Κυριακή 21 Αυγούστου 2011


Population: 384.000



The second largest city of Greece, Thessaloniki is the jewel of the north. Famous for its lively streets, vibrant night life and cultural signature, it is the perfect cosmopolitan destination for any visitor.

Thessaloniki was founded by Kassandros in 316 BCE on the place where ancient Therme once stood and because of its location over the centuries it became an important commercial, political, and cultural center of the Balkan peninsula. Over the centuries its streets have supported pockets of affluent minorities, and its port acted as the sea gate of central europe to the Aegean and the markets of the near-east. Salonika, as it is otherwise known, was the second most important city of the Byzantine empire.

Its diverse history has sprinkled Thessaloniki with ruins of ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Balkan, and European origin. For eons it has been the home of affluent minorities of Turkish, Serbian, and Jewish origin; all of which have left their mark on the rich cultural identity of the city. The city has also been scarred by numerous of catastrophic events such as the earthquakes in 620 that leveled the city, and in 1978 which damaged most of the Byzantine monuments, and the severe fire of 1917 which destroyed 9000 homes, and left 90000 inhabitants homeless. Six years later Thessaloniki became host to a great number of the one million Greeks who left Asia Minor as part of the population exchange agreed at the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

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Its strategic location made Thessaloniki a magnet not only for commercial and cultural activity, but also for countless invasions and occupations. Romans, Normans, Slavs, Bulgarians, Franks, Turks, Venetians, and Germans, have all left their mark in the city through their stay for various lengths of time. Between the 6th and 7th century Slavic invasions devastated the surrounding area and forced the rural population to find refuge behind the city walls, while in the 10th and 11th centuries Bulgaria established its power in the area with repeated invasions before Byzantine rule is established again. Eventually, the Venetians ruled the city until 1430 when the Turks invaded. In the15th century jews fleeing prosecution from many European cities find a home in Salonika, and in 1912 it became part of modern Greece. During WWII, nearly 50000 Jewish inhabitants of Thessaloniki were sent to Auschwitz, and of these, about 37500 were immediately gassed.

Today, Thessaloniki's population is almost exclusively made up of Greek inhabitants. Its grounds are a patch work of different commercial, and cultural influences. The city is divided in two by the International Trade Grounds and the Aristotle University. From there, all the way to the waterfront one finds the boulevards, shopping areas, and night clubs of the cosmopolitan Thessaloniki. The west part of the city is dominated by the industrial area and it is densely populated, while the east end includes Touba and Kalamaria areas which were rebuilt after the fire of 1917 and still retain much of its original character. The upper town (Ano Poli) developed around the castle (Genti-Koule) and the Acropolis offer narrow street taverns and beautiful panoramic views of the entire city.

What to Do and See in Thessaloniki

Cultural Events:

    * March: Documentary Festival
    * August: The Wine Festival
    * September: International Trade Fare
    * September: Greek Song Festival
    * November: Thessaloniki Greek Film Festival

Places of Interest

    * Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
      One of the best museums of Greece. It houses art from Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic eras, as well as artifacts from Ancient Macedonia including gold ornamental art and ancient Greek weapons. (Platia Hanth)
    * Museum of Byzantine Culture
      Illustrates Byzantine history and culture through Byzantine icons, art, and every day artifacts.
      (2 Stratou Street)

    * The White Tower

      A beautifully built round fort at the eastern waterfront. It was built in the 15th century as part of a sea fortification and it has become the most recognized landmark of Thessaloniki. During Ottoman occupation it became a symbol of terror because of the gruesome executions of prisoners that took place there. After the city's liberation the tower was whitewashed as if to purify it from the blood that so often covered it, thus the name "White Tower". The tower is white no longer, and it houses the "Museum of History and Art of Thessaloniki".
    * The Roman Forum and Theater
    * The Arch of Galerius
      Built in 305 CE to commemorate the victory of Galerius over the Persians in 297 CE.
    * The Attaturk House
      The birthplace of the Turkish leader Kemal Attaturk now houses various artifacts from his life.
    * The Rotunda
      Circular building of the 3d c. CE which was originally built as a mausoleum for Galerius. In Byzantine times it was converted into a Christian church by Constantine, and after the ottoman invasion it was converted to a mosque.

Byzantine Churches

Thessaloniki is the second most important exhibition place of Byzantine monuments after Istanbul.

    * The Ahiropiitos (or the Church of Panagia Ahiropiitos)
      Early Christian basilica built in the 5th c. CE. It houses some important mosaics and frescoes from the Byzantine era. It was the official mosque of the city during Ottoman occupation.
    * Ossios David or the Latomos Monastery
      Located at the top of a steep climb in Kastro. A small basilica built in the 5th c. CE, houses a nice mosaic of Christ on a rainbow.
    * Agios Dimitrios
      This five aisled basilica was destroyed in the great fire of 1917 and consequently rebuilt in 1948. It is built on the site where the Roman baths once stood and it is Greece's largest church. Agios Dimitrios is the patron saint of Thessaloniki and this church houses some spectacular mosaics, and the Crypt. The Crypt on the east end of the church is the place in the Roman baths where Saint Dimitrios was tortured and killed by Roman soldiers.
    * Agia Sofia
      A splendid example of Byzantine architecture bares the name of the famed church of Istanbul. It houses an important fresco on its dome.
    * Panagia ton Halkeon
      Built in 1028 in the shape of the cross.
    * Agia Ekaterini
      Built in the 13th c. CE
    * Agioi Apostoli
      Built in the 14th c. CE
    * Agios Nikolaos Orfanos
      14th c. CE with frescoes
    * Profitis Ilias
      A domed basilica built in the 14th c CE

Places of Interest Near Thessaloniki

    * Vergina
      Archaeological site about a 20 minute drive from Thessaloniki. The tomb of Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, was unearthed in Vergina by the famed Greek Archaeologist Andronikos. The site also houses a museum which houses the artifacts found during the excavations.
    * Chalkidiki
      The beautiful three-prone peninsula to the south-east of Thessaloniki is a popular tourist destination.
          o The Kassandra peninsula is about 1.5 hours away from Thessaloniki and its beaches are a favorite destination of package tourism. Its overdeveloping tourist infrastructure has encroached on the natural beauty of its landscapes.
          o The Sythonian peninsula is about two hours away from Thessaloniki and it is home to green pine forests and some beautiful beaches like Paradisos, Nikiti, and Lagomandra.
          o Mt. Athos (Agio Oros)
            The eastern peninsula of Chalikidiki is in effect an autonomous religious community where a host of Christian Orthodox monasteries are perched high upon its spectacular cliffs. Monks find in Mt. Athos a spiritual place and a remnant of the Byzantine empire, complete with the monk's adherence to the Julian calendar. Only male visitors are allowed on Mt. Athos, and each can stay for four nights at the monasteries as guests.
    * Mt. Olympus
      The highest mountain of Greece was the residence of the Olympian gods in ancient times, and a favorite destination for mountain climbers today. It is 3000 m high with eight sharp peeks ready to challenge even the most experienced climbers. Mt. Olympus is an national park about 1.5 hours from Thessaloniki. Litohoro village is the favorite destination of climbers who aspire to climb Mt. Olympos

Useful Telephone Numbers

    * EOT (Greek National Tourist Organization) (8, Platia Aristotelous): 2310 222 935, 2310 271 888
    * EOT (Greek National Tourist Organization) at the Thessaloniki Airport: 2310 471 170
    * Tourist Police: 2310 554 871
    * Railway Station: 2310 517 517
THESSALONIKI  BLOG  in english and italian language  www.saloniccogrecia.blogspot.com