"Thessaloniki" Thessaloniki by bakalapoe
Thessaloniki Travel Guide: 545 reviews and 1,537 photos
Thessaloniki, historically also known as Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the Periphery of Central Macedonia as well as the de facto administrative capital of the Greek regions of Macedonia and Thrace. Thessaloniki is Greece's second major economic, industrial, commercial and political centre, and a major transportation hub for the rest of south-eastern Europe; its commercial port is also of great importance for Greece and the south-eastern European hinterland. The city is renowned for its events and festivals, the most famous of which include the annual International Trade Fair, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, and the largest bi-annual meeting of the Greek diaspora. Thessaloniki is considered northern Greece's cultural and educational centre. It is home to numerous notable Byzantine monuments, including the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as several Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures. The city's main university, Aristotle University, is the largest in Greece.
The northernmost Byzantine walls of the city and parts of the western walls are still standing, as is the city's symbol - the White Tower ("Lefkos Pirgos" in Greek), one of the 16th c. AD fortified towers - which is the only surviving tower on the seafront. The rest of the walls are in the picturesque Upper Town which offers a spectacular view over the bay, especially in the late afternoon. Take a walk along the enormous seafront promenade (about 12 km altogether). See the Roman Forum excavations. Visit the upper town for its traditional old houses, small cobbled streets, Byzantine citadel, the Eptapyrgion fort. The very lively and youth-oriented International Film Festival is held in November, the International Trade Fair in September. On no account should you miss the Byzantine churches built between the 5th and 14th century AC, such as Agios Demetrios, (7th c. AC) and Agia Sophia (Holy Wisdome, 9th c. AC), and many lovely smaller ones in the upper town (St Nicolaos Orfanos is particularly worth a look for its frescoes), which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. One of them, the Rotonda, started life as a Roman temple of Zeus, built by Ceasar Galerius, and is almost as old as the Pantheon in Rome. Next to the Rotonda, see the Arch of Triumph of Galerius and the ruins of his palace.
The city is also known as "the mother of Israel", due to the once flourishing Jewish community here, which existed from the Roman period and grew after the Ottoman Empire took in the refugees from Spain ("Sephardis), until World War II, when most of the city's Jews were transported to Auschwitz, never to return. However, there are still two Synagogues, and you can see the Jewish Museum. Also interesting are the Turkish public baths Bey Hamam, the Bezesteni (Ottoman closed market for jewellery and precious materials) the Alatza Imaret (Ottoman poorhouse) and Hamza Bey Camii (both restored and used for exhibitions). The traditional central food market, with hundreds of stalls selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, cheap clothes and shoes, flowers, herbs and spices, between Aristotele Square and Venizelou street. Aristotelous Square-the biggest of the city-and the promenade with its cafes and restaurants. Aristotelous Square is probably the best known square of the city. It crosses Thessaloniki vertically, from the seaside up to Ag. Dimitrios street, passing through many sites of interest such as the Ancient Market and Panagia Halkeon church. The Square got its nowadays form - inspired by the city's Byzantine heritage - after the big fire of 1917 that destroyed a very large part of the historic centre. The buildings framing the square have fronts that combine both Byzantine and Mediterranean architectural characteristics.
At all times the square is a meeting place for people of all ages, since there are many cafes, cinemas, shops, restaurants, bars and clubs that are situated on its sides. In the area in front of Olympion Cinema you can enjoy the performance of various skaters, who use the marble benches in very creative ways!
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