FIVE MOST POPULAR TOURIST ATTRACTIONS OF THESSALONIKI (ΘΕΣΣΑΛΟΝΙΚΗ)
The second largest city of Greece, Thessaloniki fascinates through its history and vivacious spirit. It is one of the best appreciated party cities in Europe, and it’s known for the flamboyant and glowing nigh life that it offers. There are a lot to say about this amazingly hip city, but let us begin with a top 5 of the most popular tourist attractions and symbols of the place, that visitor should not miss on their visit.
- The White Tower
The tall, circular White Tower placed on the beachfront, is the symbol of Thessaloniki, and is loaded with history. Originally it was part of the defense system of the city but after the demolition of most of the city walls, in the late 19th century, it remained by itself. In the Ottoman period it served as prison, being the scene of many executions and tortures, and it gained the “bloody tower” moniker, because the outer walls were filled with the blood of the victims. Fortunately better times have arrived and in order to clear this image, the tower was painted white and renamed as such. The White Tower name was kept until today, when it was turned into a museum that recounts the daily life of Thessaloniki, along the ages.
- Saint Dimitrios Church
This impressive church was built on the site of an ancient Roman baths, where legend has it that St. Dimitros was held prisoner and then executed and thrown into a well by Roman soldiers. It is a basilica with five intervals with a single hexagonal ship, known as the ciborium. The main attraction here is a mural mosaic consisting of six panels, depicting St. Dimitrios with the church builders and their children. The church is one of the largest and most important from a historical perspective in the whole city of Thessaloniki.
- Rotonda of Galerius
The oldest monument in Thessaloniki, Rotonda, is a huge circular building, which was originally a Roman temple, then a Christian church, then a mosque. Its walls have a thickness greater than 6 meters, and thanks to this detail the edifice has withstood numerous earthquakes that took place in the region of Thessaloniki. This magnificent cylindrical structure was built in the year 306 as part of a large palace, at the orders of the Roman Emperor Galerius, who intended to use it as a mausoleum or temple. During the next 1200 years, until the city fall into the hands of the Ottomans, the construction served as a church and in 1590 it was converted into a mosque. Fortunately, the mosaics that had survived until then were not affected by this change, as the Ottomans hadn’t taken them down, preferring to paint over them. Nowadays, the Rotonda is a museum.
- The Arch of Galerius
The Arch of Galerius (or Kamara) is the most distinctive Roman structure of Thessaloniki, and also the most popular tourist attraction, next to the White Tower. The Arch was raised as a triumphal monument in the honor of Emperor Galerius, to celebrate the victorious military campaign against the Persians in the year 298 and defeating their capital, Ctesiphon. In its original version, the Arch had four main pillars and four secondary. Today, only two of the primary and a secondary one have survived but visitors can admire the beauty of the sculptures representing scenes from the battles that occurred during those terrible times.
- Nea Paralia
The largest pedestrian area of Thessaloniky, located in the eastern district, is one of the best public projects that have been realized in Greece in the last 20 years. The narrow but very long promenade allwy covers a distance of about 3.5 km from the White Tower to Megaro Mousikis, offering a superb “buffer” zone between the city and the sea. It became the most popular promenade place of Thessaloniki and it also offers fun and leisure opportunities because bars and restaurants are strung along them.
Photo source: Picture 1: blueairweb.com; Picture 2: enjoythessaloniki.com; Picture 3: ekathimerini.com; Picture 4: travelinmyfootsteps.wordpress.com; Picture 5: flickr.com; Picture 6: 220.127.116.11/greekorama; Picture7: youtube.com