Leisure and entertainment
Theatro Dasous ("Forest Theater")
Thessaloniki is not only regarded as the cultural and entertainment capital of northern Greece but also the cultural capital of the country. The city's main theaters, run by the National Theatre of Northern Greece (Greek: Κρατικό Θέατρο Βορείου Ελλάδος) which was established in 1961, include the Theater of the Society of Macedonian Studies, where the National Theater is based, the Royal Theater (Vasiliko Theatro) -the first base of the National Theater-, Moni Lazariston, and the Earth Theater and Forest Theater, both amphitheatrical open-air theatres overlooking the city.
The title of the European Capital of Culture in 1997 saw the birth of the city's first opera and today forms an independent section of the National Theatre of Northern Greece. The opera is based at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, one of the largest concert halls in Greece. Recently a second building was also constructed and designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. Thessaloniki is also the seat of two symphony orchestras, the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra of the Municipality of Thessaloniki.
Olympion Theater, the site of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and the Plateia Assos Odeon multiplex are the two major cinemas in downtown Thessaloniki. The city also has a number of multiplex cinemas in major shopping malls in the suburbs, most notably in Mediterranean Cosmos, the largest retail and entertainment development in the Balkans.
Thessaloniki is renowned for its major shopping streets and lively laneways. Tsimiski Street and Proxenou Koromila avenue are the city's most famous shopping streets and are among Greece's most expensive and exclusive high streets. The city is also home to one of Greece's most famous and prestigious hotels, Makedonia Palace hotel, the Hyatt Regency Casino and hotel (the biggest casino in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe) and Waterland, the largest water park in southeastern Europe.
The city has long been known in Greece for its vibrant city culture, including having the most cafes and bars per capita of any city in Europe; and as having some of the best nightlife and entertainment in the country, thanks to its large young population and multicultural feel. Lonely Planet listed Thessaloniki among the world's "ultimate party cities".
Parks and recreation
Although Thessaloniki is not renowned for its parks and greenery throughout its urban area, where green spaces are few, it has several large open spaces around its waterfront, namely the central city gardens of Palios Zoologikos Kipos (which is recently being redeveloped to also include rock climbing facilities, a new skatepark and paintball range), the park of Pedion tou Areos, which also holds the city's annual floral expo; and the parks of the Nea Paralia (waterfront) that span for 3km along the coast, from the White Tower to the concert hall.
The Nea Paralia parks are used throughout the year for a variety of events, while they open up to the Thessaloniki waterfront, which is lined up with several cafés and bars; and during summer is full of Thessalonians enjoying their long evening walks (referred to as "the volta" and is embedded into the culture of the city). Having undergone an extensive revitalization, the city's waterfront today features a total of 12 thematic gardens/parks.
Thessaloniki's proximity to places such as the national parks of Pieria and beaches of Chalkidiki often allow its residents to easily have access to some of the best outdoor recreation in Europe; however, the city is also right next to the Seich Sou forest national park, just 3.5km away from Thessaloniki's city center; and offers residents and visitors alike, quiet viewpoints towards the city, mountain bike trails and landscaped hiking paths. The city's zoo, which is operated by the municipality of Thessaloniki, is also located nearby the national park.
Other recreation spaces throughout the Thessaloniki Metropolitan Area include the Fragma Thermis, a landscaped parkland near Thermi and the Delta wetlands west of the city center; while urban beaches that have continuously been awarded the blue flags, are located along the 10km coastline of Thessaloniki's southeastern suburbs of Thermaikos, about 20km away from the city center.
Museums and galleries
View of the Museum of Byzantine Culture
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Because of the city's rich and diverse history, Thessaloniki houses many museums dealing with many different eras in history. Two of the city's most famous museums include the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and the Museum of Byzantine Culture.
The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki was established in 1962 and houses some of the most important ancient Macedonian artifacts,In Macedonia from the 7th c. BC until late antiquity including an extensive collection of golden artwork from the royal palaces of Aigai and Pella.The Gold of Macedon It also houses exhibits from Macedon's prehistoric past, dating from the Neolithic to the Bronze age.5,000, 15,000, 200,000 years ago ... An exhibition about prehistoric life in Macedonia The Prehistoric Antiquities Museum of Thessaloniki has exhibits from those periods as well.
The Museum of Byzantine Culture is one of the city's most famous museums, showcasing the city's glorious Byzantine past.About the Museum (in Greek) The museum was also awarded Council of Europe's museum prize in 2005.Award of the Council of Europe to the Museum of Byzantine Culture (in Greek) The museum of the White Tower of Thessaloniki houses a series of galleries relating to the city's past, from the creation of the White Tower until recent years.Introduction video of the White Tower Museum
One of the most modern museums in the city is the Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum and is one of the most high-tech museums in Greece and southeastern Europe.NOESIS – About the Museum (in Greek) It features the largest planetarium in Greece, a cosmotheater with the country's largest flat screen, an amphitheater, a motion simulator with 3D projection and 6-axis movement and exhibition spaces. Other industrial and technological museums in the city include the Railway Museum of Thessaloniki, which houses an original Orient Express train, the War Museum of Thessaloniki and others. The city also has a number of educational and sports museums, including the Thessaloniki Olympic Museum.
The Atatürk Museum in Thessaloniki is the historic house where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern-day Turkey, was born. The house is now part of the Turkish consulate complex, but admission to the museum is free. The museum contains historic information about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his life, especially while he was in Thessaloniki.
Other ethnological museums of the sort include the Historical Museum of the Balkan Wars, the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki and the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, containing information about the freedom fighters in Macedonia and their struggle to liberate the region from the Ottoman yoke.The Museum of the Macedonian Struggle – Introduction (in Greek) Construction on the Holocaust Museum of Greece began in the city in 2018.
The city also has a number of important art galleries. Such include the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, housing exhibitions from a number of well-known Greek and foreign artists. The Teloglion Foundation of Art is part of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and includes an extensive collection of works by important artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, including works by prominent Greeks and native Thessalonians.The Teloglion Foundation of Art – The Collection The Thessaloniki Museum of Photography also houses a number of important exhibitions, and is located within the old port of Thessaloniki.
View of the Roman Forum (Ancient Agora)
Thessaloniki is home to a number of prominent archaeological sites. Apart from its recognized UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Thessaloniki features a large two-terraced Roman forum featuring two-storey stoas, dug up by accident in the 1960s. The forum complex also boasts two Roman baths, one of which has been excavated while the other is buried underneath the city. The forum also features a small theater, which was also used for gladiatorial games. Although the initial complex was not built in Roman times, it was largely refurbished in the 2nd century. It is believed that the forum and the theater continued to be used until at least the 6th century.
Another important archaeological site is the imperial palace complex which Roman emperor Galerius, located at Navarinou Square, commissioned when he made Thessaloniki the capital of his portion of the Roman Empire. The large octagonal portion of the complex, most of which survives to this day, is believed to have been an imperial throne room. Various mosaics from the palatial complex have also survived. Some historians believe that the complex must have been in use as an imperial residence until the 11th century.
Not far from the palace itself is the Arch of Galerius, known colloquially as the Kamara. The arch was built to commemorate the emperor's campaigns against the Persians. The original structure featured three arches; however, only two full arches and part of the third survive to this day. Many of the arches' marble parts survive as well, although it is mostly the brick interior that can be seen today.
Other monuments of the city's past, such as the Incantadas, a Caryatid portico from the ancient forum, have been removed or destroyed over the years. The Incantadas in particular are on display at the Louvre. Thanks to a private donation of €180,000, it was announced on 6 December 2011 that a replica of the Incantadas would be commissioned and later put on display in Thessaloniki.
The construction of the Thessaloniki Metro inadvertently started the largest archaeological dig not only of the city, but of Northern Greece; the dig spans 20sqkm and has unearthed 300,000 individual artefacts from as early as the Roman Empire and as late as the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917. Ancient Thessaloniki's Decumanus Maximus was also found and 75m of the marble-paved and column-lined road were unearthed along with shops, other buildings, and plumbing, prompting one scholar to describe the discovery as "the Byzantine Pompeii". Some of the artefacts will be put on display inside the metro stations, while will feature the world's first open archaeological site located within a metro station.
Olympion Theatre, seat of the International Film Festival
Thessaloniki is home of a number of festivals and events. The Thessaloniki International Fair is the most important event to be hosted in the city annually, by means of economic development. It was first established in 1926Thessaloniki International Fair – History and actions (in Greek) and takes place every year at the 180000m² Thessaloniki International Exhibition Center. The event attracts major political attention and it is customary for the Prime Minister of Greece to outline his administration's policies for the next year, during event. Over 250,000 visitors attended the exposition in 2010. The new Art Thessaloniki, is starting first time 29.10. – 1 November 2015 as an international contemporary art fair.
The Thessaloniki International Film Festival is established as one of the most important film festivals in Southern Europe,Thessaloniki International Film Festival – Profile (in Greek) with a number of notable film makers such as Francis Ford Coppola, Faye Dunaway, Catherine Deneuve, Irene Papas and Fatih Akın taking part, and was established in 1960. The Documentary Festival, founded in 1999, has focused on documentaries that explore global social and cultural developments, with many of the films presented being candidates for FIPRESCI and Audience Awards.Thessaloniki Documentary Festival – Awards
The Dimitria festival, founded in 1966 and named after the city's patron saint of St. Demetrius, has focused on a wide range of events including music, theatre, dance, local happenings, and exhibitions.Dimitria Festival official website (in Greek) The "DMC DJ Championship" has been hosted at the International Trade Fair of Thessaloniki, has become a worldwide event for aspiring DJs and turntablists. The "International Festival of Photography" has taken place every February to mid-April.Article on Culturenow (in Greek) Exhibitions for the event are sited in museums, heritage landmarks, galleries, bookshops and cafés. Thessaloniki also holds an annual International Book Fair.
Between 1962–1997 and 2005–2008 the city also hosted the Thessaloniki Song Festival, Greece's most important music festival, at Alexandreio Melathron.
In 2012 the city hosted its first pride parade, Thessaloniki Pride, which took place between 22 and 23 June. It has been held every year ever since, however in 2013 transgender people participating in the parade became victims of police brutality. The issue was soon settled by the government. The city's Greek Orthodox Church leadership has consistently rallied against the event, but mayor Boutaris sided with Thessaloniki Pride, saying also that Thessaloniki would seek to host EuroPride 2020. The event was given to Thessaloniki in September 2017, beating Bergen, Brussels, and Hamburg.
Kaftanzoglio National Stadium
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The main stadium of the city is the Kaftanzoglio Stadium (also home ground of Iraklis FC), while other main stadiums of the city include the football Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium and Toumba Stadium home grounds of Aris F.C. and PAOK F.C., respectively, all of whom are founding members of the Greek league.
Being the largest "multi-sport" stadium in the city, Kaftanzoglio Stadium regularly plays host to athletics events; such as the European Athletics Association event "Olympic Meeting Thessaloniki" every year; it has hosted the Greek national championships in 2009 and has been used for athletics at the Mediterranean Games and for the European Cup in athletics. In 2004 the stadium served as an official Athens 2004 venue, while in 2009 the city and the stadium hosted the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Final.
Thessaloniki's major indoor arenas include the state-owned Alexandreio Melathron, PAOK Sports Arena and the YMCA indoor hall. Other sporting clubs in the city include Apollon FC based in Kalamaria, Agrotikos Asteras F.C. based in Evosmos and YMCA. Thessaloniki has a rich sporting history with its teams winning the first ever panhellenic football (Aris FC), basketball (Iraklis BC), and water polo (AC Aris) tournaments.
During recent years, PAOK FC has emerged as the strongest football club of the city, winning also the Greek championship whithout a defeat (2018-19 season).
The city played a major role in the development of basketball in Greece. The local YMCA was the first to introduce the sport to the country, while Iraklis BC won the first ever Greek championship. From 1982 to 1993 Aris BC dominated the league, regularly finishing in first place. In that period Aris won a total of 9 championships, 7 cups and one European Cup Winners' Cup. The city also hosted the 2003 FIBA Under-19 World Championship in which Greece came third. In volleyball, Iraklis has emerged since 2000 as one of the most successful teams in Greece and Europe – see 2005–06 CEV Champions League. In October 2007, Thessaloniki also played host to the first Southeastern European Games.
The city is also the finish point of the annual Alexander The Great Marathon, which starts at Pella, in recognition of its Ancient Macedonian heritage.
Club Founded Venue Capacity Notes
GS Iraklis 1908
(originally as Macedonikos Gymnasticos Syllogos) Kaftanzoglio National Stadium 27,770
Ivanofeio Indoor Hall Panhellenic titles in football, basketball, rugby, volleyball. Volleyball Champions League finalists (3 times)
Maccabi Thessaloniki 1908 Historically representative of the Jewish community. Today members of any religious faith
AC Aris Thessaloniki 1914 Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium 22,800
Alexandreio Melathron (Palais des Sports) 5,500 Panhellenic titles in football, basketball, volleyball, waterpolo. Three European Cups in basketball
YMCA Thessaloniki (ΧΑΝΘ) 1921 Presence in A1 basketball. Major role in introduction of basketball in Greece
Megas Alexandros 1923 Presence in First Division of Football Panhellenic Championship
P.A.O.K. 1926 Toumba Stadium 28,703
PAOK Sports Arena 10,000 Panhellenic titles in football, basketball, volleyball, handball. Two European Cups in basketball. Most time winners in women's football
Apollon Kalamarias/Pontou 1926 Kalamaria Stadium 6,500
M.E.N.T. 1926 Presence in A1 basketball
V.A.O. 1926 Presence in A1 basketball. Panhellenic titles in handball
Makedonikos 1928 Makedonikos Stadium 8,100
Agrotikos Asteras 1932 Evosmos Stadium
OTE Tower opened in 1966
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Thessaloniki is home to the ERT3 TV-channel and Radio Macedonia, both services of Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) operating in the city and are broadcast all over Greece.
The municipality of Thessaloniki also operates three radio stations, namely FM100, FM101 and FM100.6; and TV100, a television network which was also the first non-state-owned TV station in Greece and opened in 1988. Several private TV-networks also broadcast out from Thessaloniki, with Makedonia TV being the most popular.
The city's main newspapers and some of the most circulated in Greece, include Makedonia, which was also the first newspaper published in Thessaloniki in 1911 and Aggelioforos. A large number of radio stations also broadcast from Thessaloniki as the city is known for its music contributions.
- ERT3 (Panhellenic broadcasting)
- Makedonia TV (Panhellenic)
- 4E TV (Panhellenic)
- TV 100 (Regional)
- Makedonia (national publication)
- Aggelioforos (national)
- Metrosport (sports, national)
- Fair Play (sports, national)
- Aris Eisai (sports, weekly, national )
- Forza (sports, weekly, national)
- Thessaloniki (weekly, national)
- Karfitsa (weekly)
- Ikonomiki (financial)
Mosaic of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki in the Church of Saint Demetrius in Thessaloniki
Throughout its history, Thessaloniki has been home to a number of well-known figures. It was also the birthplace or base of various Saints and other religious figures, such as Demetrius of Thessaloniki, Cyril and Methodius (creators of the first Slavic alphabet), Saint Mitre (Saint Demetrius, not to be confused with the previous), Gregory Palamas, Eustathius of Thessalonica and Patriarch Philotheus I of Constantinople. Other Byzantine-era notables included Constantine Armenopoulos, Theodorus Gaza (Thessalonicensis) and Matthaios Kamariotis.
Many of the country's best-known musicians and movie personalities are from Thessaloniki, such as Zoe Laskari, Costas Hajihristos, Giannis Dalianidis, Maria Plyta, Harry Klynn, Alberto Eskenazi, Antonis Remos, Paschalis Terzis, Nikos Papazoglou, Nikolas Asimos, Giannis Miliokas, Giorgos Hatzinasios, Stavros Kouyioumtzis, Giannis Kalatzis, Stella Haskil, Natassa Theodoridou, Katia Zygouli, Kostas Voutsas, Takis Kanellopoulos, Titos Vandis, Manolis Chiotis, Dionysis Savvopoulos, Marinella, Yvonne Sanson and the classical composer Emilios Riadis. Additionally, there have been a number of politicians born in the city: Ioannis Skandalidis, Alexandros Zannas, Evangelos Venizelos, Christos Sartzetakis, fourth President of Greece, Niki Kerameus and Yiannis Boutaris. Sports personalities from the city include Georgios Roubanis, Giannis Ioannidis, Faidon Matthaiou, Alketas Panagoulias, Panagiotis Fasoulas, Eleni Daniilidou, Traianos Dellas, Giorgos Koudas, Kleanthis Vikelidis, Christos Kostis, Dimitris Salpingidis and Nikos Zisis. Benefactor Ioannis Papafis, architect Lysandros Kaftanzoglou and writers, such as Grigorios Zalykis, Manolis Anagnostakis, Albertos Naar, Giorgos Ioannou (novelist), Elias Petropoulos, Kostis Moskof, Rena Molho and Dinos Christianopoulos are also from Thessaloniki.
The city is also the birthplace or base of a number of international personalities, which include Bulgarians (Atanas Dalchev), Jews (Moshe Levy, Maurice Abravanel, Isaak Benrubi, Isaac and Daniel Carasso, Raphaël Salem, Baruch Uziel, Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, Moses Allatini, Salamo Arouch), Slav Macedonians (Dimo Todorovski), Italians (Luisa Poselli, Giacomo Poselli), French (Louis Dumont), Spanish (Juana Mordó), Turks (Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Nâzım Hikmet, Afet İnan, Cahit Arf, Mehmet Cavit Bey, Sabiha Sertel, Abdul Kerim Pasha, Hasan Tahsin Uzer, Hasan Tahsin) and Armenians (Jean Tatlian).
Because Thessaloniki remained under Ottoman rule for about 100 years more than southern Greece, it has retained a lot of its Eastern character, including its culinary tastes. Spices in particular play an important role in the cuisine of Thessaloniki, something which is not true to the same degree about Greece's southern regions. Thessaloniki's Ladadika borough is a particularly busy area in regards to Thessalonian cuisine, with most tavernas serving traditional meze and other such culinary delights.
Bougatsa, a breakfast pastry, which can be either sweet or savory, is very popular throughout the city and has spread around other parts of Greece and the Balkans as well. Another popular snack is koulouri.
Notable sweets of the city are Trigona, Roxákia and Armenovíl. A stereotypical Thessalonian coffee drink is Frappé coffee. Frappé was invented in the Thessaloniki International Fair in 1957 and has since spread throughout Greece and Cyprus to become a hallmark of the Greek coffee culture.
View of the Makedonia Palace
A touristic boom took place in the 2010s, during the years of mayor Boutaris, especially from the neighboring countries, Austria, Israel and Turkey. In 2010 the sleepovers of foreign tourists in the city were around 250.000. In 2018 the sleepovers of foreign tourists was estimated to reach 3.000.000 people.
The city is viewed as a romantic one in Greece, and as such Thessaloniki is commonly featured in Greek songs. There are a number of famous songs that go by the name 'Thessaloniki' (rebetiko, laïko etc.) or include the name in their title.
During the 1930s and 40s the city became a center of the Rebetiko music, partly because of the Metaxas censorship, which was stricter in Athens. Vassilis Tsitsanis wrote some of his best songs in Thessaloniki.
The city is the birthplace of significant composers in the Greek music scene, such as Manolis Chiotis, Stavros Kouyioumtzis and Dionysis Savvopoulos. It is also notable for its rock music scene and its many rock groups; some became famous such as Xylina Spathia, Trypes or the pop rock Onirama.
Between 1962–1997 and 2005–2008 the city also hosted the Thessaloniki Song Festival. In the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 Greece was represented by Koza Mostra and Agathonas Iakovidis, both from Thessaloniki.
In popular culture
- On May 1936, a massive strike by tobacco workers led to general anarchy in the city and Ioannis Metaxas (future dictator, then PM) ordered its repression. The events and the deaths of the protesters inspired Yiannis Ritsos to write the Epitafios.
- On 22 May 1963, Grigoris Lambrakis, pacifist and MP, was assassinated by two far-right extremists driving a three-wheeled vehicle. The event led to political crisis. Costa Gavras directed Z (1969 film) based on it, two years after the military junta had seized power in Greece.
- Notable films set or shot in Thessaloniki among others include Mademoiselle Docteur/Salonique, nid d'espions (1937) by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, The Barefooted Battalion (1954) by Greg Tallas (Gregory Thalassinos), O Atsídas (1961) by Giannis Dalianidis, Parenthesis (1968) by Takis Kanellopoulos, Triumph of the Spirit (1989) by Robert M. Young, Eternity and a Day by Theo Angelopoulos (1998) and Ouzeri Tsitsanis (2015) by Manousos Manousakis.
- The 1963 book I am David, written by Anne Holm, makes mention of the main character David making his way there after escaping from the Eastern Bloc, before continuing his ultimate journey to Denmark.