7 unique things to do in Thessaloniki

by Andrea Gambaro  |  Published June 14, 2018

A trip to Thessaloniki often revolves around history, culture, cuisine and seaside attractions. But looking for unique things to do shakes loose more hidden and unusual finds.

Alexander the Great Statue (Photo: bmundo via Flickr)

Thessaloniki is one of Greece’s main cultural capitals and second-largest city, rich in history, monuments, events and festivals. The Thessaloniki International Trade Fair and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival are held annually, while the city’s monuments include UNESCO-listed Paleochristian and Byzantine treasures. But what will set the tone of your visit is its diverse urban landscape, a charming mix of old and new thriving with a notable creative streak, a wonderful cuisine and a vibrant cultural life.

Learn from the storytellers about the city’s 2300 years of history

Explore Thessaloniki is formed by “storytellers who aim to familiarize you with the city”. Their morning tour is an overview of the main landmarks of Thessaloniki, during which you’ll learn about the Church of Saint Demetrius, Galerius’ Hippodrome and Hagia Sofia Church. The evening walk focuses on the Roman and Jewish quarters, taking visitors on a 2,300-year trip through history. Both tours last about two hours and do not include entry to archaeological sites or historical monuments. Opt for the ‘Mystical Thessaloniki’ tour if you want to explore a more particular aspect of the city.

Various meeting points

A broad view over the city (Photo: Explore Thessaloniki)

Enter a fairytale paper workshop

Pop-Up and Paper Stories is the only workshop in Greece specialising in pop-up art (three-dimensional and foldable image construction) and it is claimed to be one of the few across the globe. This special technique requires high-quality materials, knowledge, creativity and craftsmanship, which Francoise Schmölz came to master thanks to theoretical and practical work at the Aristotele University of Fine Arts. In 2015 she opened her workshop, where souvenirs and gifts take the form of cards, invitations, albums, books and other paper creations. Pop-Up and Paper Stories is part of Handpeak, a collective that promotes selected and independent creators in Thessaloniki; they also organise guided walking tours to some of the most interesting shops and workshops of the city.

4 Vagdamali Street, Athonos Square, Thessaloniki 546 23

The shop window of Pop-Up and Paper Stories (Photo: Pop-Up and Paper Stories)

Visit the Cinema Museum

The Thessaloniki Cinema Museum is a small gem located in the old port district. Rather than a mere display of items, the museum presents a “collection of cinematic instances” that intertwines images, sounds, posters, pictures and other objects, seeking to achieve a filmic illusion for the visitor to delve into. The exhibition starts from the early days of Greek cinema and ends with contemporary films and authors, passing by the ‘Golden Age’ of the 1950s and 1960s. The museum is part of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, an annual event taking place in March and featuring independent films from around the world, Greek cinema, emerging directors and a special documentary section.

Warehouse A, Pier A, Thessaloniki 546 25

An old projector at the Cinema Museum (Photo: Thessaloniki Cinema Museum)

Try bougatsa and other traditional sweets in a 70-year-old pasty shop

With nearly 20 outlets across Greece, Terkenlis has gone a long way since Stavros Terkenlis opened the first shop in 1948. Current owner Pavlos represents the second generation of the business, which has turned into a renowned chain while remaining family-run and directed from Thessaloniki. The range of products includes secret recipes from Asia Minor and traditional Greek sweets, in addition to more international influences and savoury options. Try an artisanal loukoumi, a bougatsa pastry or a tsoureki bun with olive oil for something truly typical.

Various locations. Original shop – Tsimiski 30 / Aristotelous 4, Thessaloniki 546 36

The famous Terkenlis tsoureki (Photo: Theodosis Georgiadis)

Find a design souvenir that is truly ‘From Thessaloniki’

Architect Evangelia and scenographer Athanasia is the creative duo behind From Thessaloniki. They design and craft many of the items displayed in the shop, which are otherwise produced locally. Here you’ll find anything from a Zeus necklace to an Olympic Pillow Fight set, as the range of products includes accessories, clothing, toys, books and home décor. Each item in From Thessaloniki is a little piece of Greek culture, history and design, which will keep telling its story even after leaving the shop shelf.

Dim. Gounari 21, Thessaloniki 546 22

A selection of souvenirs and gifts at From Thessaloniki (Photo: From Thessaloniki)

Let local hosts tell you about Thessaloniki’s nightlife and lifestyle

Exploring the city in the evening is likely to include some drinks, so one might as well turn to the local experts. Taking you out from 6pm to 11pm, Epiculiar will help you discover both popular and more hidden venues, some of which are not normally reached by tourists. Your tasting sessions of Greek wines and drinks will be accompanied by local hosts willing to share the habits and culture of the city, while a professional bartender will guide you through a cocktail-making experience in an exclusive venue. Bites and a street food meal are also included. Not a typical night out, this fine drinking experience for small groups seeks to cater mainly to leisure and business travellers.

Meeting point – White Tower Square, Thessaloniki 546 21

There will be more than a toast during your tour with Epiculiar (Photo: Epiculiar)

Taste the spirit of the sea

Located just around the corner from the waterfront, MAREA Sea Spirit seeks to bring to the table the flavours and suggestions of the Mediterranean Sea. They do so through an original menu designed to present timeless and urban dishes rooted in the tradition, while modern techniques and top-quality ingredients aim to satisfy gourmet expectations. Sea bass carpaccio, crayfish tartar with passion fruit, orzo pasta with shrimps and smoked eel with wasabi are some of the options featured on the menu, which also contain an impressive wine list. All to be enjoyed in a minimal, classy and bright atmosphere.

Margariti Lori 13, Thessaloniki 546 22