Thessaloniki's Byzantine and ancient sites (and museums) constitute its major attractions, along with rich vestiges of the Ottoman years, primarily grand hammams. Thessaloniki's once-thriving Jewish culture is attested to by some surviving buildings and a small, mostly elderly community. Find Jewish Sites in Thessaloniki: Brief History and Guide by Rena Molho and Vilma Hastaoglou-Martinidi (Lycabettus Press) at bookshops and the Jewish Museum.
The New Waterfront is a marvellous addition, with a 3.5km seaside walkway.
Following the path of the 2nd-century-BC Roman road between the Adriatic and Byzantium, Egnatia is still Thessaloniki's main drag, and much of the city is divided as above and below Egnatia. Three major Roman monuments of early-4th-century emperor Galerius spill across Egnatia at Plateia Navarinou: the ruined Palace of Galerius, the Arch of Galerius and the now-renovated Rotunda to its north. This central Thessaloniki neighbourhood also has some of the city's most fascinating churches.
Ladadika & Port
Former bazaar neighbourhood Ladadika has Thessaloniki's most concentrated dining and social scene, and is bordered to the east by the former Jewish neighbourhood along Mitropoleos. Opposite, the old port area's bulky pier supports three hip museums and is a favourite evening haunt for students.
The labyrinthine, steep streets of Ano Poli, Thessaloniki's upper town, have magnificent ruins, lesser-visited churches, and a wonderful atmosphere. Only Ano Poli (then, the Turkish Quarter) largely survived the city-wide devastation of the 1917 fire – although the fire originated here, the wind swept the flames towards the sea.
Feature: Jewish Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki’s Jewish community swelled following the arrival of exiled Sephardic Jews from Spain in the 15th century. The city enjoyed a golden age of Jewish industry and culture, including crafts such as weaving and silk dyeing, in the 16th century.
The flourishing Jewish community was brutally cut down in 1943 when 43,850 Jews were deported to their deaths at Auschwitz. The history is movingly conveyed at the city’s Jewish Museum.
In the city centre, find Thessaloniki's principal synagogue, Monastirioton, used as a Red Cross centre during the WWII Nazi occupation and therefore spared. Services are held at the newer Yad Lazikaron.
Find other traces of this rich history at 19th- and 20th-century former Jewish mansions Villa Allatini, Villa Bianca – now the Centre for Contemporary Art – and Villa Mordoch, a 15-minute bus ride along Leoforos Vasilissis Olgas. To dig deeper into Thessaloniki's Jewish heritage, buy a copy of Jewish Sites in Thessaloniki: Brief History and Guide by Rena Molho and Vilma Hastaoglou-Martinidi (Lycabettus Press) from bookshops or the Jewish Museum.
Worth a Trip: Vergina & Pella
Northern Greece boasts numerous remnants of the ancient Macedonian dynasty, the two most famous being Vergina and Pella. The royal burial site at Vergina lies 11km southeast of Veria. Between Thessaloniki and Edessa lies Alexander the Great's birthplace, the former royal capital Pella.
With a car, it's possible to see both sites in a single day trip from Thessaloniki. Matching up bus connections can be a jigsaw, so if you don't have wheels consider exploring Pella and Vergina on separate days or staying overnight: hospitable Olympia Guesthouse is five minutes' walk from Vergina's archaeological site.
Buses from Thessaloniki to Palia Pella (€3.30, 45 minutes, seven daily) stop by the main road, 20 minutes' walk from the museum. From Thessaloniki to Vergina, take the bus to Veria (€7, one hour, up to 15 daily), from where you can then catch a bus to Vergina (€1.80, 20 minutes, up to seven daily).