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Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece and one of the most beautiful Greek cities, is also known as the Jewel of the North or the nymph of the Thermaic Gulf. The city is cheerful, open and hospitable and has developed as a European city with good infrastructure. Thessaloniki has managed to maintain a unique and fascinating cultural character, expressed through various festivals and artistic activities, but also emphasized in the mixture of folk elements from various ethnic groups. Certainly, the city’s unique character can also be attributed to its unbridled desire for entertainment and fun. No wonder that National Geographic included Thessaloniki is one of the ten top cities with the best nightlife in the world! The city has more cafés per inhabitant than any other European city.
The city's landmark is the White Tower, built during the Ottoman rule, most likely in the 15th century. Formerly known as the "Tower of the Janissary" or "Blood Tower", it was formed a place of torture and execution. In 1890, the tower was struck by a Jewish prisoner, who managed to break free. The White Tower has been used as an exhibition venue since 1985 and since 2008 it has been hosting an exhibition on the development and history of Thessaloniki, from its establishment to present day. A walk along the promenade can therefore be combined with a little discovery tour in the White Tower. The view from the top of the tower to the city and the Thermaic Gulf is breathtaking.
In Thessaloniki you can visit sights from Roman times:
• The Galerius arch (Kamara) with reliefs of scenes from the battles of Galerius against the Persians 296/297;
• A rotunda built in the 4th century, perhaps as the mausoleum of Galerius, then used as an Orthodox church and later as a mosque (remnants of a minaret). Today, the rotunda is a museum;
• Next to it, the remains of a forum (145 × 90 m) with subterranean gallery under the South Stoa and with an Odeion (theater).
Early Christian and Byzantine buildings also form the city’s landscape. For example, the Latomos monastery of Osios David. The monastery is adorned with a mosaic of the 5th or 6th century, representing a beardless Christ, and served as a forerunner of the cross-domed church with mosaics and paintings. The early Christian and Byzantine churches in Thessaloniki, were included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 1988, due to their beautiful mosaics and paintings.
Some of the most beautiful and important churches include the Church of Saint Demetrios (Agios Dimitrios), the patron saint of the city, a five-nave basilica with mosaics from the 7th and 9th centuries and the Church of Saint Sofia (Hagia Sofia), a three-aisled basilica with mosaics from the 8th and 9th centuries.
The historic district, Ladadika, sung and celebrated as a place of absolute entertainment, has retained its traditional character despite the integration of modern elements. The wide pedestrian street with its innumerable tavernas, cafés and clubs offers top quality food and drinks and is definitely one of the most popular places in the city for both locals and visitors. The famous promenade and Aristotelous Square are lined with cafes and bars, offering colorful and diverse options for entertainment. Favorite local haunts include the flea market and the tavern quarter Mpit bazaar. Small shops selling all sorts of trinkets, as well as tavernas and restaurants serving mouth-watering entrees, provide memorable evenings in a late 19th-century atmosphere. And if you're looking for relaxation and tranquility, you can indulge in a refreshing spa or relax in an oriental hammam.
Among the most important market and trading places is the market of Tsimiski. Whether you’re looking for department stores or small retail outlets, here you can fulfill your consumer’s dreams with shoes, jewelry or clothing of exceptional quality. There are also bookstores, cinemas, cafes and restaurants where you can take a break.
In Thessaloniki, various ethnic groups of different cultural backgrounds always feel at home. This has decisively shaped the character and the flair of this city. Each of the numerous museums tells a different story: the Archaeological Museum presents the development of Macedonia from its origins, the Museum of Byzantine Culture hosts collections from the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period of Thessaloniki and Macedonia and in the Jewish Museum you can see objects, documents, costumes and everything that could be preserved intact by the Jews in Thessaloniki until the Second World War. The State Museum of Contemporary Art shines with important paintings and sculptures by Greek and foreign artists.
One of the most beautiful areas in Thessaloniki is "Ano Poli" (= upper / northern part of the city). The district is reminiscent of medieval scenes from old films: surrounded by parts of the ancient and medieval fortress, you will find many taverns and cafes in winding, cobbled streets, where you can be enchanted by the traditionally built homes / buildings. Various influences have flowed into the architectural styles and have combined to form a unique mix of styles. Undoubtedly, the famous sites in Ano Poli include Kemal Ataturk's Birthplace and Museum, the last remnants of the great fortress and Vlatadon Monastery.