After a record-breaking summer, Greece continues to attract millions of travelers – this time, though, cultural city attractions are being favored over the country’s iconic white-sanded beaches.
While I’ve been lucky enough to experience several of the Mediterranean Country’s biggest cities, there is one place that, after dozens of visits, has started to feel like a second home.
Gorgeous Views In Thessaloniki
Though Thessaloniki isn’t your typical coastal town (seeing as there are no swimmable beaches in the area), the views you’ll get to experience here, especially at the stunning seaside promenade, will leave you a little out of breath.
Watching the fiery sunset reflect over the peaceful waters and the boats calmly making their way to the port has to be one of the most picturesque sceneries I’ve ever had the luck to witness in my life.
The Perfect City Break
Beyond its natural allure, Thessaloniki offers the best backdrop for city breakers looking to simply drink, eat, and shop their days away.
There are so many bars and eateries scattered all across the city that you’re bound to find a place that caters exactly to your needs.
The streets that surround Aristotleous Square are lined with the storefronts of many of your all-time favorite brands; however, your shopping experience doesn’t have to end here.
Cosmos and One Salonica are two of the most popular shopping spots in the city, though I have a soft spot for the latter as most of the merchandise sold there comes at ridiculously discounted prices.
With that said, it’s worth noting that the one facet of the quintessential city break experience that Thessaloniki doesn’t excel in is public transport.
Though local governing bodies have been planning on introducing a new metro system for years, as of right now, people are still getting around Thessaloniki on buses, which, while cheap enough (0.9€ or $1 per ticket), can get pretty exhausting due to the overcrowded spaces.
If I could give you one tip on the matter, though, it would be to download the OASTH app.
This is the company that controls all city buses, and their app not only gives you information on their routes but also real-time updates on where your bus is so that you can get to the station right on time.
If you’re thinking of forgoing all the stress and getting a rental car instead, I wouldn’t recommend it. The city is filled with chaotic, one-way streets that make driving around a nightmare.
Your best bet is to get a hotel room or Airbnb close to the city center, walk to the main attractions, and just take the bus to go anywhere else.
Cultural and Historical Attractions
Though the White Tower of Thessaloniki is undoubtedly the city’s most famous landmark, your days here will be spent doing much more than just marveling at the 12th-century monument.
The Arch of Galerius, The Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, the Holy Church of Saint Demetrius, the Vlatadon Monastery, The Museum of Optical Illusions, and the famous Aristotelous Square are all must-sees.
If you’re a foodie, you already know that Greek cuisine doesn’t need to be advertised – its flavors and aromas speak for themselves.
In Thessaloniki, you’re bound to find anything from cheap food carts to 5-star restaurants, though my advice would be to stick to local food.
You can get pasta and burgers anywhere else on Earth. Here, you’ll be able to try some of the most soul-warming food in its most authentic form.
Even those who are on a budget won’t have to travel too far to find some of the city’s best and most reasonably priced spots.
Just four minutes away from the White Tower, you’ll find Bougatsa Giannis, a place best known for its authentic 2.5€ (~$3) bougatsas.
While the custard-filled variation is a classic and a must-try, I highly recommend getting a couple of savory options, too.
If you’re in the mood for gyros, though, I’d recommend making the trip to Giotis and trying one of their delicious pork or chicken gyros.
Don’t forget to ask for extra condiments – the traditional meat-and-pita combo without tzatziki can be a bit dry.
Those looking to escape the extreme heat and cold this fall will find the weather in Thessaloniki to be just perfect.
With temperatures that hover around 60°F (15.5°C), you’re good to explore the city with just a light jacket.
Be warned, though, that if you’re planning to take a nighttime stroll on the seaside promenade, it might get a bit windy, so dress accordingly.
Though Thessaloniki is becoming an ever-growing tourist hotspot, prices in local stores, cafes, and restaurants remain pretty reasonable.
Right at the heart of the city, at Aristotelous Square, I’ve had some of the best cocktails of my life for just 7.5€ (~$8), with water, snacks, and sweets included in the price.
While on the topic, I also want to note that complementary water and snacks are pretty common in Thessaloniki, not only in bars and pubs but also in cafes, so don’t be surprised when the water bottle that’s brought to your table and the cookies that came with your coffee don’t show up on the bill.
Tipping is also not expected in Thessalonian establishments, though a couple of extra euros for a job well done won’t hurt either.
Moreover, you’ll be able to save a lot on accommodation costs.
I got a gorgeous 1-bedroom apartment right at the heart of the city for just 45€ (~$47.6) a night – just make sure to book your lodging as far in advance as possible; otherwise, you’ll have to pay a bit more.
Strategic Location And Welcoming Culture
If you’re planning on experiencing as much of Greece as possible on your next trip, booking your stay in Thessaloniki is one of the best decisions you can make.
The city holds a strategic, central position in relation to the rest of the country that makes getting in and out of most of Greece’s iconic destinations that much more efficient.
You’ll be able to find beaches, ski resorts, picturesque villages, and everything in between just a couple of hours away from Thessaloniki.
In comparison, Greece’s capital, Athens, is located in one of the southernmost regions of the country, which makes exploration pretty challenging to plan and execute.
Beyond its convenient location, Thessaloniki is home to some of the most welcoming, cheerful locals you’ll ever come across.
Every hotel staff member and Airbnb host I’ve encountered during my travels here has gone above and beyond to ensure a pleasant experience.
The same can be said of store clerks, taxi drivers, and just about anyone I’ve ever had to stop and ask for help.
What’s more, almost every local in Thessaloniki speaks at least a little bit of English, so you shouldn’t have any trouble communicating your wants and needs.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com