One of the few remaining cities with tangible links to the vaunted Hellenistic period, Thessaloniki is a place that mixes old and new with a unique flair. It is Greece’s second largest city with a laid-back ambiance, with slower-paced city rhythms than the Greek capital, Athens. Speaking of capitals, Thessaloniki isn’t called the food capital of Greece for nothing, which is quite the
plaudit, considering Greek cuisine is widely regarded as one of the healthiest and tastiest in the world. You see when you visit Thessaloniki, enjoyment comes first, even on a short business layover.
Invariably, the city sees its fair share of business travelers. The only downside is the limited time to explore the city. So, if you’re planning to visit Thessaloniki for 48 hours, we suggest you ensconce at the centrally located and Electra Palace Thessaloniki in Aristotelous Square, since it is one of the city’s emblems. With that in mind, here is a suggested itinerary that neatly packs in all the major attractions of this fascinating city.
48 hours to visit Thessaloniki – What to do:
Day 1: Embracing History and Heritage
At no point should you consider skipping breakfast in this town. Indulge in a feast to start your day and include the must-try local delicacy – the bougatsa – a custard-filled pie that is as iconic as the White Tower itself. Pair that with a iced frappe or freddo coffee, and kickstart your adventure at the heart of Thessaloniki with a visit to the White Tower.
This seminal landmark was once a part of the city’s fortifications amongst other things, and now serves as a fascinating museum that traces the history of Thessaloniki and its tumultuous past. Climb to the top for a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline and the sparkling Thermaic Gulf.
Next, make your way to the Archaeological Museum, a treasure trove of artifacts from different eras, including the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. Admire the intricate mosaics, statues, and pottery that reveal the city’s captivating history.
For an authentic Greek lunch, head to the Ladadika district. This charming neighborhood, once known as the seedy underbelly of Thessaloniki, has been repurposed entirely, turning it into an authentic district packed with traditional tavernas and modern restaurants. Tuck into some of the tastiest street food, like the staple ‘koulouri’ sesame bread ring, the traditional ‘souvlaki’ (the
skewered meat pita wrap is what you will get when you ask for a ‘souvlaki’ in this city – if you prefer gyros you should ask for it specifically).
After that you could head over to the Hagia Sophia Church. This emblematic house of worship is a Byzantine masterpiece dating back to the 8th century BC, and a visual feast of frescoes and mosaics that will grab you in a hurry.
A short walk away, discover the Rotunda, another ancient monument that served as a Roman temple, later transformed into a Christian church, and eventually a mosque. Its impressive dome and intricate designs are jaw-dropping.
The evening is a time for long walks along the waterfront promenade. Take a stroll and amble about, as the sun’s last golden rays shine down with a rose-tinted glow that captures the magical essence of the city. You’ll see an assortment of youngsters, joggers and old people walking their dogs. We suggest a sit-down at one of the benches for some people-watching and sea gazing, which is such is tradition. End your evening with an exquisite dinner with iconic views at Orizontes Roof Garden.
Day 2: Cultural Immersion and Modern Delights
After your morning routine and breakfast feast, you’re well advised to visit Thessaloniki’s Ano Poli, or high city. It is the only part of the city that survived the deadly fire of 1917 and is characterized by an amalgam of architectural styles, neatly delineated by quaint cobblestone streets, not to mention the imposing Heptapyrgion Castle – a site more than worth the price of admission. It doesn’t hurt that Ano Poli has some of the best views of the city, either.
Continue your cultural immersion at the Museum of Byzantine Culture, which houses a remarkable collection of Byzantine artifacts and religious icons. Gain insight into the Byzantine legacy and its influence on Thessaloniki’s art and culture.
For art enthusiasts, the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-visit. This modern museum showcases an impressive array of Greek and international contemporary artworks, making it a hub for modern artistic expression.
The Modiano Market is the culinary center of the city and a cultural emblem of Thessaloniki’s illustrious past. The city’s multicultural roots are embedded in this venerable building, as it was part of the fabric of the old Jewish quarter before it burned down in 1917. Here, you can buy fresh produce and sample the local delicacies from the stalls and the food halls.
In the afternoon, visit the Roman Forum and the Arch of Galerius, historical remnants of the ancient Roman city of Thessaloniki. Marvel at the impressive architecture and intricate carvings that provide insight into the city’s Roman past.
Your grand tour of Thessaloniki of course begins and ends in Aristotelous Square, the buzzing center of it all. Spend some time meandering up and down as this is as it is busy, with people of all ages and walks of life descending upon it during the late afternoon. Peruse the shops and stores, grab a drink or coffee, or simply pause watch the spectacle of orange and pink hues as the sun dips underneath the Aegean. Even better if you do so on the rooftop of Electra Palace Thessaloniki.
In just 48 hours, Thessaloniki invites you to delve into its past, embrace its cultural and culinary treasures, and immerse yourself in its warm and welcoming atmosphere. This vibrant city effortlessly weaves together history and modernity, leaving visitors enthralled by its charm, pizzaz and allure. Explore culinary hot spots, chase scenic vistas, or seek out relics as old as time; this city is a joy to discover for leisure or business travelers that visit Thessaloniki. Wherever you’re coming from, and no matter how little disposable time you may have in between meetings and meet-ups at our luxury conference hotel in Thessaloniki, make it a point to discover this fascinating city. Pick and choose what interests you and what you can carve out some time for and feel the pulse of the Greece’s second largest city.