Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece with a population of approximately one million. It is situated in Macedonia - the north of the continental part of Greece.
History of Thessaloniki
The city was founded in 312 BC near the historical city of Therma. The Macedonian king named it after his wife, Thessalonica - the sister of Alexandr the Great. The city grew fast: in the 2nd century BC, its fortification was built, during history it was part of the Macedonian, Roman and Ottoman Empire, and for a short time, the Kingdom of Thessalonica existed there. Throughout history, Thessaloniki was always extremely important - it was a flourishing city and a significant trade and cultural centre. In 1430, it was conquered by the Ottoman sultan, renamed Selanik and it remained in the Turkish possession for almost 500 years. In the 19th century the city was very multicultural with its Jewish, Bulgarian, Albanian, Turkish and Greek population.
In 1917, it was all destroyed by a huge fire, then rebuilt and restored, and rebuilt again after an earthquake in 1978. In 1988, the early Christian and Byzantine historical sites were included in the UNESCO Historical Heritage List. In 1997, Thessaloniki was declared the European Capital of Culture. The city has two universities - Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the University of Macedonia, and also the Technological Educational Institute.
Historical sites in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki has more than 3000 years old history which can be observed even in its current form. You will find there monuments from the era of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine era but also the Ottoman rule literally on every step. The Byzantine churches of Thessaloniki are part of the UNESCO historical heritage.
Most of the Byzantine ramparts have been preserved, including the famous White Tower, the last completely preserved defence tower from the 16th century. Another site you shouldn’t miss out is the ancient city centre (Upper Town) with ts charming streets, where historical houses are followed by churches on little squares. The most famous of the churches are Agios Demetrios (7th century.), Agia Sophia (9th century.) and Agios Nikolaos, known for its beautiful frescoes. One of the oldest churches is the Rotunda, originally built as the temple of Zeus. It comes from the same era like Pantheon in Rome.
The Ottoman era is reminded by the Turkish public bath, the indoor market of Bezesteni (the market of the goldsmith), Alatza Imaret (a poorhouse) and Hamza Bey Camii - a renovated edifice used as a gallery.
Thessaloniki also had a prospering Jewish community that was flourishing in the city since the Roman era, survived both the Byzantines and the Ottomans and was annihiliated only during the World War II when most of local Jewish citizens were transported to Auschwitz. There are two synagogues and a Jewish museum till nowadays.
What to do in Thessaloniki?
Thessaloniki offers a countless number of traditional tavernas, bars but also international restaurants, discos and nightclubs with dance music. You can go shopping there to small shops and boutiques, or enjoy the atmosphere of the current market offering fresh fish, meat, fruit and more groceries, flowers, clothes and shoes.
Today´s Thessaloniki is a blend of the impact of all the cultures the city has gone through during its history: for example, the old city quarter of Ano Poli is a reminder of the Ottoman rule, and in the thematic museums, you can see the influence of different cultures, too, among others in the Jewish Museum, the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Technology Museum or the Museum of Sport. The city symbol is the White Tower, while the most famous of the catedrals, the Church of Agios Demetrios, commemorating the life of the Thessaloniki patron - St. Demetrios (in the catacombs, you can visit the cell where he was held prisoner). One of the oldest churches in the city are the Church of Hosios David, the Church of St. Nicholas Orphanos and the Vlatadon Monastery. Archaeology enthusiasts can visit the historical sites open to the public - the Cemetery of Agia Paraskevi, the Roman Palace, and the hippodrome, the ruins of the original ancient ramparts.
To take a rest, you can choose from the many beaches in the Thessaloniki Bay.
Thessaloniki is an important railway junction with a direct railway connection to Sofia, Belegrad, Moscow, Vienna, Budapest, Istanbul and Athens and other Greek cities. The public transport in the city relies on a system of buses. The poor transport situation should be improved by an undergound network which is under construction. From the Macedonia airport, there are both domestic and international flights being operated.
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