The fascinating past and enchanting present come together on your Thessaloniki cruise from the moment your ship docks. Greece’s second-largest city is also considered its cultural capital, which makes Thessaloniki a perfect venue for leisurely strolls past Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman monuments, statues, and churches. In the city’s high-octane Ladadika district, Greek music, dancing, and dining come together in one happy trio. If your preferred location ashore from your Greece cruise is beachside, long stretches of sand with varying degrees of amenities are just a short distance from the city in the resort towns on the beautiful blue waters of the Thermaikos Gulf.
This mesmerizing UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed in the 4th century. The dome, almost 100 feet above the floor, once had an oculus like the Pantheon in Rome. Admire its incredibly thick walls and the beautiful mosaics throughout the space.
One of Thessaloniki’s most popular landmarks, the arch is what remains of the palace complex built by the Roman Emperor Galerius. You’ll stand in awe at not only the massive size of the arch, but also of the sculptured panels of the arch’s walls, which depict the Roman victory over the Persians in 298 A.D
Dedicated to Thessaloniki’s patron saint Demitrious, this five-sided basilica contains mosaics from the 6th and 7th centuries. Be sure to see the crypt, which is built on what was once a Roman bath.
A stroll along the Thessaloniki waterfront, which has been likened to the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, is a treat for the eyes and ears. This promenade connects the Photography Museum, the White Tower, and the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. Stop to admire “the Umbrellas,” a modern sculpture in the Alexander the Great Garden.
Discover some of the city’s most lovely sites in the Old Town, the only neighborhood to survive the great fire of 1917. It’s surrounded by heavy Byzantine walls with charming gardens, alleyways, and churches. The Monastery of Vlatadon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers impressive views over the city.
The flavors and scents of the city’s cultures come together on a visit to Modiano market, the city’s oldest indoor market. It was built in 1931 and fashioned after the Paris market. As a food lover, you’ll be thrilled by the varieties of spices, cheeses, produce, olives, and delicacies to sample and purchase. Walk just a couple of minutes away to reach the Kapani market, the oldest outdoor market.
Bistros, bars, and bouzouki (Greek string music) are the keys to food and dining during your time in the gastronomic capital of Greece. The dining scene is mostly informal, with lots of fresh seafood, Greek specialties, great vegetable dishes, and Eastern European specialties such as piroshki (meat- or vegetable-filled fried dough pockets). In the historic Ladadika district, look for mezethedes (small appetizer plates), and tavernas with bouzouki (mandolin) music.
The history of Thessaloniki dates back to the 4th century B.C. The town was named by General Kassander for his wife, who was the half-sister of Alexander the Great. Its Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman roots and history are represented in 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites located throughout the city. From 1913, when Macedonia was annexed to Greece, until World War II, the town was also known as Salonika.
Thessaloniki is an important trade hub in southeastern Europe and is known as a vibrant cultural and gastronomic mecca thanks to impressive waterfront art installations like the Umbrellas Zongopolous and a wealth of restaurants serving fresh seafood and classic Greek cuisine.
When your cruise ship docks in Thessaloniki, you’ll disembark at the cruise terminal. From there, you can walk to the city center via the recently renovated waterfront area. The promenade links the port area with parks, outdoor theaters, restaurants, cafes, and other activities of interest for your time ashore.
When you disembark from your cruise to Thessaloniki, it’s just a short walk to the city center. Walking is the best way to see the sights, and there are also plenty of taxis available throughout the city.
On your cruise to Thessaloniki, you’ll find the city is a shopper’s paradise. Head to Tsimiski Street for handcrafted jewelry, Italian leather shoes, and handbags. Major designer boutiques are located along Mitropoleous and Proxenou Koromila Streets. Agias Sofias Street offers stylish shops, as well as cafes and patisseries for when you need a break. Shops are generally open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., with some smaller local stores closing for siesta at 3 p.m. and reopening from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m.
The euro (€) is the recognized currency in Thessaloniki. Having some euros on hand for small purchases is appreciated by local business owners, though many places accept credit cards. ATMs are available throughout the city and at banking locations. Tipping, though not generally expected, is appreciated. Consider leaving 5% to 10% for taxis and at restaurants. You may see that restaurants round up the bill, so be sure to check before adding a tip. You’ll also see a service charge on your check for bread and water. This is non-negotiable, even if you don’t eat bread or drink water.