One Day Thessaloniki Itinerary: See The City In Under 24 Hours

Thessaloniki is a city I have visited several times. My first visit was 8 years ago, and the last one was last year.

In Thessaloniki, you can spend two or three days, but since the city is systematically built and most of the attractions are close to each other, one day is enough to get acquainted with the beauties of the old town.

Thessaloniki is one of the oldest cities in Europe and the birthplace of the famous Aristotle. Here you can see remnants of the Roman and Hellenistic era, as well as modern buildings. The city was almost completely burned to the ground in 1917 after a great fire, so unlike younger cities, you can see wide avenues in the city center mixed with classic narrow Mediterranean streets.

From my experience, these are things you should not miss seeing while in Thessaloniki, even if you only have one day available.

White Tower

The White Tower was originally built as part of the city walls of Thessaloniki and now stands alone, symbolizing the city. From its top, there’s a view of the port and the city, which is why it was primarily built—to watch over the bay. 

Interestingly, the tower was connected to a fortress above Thessaloniki by an underground tunnel several kilometers long. Today, the tunnel is filled in, and the fortress is in ruins, which is why it is not on the tourist map for most visitors.

During Ottoman rule, the tower served as an infamous prison where many rebellious Janissaries were imprisoned and tortured. During this period, it was known as the “Blood Tower,” a name that was only cleansed by the end of the 19th century. 

According to legend, the name “White Tower” was changed from its previous name when a prisoner requested his freedom in exchange for whitewashing the entire tower as a symbol of purification and freedom. 

This aesthetic change came about through historical shifts, as after Greece’s annexation from the Ottoman Empire, the tower was indeed whitewashed as a symbol of purification and freedom for the independent state.

Alexander the Great Monument

If you walk along the coast towards the City Hall after visiting the White Tower, it’s unlikely you’ll miss the monument to Alexander the Great. 

It was erected in honor of one of the most significant commanders in national history – Alexander III of Macedon. Because of his extraordinary military feats, successful battles against the Persians, founding of new cities, and expanding the empire all the way to India, he was known as Alexander the Great. 

His premature death prevented him from fulfilling all his plans and conquering the entire world. The platform on which the monument is erected is surrounded by benches. Even if you’re just passing by, take a moment to rest and be sure to photograph this monument.

Aristotelous Square

After liberation from Turkish rule, especially after the catastrophic fire of 1917, the city had to be redesigned. The redesign project was entrusted to French architect Ernest Hebrard. 

His idea involved large squares and magnificent buildings, with a statue of Alexander the Great at the center. The idea was later simplified, and the square’s current appearance was established in 1950.

Thus, on the right side of the square (from the direction of the sea), stands a statue of Aristotle. When you get closer, you’ll notice that the color on his big toe is quite worn away because, according to legend, anyone who touches his toe will feel Aristotle’s knowledge and wisdom transferred to them.

Alongside Aristotle, there are the Electra Palace Hotel and the Olympia Theatre. The terrace on top of the Electra Palace offers one of the most beautiful views of the square, where you can go up and have a drink with a view.

The square is a gathering place for both tourists and locals of Thessaloniki. It’s where protests are held and holidays are celebrated. For the New Year’s holidays, a Christmas tree and a large decorated boat are set up. Around the square, there are many cafes, bakeries, pastry shops, sellers of cotton candy, corn, salep…

Galerius Arch – Kamara

Apart from being one of the most interesting places for the best photos in the city, the Galerius Arch or Kamara is a real tourist attraction in Thessaloniki. It resembles a large arch, but it is actually a triumphal gate erected during the reign of Galerius, precisely after his victory over the Persians. 

Initially, this gate was part of the imperial complex, connecting the city’s largest street with the significant Rotunda. It has been partially preserved to this day. These two attractions are located close to each other and it’s almost unimaginable not to visit both.


The Rotunda is one of the most important Roman monuments in Thessaloniki. The Rotunda is a circular building with a diameter of 24.5 meters and walls that are an impressive 6 meters thick. It was built by the Roman Emperor Galerius Valerius Maximilian in 306 AD, intended to be his mausoleum. This is the same Galerius who rests in Serbia, on a hill above Felix Romuliana near Zaječar.

The fate of the Rotunda was influenced by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine, who converted it into a Christian church, and some of the frescoes from that period can still be seen inside its walls. In the 14th century, Thessaloniki fell on the path of the Ottoman conquerors and in 1590, the Rotunda was converted into a mosque. 

That’s when its minaret was erected, which, with some modifications, has survived to this day. After liberation in 1912, it was again converted into a church. The building suffered serious damage in the 1979 earthquake. Restoration followed, and today it operates as a museum. The Greek Orthodox Church uses it for certain ceremonies on holidays.

To visit the Rotunda, the White Tower, the Archaeological Museum, and the Museum of Byzantine Culture, it’s best to buy a combined ticket for 15 euros.

Roman Forum

This archaeological site was discovered by researchers in the 1960s. It represents an ancient Greek market that was later restructured into a Roman forum (a central square around which the city developed, where trade, religious cults, and judicial cases were conducted). Interestingly, this ancient city had a public toilet that was a very important place for various agreements and information exchange.

The best-preserved part of the site is the amphitheater, or large theater, which is still used today for concerts and performances.

Although this site can be clearly seen from above, you can pay for a ticket and walk through the remains of the ancient city. However, it seems that the Greeks have discreetly discouraged tourists from entering, as such a visit costs 80 euros!

It’s interesting to note that the city of Thessaloniki is full of archaeological sites. Thus, the construction of the metro was halted (and probably canceled) because digging uncovered numerous remnants of the ancient period.

Visit the Tserlidis Nuts Factory

On Nikis street, there’s a unique shop, called the “factory” of nuts and dried fruits. In this workshop, you can buy quality nuts and dried fruits that are 100% natural and without additives. 

They have five shops in Thessaloniki and two in Athens. However, they are not just sellers. Their shops are small “factories,” where you can see every step of the process, from raw materials to tasty finished products.

Their selection includes nuts, various seeds, as well as various combinations of nuts with chocolate, caramel, etc. It really is a unique experience, and the prices are in the range with other stores.

Cocktail on a Party Boat

An interesting and unique attraction that I’ve seen in Thessaloniki are the “Party Boats.” The starting station is at the port near the White Tower, and tickets for the ride are not sold separately. 

Instead, the ticket is actually a drink that you purchase on the boat (costs about 5€) and includes a ride along the coast, lasting about half an hour.

City Tour on a “Hop-on, hop-off” Bus

If you want to tour the city on a panoramic bus, the starting point is near the White Tower where tickets are sold (10€ for adults and 5€ for children), and from there the bus departs every 30 minutes.

The ticket is valid for the entire day, and you can get off and on at several stations.

The full loop of the ride takes 70 minutes. The staff is very friendly, and it’s certainly worth paying for this tour, as you will pass through areas that would be difficult to visit on foot.

The route and stations are as follows: Agia Sophia, Agios Dimitrios, Archaeological Museum, White Tower, Galerius Arch, Port of Thessaloniki, Aristotelous Square, and Byzantine Fortress.

Hamam Bey

Also known as “Paradise Bathhouses,” represents a Turkish bath located on Egnatia Street. It was built in 1444 by Sultan Murad II, and it was the first Ottoman bath in Thessaloniki and the most prominent that still exists in Greece today. 

It has survived over 800 years, despite all the events in the city. For these reasons, it represents one of the important traces of Ottoman culture that remained in Thessaloniki and Greece. It is built on the ruins of Byzantine basilicas.

This is a bath with two separate sections for men and women. The section for women is more spacious and luxurious, but each of them has three parts that follow one after the other – a cold, lukewarm, and hot room. The baths for men include a large octagonal cold room, with a gallery above the columns that surround the windows, and a painted dome. 

This room is followed by a lukewarm room, with a dome with apertures and a series of plant paintings. Furthermore, there is a complex of hot baths, arranged around a large heart-shaped room, while the massage area is located in the center. Eight small hot and lukewarm rooms continue into this space and are equipped with pools and marble benches.

Ano Poli

Two kilometers from the center of Thessaloniki, the old part of the city, Ano Poli, awaits you, the only remaining part of Ottoman Thessaloniki today. 

With its quiet streets, two-story buildings, and small houses with beautifully arranged gardens, it represents the soul of Thessaloniki. Ano Poli has a distinctive atmosphere, and here you can catch the invisible threads of the life Thessaloniki once had.

A special pleasure is to stroll along the paved, winding streets, many of which lead to the Eptapyrgio fortress, also known as the Seven Towers, from which you can enjoy an incredible view of the entire city and the Aegean Sea. 

This fortress, incidentally, was a prison from the liberation of Thessaloniki until three decades ago, so its walls truly hide numerous secrets. Furthermore, Ano Poli also conceals several ancient monasteries and churches, including the Byzantine Church of Hosios David from the 5th century.

You can reach Ano Poli on foot in about half an hour. If you prefer not to walk a bit longer, you can get there by taking bus 22 or 23.

Pasha’s Gardens

This is a forgotten green oasis near the Ano Poli neighborhood, and even the locals of Thessaloniki claim that this is the most unusual place in the city. 

The park is full of strange, partially destroyed stone monuments that momentarily remind one of the style of the Spanish architect Gaudí. Pasha is home to imaginative architecture and exudes a specific, very mystical energy. 

There are several theories about the history of this place – one of them is that it was a meeting place or a temple of initiation for Ottoman masons, others believe it was created by Sephardic Jews, but the most logical explanation seems to be that this park was intended as a place for enjoyment and relaxation. 

One thing is certain – this park was established in 1904 and was soon destroyed by the arrival of immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century, who took stone from it to have material for building houses.


Ladadika is the vintage core of Thessaloniki that best reflects what this city looked like before the great fire of 1917. Today, this bohemian quarter is the most similar to Belgrade’s Skadarlija or Athens’ Plaka. 

Here you are likely to have the best traditional Thessaloniki cuisine has to offer, but also to experience an excellent nightlife with a few glasses of ouzo and the hypnotic rhythm of oriental melodies. 

During Ottoman rule, Ladadika was a part of the city that hosted a large oil market with an extensive offer of oils, spices, and various oil-based products – hence the name of the quarter: ‘ladi’ in modern Greek means oil.

Thessaloniki Markets

The characteristic atmosphere of Thessaloniki, their love for food, chatting, noise, and smiles, all the colors and scents of this city, are best experienced at the markets. There are two that are the largest and oldest in the city – Modiano and Kapani, and they are widely known throughout Europe. 

Walking through the Modiano market will take you back to the early 20th century when it was established, and the market was an essential part of everyday life, the center of events, and the place for hearing local gossip. The market was designed in 1922 by Eli Modiano, the son of a beloved Thessaloniki banker, upon returning from his architectural studies in Paris. 

Today, the market offers fresh fish, meat, cheese, exotic spices, fruits and vegetables, juicy olives, and there are also kiosks with local food and smoke-filled Greek taverns. 

Literally across from the Modiano market is its older “sister” – the Kapani market, believed to have existed for more than 600 years, and the energy of this covered market truly testifies to centuries of trading.

Where to Eat in Thessaloniki?

The best fast food in Thessaloniki is on Gounari Street, near Kamara, across from the Rotunda. It’s a long street with archaeological excavations that leads to Galerius’s Arch and the Rotunda, where prices are reasonable because Aristotle University is above, frequented by students. This street leads to the sea, has benches, and especially comes to life in the evening.

We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner there. We wanted to have a cultured lunch in Ladadika but when we walked there around 2 PM, it was empty, we didn’t feel like sitting, so we returned here for pasta and meal salads made from fresh ingredients, and various takeaway options: Caesar, Cretan, Thessaloniki…

There are also places for pizza and shops where they make freshly squeezed juices and fruit salads, as well as gyros, all for takeaways. 

The gyros is called “TO VRASTO”, costs 3.5 euros, and is not classic, but rather small grilled steaks in pita or flatbread called mprizolaki (from mprizola-steak) with fries and other toppings (you choose the sauce) and they are very tasty.

Where to Stay in Thessaloniki?

We found accommodation through Booking at the Agias Sofias luxury apartment, which is located just above the church of the same name. The accommodation is recommendable because everything is new and very clean and it’s relatively close to all the attractions we planned to visit.

After Thessaloniki, we went to Thasos. If you’re interested, here we’ve covered everything that you need to see in Thasos.