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Thessaloniki, known as the second capital of Greece, is a city of distinctive atmosphere, rich history, and amazing lifestyle; indeed, first-time visitors fall in love with its unique location – right by Thermaikos gulf- as well as the old city, the Byzantine churches and Roman remains, the uplifting nightlife, the good quality food and its hospitable people.
If you are planning to visit Thessaloniki for the first time, we have gathered for you the following suggested walks to explore and get to know the city like a local!
# Classic walk: by the sea
The most characteristic feature of Thessaloniki is Thermaikos gulf, and the interaction of the city with the sea creates a unique atmosphere. Walk down the bottle-shaped Aristotelous square and admire the amazing architecture of the neoclassical buildings. Head to the shore, where the view of the sea is breathtaking, the Nikis avenue lies before you. Continue your stroll alongside the pavement, with the crowded cafes and bars and head to the White Tower -the city’s trademark and remain of the old fortress. Continue on to the “Nea Paralia”, the recently reconstructed area by the sea, which stretches for a few more miles, until the Megaron. This region has parks with a basket and tennis courts as well as spacious benches where you can relax while listening to music or reading a book. For those who love cycling, you can rent a two or four-person bicycle and go for a long drive until the area of Kalamaria, to see the renovated extended pedestrian, full of cafes and nice restaurants.
# Picturesque moments: Ano Poli and Kastra
If you seek to experience the atmosphere of a more traditional era, take the Olympiados street and head upwards for the old city and the castle. The architecture is amazing, with obvious Balkan influences, and the backstreets are amazingly picturesque -ideal for a stroll. At the top of the old city, a breathtaking view awaits you, as you can see Thessaloniki and the Thermaikos gulf unfolding in front of your eyes. The Byzantine castle known as “Eptapirgio” (meaning seven-towered) used to host the Genti Koule prison and is nowadays reconstructed by the cultural authorities. Inside the castle, you can also find numerous taverns and restaurants with great local delicacies – ideally, try various mezedes (the Greek version of tapas) along with ouzo!
# Downtown shopping
Egnatia and Tsimiski are the most central and busiest avenues of Thessaloniki. Egnatia connects the west with the east side of the city and is full of shops and places to grab a quick bite -do stop by the famous “Kamara” (the Arch of Galerious), which is a remain of the old fortification. Cross the street and head down to Nauarinou square which ends on Tsimiski street -the most cosmopolitan street of Thessaloniki. You will have to stop yourself from getting into shopping spree mode, as the stores offer a wide variety of clothing, houseware and many more. The small streets around Diagonios crossing hide many restaurants and bars, where the youth adds its own color to the canvas of the city. At the end of the day, head to the port (right after Aristotelous Square) to enjoy a magnificent sunset -this is a city you will want to come back to.
Do not also forget to check out “Explore Thessaloniki“, the non-profit organization that organizes free tours around the city.