The Greek city of Thessaloniki offers energetic and cosmopolitan culture of with the charm and warm ambiance of a small town. Visitors have the chance to experience Greece without the crowd congestion one finds in Athens and an amazing multi ethnic heritage originating from various civilizations. The Romans, Ottoman Turks, and Venetians all left their mark on this wonderful city. There are numerous top attractions in Thessaloniki, including a sumptuous local cuisine, world-class museums and monuments, as well as a vibrant music scene.
Let us look at some reasons why you should explore Thessaloniki-sightseeing.
The Roman Rotunda is one of Thessaloniki’s most exciting ancient monuments. Built in the early 4th century, the structure was originally meant to be the Emperor Galerius’s mausoleum and formed part of the complex that included the Arch of Galerius and the Galerius Palace. The mausoleum was later converted into a church by the Emperor Theodosius the Great in the late 4th century.
This imposing sanctuary will leave a lasting impression with its 24-meter diameter and 30-meter height. The Rotunda features a cylindrical dome design similar to the Pantheon in Rome. Inside, you’ll find amazing mosaics that majestically decorate the dome to go with vaulted recesses. Below the dome, you see charming angel figures and architectural facades placed on a gold background.
The White Tower
Arguably the most outstanding landmark in the city, the White Tower can be accessed through a scenic stroll along the Seafront Promenade. Located in a small garden at the south side of the promenade, the White Tower used to be part of Thessaloniki’s ancient ramparts. The circuit of fortified walls may not be completely intact, but the White Tower is the last relic of the seaward defense that remains. The Ottoman Turks built this tower in the 1530s and was used mainly as a prison.
Church of Saint Demetrius
The Church of Saint Demetrius is Thessaloniki’s main church. This must-see spiritual establishment was once converted into a mosque during the Turkish period. Built in the 5th century, North of the Roman Agora, the church features superb five-aisled byzantine basilica. Tourists and spiritual pilgrims alike come in hoards to admire this wonderful monument. The sanctuary is 43 meters in length, the largest in the country, and embellished with rich adornments including dazzling chandeliers, multi-colored marble columns, and intricate tiny mosaics on pillars in the apse.
Arch of Galerius
As you walk from Egnatia Streets heading towards the city center, you’ll be struck by the imposing sight of the Arch of Galerius. This amazing ancient Roman monument has a history that goes all the way back to 297 AD. The arch used to be the main entrance gate that welcomed you to the town. From the original structure, only three piers remain on the west side. Two of the piers that are still standing and linked by an arch contain a marble facade embellished with elaborate reliefs.
These are divided by garlands and portray scenes from Emperors Galerius’ Mesopotamian, Armenian, and Persia campaigns of the 3rd and 4th centuries. You’ll also notice some animated scenes on the southern pier. Although the Arch has been extensively weathered, you still get to see the well-preserved reliefs.