Greece’s second largest city and home to the second largest port on the Aegean Sea. Thessaloniki is the capital of the Macedonia region of Greece and is home to over 300,000 people.
Founded in 315 BC and named after a half-sister Alexander the Great, the city later became the capital of all Roman provinces on the peninsula. Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the Byzantine empire, and it was occupied by the Venetians, Ottomans, and the Nazis.
Today, Thessaloniki is considered the cultural centre of Greece and is one of the largest student centres in Europe. Due to its port, heavy industry is also prevalent in the area. Tourists are drawn to its classical sights, laid-back lifestyle and excellent wine and dining choices.
For gay rights in Greece, visit our Gay Athens City Guide page.
Thessaloniki’s gay scene is similar in style to Athens’ however it is on a significantly smaller scale. Although the lesbian scene is particularly prevalent in Thessaloniki, there is a gay cruise club and a gay sauna that cater specifically for men.
The city is a welcoming destination, though could be considered conservative when compared to other coastal hotspots like Tel Aviv or Barcelona. Since 2012, Thessaloniki has hosted an LGBT Pride celebration every June.
The Thessaloniki International Airport “Macedonia” (SKG) is 13km south of the city centre and is the main airport of Northern Greece. It is well-connected to destinations in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East by scheduled flights and charter connections.
Connections to the city centre are available 24 hours a day by buses 78/78A/78N. Bus 78 runs every 15-30 minutes during the day whereas 78N runs every half hour at night. Tickets cost €2 and exact change must be used if buying on the bus. Journeys are around 40 minutes.
Taxis are available at the terminal but are difficult to flag at peak times. To avoid frustration it is best to book reserve travel in advance. Journey times should be in the region of 15 minutes and expect to pay around €15-20.
Thessaloniki passenger terminal is a common location for tourists visiting the nearby area of Chalkidiki in the summer months. There are good ferry connections to the Greek islands so this is a good place to end an island hopping holiday.
The central station is located in the west of the city centre. Due to Greece’s mountainous terrain, journey times by while are quite long when you compare the actual distance involved (it takes over 5 hours to get to Athens). There are sleeper connections to other states in the Balkans.
The KTEL bus network connects Thessaloniki with all corners of Greece. Although journeys can be long the buses are modern, air-conditioned and relatively cheap. There are longer services to and from neighbouring Albania, Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria.
Thessaloniki’s main sights can be easily traversed in half an hour, so walking is probably the best way to take in the sights. In summer, the heat can get quite oppressive so public transport does offer some shelter from the sun.
OASTH operates the buses in the city and it offers varied services from 5am until around 1am. There is a good app with all bus information. Tickets are cheap with prices starting at €1 per journey (+10 cents if bought from the driver). Tickets must be validated upon travel.
There is a special tourist bus (number 50) operated by OASTH which takes you to the main sights from the White Tower. Journeys cost €2 and take roughly 50 minutes. They have an English-speaking tour guide who also hands out maps.
For our list of recommended hotels, please visit our Gay Thessaloniki Hotels page.
The White Tower – the only surviving tower on the seafront and the iconic image of the city. The White Tower is an Ottoman reconstruction of a fortification originally built by the Byzantines. It was notorious as a prison and the location of executions during the Ottoman era.
Agios Demetrios – a stunning Byzantine church built in the 7th Century. It is UNESCO-protected and one of the largest in the city.
Jewish Museum – prior to World War 2, Thessaloniki had a thriving Jewish community – it was known as the Mother of Jerusalem. In 1943, almost the entirity of it’s mainly Sephardic Jewish population were deported to the death camps and you can find out more about this here.
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum – here you can find artefacts from pre-historic times up the days of the Romans. As you would expect from a museum in Greece, the exhibits are impressive.
Bey Hamam – restored Ottoman bath house that is also used as an exhibition space. One of the best preseved examples of Ottoman architecture in the city.
Central Food Market – a bustling street market that is an assault on the senses! Here you will find hundreds of vendors selling everything from freshly prepared meat to flowers.
Thessaloniki has a Mediterranean climate, which means that summers are hot and dry while winters are cooler and rainy. The best time to visit weather wise is spring or early autumn when the weather is not so oppressively hot and the city isn’t swarmed with tourists.
Throughout the year, there are festivals and events to entertain visitors of all tastes. In November, there is the international film festival which attracts A-List guests. The International Trade Fair in September attracts high-flyers to the city and was also the birthplace of the frappe.
Greece is part of the Eurozone. Cash dispensers are widely available, although many charge a fee if you use a foreign card. Credit & debit cards are widely accepted. Foreign exchange booths are easy to find. Exchange rates are not particularly competitive.
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