To understand Thessaloniki, you first have to understand its volatile history. Serving under Ottoman rule for nearly 500 years, Greece's second-largest city was only liberated in 1912 as a result of the Balkan Wars which saw Greece defeat the Ottoman Empire to reclaim its co-capital.
Now home to a bustling café culture, Thessaloniki is a diverse melting pot of backgrounds and beliefs, blending the ancient histories of its former life with contemporary, vibrant city-living. Stroll along the chic waterfront and you’ll find thriving, cosmopolitan cocktail bars overlooked by the ancient White Tower of Thessaloniki, a fortification dating back to the 12th century.
While the Arch of Galerius, a complex 4th-century monument can be found on Thessaloniki’s bustling main shopping strip.
With a Mediterranean climate, July and August can reach highs of 35 degrees so consider travelling in May to make the most of the charming waterfront and the easy-living of the outdoor cafes and bars, where temperatures are in the much more tolerable mid-twenties.
You should carry identification with you at all times and keep a photocopy of your passport. British passport holders do not need a visa to enter Greece and can stay for up to 3 months. Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports, visas and travel.
The cuisine of Thessaloniki differs largely from southern Greece thanks to its Ottoman background and Eastern influences, with spices playing a significant role in many of its dishes. For breakfast, make sure to try a bougatsa with your Greek coffee, a typical Thessalonikian pastry originating from Constantinople and made either sweet with a custard filling or savoury with a cheese filling.
Another popular Ottoman-inspired breakfast item is the koulouri (also known as a Turkish bagel), a circular bread encrusted with sesame seeds. No trip to Thessaloniki is complete without doing as the locals do and enjoying an iced frappé in the warming sun of an outdoor cafe. A hallmark of the city's outdoor coffee culture, the frappé is no doubt Thessaloniki's most famous invention.