Greece’s second-biggest city also claims to be its foodiest – the only way to find out if this is true is to head there and eat for yourself! I must confess I spent quite a bit of my time in Thessaloniki eating as well there. There is some great food to be consumed.
However, there is much more to this eclectic, busy, vibrant city than just awesome food. Every few steps you’ll stumble over a church from the Ottoman Empire or some edgy street art. And there is a lot to experience on the city’s fantastic boardwalk which is five kilometres long.
Thessaloniki is home to 1.3 million people and 120,000 of its inhabitants are students. As always, student cities tend to have an extra air of vibrancy and buzz and Thessaloniki is no exception.
Here are 27 of the best things to do in Thessaloniki.
27 Great Things to do in Thessaloniki
Table of Contents
- 27 Great Things to do in Thessaloniki
- 1. Explore Kapani Market
- 2. Eat local at Stou Mistou
- 3. Check out the local craft beer scene
- 4. Dine at one of Thessaloniki’s street food restaurants
- 5. Visit Agios Dimitrios Church
- 6. See the Roman Agora
- 7. Admire the 1920s architecture
- 8. Eat gyros/souvlaki
- 9. Visit the White Tower of Thessaloniki
- 10. Enjoy some Easter Bread
- 11. Try Greek Food gourmet style
- 12. Get into the specialty coffee scene
- 13. Enjoy the best ice cream in town.
- 14. Learn how to make Koulouri
- 15. Try pie Greek style: Bougatsa
- 16. Visit a Greek Winery
- 17. Enjoy olives at Kapani Market
- 18. Watch the world go by at Cafe le Monde
- 19. See the Street Art
- 20. Visit the Monument of Alexander the Great
- 21. Visit Agia Sofia Church
- 22. Have a Turkish Bath
- 23. Explore Aristotelous Square
- 24. Climb the Tower of Trigonio
- 25. Walk the Waterfront Old and New
- 26. Enjoy the view of Mount Olympus
- 27. Visit Panagia Chalkeon Church
- Where to Stay in Thessaloniki
- How to Get To Thessaloniki
- How to Get Around Thessaloniki
1. Explore Kapani Market
Thessaloniki’s main market, Kapani market is a buzzing spot filled with delicious-looking local produce and loads of great places to eat. Half of the market is produce and meat for taking home and eating.
Athonos Square is home to stores selling organic products and vegetables. The other half of the market contains a mix of restaurants, many featuring seafood.
The market was designed by Ernest Hebrard and the two sections of the market are connnected via a special passageway.
2. Eat local at Stou Mistou
Let’s start with the fact that this place isn’t that easy to find. It is in the heart of Kapani market. Head to the area for olives and then look for a yellow awning in the corner with nothing written on it – you are at Stou Mistou. All the produce here is local and oh so delicious.
The dolmades are handmade using of course greek vine leaves. I personally had never seen seafood sausage on a menu before and apparently, it is very rare. This one contained shrimp and was excellent.
The sheep cheese was from Andros Island, the sardines are fresh every day like all the whitefish on the menu. Having said that there isn’t much of a menu as what is served each day depends on what is fresh.
Finally, Stou Mistou’s signature dish is a fantastic pasta with seafood that is served in a frying pan.
3. Check out the local craft beer scene
Local brewery Ali began producing in 2015 and was Thessaloniki’s first micro-brewery. Their fresh beer has a shelf life of just 3 to 4 months and the labels are put on by hand.
They make five different beers including pilsner, stout, IPA, red ale, and weiss. The stout was my personal favorite. That could be because it also contains greek coffee and chocolate.
Ali beers are stocked in many bars and restaurants in Thessaloniki. Send them an email if you would like to head to the brewery itself and do a tasting – you will need to take a taxi to get there.
4. Dine at one of Thessaloniki’s street food restaurants
Street food has been a major food trend around the world for some time. The latest incarnation of this trend is street food served in a restaurant. I tried two restaurants of this type on my trip to Thessaloniki. Surfer Maya is a great fun little restaurant on a small side street that opened in July of 2021.
My favourite dish at Surfer May was the tacros. The tacros features croissant dough shaped like pita bread containing gyros still meat and sweet potato fries and is a taste sensation.
The croissant/pita/taco bread is made at the restaurant. This amazing dough is also served sweet in the dessert section as the croissant milk pie.
For me, the biggest benefit of street food in a restaurant vs on the street is being able to sit down and easily access wine. Surfer Maya’s wine list is all organic and biodynamic and the sparkling rose is a sensation.
Street Fellas is another restaurant serving street food in Thessaloniki but its focus is on more American-style sub sandwiches. Their version of the Philadelphia classic cheesesteak sandwich was delicious as was the beef ribs baguette. And don’t miss the baby potatoes with blue cheese sauce.
5. Visit Agios Dimitrios Church
Dimitrios is the patron saint of Thessaloniki and whilst this isn’t the church of the city it is the most visited church in town. The bottom level of this major landmark in Thessaloniki is from 5AD but everything above that is from the 20th century.
Dimitrios church was built on top of Roman baths. Don’t miss the mosaics inside that are from the 7th and the 9th centuries. Dimitrius is the one wearing the halo.
6. See the Roman Agora
Believe it or not, the ruins of the Roman Agora in Thessaloniki were only discovered in the 1960s. Today it is still being excavated and is now in the heart of one of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods.
In ancient Greece, the major political issues of the time were discussed in gatherings called an assembly or an agora. The square where these gatherings were held can still be seen today as can the foundations of the stalls that popped up alongside the speakers to generate some commerce.
The auditorium had a roof and was larger than can be seen today. The roof was put in as there were better acoustics in indoor theatres. There were also baths in the square – you can clearly see the “seats”. The flat area was also used as a market.
7. Admire the 1920s architecture
Thessaloniki suffered from a major fire in 1917. As a result, there is quite a bit of attractive 1920s architecture in the city. A key way to identify a building constructed in the 1920s is through its rounded edges.
8. Eat gyros/souvlaki
Gyros is the national street food dish of Greece. Pork is the traditional protein of the gyros as the Turk’s wouldn’t eat it. However, today you’ll find chicken, beef, lamb, sausage etc options at many gyros stalls.
In the north of Greece, gyros should come with tomato, onion, mustard and ketchup in the pita. In the south tzatziki would be used. Most gyros sellers will also add chips into the pita pouch as well as salads of your choice.
If you’re looking for what may be the best souvlaki in Thessaloniki then head to 22 Souvlakia. It’s located on Aristotelous Square and just a stone’s throw from the sea. There is a great outdoor seating area on the square.
And wow the food!!! We were brought out glistening sticks of protein after stick. The highlights for me were the pork gyros (its signature dish) and the chicken gyros.
And the chips are sensational – and should of course be placed in the pita and eaten with the meat. And don’t miss the puffy perfect squeaky halloumi.
9. Visit the White Tower of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki’s most famous site, the White Tower of Thessaloniki was actually a prison. It was built by Ottoman Turks in the late 15th century. The tower has been known by many names over the centuries including the Lion’s Tower, the Blood Tower and the Janissary Tower.
The White Tower took its current name in the late 19th century after one of its prisoners painted it white in exchange for freedom.
Today, the tower consists of six floors. Each floor covers an element of the history of the tower and Thessaloniki. The top of the tower has a fantastic view.
10. Enjoy some Easter Bread
Terkenlis bakeries started in 1948 and are perhaps Thessaloniki’s most famous pastry shops (easily identified by their turquoise and black packaging). They are best known for their Easter bread which is luckily available all year round.
There are several varieties of easter bread available. The most common are covered in either white or milk chocolate. The white chocolate variety is the most famous as it contains chestnut cream and may I say it is amazing – it is sweet and chewy and sticky and very filling!
There are quite a few branches of Terkenlis across the city. Even better there is one before security at the airport and one after security so you can take your Easter bread home in its beautiful packaging.
Terkenlis is also well known for its filo triangles that are filled with cream or caramel or chocolate and are also well worth trying.
11. Try Greek Food gourmet style
Thessaloniki is home to a huge number of restaurants of every variety. When I travel to Greece I am always dying to immerse myself in all the classic greek foods but of course, if you lived there you would seek more variety. Canteen does a great job at meeting both needs with its gourmet takes on greek cuisine classics.
Canteen is modern Thessaloniki cuisine at its best. There were several highlights for me. Whilst I was in Greece I became quite obsessed with Dakos salad. Dakos salad is essentially a greek salad with rusks and when it is done well it is awesome. Canteen does a good dakos.
The halloumi with blueberries, pistachio, and crispbread was also brilliant as was the risotto with black pork and aubergine.
12. Get into the specialty coffee scene
Like street food, you can’t be a foodie town these days without having a specialty coffee scene. Thessaloniki has several options but my favourite was The Blue Cup. I liked it so much I went twice during my visit. Their rather large operation is near the port and has a great outdoor area.
There is a big coffee menu and lots of roasts from which to choose. I went with the house and had a flat white and it was outstanding.
Blue Cup is in the Ladadika area of Thessaloniki. The area contains former warehouses that have been converted into tavernas, bars and cafes. It’s a great area to explore particularly at night.
Some other specialty coffee houses to visit include:
- The Urbanist
- Ypsilon is another very popular specialty coffee cafe and is housed in an old traveler’s inn
- La Nina Frida is an SCE (Social Cooperative Enterprise) where there is also great home made food
- Ergon Agora also a fully stocked delicatessen with loads of greek products
- To Pikap is a self service cafe bar which also houses a small record label, book shop and gallery.
13. Enjoy the best ice cream in town.
It is at a place called Bombolo. I didn’t get there but it came highly recommend so email me if you go and I can add your comments in!
14. Learn how to make Koulouri
Koulouri is essentially greek sesame bread in the shape of a ring and it is delicious. A good koulouri is almost crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are the on the go breakfast of choice in Greece and Thessaloniki is the home of koulouri.
Made from flour, water, yeast and a touch of salt, koulouri is seen as a healthy option (it’s the sesame seeds) unless you choose the ones that are filled with feta.
I did my koulouri cooking class at Koukoumeria bakery, the oldest bakery in Thessaloniki. Opened in 1922, Koukoumeria is still run by the same finally several generations later.
15. Try pie Greek style: Bougatsa
Pie greek style is all about filo pastry – not the shortcrust pastry generally associated with pies in the UK and Australia. Bougatsa has ALOT of layers of filo pastry and some butter added in to give it more of a puff pastry mouth feel.
One of the many wonderful things about Bougatsa is that it works with both sweet and savoury fillings. On the savoury side cheese and meat are the most popular varieties and try the cream version for dessert.
16. Visit a Greek Winery
Although Domaine Florian is a greek winery it is run by a German. Florian moved to Greece in 2002 and began making organic wine in 2011. The winery has won many awards – mostly for its sauvignon, syrah, and chardonnay.
In terms of whites, we tasted an assyrtiko blend (my favourite greek grape), malvasia, sauvignon blend, chardonnay aged in stainless steel, and a chardonnay aged in oak (my personal favourite wine at Domaine Florian).
Florian also has a lovely dry rose wine and the Syrah won all those awards for a reason – it is outstanding.
Domaine Florian is about a 30-minute drive from Thessaloniki. Contact Domaine Florian directly to organize a wine tasting and/or tour of its vineyards.
17. Enjoy olives at Kapani Market
The olive experience to be had at Kapani market is so great that I decided it needed to be a separate thing on this list. There are several olive stalls at Kapani in their own little area in the centre of a square within the market. But you need to head to Meditteranean Gold and ask for the delightful Alexandra.
This fantastic stall has every type of olive you can imagine plus olive oil in all varieties, herbs, olive soap and all things olive. Alexandra will be very happy to assist you in tasting her amazing produce.
18. Watch the world go by at Cafe le Monde
Cafe le Monde is a beautiful European-style cafe with one of the best locations in town on the Thessaloniki waterfront. Tables sprawl onto the boardwalk from the art deco-style building. This is the perfect place to stop and enjoy coffee Greek style. That means slowly and over several hours with lots of conversation.
In addition to a wonderful location, Cafe le Monde also has some amazing cakes that are best enjoyed slowly with coffee.
19. See the Street Art
Like Athens and many other modern cities, street art is throughout the city of Thessaloniki in many different forms. From major portraits on the side of buildings to small detailed images on side streets, you’ll find some great street art in Thessaloniki.
If you’re looking for some guidance why not take a street art tour?
20. Visit the Monument of Alexander the Great
This massive sculpture was created in 1974 by E. Moustakas. The monument of Alexander the Great is located on the new section on the waterfront next to the White Tower.
21. Visit Agia Sofia Church
Agia Sofia or Hagia Sophia was built in the mid 7th century over the ruins of a 5th-century basilica. It was designed to be a replica of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It is one of the most important early Christian monuments in the Orthodox world. It was a cathedral until 1523 when it was converted into a mosque.
22. Have a Turkish Bath
For an authentic hammam experience head to Makedonia Palace.
23. Explore Aristotelous Square
Aristotelous Square is the central plaza of Thessaloniki and somewhere you can’t miss when visiting Thessaloniki. If you face southwest in the square you’ll see the sea. If you then look at the square with your back to the sea you’ll quickly realise that this isn’t a square but a rectangle that stretches all the way inland to the Roman Agora.
I really enjoyed exploring this square and the pedestrianised street that leads to the roman ruins in Thessaloniki. There are loads of shops and cafes with outdoor seating and a great buzzy environment.
24. Climb the Tower of Trigonio
Follow Thessaloniki’s UNESCO world heritage listed walls east and you’ll hit the Tower of Trigonio, possibly the best viewpoint in Thessaloniki. Join the locals here to watch the sunset.
25. Walk the Waterfront Old and New
The new waterfront of Nea Paralia is a 3.5 km stretch along the sea that was regenerated in recent times. Like the rest of the Thessaloniki waterfront, it is a wonderful place to walk, cycle, and people-watch. This part of the waterfront is also home to some fantastic contemporary art.
The Zongopoulous sculpture “Umbrellas” is 13 metres high and most photogenic at sunset. This is also the best time to photograph Pavlos Vasiliadis’ “Moon” sculpture which was installed in the sea by divers and looks like an illusion.
The old waterfront is essentially the strip on the other side of the White Tower and home to many fantastic restaurants. Bike and pedestrian paths both run the full length of the five kilometres of waterfront.
26. Enjoy the view of Mount Olympus
You’ll need a clear day for this, but when it comes head down to the waterfront and marvel at Mount Olympus, the mythical home of the Greek gods. Mount Olympus is 2918 metres high and the second tallest mountain in the Balkans.
There are several paths to the mountain’s highest peak, Mytikas. In most cases, this will involve spending a night on the mountain and it is quite a challenging climb. It is also possible to visit Mount Olympus on a much more relaxed day trip from Thessaloniki.
27. Visit Panagia Chalkeon Church
Built in 1128 on the site of an ancient temple of Hephaestus, Panagia Chalkeon is also part of the “School of Constantinople” architecture. In 1430 the church was converted into a mosque and named Kazancilar Camii.
Where to Stay in Thessaloniki
I had a lovely stay at Domotel Olympia. This modern boutique hotel has a fantastic location – it is about a 10-minute walk to the seafront, Kapani market, the Roman Agora and many of the other key sites in town.
The building which houses Domotel Olympia dates back to 1929 but the interior is all modern contemporary design utilising light shades. My double standard room had a simple stylish design aesthetic with its shiny floorboards and clean lines. The bathroom isn’t huge but has everything you could need in a stay.
My room also came with a good-sized balcony and two chairs. The staff was very friendly and helpful and the breakfast was a good buffet offering. Best of all the breakfast buffet featured lots of koulouri and other local products so you can go local during your stay! Domotel Olympia also has a restaurant offering dinner and a bar.
If you’re looking for a more decadent hotel with a view of the sea and Mount Olympus check out The Meditteranean Palace Hotel.
For something a bit different check out the offers from Colors in Thessaloniki. They have a budget luxury apartment hotel called Living, Central is a bit more premium and located in the vibrant Ladadika area and their Urban Hotel is the most upmarket offer and in the boutique hotel market.
How to Get To Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki airport is the main airport in the north of Greece and the third largest airport in Greece. It is a big modern airport and has direct flights to lots of major cities in Europe.
It is about a 20 minute drive from the airport into the city of Thessaloniki. Having said that, traffic can get bad in Thessaloniki so it would be best to allow around 45 minutes for the journey.
How to Get Around Thessaloniki
There are ALOT of cars in Thessaloniki. I imagine there are many amazing parallel parkers in the city as there is so little space between the cars taking up the precious space along the roads.
Thessaloniki is a city that is made for walking, particularly along its lovely waterfront. This is a city with loads of side streets and back streets that are really fun to explore. I highly encourage you NOT to hire a car while you are in town. You will spend most of your visit either sitting in traffic or waiting for a park to open up.
Thessaloniki Tourism covered all of the costs associated with writing this article from the food to the tourism tickets to the hotel. I paid for my flights to get there and home. Also, this things to do in Thessaloniki post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.