Thessaloniki and Central Macedonia

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  • 1. Aigai Archaeological Site

    Ruins

    Some of antiquity's greatest treasures await you at the Royal Tombs of Vergina, opened to the public in 1993, 16 years after their discovery...

    Some of antiquity's greatest treasures await you at the Royal Tombs of Vergina, opened to the public in 1993, 16 years after their discovery. Today the complex, including a museum, is a fitting shrine to the original capital of the kingdom of Macedonia, then known as Aigai. The entrance is appropriately stunning: you walk down a white-sandstone ramp into the partially underground structure, roofed over by a large earth-covered dome approximately the size of the original tumulus (mounded grave). Here on display are some of the legendary artifacts from the age of Philip II of Macedonia. This was the first intact Macedonian tomb ever found—imposing and exquisite, with a huge frieze of a hunting scene, a masterpiece similar to those of the Italian Renaissance but 1,800 years older, along with a massive yet delicate fresco depicting the abduction of Persephone (a copy of which is displayed along one wall of the museum). Two of the few original works of great painting survive from antiquity. On the left are two tombs and one altar that had been looted and destroyed in varying degrees by the time Andronikos discovered them. Macedonian Tomb III, on the right, found intact in 1978, is believed to be that of the young Prince Alexander IV, Alexander the Great's son, who was at first kept alive by his "protectors" after Alexander's death and then poisoned (along with his mother) when he was 14. To the left of Tomb III is that of Philip II. He was assassinated in the nearby theater, a short drive away; his body was burned, his bones washed in wine, wrapped in royal purple, and put into the magnificent, solid-gold casket with the 16-point sun, which is displayed in the museum. His wife, Cleopatra (not the Egyptian queen), was later buried with him. The tombs alone would be worth a special trip, but the golden objects and unusual artifacts that were buried within them are equally impressive. Among these finds, in excellent condition and displayed in dramatic dimmed light, are delicate ivory reliefs; elegantly wrought gold laurel wreaths; and Philip's crown, armor, and shield. Especially interesting are those items that seem most certainly Philip's: a pair of greaves (shin guards), one shorter than the other—Philip was known to have a limp. To the right of the tombs, a gift shop sells books and postcards; the official gift shop is outside the entrance gate (across from Philippion restaurant), on the same side of the road. Macedonian souvenirs available here are scarce elsewhere. The winding road to the site of Philip's assassination goes through rolling countryside west of modern Vergina, much of it part of the vast royal burial grounds of ancient Aigai. On the way you pass three more Macedonian tombs of little interest, being rough-hewn stone structures in typical Macedonian style; the admission to the Royal Tombs includes these. In the field below are the remnants of the theater, discovered by Andronikos in 1982. It was on Philip's way here, to attend the wedding games that were to follow the marriage of his daughter to the king of Epirus, that he was murdered and where his son, Alexander the Great, was crowned.

    Vergina, Central Macedonia, 59031, Greece
    23310-92347

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €12; €6 from Nov. 1 to Mar. 31
  • 2. Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki

    Kentro | Museum/Gallery

    The unpretentious, single-story white structure gives no hint from the outside of the treasures within. A superb collection of artifacts from...

    The unpretentious, single-story white structure gives no hint from the outside of the treasures within. A superb collection of artifacts from Neolithic times; sculptures from the Archaic, classical, and Roman eras; and remains from the Archaic temple at Thermi all reside under this roof. Objects discovered during construction of the Egnatia and Thessaloniki–Skopje highways were added in 2005 to the collection, which is displayed in eight galleries. Thessaloniki, the Metropolis of Macedonia traces the city's history through artifacts and a multimedia collection. Towards the Birth of Cities offers remains from settlements from Kastoria to Mt. Athos that date to as early as the Iron Age.

    Manoli Andronikou 6, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, 54621, Greece
    2310-830538

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8
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  • 3. Dion Archaeological Site

    Ruins

    Being at the base of sacred Olympus, Dion was a sacred city for the Macedonians, devoted primarily to Zeus and his daughters, the Muses. A city...

    Being at the base of sacred Olympus, Dion was a sacred city for the Macedonians, devoted primarily to Zeus and his daughters, the Muses. A city was built adjacent to the ancient city during the reign of Alexander. Unearthed ruins of various buildings include the villa of Dionysos, public baths, a stadium (the Macedonian Games were held here), shops, and workshops. The road from the museum divides the diggings at the archaeological site into two areas. On the left is the ancient city of Dion itself, with the juxtaposition of public toilets and several superb floor mosaics. On the right side are the ancient theaters and the sanctuaries of Olympian Zeus, Demeter, and Isis. In the latter, which is a vividly beautiful approximation of how it once looked, copies of the original statues, now in the museum, have been put in place.

    Dion, Central Macedonia, 60100, Greece
    23510-53206

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8 including museum
  • 4. Institute Mohamed Ali

    Educational Institution

    The founder of the last royal dynasty to rule Eygpt, Mohamed Ali, was born in this two-story, 18th-century konak-style house in the Old Town...

    The founder of the last royal dynasty to rule Eygpt, Mohamed Ali, was born in this two-story, 18th-century konak-style house in the Old Town. Considered one of the best examples of Ottoman architecture in Greece, the home now functions as a museum and institute dedicated to intercultural dialogue and exchange between the Middle Eastern and Western worlds. Guided tours take place daily, while educational lectures, conferences, symposia, and exhibitions examine subjects like Islamic gardens, ceramic decoration, regional archaeology, and the origin of the number zero.

    Mohamed Ali Sq., Kavala, East Macedonia and Thrace, Greece
    30-25106–20515

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5, Closed Tues. and Wed.
  • 5. Kavala Castle/Acropolis

    Castle/Palace

    The stategic and geographical advantages that drew the first settlers to the Kavala peninusla in the 7th century BC made it the obvious choice...

    The stategic and geographical advantages that drew the first settlers to the Kavala peninusla in the 7th century BC made it the obvious choice for this largely granite Byzantine citadel. Modifed by successive Lombard, Frankish, Venetian, and Ottoman conquerers, the castle remains the heart and soul of the modern city. Today, the sloping north end has been transformed into an outdoor performance space, hosting musical, theatrical, and dance events. From the tower are fabulous 360-degree views of the city and surrounding hilly landscape.

    Isidorou 28, Kavala, East Macedonia and Thrace, 65201, Greece
    30-25108–31388

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €2.50, Closed Sun.
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  • 6. Modiano Market

    Kentro | Market/Bazaar

    Overhauled in 1922 by the architect Eli Modiano, this old landmark is basically a rectangular building with a glass roof and pediment facade...

    Overhauled in 1922 by the architect Eli Modiano, this old landmark is basically a rectangular building with a glass roof and pediment facade. Inside, the rich aromas of food—fish, meats, vegetables, fruits, breads, and spices—compete with music and the noisy, colorful market characters, from the market owners to the bargain hunters. In the little tavernas nearby, ouzo and mezedes are sold at all hours. It is worth a visit—as is the generally cheaper open-air market (on the north side of Ermou)—even if you have no intention of buying anything.

    Block bounded by Aristotelous, Ermou, Irakliou, and Komninon, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, 54628, Greece
  • 7. Osios David

    Ano Polis | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    This entrancing little church with a commanding view of the city was supposedly built about AD 500 in honor of Galerius's daughter, who was...

    This entrancing little church with a commanding view of the city was supposedly built about AD 500 in honor of Galerius's daughter, who was secretly baptized while her father was away fighting. It was later converted into a mosque, and at some time its west wall—the traditional place of entrance (in order to look east when facing the altar)—was bricked up, so you enter Osios David from the south. No matter; this entirely suits the church's rather battered magic. You can still see the radiantly beautiful mosaic in the dome of the apse, which shows a rare beardless Jesus, as he seems to have been described in the vision of Ezekiel: Jesus is seen with a halo and is surrounded by the four symbols of the Evangelists—clockwise, from top left, are the angel, the eagle, the lion, and the calf. To the right is the prophet Ezekiel and, to the left, Habakuk. To save it from destruction, the mosaic was hidden under a layer of calfskin during the iconoclastic ravages of the 8th and 9th centuries. Plastered over while a mosque, it seems to have been forgotten until 1921, when an Orthodox monk in Egypt had a vision telling him to go to the church. On the day he arrived, March 25 (the day marking Greek independence from the Ottomans), an earthquake shattered the plaster, revealing the mosaic to the monk—who promptly died.

    Timotheou 7, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, 54633, Greece
    2310-221506
  • 8. Philippi

    Museum/Gallery

    One of antiquity's most famous cities, Philippi, lies just 13 km (8 miles) north of Kavala. Expecially famous for the battle between the assassins...

    One of antiquity's most famous cities, Philippi, lies just 13 km (8 miles) north of Kavala. Expecially famous for the battle between the assassins of Julius Caesar, Brutus and Cassius, and his heirs Octavian and Mark Antony. The site retains a significant amount of remains, including the Via Egnatia, several Early Christian basilicas, a Roman cistern and forum, and massive ancient theater, built in 357 BC, which is still used for the annual Philippi Festival, the region's most important cultural event. Many of the artifacts are on display at the archaelogical museum nearby.

    Hwy. 12, Kavala, East Macedonia and Thrace, Greece
    30-25105–16251

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €4, €6
  • 9. Spilios Agapitos

    Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge

    During any Mount Olympus hike, you could take a lunch break or stay overnight at Spilios Agapitos. The refuge is run by the daughter of Kostas...

    During any Mount Olympus hike, you could take a lunch break or stay overnight at Spilios Agapitos. The refuge is run by the daughter of Kostas Zolotas, a venerable climbing guru. To bunk down for the night costs €13 per person (€11 with an international mountaineering card); there are blankets but no sheets. Bring your own flashlight, towel, and soap. Campers can pitch tents for €4.20 (€3.20 with card) per person and can use the refuge's facilities (note that cooking is not permitted in the refuge). The restaurant is open all day until 9 pm. It's 6 km (4 miles), about 2½–3 hours, from Prionia to Refuge A. From here it's 5 km (3 miles), about 2½–3 hours, to the Throne of Zeus and the summit. The trail is easy going to Skala summit (most of the way), but the last bit is scrambling and a bit hair-raising. Some people turn back. If you plan to hike up Mount Olympus, be sure to take a map; the best are produced by Anavasi. If you would prefer a guided hike up Mount Olympus, the staff at Refuge A can arrange a guide for you, and Trekking Hellas organizes treks for various-size groups.

    Refuge A, Litochoro, Central Macedonia, 60200, Greece
    23520-81800

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed in winter
  • 10. White Tower

    Kentro | Museum/Gallery

    The city's most famous landmark, and a symbol of Macedonia, the White Tower is the only medieval defensive tower left standing along the seafront...

    The city's most famous landmark, and a symbol of Macedonia, the White Tower is the only medieval defensive tower left standing along the seafront (the other remaining tower, the Trigoniou, is in the Upper City). Now a part of the Museum of Byzantine Culture, its six floors offer a wonderful multimedia introduction to the city's history. Much of that history occurred within these walls—for centuries this was a prison—and on its walls: formerly known as "Blood Tower," it got its current name in 1896 when a convict exchanged his sentence for whitewashing the entire structure (which was removed in a 1980s renovation). The displays teach you that formidable seawalls and intermittent towers encircled the medieval city and were erected in the 15th century on the site of earlier walls. In 1866, with the threat of piracy diminishing and European commerce increasingly imperative, the Ottoman Turks began demolishing them, except for the White Tower. At the top of your climb of 96 steps you are rewarded with a lovely museum café, whose rooftop setting provides sweeping vistas of the city.

    Leoforos Nikis and Pavlou Melas, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, 5004, Greece
    2310-267832

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €6 Apr.–Oct., €3 Nov.–Mar.
  • 11. Ammolofoi Beach

    Beach

    Of the many excellent beaches surrounding Kavala, Ammolofoi remains the most popular. Located about 16 km (10 miles) west of Kavala, just past...

    Of the many excellent beaches surrounding Kavala, Ammolofoi remains the most popular. Located about 16 km (10 miles) west of Kavala, just past the town of Nea Paramos, the Blue Flag beach is set in idyllic scenery, with soft green hills leading down to the sand dunes from which it takes its name, before disappearing into the clear, shallow waters. Rocky outcrops divide the beach into three sections, commonly know as first, second, and third Ammolofoi, which offer different levels of crowding and service; the third tends to be the busiest. Entrance and parking is free and beach bars decked out with umbrellas and sun loungers abound. Amenities: food and drink; parking; water sports. Best for: partiers; snorkeling; swimming; walking.

    Nea Paramos, East Macedonia and Thrace, Greece
    30-69722–02157
  • 12. Arch of Galerius

    Kentro | Ruins

    The imposing kamára (arch) is one of a number of monuments built by Galerius around AD 305, during his reign as co-emperor of Diocletian's...

    The imposing kamára (arch) is one of a number of monuments built by Galerius around AD 305, during his reign as co-emperor of Diocletian's divided Roman Empire. It commemorated the Roman victory over Persia in AD 297, and you can still see scenes of those battles on the badly eroded bas-reliefs. Originally, the arch had four pediments and a dome and was intended to span not only the Via Egnatia, the ancient Roman road, but also a passageway leading north to the Rotunda. Only the large arches remain.

    Sintrivaniou Sq., Egnatia, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, 54009, Greece
  • 13. Atatürk Museum

    Kentro | Historic Home

    The soldier and statesman who established the Republic of Turkey and became its president, Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal) was born here in 1881. He...

    The soldier and statesman who established the Republic of Turkey and became its president, Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal) was born here in 1881. He participated in the city's Young Turk Movement, which eventually led to the collapse of the sultanate and the formation of the modern Turkish state. About eight blocks east of the Ayios Dimitrios church, the modest pink house is decorated in Ottoman style. It has been turned into a museum, with personal items and documents of Turkey's founding father.

    Apostolou Pavlou 17 and Isaia St., Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, 54634, Greece
    2310-248452
  • 14. Athonos Square

    Kentro | Plaza/Square

    A warren of side streets around a tiny square with a fountain is filled with tavernas and crafts stores. The area is frequently referred to...

    A warren of side streets around a tiny square with a fountain is filled with tavernas and crafts stores. The area is frequently referred to, but it rarely appears on street maps; everyone knows where it is: 200 m from the church of Ayia Sofia.

    Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, Greece
  • 15. Ayia Sofia

    Kentro | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The founding date of this church, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the focal point of the city's Easter and Christmas celebrations, has been...

    The founding date of this church, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the focal point of the city's Easter and Christmas celebrations, has been the subject of disagreements over the centuries. Ecclesiastics think it was built after the first Council of Nicea (AD 325), when Jesus was declared a manifestation of Divine Wisdom; other church historians say it was contemporaneous with the magnificent church of Ayia Sofia in Constantinople, completed in AD 537, on which it was modeled. From its architecture the church is believed to date to the late 8th century, a time of transition from the domed basilica to the cruciform plan. The rather drab interior contains two superb mosaics: one of the Ascension and the other of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her arms. This latter mosaic is an interesting example of the conflict in the Orthodox Church (AD 726–843) between the iconoclasts (icon smashers, which they often literally were) and the iconodules (icon venerators). At one point in this doctrinal struggle, the Virgin Mary in the mosaic was replaced by a large cross (still partly visible), and only later, after the victory of the iconodules, was it again replaced with an image of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. The front gate is a popular meeting spot.

    Ermou and Ayias Sofias, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, 54622, Greece
    2310-270253
  • 16. Ayios Dimitrios

    Kentro | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Magnificent and covered in mosaics, this five-aisle basilica is Greece's largest church and a powerful tribute to the patron saint of Thessaloniki...

    Magnificent and covered in mosaics, this five-aisle basilica is Greece's largest church and a powerful tribute to the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It was rebuilt and restored from 1926 to 1949, with attention to preserving the details of the original; the marks left by a fire can still be seen throughout. In the 4th century, during the reign of Emperor Galerius, the young, scholarly Dimitrios was preaching Christianity in the coppersmith district, in contravention of an edict. He was arrested and jailed in a room in the old Roman baths, on the site of the present church. While he was incarcerated in AD 303, Dimitrios gave a Christian blessing to a gladiator friend named Nestor, who was about to fight Galerius's champion, Lyaios. When Nestor fought and killed Lyaios, after having made Dimitrios's blessing public, the enraged Galerius had Nestor executed on the spot and had Dimitrios speared to death in his cell. His Christian brethren were said to have buried him there. A church that was built on the ruins of this bath in the 5th century was destroyed by an earthquake in the 7th century. The church was rebuilt, and gradually the story of Dimitrios and Nestor grew to be considered apocryphal until the great 1917 fire burned down most of the 7th-century church and brought to light its true past. The process of rebuilding the church uncovered rooms beneath the apse that appear to be baths; the discovery of a reliquary containing a vial of bloodstained earth gave credence to the idea that this is where St. Dimitrios was martyred. You enter through a small doorway to the right of the altar. Work your way through the crypt (which tends to close a little earlier than the church itself), containing sculpture from the 3rd to 5th century AD and Byzantine artifacts. The church's interior was plastered over when the Turks turned it into a mosque, but eight original mosaics remain on either side of the altar.

    Ayiou Dimitriou 97, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, 54631, Greece
    2310-270008

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 17. Ayios Nikolaos Orfanos

    Ano Polis | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Noted frescoes here include the unusual Ayion Mandilion in the apse, which shows Jesus superimposed on a veil sent to an Anatolian king, and...

    Noted frescoes here include the unusual Ayion Mandilion in the apse, which shows Jesus superimposed on a veil sent to an Anatolian king, and the Niptir, also in the apse, in which Jesus is washing the disciples' feet. The artist is said to have depicted himself in the right-hand corner wearing a turban and riding a horse. The 14th-century church, which became a dependency of the Vlatádon Monastery in the 17th century, has an intriguing mix of Byzantine architectural styles and perhaps the most beautiful midnight Easter service in the city.

    Kallithea Sq. and Apostolou Pavlou, enter on Irodotou, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, 54635, Greece
    2310-214497

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Tues.
  • 18. Ayios Panteleimon

    Kentro | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    A prime example of 14th-century Macedonian religious architecture, Ayios Panteleimon is an eye-catching church that draws you in to take a closer...

    A prime example of 14th-century Macedonian religious architecture, Ayios Panteleimon is an eye-catching church that draws you in to take a closer look. Restored in 1993 after an earthquake in 1978, the facade reveals the ornamental interplay of brick and stonework, and a dome displays typically strong upward motion.

    Iasonidou and Arrianou, near Egnatia, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, 54635, Greece
    2310-204150
  • 19. Church of the Metamorphosis

    Kentro

    This sunken church, part of which is (as the name would suggest) below ground level, is an example of 14th-century Macedonian ecclesiastical architecture, with a...

    This sunken church, part of which is (as the name would suggest) below ground level, is an example of 14th-century Macedonian ecclesiastical architecture, with a decorative mix of brick and stonework and a dome thrusting upward. Originally dedicated to the Virgin Mother, it was later dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Savior.

    Egnatia and P.P. Germanou, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, Greece
  • 20. Eptapyrghion

    Ano Polis | Notable Building

    In modern times, this Byzantine fortress—its name means "the seven towers" even though there are ten towers—was an abysmal prison, closed only...

    In modern times, this Byzantine fortress—its name means "the seven towers" even though there are ten towers—was an abysmal prison, closed only in 1988. There's not much to see here except wall ruins and a small museum that documents the building's history. The area is an untended green space, not an unpleasant place to sit and survey Thessaloniki below. The surrounding tavernas accommodate throngs of locals in the evening.

    Eptapyrghiou, Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, Greece
    2313-310400

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Tues.

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