Where the locals go in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki might be Greece’s ‘co-capital’, as it’s often referred to within the country, but that’s no reason to skip it. In fact, this city is an ideal gateway to the Balkans, with connections to Sofia and Belgrade (via Skopje). It also has incredible food, roots running deep, a famous promenade, myriads of hidden spots and a well-known chilled vibe. Here are some tips by Thessaloniki locals for you to get to know Greece’s less-visited big city.
One of Thessaloniki’s best known neighborhoods is its Upper Town, the Ano Poli. Having resisted the modernization and development of the rest of the city, today it’s a designated Traditional Settlement, meaning it hasn’t been touched in decades. The cobblestone streets are in fact so narrow, the bus cannot go on them. Locals love coming here for the walks along the remains of the city walls, views and pictures. Why not join them?
An international food store with a history
Terpsilaringion has been around since the ‘60s and was the first to offer locals unique opportunities to try international snacks and flavors at a time when Thessalonians had access to mostly Greek food. What sets this deli apart is that here you can also really try their food on the spot. It’s famous for its hot dogs, the first to be introduced to the city and still made following a top-secret recipe. Grab a foreign or local beer on the side and you’re set!
Walk along the seafront
Thessaloniki’s romantic seafront is more than 5km long. It offers a relaxing, car-less promenade along parks, sculptures and some of the city’s most recognisable landmarks, including the White Tower and the Music Hall. A bike ride or jog along it at sunset will give you an idea of why locals love this area so much. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see Mt. Olympus among the tapestry of reds and oranges.
A photography museum with photo-worthy views
Thessaloniki’s MOMus, or the Photography Museum, is built in an old warehouse in the city’s port. Well known around Greece, there you can not only enjoy temporary exhibitions and the Photo Biennale surrounded by its high ceilings, wooden floors and brick walls, it also has great views over the bustling port and cranes from the museum’s quiet, welcoming cafe. Amazing on a rainy day, when you can hear and see the raindrops on the big industrial windows while catching whiffs of the coffee…
The tastiest triangles
Everyone in Greece agrees: if you’ re in Thessaloniki, you just have to try their trigona Panoramatos (Panorama triangles). Mr. Elenidis founded his business in 1960 outside the city in Panorama, but thankfully you don’ t have to go out on a small excursion to sample the crispy, syrupy, golden fyllo pockets filled with cream. There’s a store right in the middle of the city as well. Get a small trigono for around 1.60€ and a big one for 3.20€.
A different kind of bike cafe
We’ve already mentioned Thessaloniki’s mainstream but beautiful seafront, but there’s a lot to discover here, including Modbar, a beautifully handcrafted, wooden, coffee bike! It is a tricycle, to be precise, that has been specially modified to fit a professional coffee machine and the rest of the bar paraphernalia. With its mocktails and cocktails or even the homemade lemonade, you can’t go wrong here. Drop by on a weekend and you might even catch a DJ setting the mood!
Time for pita gyros
Ever heard of souvlaki or pita gyros? In Thessaloniki they often refer to the latter as “sandwich” and they make them especially big. Psisou sta Karvouna near the White Tower has been serving drool-worthy gyros and other assorted meat specialties since 2005. You should definitely try the XL-sized Choriatiki Thraka (‘village grill’) sandwich or even the gyros in Arabic pita with yogurt, tabbouleh and fresh French fries.
Pure rebetiko for the senses
There is a subtle thin line separating a kitsch and tacky rebetiko music spot from an original and unpretentious experience. The latter is what taverna “Pire kai Vradiazei” (roughly “The night sets in”) is all about. This little taverna from way back in 1944 may be small in size, but it’s enormous in its quality and feeling. It shelters some of the city’s most talented musicians and the best small-produce retsina, according to local Irini. Tip: don’t miss the soutzoukakia!
For more local favorites across Europe, check out Spotted by Locals.