Thessaloniki is perhaps the most beloved Greek city. And the reasons are not as simple as one might think. It is not just her sheer charm, nor her vibe – whether relaxed or intense. Before opening up to be discovered, this city puts up a stiff resistance.


And then her hidden secrets fan out for you to discover; in the hidden corners of the Upper Town (Ano Poli), in dark galleries, on distant beaches, in the depths of ancient ruins that have yet to be uncovered. Self-contradictory, like the sexy lingerie shops standing next to church bookstores on Egnatia Street, stunningly beautiful like her endless sunsets, full of scents and aromas like the colourful Kapani food market and as open as her horizon that reflects the “Byzantine light”, of which Modern Thessalonian writer Nikos Gabriel Pentzikis spoke extensively. Through their stories, all her great writers have made us fall in love with this city, emphasizing the fact that Thessaloniki has always been unique. We will always see her through the intimately realistic gaze of Modern Greek writer Yorgos Ioannou, or as a venerable lady of divine essence, as Pentzikis introduced her, or as an enchantress, as described by novelist and journalist George Skabardonis, or even a tramp as portrayed by author and songwriter Thomas Korovinis. Wandering in the city’s secret alleys, as revealed along with lyrical descriptions and stories about ghosts by my beloved Thessalonian Marinos Charalambous in his book “ΣυνομιλίεςμετουςΑνέμους” (“Conversations with the Winds”), raising your head to the open sky, you are left flabbergasted by the colourful, art nouveau buildings that adorn almost every street in Ano Ladadika, while at the same time, it is impossible to stop taking photos of the seagulls that “squeeze” between the tall, proud cranes of the old harbour. I know of no other city in Greece that is so gently embraced by the sea, softening its edges, which are never sharp, and I know of no other city whose scenery changes depending on the colours of the sky. Nothing compares to Thessaloniki – and that’s a given. Every time visitors are greeted with the same warmth and hospitality. That’s one of the infinite reasons why I love Thessaloniki –here are just a few more of them:

Impressive museums

The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki boasts incredible finds dating from early antiquity and to Roman times, such as a series of incredibly beautiful golden wreaths or the famous Derveni Crater. Located in an amazing spot, at the exit of the city, housed in a building of unique architecture, the Museum of Byzantine Culture features impressive mosaics originating from different parts of Greece, Egypt and elsewhere, as well as remarkable relics, such as the seal of Kallinikos V. There is also a lovely café-restaurant in the museum gardens.

Hidden Archaeological Treasures

Among the best-kept secrets of the city are its hidden, lost antiquities, such as the Byzantine Kinsterna (water tank) on Olympiados Street, next to the Byzantine bath, on the outskirts of Upper Town (Ano Poli). A rare archaeological find that ever since its discovery –fourteen years ago- still remains hermetically sealed. Inextricably linked to the palimpsest of the city’s history, the stories about the underground –rich in historical findings- world of Thessaloniki are endless. Another hidden treasure is also the temple of the goddess Aphrodite or the Parthenon of Thessaloniki, in Antigonidon square, a 6th century BC temple that has not yet received the attention that such a special treasure deserves.

The port

Every side of Thessaloniki port stands out as a revelation and is ideal –unlike other cities- for a stroll: from the old docks to the reformed side, on the pier where the Thessaloniki International Film Festival is housed –another reason why we love this city!- to the most beautiful part of the city, under the shadow of the White Tower, where the Zongolopoulos Umbrellas are installed. Here I have seen the most beautiful sunsets of my life.

The famous Rotunda

After many years of works, the famous Rotunda, a symbol of the city’s Byzantine history, a remnant of its Roman past, which resembles the Pantheon of Rome, once again dominates the heart of the city. There, on the Arch of Galerius or Kamara, one can see history prevailing on the most glorious, but also somewhat anarchic side of the city.

“To kafeneio tou Mitsou”

Often, when my friends and I try to recall moments of absolute happiness, we look back on our unforgettable Saturday meals at the incredible “Kafeneio tou Mitsou”. One of the few traditional kafeneia (old cafés serving also food) left in Thessaloniki, located inside Kapani food market, in between colourful spice “mountains”, knock off t-shirts, socks and sausages, where one can try delicious mezedes (a type of hors d’oeuvre eaten esp. with an aperitif or other drink in Greece and the Near East) inspired by the cuisine of Asia Minor. Mouth-watering dishes, Dada-inspired décor and gastronomic treasures made out of nothing, such as the crispy, fried fish bone –yes, fish bone!- which one should definitely try. A great culinary experience!

Grada Nuevo

Among Greeks, Thessalonians are famous bon vivants, so the city couldn’t be lacking in fine dining. Moreover, in stark contrast to Athenians, Thessalonians appreciate restaurants that live up to their reputation. Grada Nuevo is a top-notch restaurant boasting exceptional service and excellent fish dishes (14, Kalapothaki Street).


Many of my friends – and I among them – often visit Thessaloniki just to enjoy the dishes of chef Giannis Loukakis – a true cuisine revolutionary, the most honest, unpretentious and direct chef in Greece (hostile to publicity, dedicated to gastronomy). While other restaurants were attempting complex gastronomic creations, he, following the signs of the times, returned to the pure flavours and the local ingredients of the Greek North. Giannis Loukakis bowed to the monks’ way of cooking with the unbiased and respectful manner of a patron saint and created gastronomic “miracles”. In addition to fish dishes, you’ll sometimes find delicious surprises on the menu, like this homemade, divine tuna pasta, which I still remember as one of the most enjoyable dishes I’ve ever tasted in my adult life. The wine list is also excellent. It is definitely an unforgettable experience in a low-key environment in the most obscure area of the city, in a small alley, on Christopoulou Street 12.


Food experience as an absolute expression of respect for quality ingredients and the customer’s wishes does not end at “Mourga”. The new – equally excellent – project of Giannis Loukakis entitled “+Trofi” is a pleasant surprise. Organic products, elaborate ingredients in impressive combinations – such as codfish pastirma, arseniko cheese from Naxos and dippy egg, or casserole greens and handmade seafood and black pork (!) pasta – are accompanied by an excellent list of organic wines – the latest trend in modern viniculture. I could easily spend even the coldest winter nights in this delicious place, located on a small square in Ladadika, on Doxis square, even though it lacks an indoor seating area (and even if I have to wrap up like an onion).

Morning coffee at Ypsilon

In this all-white, minimalist café-bar, voted one of the best in Europe, you can enjoy a nice cup of well-made coffee while basking in the sun. Just across the street, there is a beautiful florist’s shop, while the aromas from the adjacent perfumeries will pleasantly tickle your olfactory glands. In this old inn –located on the old side of the city- that has now been transformed into a state-of-the-art multi-purpose venue, I’ve enjoyed many hour-long coffees (in the morning) and boisterous beer parties (in the evening).

Bookstores stay up late (even after 12!)

Thessaloniki does not only stay up late partying, but also reading. Near Kamara, there are many bookstores that stay up late –especially on Friday nights- to satisfy the wild appetites of readers like me. Once I happened to buy a lost Dylan Thomas collection at 12.37 at night. “Akyvernites Politeies”, “Kentri” and of course “Shakespearean” are among my favourites.

Surfer Maya

The city’s latest arrival that bills itself as a modern, fast casual restaurant, but it’s far, far beyond that. Here I had the best tacos of my life with handmade corn tortillas rolled out in a special cast iron press in front of the customer. They also make amazing hybrid tacos (made from handmade croissant dough!). Personally, I find that the paper wrappers – very aesthetically pleasing, however – that possibly aid in the ritualistic unwrapping of the juiciest burger I’ve ever tasted, do not do justice to these refined dishes that made me want to resurrect Bukowski just to let him know what absolute pleasure is like. And all these goods of the universe are perfectly accompanied by a house pink pepper and melon negroni in a bottle or a margarita “mama mia” with bitter almond, peach and soft tobacco notes. Important note: we took a detour on our way to the airport just to pick up these inconceivably delicious milk pies we had for dessert, a treat of divine inspiration. If there was a god, it would certainly be the god of an ethnic universe and would most probably be called surfer maya. 8, Skra Street.

Ten Tables

I had heard a lot about “Ten Tables” and, thus, it was the first restaurant we visited as soon as the quarantine ended. I don’t know if it was the cool sea breeze or the excitement of returning to our beloved city or the excellent flavours of chef Manolis Papoutsakis, but everything we had was delicious and reasonably priced. I think I will never forget those phenomenal French fries with bottargo and chives or the exquisite liver with thyme and red fruits or the meatballs with chickpea cream – just to name a few.

Street artists

Top award-winning graphic design agencies, excellent artists such as Kalos & Klio hail from Thessaloniki. I would single out Argyris Ser from Thessaloniki for his dreamlike drawings that were also exhibited at the Benaki Museum, Simoni Fontana and Hayate, creator of the huge mural of Antetokounmpo.

Piece of cake

A small café, ideal for those cold and rainy days. Cocooned in this warm, tiny but beautiful little place on Chrysostomou Smyrnis Street, one may enjoy fine teas and fluffy cakes, or -why not- well-made cocktails while gazing at the clever sayings on the huge blackboard hanging above the bar. Pure magic.

Moby Dick or the Whale

With the Moby Dick whale tattooed on my right hand, I couldn’t help but love this excellent wine cellar that also serves as a tasting room for fine wines and whiskies from various parts of the world.

High-end hospitality

In recent years Thessaloniki has a lot to “teach” in terms of accommodation, as the hotels here offer unforgettable experiences. Having breakfast at the renovated “Electra Palace”, on the city’s most beautiful terrace overlooking the Thermaic Gulf and the beautiful buildings that adorn Aristotelous Square, will fill you up with optimism. “Onoma”, the city’s new urban five-star hotel has absolutely stolen my heart. Full of surprises, “Onoma” is a technologically flexible hotel that engages with the modern traveller and respects their uniqueness. A brand new and innovative hospitality concept where every personal wish becomes a service, located in the most genuine and still untapped area of Thessaloniki. 24, Monastiriou Street.