirkini as there was mention of horse riding. The trip was booked through Get Your Guide with Ammon Express and was a fantastic day out. Our stops included a Lake Kirkini driving safari and boat trip to see the birds, coffee at an amazing cafe with animal, a buffalo farm, a dessert shop, horse riding in the olive groves and lunch at an old train station who specialised in buffalo meat. This area of Macedonia is close to the Bulgarian border and very green, their main industry is agriculture and they grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables here as well as farming buffalo.
The boat trip and horse riding were extra costs. The boat trip was 10,00€ per adult and 5,00€ per child for a 45 minute trip and the horse riding was 7,00€ per person for about 20 minutes.
This was a full day trip with lots of stops and flexible to what we wanted to do and where we wanted to stop for photos. It was a lovely way to see some of the countryside and wildlife and Pip really enjoyed it.
Day trip to Pozar Thermal Baths and Edessa
We enjoyed the first trip so much that we decided to book a second, this time directly with Ammon Express as they had given us a discount code. This time it was a bus trip to Pozar Thermal baths and the Edessa.
Pozar thermal baths are natural thermal spring water pools set in a beautiful gorge next to a crystal clear river. There are 3 main outdoor pools, the first is a cloudy pool with a silica gravel bottom with a warm water fall. This one is also right next to the river and waterfall if you are brave you can try the freezing cold river and then the warm pool. The second is a crystal clear warm pool and the third is a proper swimming pool. Each pool costs a couple of Euros each to enter. The complex also includes cafes and restaurants, indoor pools, private pools and ,massage treatments. There are changing cubicles and showers but they are fairly basic. If you are doing the trip yourself there are several walking trails in the gorge and it really is a beautiful area.
A short drive from Pozar is the town of Edessa, which includes the old town and the Waterfall park. The waterfall park was a real surprise as the seemed to appear out of nowhere as we walked through the park and were massive! We walked down through the park, visited a cave behind one of the waterfalls with some impressive stalactites and got damp from the spray from the largest waterfall. Again a really lovely place to visit, wander through the park and have a lovely meal or ice cream. We didn’t make it in to the old town as we were too busy eating and exploring an abandoned hemp mill that we found.
Things we didn’t get time to do:
We didn’t manage to do any of the history of Thessaloniki (apart from the White Tower), this was a strategic move as we didn’t want to start a holiday full of history with history overload.
We also didn’t manage to get to the Selfie Museum but this would have been on Pip’s list if we’d had more time.
We stayed in a studio apartment one street back from the water front and close to the White Tower. This meant that most things we accessible on foot and there were lots of options for food nearby. It was nice to have a small kitchen and washing machine as well. However we wouldn’t recommend our studio, whilst clean and comfortable, it was very noisy.
Thessaloniki has a thriving cafe culture, the restaurants and cafes along the waterfront have masses of seating overlooking the water. There are also traditional Greek tavernas in some of the side streets as well as the usual big chain restaurants.
We took a taxi from the taxi rank at the airport to our accommodation, this was very easy and cost about 25,00. Other than that we explored the city on foot which was very easy. On our last day we took a taxi to the train station using the Beat app, again quick and easy.
We visited at the beginning of April. The weather was warm, spring sunshine although cool in the mornings and evenings and when the sun disappeared.
We visited in April 2022 when Pip was 9.
One thought on “A couple of days in Thessaloniki, Greece”