Thessaloniki City Guide 2008

by Jose Marc Castro on August 15, 2007

Thessaloníki, also known as Salonica or Selânik, is the second largest city in Greece.  It also serves as the capital of Thessaloníki Prefecture, as well as of Central Macedonia where it is located.  It has a metropolitan population of 1,057,825 and a total area of 108.088 km².  The city is situated on a bay of the Thermaic Gulf found at the head of the Khalkidhikí Peninsula.

Like in most places in Greece, Thessaloníki has a history that stretches as far back to antiquity.  The city was founded by King Cassander of Macedon at around 315 BC.  He named it after his wife, Thessalonica, who was also a half-sister of Alexander the Great.  Her name, which means “victory of Thessalians”, was given by Philip II of Macedon to commemorate his triumph over the Phocians with the aid of Thessalian Horsemen. 

After the fall of the Kingdom of Macedon, it became a part of the Roman Empire and gained influence as an important trading center.  It also started to acquire a sizable Jewish community and became an early center of Christianity, where Paul the apostle preached.  During the Byzantine rule, Thessaloníki came only second to Constantinople as one of the empire’s important cities.    Its affluence during that period is still apparent with the presence of Byzantine architecture all over the city.

More about Their History

Thessaloníki went through innumerable power struggles.  The Saracens, Normans, and Venetians all came to control the city, until the siege of the Ottoman Empire in 1430 and remained under its rule until the early part of the 20th century.  , The Greeks recaptured the city during the First Balkan War in 1912 and became a part of the modern state of Greece.  Thessaloníki suffered two catastrophes: during the great fire in 1917 and during the   Nazi occupation in World War II.  Both events devastated the city’s infrastructure as well as the thousand of Jews that had lived in the city since their ancestors’ expulsion from Spain and Portugal after 1492.

Despite of numerous events that had torn down the city, Thessaloníki managed to rebuild itself and preserve its affluence as a prime Greek metropolis.  And Through the years, it had maintained its importance as a center for trade, commerce, and politics.  Thessaloníki today is Greece’s second major economic, industrial, and administrative center, which also serves as a transportation hub for the rest of southeastern Europe.  Its main industries are oil, steel, petrochemicals, textiles, flour, cement, pharmaceuticals, and liquor.  While main export products are mineral ore and tobacco.  Thessaloníki also plays host to several international events, such as the Thessaloníki International Trade Fair, Thessaloníki International Film Festival, Thessaloníki Documentary Festival, Thessaloníki International Festival of Photography, and DMC’s World DJ Championships.

Residential Places in Thessaloníki

Due to the city’s expansion, urban development, and intertwining of municipalities, many Thessalonians are living in the city’s suburbs.  The suburb of Kalamaria has seen many modern developments, giving it large streets, restaurants, cafes, and several low-rise buildings viewing the Thermaic Bay.  Because of its potential geographical location and natural surroundings, many Thessalonians are attracted to live in this suburb.    The other modern southeastern Thessalonian suburbs are those of Pylaia and Perea.

The suburb of Panorama, located at the foot of Mount Hortiatis, is considered an upscale suburb.  The most luxurious and affluent residential properties in northern Greece are found here, such as the area of N751 and Villa Ritz.  The suburb of Oraiokastro, on the other hand, is a traditionally middle-class residential neighborhood.

Hospitals and Universities of Thessaloníki

Thessaloníki is one of southeastern Europe’s most important university centers.  It houses two state universities, a technological institute, and several private international institutions affiliated with or accredited by universities abroad.  The largest of these state universities is the Aristotle University of Thessaloníki, often referred to as the Aristotelian University, established in 1926.  Its campus is situated on a 429 metric acres of land, near the Thessaloníki city center.  More than 95,000 undergraduate and graduate students study in the Aristotelian University in its faculties of Geotechnical Sciences, Health Sciences, Theology, Sciences, Fine Arts, Law, Economic, and Political Sciences, Education, Polytechnic Studies, and Philosophy.  These faculties are further subdivided into 42 departments.  The Aristotelian University has granted several honorary doctorates to prestigious personalities in literature, economics, and politics.  They include Harry Markowitz and Clive Granger, Nobel Prize winners for economics, Greek poet and Nobel Prize winner in literature Odysseas Elytis, and the former prime minister of Greece Xenophon Zolotas.

The second state university in Thessaloniki is the University of Macedonia, which primarily has programs for social, economic, and political sciences.  The Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloníki is another state institution for higher education established in 1983.  It offers courses in nursing, tourism, management, and economics.  The private international educational institution in Thessaloníki is the American College of Thessaloníki accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).   It operates as the tertiary educational division of the Anatolia College, and offers programs in business administration, computer management, information systems, English language and literature, and history and international relations.

Medical Facilities

Thessaloníki has several public and private hospitals, which all have excellent standards and modern facilities.  Thessaloniki’s most modern and prestigious hospital is the Interbalcan European Medical Center.  It is located about 12 km from the city center and sits nearby the Makedonia International Airport.  It possesses state-of-the-art facilities and well-trained health practitioners dedicated to provide accurate treatment and excellent healthcare services.  Its luxuriant hospital complex covers an area of 50 square meters and boasts of facilities and services likened to a five-star hotel.

Other notable hospitals in Thessaloníki are the AHEPA University Hospital which is the largest hospital in northern Greece and situated at Stilp Kiriakidi Street, Thessalonikis Ippokrateio General Hospital located at Kostantinoupoleos Street, G. Papanikolaou General Hospital in Eksoxi, G. Gennimatas General Hospital on Ethnikis Aminas Street, Agios Dimitrios General Hospital on Elenis Zografou Street, Agios Pavlos General Hospital on Ethnikis Antistaseos Street, and Papageorgiou General Hospital at Circular Road Neas Efkarpias.  Specialty hospitals and clinics in Thessaloníki are the Theageneio Cancer Hospital on Simeonidi Street, Dermatological & Venereal Disease Hospital on Halkidikis Street, Psychiatric Hospital – Thessaloníki on Kostantinoupoleos Street, and Chronic Disease Hospital on Grigoriou Lampraki Street.

Commercial Establishments in Thessaloníki

Thessaloníki is a shopper’s paradise with its city center dotted with shops, markets, cafes, and restaurants fit for any budget.  The streets of Proxenou Koromila, Mitropoleos, Venizelou, Agias Sofias, Ermou, Tsimiski, Egnatia, and M. Iossif are lined with shops selling luxury items and commodities, such as clothes of top international brands, leather goods, and jewelry.  Record bars, bookstores, and confectionery stores are also found here.  The market located between Aristotelous and Ionos Dragoumi is an excellent venue to shop for meat, poultry, cheese, nuts, honey, spices, and fresh produce, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, and olives.

Aside from the abundance of shops found in Thessaloniki’s prime shopping streets, modern shopping centers are also found in the city.  Thessaloniki’s newest and largest shopping center is Mediterranean Cosmos located in Thermis, about 5 km away from the Makedonia International Airport.  The shopping center is also the largest in the Balkans and features 11 cinemas, more than 200 shops carrying clothes, shoes, and electronics, supermarkets, several cafes and restaurants, and an Orthodox Church.  The city Gate Mall is another shopping center in Thessaloníki.  It is located nearest to the city center and boasts of a hypermart, dozens of shops and boutiques, cinemas, an amusement arcade, a bowling alley, and several cafes and restaurants.

Thessaloníki is known for its relaxed lifestyle, one of the many influences left by the east on the city.  This easy-going lifestyle is apparent with the abundance of coffee shops found in the city, and the number of patrons who frequent these establishments at any time of the day.  The Aristotelous Square and the sea front boast of these rows of coffee shops.

Dining Establishments

Thessaloníki is also considered a culinary center for Greek and Macedonian cuisine.    Dining establishments from gourmet to back alley restaurants are all found in the city.  One of the notable restaurants in Thessaloníki is the beautiful ouzerie of Aigli located near the church of Ayios Dimitrios.  The dining establishment is situated beneath the high double domes of a restored former bathhouse.  It features live music and film showings at the open-air cinema in the summer.  Aproopto Light is an intimate dining establishment located at a pedestrian walkway off the eastern end of the Church of Ayia Sofia.  It serves traditional Greek dishes and is very popular with professionals and artists from the nearby State Theater.  Aristotelous is popular in Salonika. It is popular with artists and writers, and often packed during peak lunch and dinner hours.  Aristotelous is found in the east side of the square of the same name, just about north of Tsimiski.  Porto Marina is a well-established seafood restaurant that specializes in fresh fish and seafood.  It is located in the seaside suburb of Nea Krini.  Thanasis (Mypobolos Smyrnh) is a famed and beloved small tavern inside the Modiano Market in Ermou.  Its zesty home-style cooking attracts people from all walks of life, from the Prime Minister Simitis to the ordinary workers in the city.

Other notable establishments in Thessaloníki are Kioupia in Morihovou Square, Kentrike Stoa at the Central Market in Hrakleiou, Le Café at the corner of Tsimiski and Venizelou, Loutros opposite the Bezesten, Ouzerie Melathron in Eleftherious Venizelou and Ermou, Totti’s in the southwest corner of the Aristotelous Square facing the Thessaloníki harbor, Wolves in Vas. Olgas, east of the Macedonia Palace Hotel, and Drafts, Krikelas, and Zythos in the Ladadika district.

Bars and Night Spots

Many of Thessaloníki bars and nightclubs are found in the narrow streets behind the dockside of boulevard Nikis, in the old warehouse district in Ladadika, at the Aristolelous Square, and near the White Tower.  Tavernas featuring bouzouki music and discos are largely found near the Makedonia International Airport.  One large entertainment complex in Thessaloníki is Milos located at Andreou Georgiou Street.  It features several bars with live music, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, and galleries.

Other notable like establishments in the city are the Lotos Bar opposite the White Tower, Idrogios on Oktovriou Street, Intriga in Ladadika, Nani-Nani on Moschof Street, and Vilka on Andreou Georgiou Street. Some Bars and tavernas featuring bouzouki music are Astra at M. Botsari Street, Chorus at Andreou Georgiou Street, Chromata on Nea Egnatia Street, Masasoura in Mikrou Gymnasium, Opa Lala’s on Argonauton Street, and Plato in Charilaou.

Service Establishments of Thessaloníki

OTE, or the Hellenic Telecommunication Organization, is the national telecom provider in Greece.  OTE provides a variety of telecom services through its group of companies.  Fixed telephony service is made available by the OTE fixed-line company, while internet services are provided by Otenet.  In addition, OTE also offers mobile services through its mobile arm, Cosmote.

An alternative telecom company in Greece is Teledome.  It is a private company established in 1996, and offers fixed telephony and internet connection via dial-up or prepaid cards.

Other internet service providers in Thessaloníki are FORTHnet and Hellas On Line.  Alternative mobile service providers in Thessaloníki are Vodaphone-Greece, Q-Telecom, and Telestet.

Electric power in the whole of Greece is supplied by the Public Power Corporation of Greece (PPC S.A.).  It owns 89% of the installed power capacity in the country.  Electric power is generated through hydroelectric and natural gas power plants, lignite, fuel oil, and aeolic and solar energy parks.  Its Macedonia/ Thrace office is located at Ethnikis Aminis Street in Thessaloníki.  An alternative electric power distributor in the city is Thessaloníki Energy, which is a subsidiary of Hellenic Petroleum.

Embassies in Thessaloníki

Many of the foreign embassies in Greece are located in the capital city of Athens.  There are however, a number of countries that have a consulate in Thessaloníki.  These are the general consulates of Albania on Odysseos Street, Australia on Archeologikou Mousiou Street, Bulgaria on Manou Street, Cyprus on Leoforos Nikis Street, France on Mackenzie Street, Germany on Karolou Diehl Street, Romania on Santas Street, Russia on Dimosthenous Street, Turkey on Agiou Dimitriou Street, Great Britain at Aristotelous Square, Peru on Monastiriou Street, Serbia and Montenegro on Komninon Street, Ukraine on Karamanli Street, and the United States of America on Tsimiski Street.

Nations with honorary consulates in Thessaloníki are Denmark, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden on Komninon Street, Austria and Korea on Egnatia Street, Belgium and Brazil on Dodekanissou Street, Liberia and Malta on Kountouriotou Street, Mexico, Portugal, and Switzerland on Leoforos Nikis Street, Morocco, Poland, and South Africa on Tsimiski Street, Canada at the Palace Hotel on Tsimiski Street, Latvia and Slovakia on Mitropoleos Street, Chile at Karolou Diehl, Colombia on Octovriou Street, the Czech Republic on Ploutarchou Street, Estonia at the Aristotelous Square, Finland on Oreokastro Road, Hungary on Frangon Street, India on Prassakaki Street, Ireland on Anoixeos Street, Italy on Papanastasiou Street, Japan on Fillipou Street, Jordan on Thermaikou Street, Norway on Makenzie King Street,  Pakistan on Kalapothaki Street, the Philippines on Dodekanissou Street, Spain on Victoros Hugo Street, and Uruguay on Athinas Street.

The Czech Republic Embassy Commercial Office and the Italian Embassy Cultural Office are alos found in Thessaloníki.  They are located at Egnatia and Fleming streets, respectively.

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