The second largest city in
Greece with a population of 1,000,000 inhabitants, is one of
the oldest cities in Europe. It stretches over twelve
kilometers in a bowl formed by low hills facing a bay that
opens into the Gulf Thermaikos. It was founded about 315 B.C.,
on a site of old prehistoric settlements going back to 2300
B.C., by Cassander, King of Macedonia, and was named after his
wife, Thessaloniki, sister of Alexander
The Great. Since then, Thessaloniki has become the
chief city of Macedonia and its most important commercial
port. In Roman times it was visited by Saint Paul, who
preached the new religion, and who later addressed his two
well-known epistles (the oldest written documents of Christian
literature) to the Christians of Thessaloniki.
Galerius made it the imperial capital of the eastern half of
the Roman Empire. Thessaloniki later flourished as a Byzantine
cultural and spiritual center, second only to Constantinople.
Ottoman rule, Thessaloniki became a stronghold
for the Greek School - a national underground effort to
maintain the survival of Greek language and literature. Home
to two universities, one of the best archaeological museums in
Greece and numerous galleries and cultural organizations,
Thessaloniki still serves as an academic and cultural center
for northern Greece today.
Thessaloniki is a cosmopolitan northern city, but those who do
find an intriguing blend of sophisticated shops and cafes,
tree-lined avenues, winding castle-bound streets, Byzantine
churches and Roman ruins.
Thessaloniki, travelers can explore Macedonia, the former
stomping ground of Alexander the Great: take an easy day trip
to the ruins of ancient Pella; visit the monastic community of
Mt. Athos (for men only); or venture to the seldom-touristed
Lake District, tucked against Albania's border, for vistas
that rival the Swiss Alps.
Thessaloniki is a thriving city and one of the most important trade and
communications centres in the Mediterranean. This is evident
from its financial and commercial activities, its port
with its special Free Zone, which provides facilities to the
other Balkan countries, its international airport, its
important industrial complex, its annual International Trade
The city was
the "Cultural Capital of Europe for the year of
1997" and they (and country for that matter) were very
proud of the designation. You can start your visit of
Thessaloniki with a visit to one of the numerous historic
churches, of which quite a number are now represented online.
Try the Church of Saint Demetrios, especially the Crypt
of Saint Demetrios in the bottom of the building.
If you really like the Byzantine sites, try any number of
of Saint Panteleimon, Church
of Prophet Elijah, Church
of St. Nicholas Orphanos, The
Church of Acheiropoietos, Church
of Agioi Apostoloi (the Holy Apostles), Church
of Our Lady of the Coppersmiths, Church
of Agia Sophia. There is also a Byzantine museum in The
White Tower, which is the landmark of the city and is
found on most Salonika motifs. Construction is still
underway at the massive new Museum
of Byzantine Civilization, but you can still visit part of
the building, where exhibitions are open.
If you prefer the Classical Greek, Hellenistic, or Roman periods,
take heart, there's plenty to see here.
First you can stop by the excellent Archaeological
Museum of Thessalonika. It is the second best in the
country behind the NAM in Athens. You can also walk
around the theater and the Ancient
Forum, currently under excavation, which is right in the
heart of the city. You can't miss the city walls
(well preserved), the huge Arch of Galerius, built in 305 A.D., and the
Mausoleum of Galerian, once a church, then a mosque (with minaret),
then a church, then a Byzantine museum, and now undergoing
reconstruction after earthquakes in the 1970's. It's also
known generally as the Rotunda.
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