Thessaloniki, holding the shimmering bay of Thermaikos in its embrace, exudes an effortless urban confidence. “This was never a village,” say the locals with relaxed pride. They’re right; since its founding by Cassander in 315 BC, Thessaloniki has known 23 centuries of thriving urban life. Multiple layers of history give depth to the city’s sophistication, zest to its cuisine, and dizzying variety to its monuments. A significant harbor with an enviable location, this gem of a city was a gateway uniting east and west, distilling the best of every civilization it has hosted and every culture that has mingled in its fabled streets.
But this city is not a museum:
Thessaloniki had a dynamic contemporary cultural scene, and is world-renowned for its excellent nightlife. The city hosts a Biennale, a prestigious annual International Film Festival, an annual documentary festival, and a Photo Biennale, as well as multiple cultural, gastronomic, and oenological festivals and events.
Thessaloniki offers a multi-faceted experience to the discerning traveler, combining culture, history, gastronomy, and a generous taste of sophisticated Mediterranean lifestyle.
“Along with the Hellenistic, four other cultural constellations have left their mark on Thessaloniki: the Roman, the Byzantine, the Ottoman, and the Modern Greek.”
– Zissis Skambalis, Head of the Directorate of the Folklife and ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace.
12 Facts You Didn’t Know about Thessaloniki
Thessalonians, the Epistle in the New Testament, refers to Thessaloniki. St. Paul set foot on European soil in nearby Kavala, where he baptised Europe’s first Christian, Lydia. St Paul then shared the message of Christianity in Synagogues in Thessaloniki around the year 52 AD.
For a significant portion of Thessaloniki’s multi-cultural history, Orthodox Christians of Greek descent were not the majority. Thessaloniki was a refuge for Sephardic Jews who were fleeing persecution from the Inquisition.
The streets of Thessaloniki were filled with the musical sound of Ladino – a Judeo-Spanish language. This rich aspect of Thessaloniki’s cultural heritage was all but wiped out during the Second World War, when Thessaloniki suffered a devastating loss of over 95% of its Jewish population.