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The welcoming embrace of Thessaloniki

07 September 2013 / 14:09:30  GRReporter
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Every September, the political and economic heart of the country beats in the second capital city of Greece, where the Thessaloniki International Fair is organized. This is the most important international annual exhibition in the Balkans. On this occasion, we will walk you around this beautiful city – from the romantic promenade to the fortress and the city centre.

The mother of the poor, the nymph of the Thermaikos Gulf who is praised in many songs, the second capital city - chief town of the Greek north, according to many people, is the loveliest city in Greece. This is a modern urban centre with rich history, significant landmarks and culture, which starts from antiquity.

Built amphitheatrically around the WhiteTower, with a wide sea horizon and an important port, Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by Kassandros who named the city after his wife, Thessaloniki, sister of Alexander the Great. Built in an important era for Greek history, when Hellenism began to spread to the east, the city has been offering its embrace to everybody over the centuries – Jews pursued by the Spanish Sephardic in the late 15th century, many Thracians, refugees from Asia Minor after the catastrophe of 1922, as well as external economic immigrants.

Because of the strategic location of the harbour, the city is a key commercial and cultural centre. In 322, Constantine the Great himself built an artificial rectangular port for his fleet, traces of which are still preserved.

Today, Thessaloniki is a big city, the biggest urban centre in northern Greece, and a major point of pan-European road, air and sea communications. Its modern appearance lives alongside multiple historical elements, while managing to maintain a warm, living human appearance all the time.

You can admire the many Byzantine churches in various districts of the city and majestic domes of other Byzantine monuments, archaeological sites, museums and art galleries, or enjoy the remarkable cuisine and nightlife.

The historic centre and the Upper Town (Ano Poli)

Thessaloniki has a wide centre where there are many shops, public offices, monuments and recreation areas. Its historic centre is divided into the following districts: Ladadika, Frangomahalas, Kapani and several others, and the central point is the integrated area of Aristotle Square and the square of the ancient agora (also known as Dikastirion), which are connected by the pedestrian street named Aristoteleos. The shopping centre of Modiano is located in Kapani – this is the central roofed market of the city, combining low prices and variety. There you will find many of the best cafes and restaurants of the city.

The upper town, which was saved from the fires of 1917 and 1980, is located in the northern part of the city and offers stunning views. There are important monuments, such as Eptapyrgio (the SevenTowers), the Osios David church, as well as many traditional buildings and narrow streets covered with stones. There are beautiful taverns where you can try the local cuisine.

The promenade

A walk along the coast is something that you shouldn’t miss. In recent years, the area has been modernized and offers many places of entertainment. You can walk from the hotel to the Macedonia Palace Megara Mouzikis (the Concert Hall) and breathe the Thessaloniki air. The sea view is unique, and Mount Olympus is visible on the horizon. There are many cafes and 5 theme parks, where there are various events and a bike path.

The White Tower

The most famous symbol of the city and its most recognizable monument, the White Tower, was built in the 15th century and is the only surviving Ottoman fortress of the city. It was used as a military building and prison and is now a museum. There are 6 floors, which are connected by an internal staircase, which is 34 metres high. On the top floor, there is a hall and an outdoor balcony that offers spectacular views.

Aristotle Square and Dikastirion Square

Aristotle Square is one of the central squares, and is located at the beginning of the eponymous street on the coast. It is a popular spot both for locals and tourists, with many cafes, shops and hotels. Around it, you can find some of the most important and beautiful buildings of the city, such as Olympion which hosts the Thessaloniki Film Festival.

Dikastirion Square is located near the ancient Roman agora. There, visitors can find the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos and enjoy various events.

The Church of St. Demetrios, the Rotunda and the Arch of Galerius

These are three of the most important landmarks. The Church of St. Demetrios is a Byzantine monument which has been included in UNESCO’s list as a World Heritage Site since 1988. It has mosaics and frescoes dating from the 8th century. You can also visit the crypt of the church, which is now an exhibition space.

The Rotunda was designed to be a mausoleum of Emperor Galerius. Later, it was converted into a Christian church dedicated to St. George and is also on UNESCO’s list. Today, exhibitions are organized there.

The Arch of Galerius is located on Egnatia Street near the Rotunda. This is the most famous meeting place for residents and visitors of the city. It was built in the era of the Roman "Tetrarch" at the beginning of the 4th century.

The nightlife and Thessaloniki's delicious meals

For whatever reason you may visit Thessaloniki, you will miss a lot if you don’t get to know the famous night life there, as well as the famous cuisine of the city.

Have a glass of ouzo and try meals at restaurants in the Upper Town, take a walk in the students’ area in the upper part of Olimpou Street, where there are numerous restaurants, cafes, pubs, or just enjoy a live entertainment programme at the bars in Ladadika. Be sure to sip a coffee in the pedestrian zone in the centre Zevksidos, too.

In Thessaloniki, you can eat well and it is not expensive. Try some delicious souvlakia (skewers), sausages from Smyrna, and of course, bougatsa (a pastry which is similar to a pie of puff pastry) with cheese for dessert. Try the most delicious cakes in Greece, such as the triangular pastries of Panorama.

Thessaloniki International Fair

The International Fair (www.helexpo.gr) is the most important trade show in the Balkans. It was founded in 1925 and was first organized in 1926. It is held every September (this year between 7 and 15 September) and attended by a large number of exhibitors from many countries. In parallel, numerous events are also organized. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is expected to deliver a speech on the state of the economy at the opening of the fair.

In the area of the fair you can find the Tower of the state telecommunications company OTE, with a height of 76 m, which was built in 1970 and was used as OTE's Chamber at the Fair for many years. It was renovated in 2005 and is now used by the mobile phone company Cosmote, plus it has a revolving restaurant on top.

Tags: Thessaloniki International Trade Fair landmarks history
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