Being the second biggest city in Greece, the Port of Thessaloniki is home to many sights and activities for visitors. With a three-thousand year history, the city is home to many archaeological and ethnographic museums and sites that preserve relics from its Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman pasts. But it also has a lively nightlife. In 2007, the New York Times called it the “Seattle of the Balkans.”
The Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum contains exhibits of sculptures from the Classical (8th and 7th Centuries BC), Archaic (750-480 BC), and Hellenistic (323BC-146AD) Greek periods and Rome. Another exhibit displays gold artifacts recovered from the Sindos cemetery of the Macedonean period from the 8th to 1st Centuries BC.
The Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum (called NOESIS) on the outskirts of town offers an environment to facilitate the understanding of science and technology and the protection of Greek technological heritage. NOESIS contains a 150-seat planetarium, a 300-seat cosmotheater with Greece’s largest flat screen, a 200-seat amphitheater, and a motion simulator.
The Jewish Museum in the heart of Thessaloniki is housed in a rare Jewish structure that survived the terrible fire of 1917. The museum honors the city’s Jewish heritage from the 15th Century when Spain expelled its Jews to World War II when most of the city’s Jews were expelled to death camps in Poland.
The Port of Thessaloniki still contains some of its ancient Byzantine north and west walls as well as the White Tower. Called the Blood Tower until it was whitewashed in 1912, the White Tower was built by the Ottomans to protect the harbor, but it became an Ottoman prison and the site of mass executions during Ottoman rule. Located near the waterfront, this ancient monument and museum is also the symbol of the city of Thessaloniki and a symbol of Greece’s sovereignty over Macedonia.
The Agia Sophia (or Ayia Sofia) is one of the most-visited churches in the city. Modeled after the church of the same name in Istanbul, it has a tall central dome containing original and beautiful mosaics from the 8th Century. The church was converted into a mosque in the 15th Century and re-converted to a Christian church in 1913.
The Museum of Byzantine Culture is a stunning architectural treasure containing moving exhibits telling the story of what was lost during the Ottoman occupation.
The Museum in the Crypt of the Church of St. Demetrios marks the site of the martyrdom of Thessaloniki’s patron saint, St. Demetrios. Archaeological evidence confirms that the site was an old bathhouse where Demetrios was imprisoned and killed in 303AD. Over the centuries, the site of the martyrdom was built into the church and modifications were made to the building. During Ottoman rule, the crypt was filled with earth, and it was only rediscovered in 1917 after the great fire. Today, the museum contains ancient sculptures, inscriptions, pottery, and photographs of the building’s restoration.
The Port of Thessaloniki contains many other interesting and amusing places to visit including the Turkish public baths, the Bezesteni (Ottoman closed market for jewelry), the Alatza Imaret (Ottoman poorhouse), and the traditional central food market between Aristotelis Square and Venizelou Street. Aristotelis Square is the city’s biggest square and contains a promenade with many delicious cafes and restaurants.
These are only a few of the places you won’t want to miss when you come to the Port of Thessaloniki. Travelers who want to visit the Thessaloniki by sea can find a list of scheduled cruises on the Cruise Compete website.