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Thessaloniki Travel Guide

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The White Tower in Thessaloniki © GNTO

Greece's second largest city was once the realm of Alexander the Great and was named after his sister, Thessaloniki, when it was founded in 316 BC. The capital of Macedonia in the north, the city sits in a bowl framed by low hills, facing a bay on the Gulf Thermaikos. Despite being one of the oldest cities in Europe, today Thessaloniki is lively and modern, and with its wide avenues, parks and squares, is thought to be much more attractive than Athens.

The main squares are Platia Elefterias and Platia Aristotelous, both on the waterfront and alive with cafes and restaurants, children playing or people strolling. Thessaloniki, having been under Ottoman rule for long periods in its history, has been left a legacy of numerous Byzantine churches, and museums housing Byzantine art and artefacts. The city also has a heritage of early Christian communities, particularly the renowned monasteries of nearby Mount Athos; and a rich Jewish tradition, evident in the synagogues and Jewish Museum.

In 1917, most of the city was destroyed in a massive fire, and rebuilt later. This is not a high-rise city, though, because the area is prone to earthquakes and regulations have been imposed preventing the building of skyscrapers. This means that residents and visitors alike can enjoy the seaside situation of Thessaloniki, with views aplenty from the city streets.

There is a lot to see and do in Thessaloniki besides exploring the ruins, including visits to the Turkish Baths, central market, and cafes and restaurants of Aristotelous Square. Thessaloniki also has a vibrant nightlife, with a number of lively bars and clubs.

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