Kalimera beau gosse. Hugo ici. J’étais à Thessalonique très récemment pour Horizons internationaux. Laissez-moi vous présenter les curiosités de Thessalonique : La petite moins petite préférée de l’équipe.
Let’s start by introducing ourselves:
As you read in the introduction, I’m Hugo, and I’ve been working with Seb’ for more than four years to serve your mobility needs. When I’m not bitching, I’m blogging. I’m now the person in charge of the Hellenic destination for groups. I’d better tell you right away that I know a bit about Thessaloniki.
If you’ve never heard of Thessaloniki, let me tell you that you’re probably not an ultra-endurance cyclist. In fact, this year, the destination made a name for itself as the finish of the Transcontinental Race. Europe’s premier cycling event (my words). Well, you probably don’t care, but I wanted to tell you about it. I’m the one who writes anyway 😛
Above all, Thessaloniki is the country’s second-largest city, and its most student-focused! Indeed, the country’s top universities are located here, attracting young Greeks (or not) in search of quality training. I could feel it as I strolled through the city center. I was so close to feeling old.
Thessaloniki is also two cities, one upper and one lower. Historically, a fire ravaged the city in 1917, with the result that the upper town is more typical architecturally speaking, giving you the impression of being in a village, it’s more residential – the locals call it Ano Poli (old town). The lower town has lively bars, restaurants, the embankment and frenetic traffic, but also a well-preserved, busy district from “Ladadika” to Rue Aristote, where it’s good to stroll and enjoy the nightlife: that, I know you’re enough [insert any adjective here] to discover.
The contrast is also striking, so I’ll try to find an illustration to show you.
You’re not here so I can introduce you to Thessaloniki, I’m coming.
What’s Thessaloniki like?
Aren’t you a mainstream person? You like to get off the beaten track and grab the spots that nobody else knows about. IYKYK say the insiders. Let me fill you in on my little selection. You’ll be a true Thessalonian!
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, his full name, was the founder of the Turkish Republic. This house, donated to the Turkish government by the local council, has now been converted into a mini-museum. Adjacent to the Turkish consulate, you have to go there! He is considered one of the most important modern personalities in Turkish history. His list of achievements includes: (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you). But he also led the resistance against the occupiers during the Turkish War of Independence. A great wartime commander, he defeated the Greek armies occupying the city and region of Izmir, Eastern Thrace and the Aegean islands. Very important: He introduced a series of reforms to modernize the country, notably in education, the economy and civil law.
As I said earlier, he abolished the Ottoman sultanate and established the Republic of Turkey. He gave women the right to vote and introduced secularism into the Constitution. He set up a whole host of other things, but I’ll leave it to you to go there and learn more.
The walls of Thessaloniki
Dating back to ancient times, it’s a spot that’ll satisfy your insta-stories cravings, but also your thirst to learn more about the city’s history. If you’re not a history buff, you still have the right to learn about the city where you’re going to do your internship in Greece! Thessaloniki’s city walls are a construction that surrounded the city until the 19th century. They date back to antiquity (4th century) and were built to surround and defend the city. The walls were rebuilt or moved several times, notably during the Byzantine period.
A subdivision near Place Aristote?
The best way to escape the summer heat. Also known as the Roman Forum, this excavation site can be visited! Very impressive, with real excavations still taking place on a regular basis, like right in front of you. Local running gag and a bit of background: As mentioned in the preamble, this building is underground, and the archaeological discovery has brought construction of the Thessaloniki metro to a complete halt. And this situation has been going on for 17 years now. I’ll leave you to imagine the patience and jokes of the locals regarding the metro. When I was there, I was told that sometimes it starts up again, and the next day it stops, because they’ve come across some remains. A big headache! And between you and me, a metro wouldn’t do any harm, especially in the lower town where traffic is dense at rush hour.
The Greek Cinema Museum
That’s one I’ve never heard of! If you’re a cinephile, don’t hesitate to make a detour to this little museum on the port. It traces the history of Hellenic cinema. Over 50,000 objects and documents are on display. These include films, photographs, posters, scripts, cameras, costumes and much more. These collections highlight the different stages of the cinematographic process. A must for all cinema-goers. Very active, there are often exhibitions on specific periods of Greek cinema. The visit is very quick and fun.
And around Thessaloniki? I’d love to go on an excursion…
All my recommendations are less than two hours away, enough to keep your cultural weekends busy during your internship in Thessaloniki!
My first reco: Edessa
You can get there by direct train! No messing about 🙂
This town of 18,000 inhabitants is well worth a visit for its waterfalls! My advice: take a day trip and hike through the waterfall park (as it’s called). You’ll find hypnotically flowing streams, and local folklore has it that water fairies live here. A natural water paradise. A hidden gem of Macedonia. Well, I’ll stop with the superlatives, you’ll think they’re paying me. If hiking isn’t your thing, you’ll find a very nice natural spa with a view you can imagine. Ps: the waterfalls average 70 metres in height, which is pretty impressive!
Greece’s largest wetland, no less! As well as breathtaking scenery, you’ll find the country’s largest bird sanctuary. In fact, two lagoons meet at this very spot, making this destination unique. Around three hundred species live and breed in this reserve. Grab your binoculars! PS: In the bay, you’ll even find dolphins and turtles!
Back to Chalkidiki: this 1.5 km-long cave is located near the village of the same name. The whole point here is to see for yourself the world’s first ever traces of fire – no kidding! This rock formation also contains a hominid skull dating back some 700,000 years. Claustrophobic names beware, this visit is made for you!
Thessaloniki and its surroundings are rich in discoveries, stories and wonders. It’s been a delight for me to explore these streets, museums and natural sites. From a bustling student city to hidden treasures just on the outskirts, there’s so much to see and do. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover or simply curious, Thessaloniki has something to surprise and delight you.
It’s amazing how one city can concentrate so much diversity, history and culture in one place. Thessaloniki’s importance in world history, its role in the modern world, and the indelible traces it has left in the history of Europe are quite simply impressive.
And if I haven’t yet convinced you to put Thessaloniki at the top of your list of destinations, let me tell you one last thing: beyond the sites and attractions, it’s the atmosphere, the people and the authenticity that made the biggest impression on me. Greek hospitality is no legend, and here it shines brightly.
So, what are you waiting for? Set sail for Thessaloniki, explore, live, discover. And above all, let yourself be carried away by this city of a thousand and one wonders. After all, it’s me who’s recommending it, and you know how much I love sharing my favorites. See you soon on the roads of Greece! 😛