Greece’s second largest city, Thessalonika or Salonika is a seaport city in Northern Greece in the prefecture of Macedonia. It was established near or on the ancient town of Therma by the King of Macedon.the city is named after his wife Thessalonika. Today, the city is known by many other names, including Thessalonike, Saloniki, Salonika, Solun, Selanik, and Saruna.
Salonika is built near the Thermaic Gulf, which is between the mainland of Macedonia and the Chalcidice Peninsula. There are a string of holiday and seaside resorts in the region. There are a number of bodies of water in the area from the Black Sea, Dardanelles, Gulf of Orfani and Salonika, and the Aegean and Ionian Seas. The Balkan Peninsula in south-eastern Europe is bound on the east by the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea, to the south by the Mediterranean, and on the west by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Balkan is the Turkish word for mountain. Salonika’s location interfaces the two climatic zones resulting in a Mediterranean climate during the summer and harsher winters of rain and wind.
Salonika is rich in bio-diversity and eco-systems. It is, a beautiful city with the mountains behind and the Gulf of Salonika before it. Its historical periods are the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Modern periods which you will find in evidence everywhere in Salonika.
During the Roman Era the city was located on the Via Egnatia. The Via Egnatia was a Roman military highway constructed primarily for military use in 146 B.C. Its stone-paved roads stretched for 535 miles, and in some areas the road was 30 feet wide. Trade prospered and the Via Egnatia became a superhighway of important commercial trade for the Greeks and Romans. Salonika or Thessalonika is mentioned in the Bible. You can find reference to this mentioned as in St. Paul’s letter to the Thessolonians.
Hellenistic and Roman Era Places to Visit:
- Palace of Galerius (300 A.D.)
- Arch of Galerius (305 AD)
- Tomb of Galerius.
- Roman Market and Theatre (mostly ruins of the market and theatre)
- Roman Baths
- Rotonda or Aghios Georgios
- Roman Palace (Galerius) or Hippodrome (located by archaeologists modern buildings have been built upon this site but there is some excavation)
A Jewish colony was established in Salonika during the Hellenistic era. The most notable mention is in Paul’s letter to the Thessolonians, of which scholars say that he did not get the support he wanted from the local Jewish population and had to leave because he had opponents. Nonetheless, any archaeological evidence of ancient synagogues or Jewish buildings or homes remains buried beneath present day Salonika and will have to wait archaeological excavation. There is not much said about the Jewish community in Salonika until the 15th century to World War II, after which Salonika’s Jewish population was reduced to zero. You must visit the Ladadika or oil market which was also the Jewish quarter located near the seafront until the port. Today the Ladadika houses gourmet restaurants, tavernas, coffee bars, bar restaurants, trendy nightclubs, live music shops, and many other Greek style nightlife spots.
Jewish presence in Salonika places of interest to visit:
- Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki
The next period in Salonika’s history is the Byzantine Era. The political unity of the Roman Empire fragmented into the Western Roman Empire, which was infiltrated by barbarians and other European tribal groups, and the Eastern or Greek speaking Roman Empire which was more centralized and well governed and had an impregnable capital at Constantinople.
Byzantine Salonika places of interest to visit:
- City walls
- The church of Agia Sofia
- Monastery of Latomos at Thessaloniki Church of the Holy Apostles; Áyii Apóstoli
- Crypt of Aghios Demetrios
- The ancient Agora of Thessaloniki (Forum has been excavated)
- Trigonian Tower and the Castra area
- Church of the Mother of God made without Hands; Panayía Acheiropoietos
- The Roman Palace and Hippodrome
- Agia Paraskevi, Thessaloniki, archaic cemetery
The Ottomans entered Salonika around 1430 and Salonika was under Turkish rule and influence until 1832 when the Treaty of Constantiople was signed defining Greece as a separate country from the Ottoman Empire.
Ottoman Era places of Interest to Visit:
- Turkish Bath Houses: theYaudi Hamam, Tsifte Hamam, and Phoinix Turkish Baths or Pasha Hamam, and Yeni Hamam a Turkish Bath House built on Roman ruins
- At the west end of the market area in Salonica is the old Turkish Bezesteni, which in the 16th century ranked as the finest bazaar in the whole of the Balkans.
- Hamsa Bey Mosque / Alkazar
- Alaja Imaret Mosque with its seven domes. Of its multi-colored minaret only the base remains.
Present day Salonika has a lot to offer and there is always something to do. Here is a list of museums, local festivals, other places of interest, and eating establishments. Salonika is famous for its Turkish Delight, olives, yoghurt, and baklava.
- Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki (Museo Djudio de Salonik)
- Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art
- State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki (collection of Russian Avant-garde art 1275)
- Macedonia-Thrace Folklore and Ethnological Museum, housed in the G. Modiano Mansion
- Museum of Byzantine Culture
- Museum of Macedonian Struggle under Turkish Rule
- Museum of Photography
- Salonica Folkloric Museum
- Telogion Foundation of Art
- Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum
- Thessaloniki Cinema Museum
- Thessaloniki Museum of the Macedonian Struggle
- Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum
- Thessaloniki Sports Museum
- Water Museum of Thessaloniki
- White Tower of Thessaloniki, museum and monument
- DMC DJ Championship
- Dimitria (three month festival)
- Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
- Thessaloniki International Festival of Photography
- Thessaloniki International Film Festival
- Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (held annuallly in Sept for 10 days)
- Video Dance Festival
Other Places of Interest and Things to Do
- The picturesque Central Market area (Kentrikí Agorá) extends on either side of Aristotle Street, with numerous shops supplying everyday domestic needs as well as many tavernas.
- Dioiketerion / Government House
- Lawcourt Square
- Platía Dikastiríou (inside of which is found Church of the Mother of God of the Coppersmiths
- Panayía Khalkéon
- Salonica Art Gallery
- Statue of Alexander the Great
- Railroad cemetery
- Tsimiskis Street which is a fashionable store front area where the most exclusive merchandise can be found.
Of Special Note:
- Holy Mountain of Athos does not allow women or beardless boys to visit. A natural garden area it is the center of Orthodox monasticism where visitors must learn to fit in. You must obtain a special pass to visit the monastery and have a special religious or scientific purpose to visit this area. Foreigners can visit up to a maximum of five days while Greeks can obtain a fifteen day pass.
- Famous Cave of Petralona (1900 meters stalactites and stalagmites of all kinds)
- Beaches of Halkidiki (Poligros is 69 KM away from Salonika) you can get there by car or by bus from Salonika
- City of Kastoria – Byzantine churches and beautiful architecture (you can visit this city by car or bus from Salonika
- Air (Makedonia International Airport – Olympic Airlines, Aegean Airlines)
- Sea (check with the Thessaloniki Port Authority) and you can travel by car from a port city like Thessaloniki, Greece to Piraeus (28 KM away from Athens International Airport- for the crazy tourist) http://www.greekferries.gr/index.html
- Train (from Athens, Macedonia, and Thrace to Thessaloniki – check with your travel agent to see if travelling by train from Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, or Turkey is available) http://www.eurail.com/
- Bus (six hour bus trip from Athens)
- Highway (Greek Interstate)
- Subway to be completed by 2012