THESSALONIKI - THE CAPITAL OF THE BALKANS
Historic Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece after Athens, which promotes modern Hellenism. It is a city that attracts the interest of historians, archaeologists and ethnologists. It is characterized by a number of majestic Byzantine monuments as it was a center for the ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine culture while listing monuments from the whole range of historical time. Many of the sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the center of the city dominates the imposing White Tower of 1500 AD. which is a landmark of the prefecture. It was part of the defense of the city while due to its reputation as a prison it was also known as the "Tower of Blood" or "Red Tower" and inside there is a collection of various Byzantine exhibits.
The wider area of the White Tower houses the most important museums of the city such as the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Byzantine Culture, the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art and important cultural sites, such as the Royal Theater and the Society for Macedonian Studies which are permanent stages of the State Theater of Greece, but also the concert hall. On the beach, in the Warehouses of the port, in a series of emblematic buildings are housed the photography museum, the cinema museum and the center of contemporary art. Aristotle Square, which houses the statue of Aristotle, a work by the sculptor Georgios Georgiadis, bequeathed by the architect Ernest Emprar, stands out with its unique architecture and its shops that are one of the most cosmopolitan parts of the city.
There are some important buildings in the square, one of which is the Olympion, where the famous Thessaloniki Film Festival is held and the twin building of the Electra Palace Hotel, while the 12 buildings that surround it are classified as protected. A typical monument is the arch of the Gallery, known as Kamara between the Rotunda and the Palace of the Gallery which is a gathering point. It was built at the beginning of the 4th AD. century after the important victory of Galerius against the Persians. The Rotunda is a spherical building with internal niches, whose destination was worship. The church was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire in 1591 and a minaret was added to it, the only one in Thessaloniki that survives to this day. The building now functions only as a museum.
The imposing statue of Alexander the Great on his horse Voukefalas by the sculptor Evangelos Moustakas dominates the beach. The statue is located on a unique route with wonderful theme parks along Nea Paralia. The International Fair is the largest trade fair, unique means of internationalization at the national level and one of the most important fairs in the Balkans. It is an important institution since it is visited every year by political leaders and official guests from other countries. It has three conference centers "Nikolaos Germanos", "Ioannis Vellidis" and Helexpo Corona which are equipped with modern electronic and audiovisual systems. The OTE Tower is an emblematic construction of 76 m. that adorns the International Exhibition. Originally built for telecommunications needs, it now houses one of the city's most popular cafes with a rotating floor with 360o panoramic views.
The Ancient Agora was an administrative, social and religious center in the heart of the ancient city a few meters from Aristotelous Square. There were the most imposing and majestic public buildings. Bezesteni, which means fabric, is one of the oldest commercial galleries that retains its old character and houses various small shops, mainly cloth merchants. At its premises, the quality of goods was controlled and exchange rates were set. The "Bey Hamam" or "Paradise Baths" in Aristotle is the oldest Ottoman Bath in the city and the most important in the Balkans. It had separate spaces for men and women while they are considered unique for the decorative compositions and the intricate designs inside them. The famous Navarinou square with its monuments, cafes, restaurants, the park and the characteristic fountain is a reference point together with the pedestrian street of Dimitriou Gounari.
Stoa Modiano and Kapani are one of the most characteristic parts of the city that have maintained their traditional style over the years. They have hosted small shops that sell fresh fruit, fish, spices, etc. since 1925. The designs were made by Eli Modiano who had built the Customs and the villa that houses the Folklore Museum. The celebration that is organized every New Year's Eve stands out, where the whole city has fun until the morning. Characteristic are the area Ladadika, the Port and the area of Valaoritou which are a pole of attraction for lovers of intense nightlife. Impressive bars with views, clubs, concert halls in old factories characterize the area. High gastronomic cosmopolitan restaurants, historic kitchens, ouzo in the old markets and boxes offer unique tasting experiences. The nightlife of Northern Greece is a tradition and is one of the "strong" points of the city.
Of great historical importance are the churches of the city with the most famous being the Church of Agios Dimitrios which is the patron saint of the city which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church of Hagia Sophia dominates Ermou and Agia Sofia streets and is one of the most important Byzantine monuments. On the same street is the early Christian church of Panagia Achiropoietou built in the 11th century and Panagia Chalkeon. The Hagia Sophia which was built in the 8th AD. century, as a copy of the church of the same name in Constantinople during the Byzantine years, was the cathedral of the city. In Thessaloniki are two of the most important monasteries of the city, the male monastery of Agia Theodora and the Monastery of Vlatadon, at the gate of Eptapyrgio, whose enclosure offers a unique view of the port.
The oldest district of the city in the northern part of the old city is known as Ano Poli which starts from Agiou Dimitriou Street to the walls of the Acropolis and is divided into the districts of Tsinari, Dioikitirio, Vlatada, Terpsithea, Koule Kafe, Kokkini Vrisi. The Fortress of Eptapyrgio also known as Genti Koule is one of the most impressive buildings in the city. Tsinari is the last example of a typical cafe of the Turkish occupation in the city that offers traditional dishes. Ano Poli, also called the "balcony of Thessaloniki", overlooks Thermaikos, the walls and reaches Mount Olympus. The Byzantine Medieval walls and fortresses still surround a part of the modern city center. The Triangle Tower on the East Walls and the main gate (Portara) offer a wonderful view.
Next to Aristotle is Athonos Square which is a landmark. In addition to the large number of taverns in the square one can find traditional shops with craftsmen and artisans who maintain the tradition. The forest of Sheikh Sou or Kedrinos Lofos is one of the important forests that extends on the slopes of Hortiatis to the road Eptapyrgiou, Asvestochori. It is the lung of the city and a place of recreation adorned with pines, cypresses, holly and plane trees. "The Gardens of the Pasha" is a unique green park since 1904 that was built by order of the Pasha. It is one of the mysterious places for which there are many myths about hidden paths and magnetic fields. To the west is the cultural center of the Monastery of Lazarists, built in 1886 by the monks of the Order of St. Vincent known as the Lazarists. It was originally built for the education of the clergy and the spread of Catholicism. Today it hosts some of the city's most important cultural events such as theatrical performances, concerts and exhibitions.
To the east is Kalamaria, whose name means the good side of the city. The center of Kalamaria is pedestrianized and is an ideal place for walks and leisure as it has many restaurants and cafes.It is considered one of the busiest places, especially during the summer months with the marina to offer its visitors a unique view with an ideal time of sunset.The districts of N. Krini and Aretsou are the southernmost coastal part of the municipality of Kalamaria, which gathers a number of entertainment and leisure centers.The Nautical Sports Club is one of the most historic nautical clubs of the city through which one can choose: Sailing, rowing, Canoeing, kayaking, swimming. The palace or the Government of the architect Christopoulos is an imposing two-storey building on the cape of small Karabournou, with a view that reaches the ridges of Olympus.
The cuisine of Thessaloniki presents a great variety thanks to the local production of products, animal husbandry and fishing. A different but special dish especially for the early morning hours is the tripe soup that was added to the eating habits with the arrival of the refugees. You should try the famous Moussaka from eggplants, potatoes, minced meat and béchamel, the baked lamb, the tzigerosarmades, the soutzoukaki (bombs) and the Souvlaki. Dorkados yogurt is a special local product made in the area of Dorkados. Grilled fish and seafood or cooked in water together or with olive oil and the corresponding spices monopolize the interest in the seaside taverns. In Kapani, which means buying flour, one can find food, spices, grocery stores, fish, up to household items, tourist items, etc.