48 hours in Thessaloniki.
A perfect summer weekend.
People from all over Greece adore Thessaloniki for its vibrant urban lifestyle amid natural beauty. A key city for three empires, Thessaloniki has always been a thriving cultural center. A Roman Agora, Byzantine churches and a fortress, Ottoman mosques, 19th-century warehouses and factories and Belle Epoque mansions host exhibitions, performances and international festivals, film in particular. This rich heritage marks everyday life. Artisans and designers, restorers and collectors make this an interesting place to shop. A century ago, seven languages filled the streets, shaping Greece’s zestiest, most varied cuisine. A broad harbor promenade and narrow lanes winding though the historic upper city invite leisure, while bustling cafes, tavernas and ouzeries make for a sociable public life that’s famous for its long nights. Despite the liveliness, this manages to be a supremely relaxing city – nothing is hurried, but everything always gets done, and done well. The people here are simply very good at making an occasion out of life.
HISTORY AND CLASSICS
14:00: ARCH OF GALERIUS AND ROTONDA The Galerian complex was – and is – the liveliest stroll in the city. The Oc-tagon at Navarinou square sets the tone of Roman grandeur. Along Dim-itriou Gounari St, the vibrant street life of the students’ quarter continues on either side of the excavations of a complex built between 290-307 BC and which included the Arch of Galerius, commonly known as the Kamara, and culminates in the massive Rotonda. Built in the early 4th century, the Rotonda served as a church, then a mosque. Listed as a UN-ESCO World Heritage Site, the monument, Thessaloniki’s small “Parthe-non” glitters with mosaics. Birds, flowers and fruit adorn the arches while saints and angels wander among Roman colonnades depicted in the dome. ■ Octagon, Navarinou square ■ Rotonda, the top of Dimitriou Gounari, past Egnatia St. Opening hours: 09:00-15:00
16:00: ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM AND COFFEE IN THE GARDEN Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum is simply fabulous – thanks to such thorough, engaging signage, you can enter knowing very little and leave full of understanding. Many of the pieces – floor mosaics, jewelry, friezes, statuary and even table legs of Dionysian excess – were excavat-ed within just a kilometer or two (including from the exquisite “little” Arch of Galerius, from the Octagon), while other artifacts originate from distant archaeological sites and serve as reminders of the greatness of the Macedonian kingdom, especially during the reign of Philip II and Alexander the Great. The museum’s café is a local favorite for a freddo cappuccino under the trees. ■ Archaeological Museum, 6 Manoli Andronikou, tel (+30) 2313.310.299
19:00: NEA KRINI, ARETSOU MARINA AND HAMODRAKAS Take a taxi to Aretsou marina. Hidden in Thessaloniki’s eastern bay be-hind the former Royal Palace, Nea Krini feels like a seaside resort. Stroll around the marina, then to Hamodrakas, Thessaloniki’s classic upscale fish restaurant, at the water’s edge. Let the staff guide you to the perfect fish (priced per kilo) and enjoy it grilled while gazing out at the sunset as waves lap your table – the quintessential Greek meal. ■ Hamodrakas, 13 Gangyli Manoli, Kalamaria, tel (+30) 2310.447.943
23:00: CINEMA UNDER THE NIGHT SKY Open-air cinemas are one of the sweetest pleasures of a Greek summer. The elegant Natali, near the White Tower, has a late showing at 23:00. Films are in the original language, and there is whiskey at the bar if you feel like a nightcap. ■ Cinema Natali, 3 Megalou Alexandrou, tel (+30) 2310.829.457
10:00: PORT FOR COFFEE AND PICTURES The Kitchen Bar, located in an elegant converted warehouse, has great omelets. Grab a sofa and enjoy the view of Thessaloniki’s waterfront. Across the pier is the Museum of Photography, with changing thematic exhibitions. ■ Kitchen Bar, Warehouse B2, Port, tel (+30) 2310.502.241 ■ Museum of Photography, Warehouse A, Port, tel (+30) 2310.566.716
11:00: RODEO DRIVE, THESSALONIKI STYLE Proxenou Koromila is Thessaloniki’s understated street for boutique shopping. Start at local jewelry designers’ store Margoni for elegant de-signs with a cultured, neobohemian feel. One street up, Thessaloniki designer Penny Sabbado specializes in glamorous, wearable dresses. On Aghias Sofias, classic Koureion offers a shave or a haircut in an antique barbers’ chair. Visit Terra Toscana for some affordable fun and flashy 1970s Mykonos chic, and rubber beach bags. Up Mitropolitou Iosif, you’ll find more Greek designs at Pagieta, and broad Audrey Hep-burn-esque hats. ■ Margoni, 1 Proxenou Koromila, tel (+30) 2310.228.524 ■ Penny Sabbado, 50 Mitropoleos, tel (+30) 2310.231.717 ■ Koureion, 4 Aghias Sofias, tel (+30) 2310.275.235 ■ Terra Toscana, 28 Proxenou Koromila, tel (+30) 2310.260.006 ■ Pagieta, 18 Mitropolitou losif, tel (+30) 2310.261.886
13:00: ANTIQUE HUNTING, BESPOKE MEN’S WEAR, AND NEOBAROQUE BAUBLES At gleaming Era Antica, Efi Konsta’s discerning eye makes for a fine col-lection of Art Deco and Biedermeier furnishings and objects. On the next street is tailor Merkos Manolopoulos. No time for a bespoke shirt? Ogle the beautiful fabrics and pick out a tie. Across the street is My Ring, for neobaroque earrings or (very summer in Greece) mermaid necklaces, all made of fabulous plexiglass. Proxenou Koromila leads to Corda, where Maria Korda brings beguiling things from Paris (mainly) and London. Enjoy the Gallic philhellenism of the engravings and look up — if you fall in love with a crystal chandelier, shipping can be arranged. ■ Era Antica, 4 Mitropolitou losif, tel (+30) 2310.232.222 ■ Merkos Manolopoulos, 6 Chrysostomou Smyrnis, tel (+30) 2310.286.317 ■ My Ring, 9 Chrysostomou Smyrnis, tel (+30) 2313.015.805 ■ Corda, 8 Morgkentaou & 2 Lori Margariti, tel (+30) 2310.235.379
14:00: LUNCH Clochard offers an opulent respite from the heat. Elegant interpretations of Greek and French dishes win the restaurant culinary awards, but visiting politicians and celebrities also come for the genuinely warm service. The seasonal menu has modern innovations (a mouse of smoked herring eggs) and classics — like a Chateaubriand for two. ■ Clochard, 4 Proxenou Koromila, tel (+30) 2310.239.805
16:00: CLASSIC DESIGN, CLASSIC DESSERT The grand old neighborhood around Eleftheriou Venizelou is in the midst of a renaissance. 2 Concept Store, a retro-chic vision of avant garde pres-ervationists who are geniuses at finding the modern in the moderne, captures the moment perfectly. Genre-defining patisserie Chatzis, fami-ly-owned since 1908, is legendary for rich, eastern flavors. Try a hanum burek or kazan dibi made from buffalo milk (their own herd) for a sweet taste of the past. ■ 2 Concept Store, 6 loustinianou, tel (+30) 2310.265.999 ■ Chatzis, 50 Eleftheriou Venizelou„ tel (+30) 2310.279.058
20:00: DRINKS ON A SUNSET CRUISE There are several boat cafes at the White Tower. Check the departure time and cruise around the port as you watch Mt Olympus turn gold, then see the twinkling lights of the night city welcoming you back.
21:30: DINNER AT PANELLINION Immensely popular Panellinion has ideal versions of classic meze and main dishes — a broad selection of meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes, specialties like buffalo steak and salads from their own garden. The decor — hand-painted tiles and classic Greek packaging design — is warm and lively, and so is the atmosphere, especially on a Saturday night_ ■ Panellinion, 1 Doxis, tel (+30) 2310.567.220
23:00: VALAORITOU Like a miniature Tribeca, the textile district around Valaoritou St has be-come an interesting evening destination. Convivial Czech beer hall Gam-brinus spills out into the street from a 1906 galleria — perfect for watching the crowds go by. For more original historic texture with some polish, climb the elegant early 20th-century staircase to the aptly named Urania (the muse of astronomy) for a drink under the stars, or try bistro Coq au Zen, tucked away in a romantic galleria that it shares with a watchmaker by day. ■ Gambrinus, 7 Syngrou, Stoa Malakopi, tel (+30) 2311.243.313 ■ Urania, 4 Paikou, tel (+30) 2315.527.999 ■ Coq au Zen, 37 Valaoritou (+30) 2310.520.119
BYZANTIUM AND BOUGATSA
10:00: ICONIC BREAKFAST Thessaloniki’s iconic snack bougatsa is delicious for breakfast. Try this warm flaky pie with sweet cream, spinach, cheese or meat at Chrysso, for the freshest pies at outdoor tables. ■ Chrysso, 27 Dimitriou Gounari (corner Alexandrou Svolou), tel (+30) 2310.262.582
11:00: AGHIA SOFIA AND AGHIOS IOANNIS Aghia Sofia is the queen of Thessaloniki’s churches. Marvel at the mosaic dome hovering above a ring of windows, and the trompe-l’oeil marble on the walls. Nearby, hidden from the street, is Aghios Ioannis. Take the steps down to reach a lush sunken garden with a baptism pool. Explore the catacombs. ■Aghia Sofia, 22 Aghias Sofias ■Aghios loannis, Makenzi King & Pavlou Mela
13:00: ROMAN AGORA AND AGHIOS DIMITRIOS The theater and arcades of Thessaloniki’s Roman Agora are easily seen from the street. Straight up from the Agora is Aghios Dimitrios, the church of the city’s patron saint. The 7th-century version we now see is known for its mosaics, wacky variety of columns culled from earlier structures and the crypt below where holy water once flowed. A site of pilgrimage, this is the liveliest of the city’s churches. ■ Roman Agora, Filippou & Agnostou Stratiotou ■Aghios Dimitrios, 97 Agiou Dimitriou (directly above the Roman Agora)
14:00: LUNCH IN ANO POLI Named after the Turkish word for plane tree, leafy Tsinari feels like charming village. Get an outdoor table at the corner Ouzerie. For an au-thentic, Ottoman-inspired taste of the neighborhood, try soutsoukakia (spicy minced meat patties) and bouyiourdi, feta baked with hot peppers and tomatoes. ■ Ouzerie Tsinari, 72 Alexandras Papadopoulou, tel (+30) 2310.284.028
14:00: LUNCH Ouzerie Aristotelous (curiously known to all as Le Pen and hidden in an Art Nouveau galleria) is a secret garden with a fountain. There is nothing remotely modern about Le Pen, including its large menu of classic meat and seafood dishes. Try smoked mackerel, some grilled octopus and what-ever the waiter thinks you might like. Ouzo diluted with chilled water is surprisingly refreshing and goes well with any variety of small plates. ■ Ouzeri Aristotelous, 8 Aristotelous, tel (+30) 2310.230.762