Searching for ideas on what to do in Thessaloniki? Whether you want to discover Roman monuments, classic Palaces, Ottoman ruins or charming waterfront diners, the best attractions in Thessaloniki cater to all preferred travel styles and interests.
Thessaloniki’s history dates back millennia. And while there are plenty of fascinating museums that detail this city’s fascinating story, you can also follow in the footsteps of ancient Greeks, Persians, Romans and Byzantines while exploring some of Thessaloniki’s most famous landmarks and attractions.
If you want to journey through time to the city’s origins as a major hub of trade, art and culture, I’d suggest visiting monuments like the Roman Forum and the Rotunda. If you just want to travel back a mere few centuries in time, you can visit the White Tower, Aristotelous Square or the Thessaloniki Waterfront.
Prefer to get your fill of history from museums?
You’re spoilt for choice in Thessaloniki – the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, the Museum of Byzantine Culture and the Atatürk Museum all provide insights into the city’s fascinating heritage. Prefer to find out what’s in store for the future? Browse the interactive exhibits at the Thessaloniki Science Centre Technology Museum.
As you can see – there really is something for everyone in this Macedonian urban paradise. Here’s what to do in Thessaloniki to make the most of your getaway.
Best Things to Do in Thessaloniki
From exploring ancient Roman monuments and centuries-old fortifications to sipping cocktails by the waterfront under the Mediterranean sun, here are 12 of the best things to do in Thessaloniki.
1. Thessaloniki Waterfront
Spending a few nights in the beautiful and historic city of Thessaloniki? In between visiting museums, local eateries and historical landmarks, you might want to take a stroll along the gorgeous Thessaloniki Waterfront.
Given a stunning facelift just a few years ago, the Thessaloniki Waterfront runs for around five kilometres by the seaside. Along the route, you’ll walk by a plethora of bars and restaurants that provide ideal settings to kick back with a drink and a bite while taking in ocean views.
You’ll also bump into a few of the city’s most famous attractions, including the White Tower, the Thessaloniki Concert Hall and the Photography Museum. A modern sculpture park called “The Umbrellas” is just half a kilometre from the White Tower.
2. White Tower of Thessaloniki
The most famous monument in Thessaloniki is the White Tower by the coast. Back in the 15th century when the Ottomans took over the city, the White Tower was constructed to defend the city’s eastern harbour.
Today, this 34-metre-tall, cylindrical tower now hosts a museum (White Tower Museum) that was installed by the nearby Museum of Byzantine Culture, giving you insights into the history of the tower and the city of Thessaloniki from the Roman era to the present day.
While exploring the museum inside the White Tower, you’ll hear fascinating stories about historic battles using an audio guide. You can also ascend the spiral staircase to take in sprawling city and ocean views from the tower’s battlements.
3. Pirate ship in Thessaloniki
The pirate ship in Thessaloniki is an iconic floating ship set against the backdrop of the city’s famed waterfront. Get on board and you’ll get a historical glimpse into maritime lore and a unique sightseeing experience, this replica vessel transports visitors on an enchanting journey across the Thermaikos Gulf.
As the ship sets sail, you’re immersed in an ambiance reminiscent of ancient seafaring tales, all the while enjoying panoramic views of Thessaloniki’s skyline and the White Tower. It’s a must-visit for those looking to combine history with adventure in Greece’s cultural heart.
It’s free to get on, but you have to buy drinks, and they’re pretty expensive. We had a great time on board though, toddler included, and I’d definitely recommend you do it as a top Thessaloniki attraction.
4. Thessaloniki Old Town
Thessaloniki’s Old Town, or ‘Ano Poli’, is a historic gem nestled above the modern city. Characterised by narrow, winding streets and traditional Ottoman-era architecture, this area offers a journey through centuries of layered history. Byzantine churches stand alongside quaint taverns, while panoramic views of the Thermaikos Gulf unfold from its elevated vantage.
This is one of the best areas in Thessaloniki to explore.
5. Main square in Kalamaria
Kalamaria is a suburb of Thessaloniki, about 20 mins from the city. It’s a lovely place to relax and soak up the sun and atmosphere. The main square there is also a great place to hire these cars for kids to ride. Reggie was 14 months here and loved it. It works by remote control so we were stood very close while he (thought he) was driving around.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Thessaloniki for kids, the main square in Kalamaria is a great shout. There are also some great restaurants here and it’s just a fun place to relax in the evening, for the whole family.
6. Holy Church of Saint Demetrius (Hagios Demetrios)
The Holy Church of Saint Demetrius, otherwise known as Hagios Demetrios, was built in the 4th century CE on the site where Patroin Saint Demetrius was martyred. While the early structure was destroyed by multiple fires in the first couple of centuries of its life, the five-aisled basilica you can see today was mostly built during the 630s.
It took about 100 years staring from the year 630 to add the building’s famous mosaic panels that contribute to its distinctive design. While many of the mosaics were destroyed by a blaze in 1917, artworks that depict Demetrius and the church founders with children remain mostly intact.
7. Eat at ERGON Agora
Just a few minutes out of the city ERGON Agora is one of the best dining experiences in Thessaloniki for sure. It’s an ole warehouse on the coast with a beach, food and drink stalls set up outside, occasional music, a great shop and a huge restaurant inside the main building. There’s lots to do and see here, all centred around food and drink.
Visiting here is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Thessaloniki, and you get a nice full belly too. Oh, there are also some great gelato options for dessert too. You’ll get an amazing feed with all the Greek food here, and hopefully a wonderful sunset like we did too!
8. Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
Fancy browsing a diverse array of artefacts that date back to the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman eras? You won’t regret perusing the fascinating exhibits at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
Some of the most notable displays at this museum include finds from one of the city’s 6th-century Ionic temples, plus relics from a 4th-century palace constructed under the orders of Emperor Galerius. You’ll also discover a reconstructed Macedonian tomb that was unearthed in nearby Agia Paraskevi.
One of the most recent exhibits takes you on a journey through time in Thessaloniki, from prehistory to the Bronze Age. Don’t forget to check out invaluable items such as the 4th-century Derveni Krater.
The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki opens daily from 8am to 8pm and usually remains relatively busy until closing. I’d recommend setting aside a minimum of two hours to take everything in.
This is one of the top Thessaloniki places to visit.
9. Aristotelous Square
Located between the waterfront and Nikis Avenue, Aristotelous Square is an ideal place to kick off a walking tour of Thessaloniki.
The square itself was designed in 1918 by coveted French architect Ernest Hébrard. The listed mansion blocks that surround the square popped in the following few decades. To the northeast of the square, you’ll see the Olympion Theatre Cinema, which hosts the annual Thessaloniki International Film Festival.
If you’re visiting Thessaloniki during the festive season or public holidays, you can bet there’ll be plenty of celebrations taking place in Aristotelous Square, which also tends to host political rallies and cultural events throughout the year.
Make sure to visit Aristotelous Square on a clear day – views stretch as far as 100km to the Olympus Massif when the sun is shining.
10. Museum of Byzantine Culture
The Museum of Byzantine Culture is the place to go if you want to learn about the mark the Byzantine Empire made on Macedonia.
As you explore this amazing museum’s 11 galleries, you’ll see artefacts that date all the way back to the 4th century, when the empire was established by Constantine. The most recent exhibits date back to the 15th century, when the Byzantine Empire came to an end at the hands of the Ottomans.
Some artefacts on display at the Museum of Byzantine Culture include printed books, statues, painting, mosaics, jewellery, fabrics, manuscripts, wooden icons and Byzantine art. You’ll also see impressive examples of stonemasonry in the form of piers from churches and inscribed arches and stones.
11. Visit Ladadika
Cobblestone streets, colourfully painted quaint buildings, restaurants spilling out onto the pavements, traditional taverns, and history galore… what isn’t to love about the vibrant district of Ladadika?
Historically, Ladadika was a chaotic merchant district that was home to a sizable Jewish community. In fact, the name Ladadika is derived from the district’s former olive oil stores.
When the 20th century rolled around, Ladadika became an infamous red light district and a hotspot for spies. The wars of the 20th century caused the district to fall into decline, but its interwar architecture was beautifully restored in the 90s and Noughties.
Today, Ladadika is one of Thessaloniki’s best nightlife districts, home to a surplus of bars, ouzeri (taverns), international restaurants and local diners.
Any guide to Thessaloniki will recommend you visit here, so do it!
Dating all the way back to the 4th century CE, the UNESCO-listed Rotunda is one of the oldest buildings in Thessaloniki. It, as well as the adjacent Arch of Galerius, was constructed under the orders of Roman Emperor Galerius to commemorate the Roman victory over the Persians.
During its 1,600-year+ lifespan, the Rotunda has been a Roman temple, a church and a mosque – a minaret still stands outside the Rotunda today. Inside the Rotunda, you’ll see newly restored paleo-Christian mosaics that were first added to the building all the way back in the 5th century.
13. Arch of Galerius
Just a stone’s throw from the Rotunda is the Arch of Galerius, also built more than 1,700 years ago to celebrate the victory of Galerius over the Sassanid Persians.
When it was constructed, the Arch was an eight-pillared gateway to the city. It also had a triple arch that was covered in sculpted marble panels. While most of these panels have fallen victim to time, a few reliefs remain that provide insights into the city’s Roman history. One image depicts Galerius on horseback towering above his enemies, while another shows him offering his foes mercy.
14. Atatürk Museum
A man named Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is credited for founding the modern secular state of Turkey back in 1881. Interestingly, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was born in a three-storey house in Thessaloniki on Apostolou Pavlou Street.
In 1935, the city of Thessaloniki gave the house as a gift to the Turkish state, who transformed it into a museum that details the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The building itself also forms a part of the Turkish consulate.
Take a tour of the Atatürk Museum to see the room in which Atatürk was born. In the house’s courtyard, you’ll see a pomegranate tree that was planted by Atatürk’s father well over a century ago.
15. Thessaloniki Science Centre Technology Museum
Thessaloniki isn’t just about history and culture. At the Thessaloniki Science Centre Technology Museum – Greece’s foremost science and tech museum – you can get to grips with topics such as magnetism, optics, electricity, telecommunications, mechanics and more.
There are over 40 interactive stations at the Thessaloniki Science Centre Technology Museum, perfect for both kids and adults alike who enjoy a bit of hands-on educational entertainment. There are also exhibitions on the history of motor transport from 1918 to the present day – you’ll see cars from just about every era.
16. Roman Forum of Thessaloniki
Excavated in 1966, the Roman Forum of Thessaloniki, otherwise known as the Ancient Agora, was the centre of political and public life in Thessaloniki between the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE.
While the Forum may lie mostly in ruins today, it was once nearly 100 metres wide and 150 metres long, located at the intersection of the city’s two main Roman roads.
One of the highlights of the Roman Forum is the Cryptoporticus, which are subterranean corridors that were probably used for storage purposes. Following these corridors takes you to an underground museum, where you can browse artefacts from the forum and exhibits on its excavation. There are also remnants of baths, a mint and a restored Roman-era theatre on the east side of the Forum.
17. Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki
After the Sephardic Jews were forced to either convert to Catholicism or face expulsion from Spain in the 15th century CE, Thessaloniki became a major settlement with the Spanish-speaking Sephardic community. This community flourished for around 450 years until the devastation of the Holocaust.
When the Sephardic Jews started arriving in Thessaloniki towards the end of the 15th century, they brought valuable skills such as weapon-making, medical science, cartography and printing. Until the mid-20th-century, the Sephardic community thrived in the Ottoman climate of religious tolerance.
If you want to learn about Spanish-Jewish heritage in Thessaloniki, including the horrendous events of 1943 when 49,000 Jews were deported, you need to browse the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki.
18. Visit the food markets
If you’re looking for what to do in Thessaloniki for foodies, then head straight to the food markets. Modiano Food Market in the city centre is a good place to start – lots of tasty samples to go round!
Most of the shops in Modiano Food Market are food stores selling spices, cheese, fish, meat, delicatessen products and so on. There are also a few small tavernas, restaurants and bars here.
19. Visit Perea Beach
Only 15 minutes from Thessaloniki, but in the opposite direction to the main city, Perea Beach is a real locals beach. We visited in March, which was apparently winter for them (I was in a tshirt) and had a lovely day eating on the beach and relaxing. There are a few bars and cafes, and a souvenir shop too.
What to do in Thessaloniki
In Thessaloniki you can discover ancient monuments and buildings dating all the way back to the Roman era. You can also explore history and culture museums, architectural landmarks, delicious restaurants and plenty of amazing attractions by the waterfront.
When people think of Greece they might think of the Greek island hopping, the popular spots like Mykonos and Santorini, and even the Mamma Mia island of Skopelos, but it’s well worth giving the Greek cities some time.
Above is a far-from-exhaustive list on what to do in Thessaloniki, but there are also green spaces like the Alexander the Great Garden, and the Garden of Sculptors, Sount and Water, and even beaches.
READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in Samos
What are your favourite things to do on a holiday to Thessaloniki? Do my readers a favour by leaving a comment below.
Quick list of what to do in Thessaloniki
- 1. Thessaloniki Waterfront
- 2. White Tower of Thessaloniki
- 3. Pirate ship in Thessaloniki
- 4. Thessaloniki Old Town
- 5. Main square in Kalamaria
- 6. Holy Church of Saint Demetrius (Hagios Demetrios)
- 7. Eat at ERGON Agora
- 8. Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
- 9. Aristotelous Square
- 10. Museum of Byzantine Culture
- 11. Visit Ladadika
- 12. Rotunda
- 13. Arch of Galerius
- 14. Atatürk Museum
- 15. Thessaloniki Science Centre Technology Museum
- 16. Roman Forum of Thessaloniki
- 17. Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki
- 18. Visit the food markets
- 19. Visit Perea Beach