Difference between revisions of "Thessaloniki"
Revision as of 12:12, 18 January 2012
Thessaloniki (Greek: Θεσσαλονίκη, Turkish: Selanik, Macedonian: Солун, Solun)) , is the capital of the region of Central Macedonia, and is, at about a million inhabitants, the second largest city in the country. More importantly, it is a city with a continuous 3,000 year history, preserving relics of its Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past and of its formerly dominant Jewish population. Its Byzantine churches, in particular, are included in UNESCO's World Heritage list.
The Greek Railway Company is called OSE (ΟΣΕ), the trains are operated under the name TrainOSE.
There are normally employees at all major stations to facilitate transportation of disabled persons.
There are daily regional trains to Veroia-Edessa and Katerini-Larissa, six InterCity (IC) trains and one night-train to Athens via Platy-Katerini-Larissa-Palaiofarsalos-Domokos-Leianokladi(Lamia)-Leivadia-Thiva-Oinoi-SKA-Athens (approx 5h20min), two trains to Kilkis-Serres-Drama-Xanthi-Komotini-Alexandroupoli and one train to Karditsa-Trikala-Kalampaka.
Smoking is prohibited in all trains.
Be aware of these discounts and insist on them even if the TRAINOSE employee does not mention them at first.
Thessaloniki is connected via the intercity KTEL bus network with every corner of Greece.
KTEL Buses from/to Athens make the trip from/to Thessaloniki in about 6 hr 30 min, including a 20 min stop at a roadside restaurant with toilet facilities. Buses are air-conditioned.
There are a number of weekly departures to Belgrade (Serbia) in Thessaloniki and Athens, in the arrangement of the Greek and Serbian Agency.Ticket price in one direction from Thessaloniki to Belgrade is about €45. From Belgrade to Thessaloniki and the rest of Europe there are plenty of bus connections from the main bus station in Belgrade (or agencies).
There is a number of buses to Thessaloniki and Athens departing most major Albanian cities every day. You can catch a bus from Tirana or Shkodra and travel all the way south making stops in most major Albanian and Greek cities. Since buses stop briefly to pick up/drop passengers in most major cities, you can catch the bus at any city on the route.
A number of local travel agencies in Skopje also arrange transport to Thessaloniki daily by car or minibus. These generally leave around 5AM, and cost around €25 for a day return (returning at 5PM) or a single (i.e. €50 if you want to come back on a different day from when you leave!) The travel agent at the back of the shopping mall by the Central Square arranges this departing from beside the Holiday Inn. Others depart from the bus station, or other locations around the city.
Simeonidis tours, N⁰ 14, 26th October St, . Their bus leaves at 5:30PM from Thessaloniki everyday except Sundays, and it takes about 5 hr to Skopje. There is one bus daily departing for Thessaloniki from the central bus station in Skopje. It departs at 6AM. Reservations are recommended.
All train service from Skopje to Greece were suspended in November 2011.
There are daily flights from Athens airport by Olympic Air  and Aegean Airlines  (50 minutes). During summer both Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines have daily direct flights from Rhodes, Crete (Heraklion and Chania), Mykonos and [Santorini]], and Aegean Airlines has flights from Corfu.
Astra Airlines  has scheduled flights from Chios and during the months of July and August flies from Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Kos, Crete (Chania and Heraklion), Karpathos, Kythira and Zakynthos.
Connection to the City Centre
Attention the bus number 79 from the airport does NOT get you to the city centre but to A.S. IKEA bus terminal in the city's eastside.
A ticket costs €0.90 (see Get around: By bus). It's about a 40 min ride from the airport to the city-centre. The ticket machine is located in the bus and the machine is not giving back change.
There are tourist info and ticket booths at the the central bus stations. You can get a free busline chart there.
Tourist information office is at Tsimiski st 136, a few minutes from the White Tower. Open M-F 8AM-8PM, Sa 8:30AM-2PM, Sun closed. If you find it closed, walk up to Aristotelous and buy a map from Iannos bookshop. You can also visit [m.oasth.gr]
A taxi ride from the city center costs about €15-20. It's hard to find one during peak hours (7AM-8AM, 2PM-4PM and 7PM-9PM), so plan early.
One of the burdens for visitors and inhabitants alike is finding a parking place, so be prepared to either spend a lot of time looking for a place or pay for space in the parking lot (starting from €4 for 3 hr). Don't assume you're safe from paying a fine just because locals flagrantly flout parking laws. Traffic congestion is a problem, largely due to double-parked cars, but generally fellow drivers and passers-by are helpful in showing you the way if you're lost.
The city's bus company is called "OASTH"  and runs a total of 80 different bus lines. You can buy tickets at a kiosk (periptero), at an OASTH info point or inside the bus.
There are three types of tickets:
Tickets bought inside the bus cost €0.10 plus. 24 hr ticket is sold only at "OASTH info points".
They must be validated every time you get on the bus, except the 24 hr ticket, which is validated once and runs a full 24 hr, so you could explore the city in the afternoon, get out in the evening, and get to the airport next morning all on the same ticket.
1, 3 and 12-month cards for unlimited journeys are also available.
Maps of the bus routes are available on the OASTH website .
Bus number 50 (Cultrural line) follows a figure-of-8 route past all the major tourist sights. There is an English speaking guide aboard, who provides you with maps and information. The whole route takes 50 min, and it departs every hour on the hour from the White Tower. Ticket costs: €2.
By rent a car
There is a variety of car rental companies.
The northernmost Byzantine walls of the city and parts of the western walls are still standing, as is the city's symbol - the White Tower, one of the 16th Century. AD fortified towers - which is the only surviving tower on the seafront. The rest of the walls are in the picturesque Upper Town which offers a spectacular view over the bay, especially in the late afternoon. Take a walk along the enormous seafront promenade (about 12 km altogether). See the the Roman Forum excavations.
Visit the upper town for its traditional old houses, small cobbled streets, Byzantine citadel, the Eptapyrgion fort.
On no account should you miss the Byzantine churches built between the 5th and 14th century ACE, such as Agios Demetrios, (7th Century. ACE) and Agia Sophia (Holy Wisdome, 9th Century. ACE), and many lovely smaller ones in the upper town (St Nicolaos Orfanos is particularly worth a look for its frescoes), which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. One of them, the Rotunda, started life as a Roman temple of Zeus, built by ceasar Galerius, and is almost as old as the Pantheon in Rome. Next to the Rotunda, see the Arch of Triumph of Galerius and the ruins of his palace.
The city is also known as "the mother of Israel", due to the once flourishing Jewish community here, which existed from the Roman period and grew substantially after the Ottoman Empire took in Jewish refugees expelled Spain, Portugal, and Spanish territories in Italy; these Jews are known as "Sephardim". Sephardi Jews formed a significant percentage of the city's population and infrastructure until World War II, when, in spring 1943, almost all were deported by the Nazis to the extermination camp at Auschwitz, never to return. However, there are still two Synagogues, and you can see the Jewish Museum.
Also interesting are the Turkish public baths Bey Hamam, the Bezesteni (Ottoman closed market for jewellery and precious materials) the Alatza Imaret (Ottoman poorhouse) and Hamza Bey Camii (both restored and used for exhibitions).
The traditional central food market, with hundreds of stalls selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables (sometimes cheek-by-jowl, an unnerving experience for North Americans), cheap clothes and shoes, flowers, herbs and spices, between Aristotele Square and Venizelou street.
Aristotelous Square-the biggest of the city-and the promenade with its cafes and restaurants.
Museums and galleries
Thessaloniki is home to many museums, mostly archaeological and ethnographic. The two big archaeological museums are in the city centre, under the OTE Tower at the CHANTH Square.
It is also useful to keep an eye on the website Museums of Macedonia  that covers the whole region.
Thessaloniki has a very active nightlife, as a 2007 New York Times article called it; "Seattle of the Balkans".
For fashion, Proxenou Koromila, Mitropoleos and Tsimiski. You won't find many bargains, but the shopping area is conveniently small and full of cafes when you get too tired. For cheaper clothing, check out Egnatia street.
IANOS bookshop at Aristotelous sq at the centre of the city is a good place to buy books & art-objects & attend cultural events. Art related books, CDs etc can be found also in Bastart Grigoriou Palama 21.
The 9th International Book Fair takes place in 26-29 April 2012 
You can buy local food products, such as olive oil, sometimes at significaly lower prices than in nearby countries.
For eating out see the eat section below
For food specialities, go to Modiano market and try the Terpsis and Omega delicatessens (the most famous is Kosmas, but it specialises in Asian food). Any Greek will expect you to bring back sweets from Salonica, so try tsoureki, plaited sweetened breads for which Terkenlis is famous, and desserts (baklava and galaktoboureko) e.g. or Nikiforou on Venizelou street. The most famous of the baklava joints is Hatzis, but fame has not made it any better - it's become overpriced and not as good as in previous years.
For a morning or late-night snack, try Bougatsa pies: cream (sweet) or cheese (savoury) filling.
Sweets and pastry
If you like sweets, there are 3 typical pastry-shops you should try, typical of this city:
Best winter dessert: baked quince.
Other Greeks consider Thessaloniki a gourmet city - but bear in mind that this refers to the excellent local specialities and cheap-and-cheerful ouzo taverns rather than to haute cuisine or a range of foreign restaurants. The latter are best avoided in Thessaloniki.
For something quick, try the crepe shops patronised by the student population at Gounari street, near Navarinou square.
For a carnivore's treat, try soutzoukakia: minced meat pellets either grilled (at the central market or rotisseries) and topped with chilli pepper flakes, or cooked in tomato and cumin sauce (Smyrna-style).
Go for a meal in one of the many downtown ouzo restaurants (ouzeri). Accompany your ouzo or tsipouro with a battery of small dishes - by far the best way to eat in Salonica. Particularly good are the fava beans, the octopus either grilled or in wine sauce and mussels (fried, or in pilaff, or with a hot cheese sauce, saganaki).
If you see "boiled vegetables' on the menu in wintertime, go ahead and order them- you'll be amazed at how good they taste. Another typical winter salad is politiki, a combination of shredded cabbage and pickles.
The citys tourist-trap, the area between Athonos square and Aristotelous street is full of basic taverns mostly serving bad quality meat and/or fish accompanied by, cheap wine, cheap retsina (traditional low cost wine) and cheap ouzo. Some feature cheap live music.
This area is another lively (and noisy) student hang-out that gets crowded on warm nights.
Kastra (Ano Poli)
Up the city’s hill, next to the Byzantine walls you can find the other tourist-trap of the city. Some quality places are here.
The old warehouse area near the port, around Morichovou sq., is chock-full of restaurants, bars and clubs.
An old district of Ano Poli hosting the eponymous tavern, along with some others.
Traditional fast food include sandwiches with gyros (pork meat), souvlaki or soutzoukaki (meat balls) offered in many stores for a little over €2.
You won't wonder where to get a drink in a town with this many bars. The city centre also has many bars and cafeterias spread throughout.
A beer costs €4-6, an alcohol drink €7-10 and a coffee €4-5.
Thessaloniki is by far the liveliest city in Northern Greece- maybe even the whole country. Most of the trendy bars at the old sea-front (Nikis Ave.) and around, many of the tavernas are either downtown or in the old city (Kastra). You can also find numerous bars and tavernas at Krini, an area in eastern Thessaloniki. If you want to check out what the whole bouzoukia scene is all about, try the clubs Pyli Axiou and Mamounia, at Vilka. You will also find a lot of night clubs, bars and restaurants in Ladadika, the neighbourhood with the old warehouses next to the port. The student area is around Kamara (the Arch of Galerius), home to many cheaper cafe's and bars.
If you will be in town during summer, take a ride on the floating bars plying the harbour. Every 2 hr or so they leave from the White Tower area for a short evening trip (30 min) in the Gulf of Thessaloniki. They play mostly ethnic and alternative foreign music.
Among the most popular places to drink a coffee or a beer are:
Aristotle Sq (Aristotelous)
The most popular tourist cafés and bars lie in the central square of the city and the homonymous street. One can find quiet cafes or noisy ones usually preferred by the young. Breakfast is also served, some restaurants are also available.
The center’s seafront avenue is full of cafeterias usually crowded around the clock, available for coffee in daytime and beer or drink at night.
Proxenou Kroromila St
Parallel to the seafront Nikis avenue is Pr. Koromila street with some cafés and bars.
Another place in the city with cafes and bars and a couple of restaurants
At the west side of the center lies the picturesque neighbourhood of Ladadika (meaning: oil stores). Named this way by the many stores selling oil arrived from the adjacent harbour. Formerly notorious district, recently renovated with many stone build warehouses now host the most known nightclubs with all sorts of music including traditional Greek bouzoukia. Although not the favorite by Thessaloniki’s highest class (modern bouzoukia are not considered a classy kind of entertainment) worth a visit. Quite controversial, some delicate restaurants and greek taverns are located in Morichovou Sq., popular during lunch time
Aretsou is located in the southeast part of the city, in the Kalamaria District. In the seafront Plastira Av. one can find delicate cafeterias which change to bars during night featuring loud music and hosting many young.
A place in Kalamaria district hosting delicate bars, restaurants and pizzerias. All of them along Sofouli street right next to the seashore.
Quite interesting are the boats near the white tower’s seafront, which make a short trip around Thermaikos gulf where you can enjoy a late night city view. Most of them play ethnic and alternative foreign music.
Mylos and Vilka
A set of high-range café, bars, restaurants, ouzeris some with live music at the city’s west. Also hosting concerts, events, exhibitions, music bands, famous greek artists etc.
Valaoritou and Syggrou
Over the last 2 years a lot of Thessaloniki's nightlife has moved here. The old industrial centre has becomea place for entertainment for everybody. Many bars, clubs and cafes may remind you of Berlin, or English pubs.
There are many hotels in the area a few blocks north of Aristotelous. Some of these are a bit upmarket, but if business is slack it is worth shopping around - they might give you a good discount rather than turn you away.
The classic trips out of Thessaloniki are: