Thessaloniki is a fascinating city and there is a lot to see and do there. Considered by many to be the ‘food capital’ of Greece it is a dream destination for foodies and history buffs and is incredibly affordable too. Add to that a huge array of amazing day trips from Thessaloniki that can be done n just an hour and you practically have the perfect destination!
Here are 18 of the best places to explore if you have a spare day or two at the City of Ghosts.
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Thessaloniki
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When to visit Thessaloniki
Being a vibrant busy city Thessaloniki is a year-round destination although, of course, the weather changes throughout the year.
Between April and June, the weather is mild and getting warm, but accommodation prices are reasonable and there are few crowds. This is the same for September and October, too.
Summer can be busy with people enjoying the coastline and transiting through to the incredible beaches of Halkidiki and the northern islands of Thasos & Limnos.
Winter can be very cold but with some excellent ski fields and beautiful hot springs, nearby Thessaloniki can be a very affordable and enjoyable winter destination as well.
Best beach and swimming weather: June to September
Best sightseeing weather: April to June and September/October
Where is Thessaloniki?
Situated on the Thermaic Gulf in the northwest of the Aegean Sea, Thessaloniki is the biggest city in the geographic and administrative region of Macedonia, as well as its capital.
It is the 2nd largest city in Greece and some 520kms north of Athens.
How to get to Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is not only a busy port city but also something of a travel hub. It’s proximity to the Bulgarian, Macedonian and Turkish borders means it’s very popular with residents and visitors to those countries and it’s well connected with other European and Greek destinations too.
It’s well connected by road and rail and boasts an international airport, which connects to around 38 countries and more than 60 foreign cities, with direct flights to islands around Greece.
The Railway Station is the city’s main passenger terminal and is located on Monastiriou Street. From here, you can travel all over northern Greece’s rail network, connect to the south, or travel on the suburban line.
Thessaloniki’s Intercity Bus Station KTEL means travellers can connect with the city on long-distance transport, along 800 routes to 41 bus stations and five international destinations, including Germany and Bulgaria.
Thessaloniki’s port – more than 2,300 years old – is a major destination for cruise ships, ferries and other sea-faring vessels.
Where to stay in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is an enticing destination that has, in recent years, been gaining even more attention with its youthful atmosphere, easygoing vibe, and exciting cultural events.
Being a big urban area, there are many places to stay in Thessaloniki and it is home to some seriously cool hotels. And great value for money too compared to many European cities!
The Caravan is a small B&B in a renovated neoclassical building in one of Thessaloniki’s most interesting neighbourhoods. It has a luxe-boho vibe and rave reviews from its guests.
The Met Hotel has a stunning rooftop pool with views over the city while Electra Palace Hotel is considered the premier Hotel of Thessaloniki and is housed in one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
The Excelsior Hotel
Day Trips from Thessaloniki
There are so many things to do and see in Thessaloniki that you could easily spend an entire week just exploring a city. But, you could also spend another week just doing day trips to nearby attractions – there really are so many and they are some of the most interesting and beautiful in Greece too.
This is a big peninsula, and also the name of a mountain, to the west of Thessaloniki which is one of the most fascinating regions in the world.
It is an autonomously governed region and the centre of Greek Orthodox monasticism and has been a World Heritage Site since 1988.
Mount Athos is home to 20 monasteries that are under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople ( like the Pope). It has been inhabited since ancient times and for almost 1800 continuous years.
Today over 2000 monks live in the 20 monasteries and they come from all over the world as well as Greece. They live a strict monastic life free from any female presence, including animals. If women wish to see Mt Athos they can only view it by sea on boats.
The monasteries are home to some rare and very valuable artifacts including artwork, ancient documents & rare books and the Head Chef has his own cookbook and has been featured on numerous TV shows around the world.
How to get to Mount Athos
If you are male you may be lucky enough to visit Mount Athos up front and personally. There are 10 permits a day issued for non-orthodox visitors and 100 a day for orthodox men. They are valid for 4 days and can only be obtained via the registration office.
For more information contact:
The Mount Athos Pilgrims’ Bureau
109 Egnatia St.
546 22, Thessaloniki, Greece
Greek orthodox citizens can call: 2310-252575
Fax: +3- 2310-222424
Otherwise you can view if from the sea by either driving or taking a bus to Ouranoupoli or do an organised tour such as this one which includes swimming at a nearby island, which is a great reprieve on a long trip especially in summer.
Once called Aigai, Vergina was the first capital of Macedonia. This is where Alexander the Great was declared King after the assassination of his father, Phillip II.
The site was discovered in 1977 and the excavation unearthed the remains of a magnificent royal palace and the burial sites of many Macedonian Kings including the tomb of Philip II, in its original state.
The Archeological Museum of Vergina houses the artifacts found at the site and is one of the most important in Greece today.
How to get to Vergina from Thessaloniki
Driving is the easiest way and the journey will take around 1 hour on the A2/E90 before it turns back onto the E75. A large section of the drive is past the Axios-Loudias-Aliakmonas National Park and wetlands which is a good spot for birding and photography but the Kalochori Lagoon just as you approach Thessaloniki, is much better. It’s a pretty drive and there’s good parking at the site.
You can also catch the bus but will have to change buses in Veria.
Tours to Vergina
A guided tour is always a good idea and this 8 hour tour is one of the best. It includes a tour guide and skip the line tickets as well as a visit to the Archeological Site of Pella and lunch at a local Greek Taverna.
image courtesy @museum of the royal tombs of Aigai-Vergina
The Ancient City of Dion
Dion is best known for its great ancient Macedonian Sanctuary of Zeus and its city, much of which is visible from the Archeological Park and the Archeological Museum of Dion.
This ancient city is named after Zeus – Dios means ‘of Zeus’, the King of the Gods who lived on nearby Mount Olympus. In ancient times a large altar was set up here to worship to the great God and his daughters, the Muses. Today it is a beautiful environment with towering trees, a river and many creeks and springs.
How to get to Dion
Located on the slopes of Mount Olympus this is a good day trip to do in conjunction with that and Platamon Castle. A car will give you the flexibility to explore all 3 at leisure and it’s a very scenic drive.
Tours to Dion
If you would rather do a tour this 8-hour bus tour is excellent and includes a walk-in Enipeas Gorge and lunch in a local village.
It’s no surprise that Mount Olympus has inspired authors and legends. In Greek Mythology it is the home of the Gods and in particular, Zeus, the King of the Gods.
It has an impressive landscape, with plunging valleys and foliage-covered peaks. The most difficult peak, Mytikas, is reached by only a few intrepid adventurers – but everyone can enjoy some less strenuous trails.
How to get to Mount Olympus
To reach Mt Olympus from Thessalonki its great to have a car so you can also stop at Vergina and Dion along the way.
The journey takes around 90 minutes without stops but there are several great stops you should do as mentioned above. Litchoro is a lovely town and worth a look too. It is also where you would end up if catching the bus or train.
Tours to Mount Olympus from Thessaloniki
There are also a number of tours you can do:
This one includes Dion and Mount Olympus
The Monasteries of Meteora tower over the fertile plains of Thessaly and the town of Kalambaka built incredibly on stunning rock formations projecting up out of the ground.
There is nothing quite like it anywhere else!
The word “meteora,” means “hovering in the air” which, whist a literal description of the famous monasteries, also shows just how otherworldly they seem.
Often described as stunning works of architecture set in a landscape that is as unique as it is breath-taking, the six monasteries of Meteora are visited every year by many tourists yet still seem uncrowded and completely accessible.
The complex is made up of twenty-four Eastern Orthodox monasteries that were built on giant sandstone rock pillars between the 14th and 16th centuries. Six of them are still in use today and can be visited by the public, whilst others are popular for sightseeing externally by hikers and photographers.
They also represent an important part of Greek history and the link between the early formation of Christian doctrine and the Turkish occupation of Greece during the 11th century AD.
How to get to Meteora from Thessaloniki
It is possible to catch the train or bus to Meteora from Thessaloniki. By train it takes about 2.5 hours with a change of trains in Palaefarsalos, while the bus takes almost 3 hours.
You can also drive of course and stop along the way at Vergna and Dion and admire Mount Olympus and you go past. Its hard to miss!
We strongly suggest staying a night or two if you can. The sunset over the monasteries is truly spectacular and there are a lot of other things to do in the area such as exploring the medieval stone bridges and some of the beautiful towns and produce and Thessaly.
Meteora is also the perfect stopover point for a road trip to Athens.
We love the stay at Doupiani Hotel in Kastraki which has rooms with incredible views of the rock formations and monasteries or Hotel Kosta Famissi which is right next to the Natural History Museum and Kalambaka and have great family rooms.
Tours to Meteora from Thessaloniki
You can also do a tour of course.
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Meteora
Edessa (aka Edhessa) and Pozar Thermal Baths
Edessa is a small city north of Thessaloniki and the capital of the regional unit of Pella. It is situated above the Loudhias Potamos River and is home to around 30,000 people.
According to ancient sources Edessa was were Caranus established the first capital of Macedonia. It has a rich and colourful history having veen occupied at times by the Persians, the Byzantines, the Romans and the Ottomans.
At one point it was the centre of Greek and Assyrian theology and philosophy and home to the famed School of Edessa.
Today it is popular with visitors from the Balkans and Greece who love to visit the waterfalls, especially Karanos which is over 70 metres high. There are several other waterfalls including Waterfalls Park, and a Water Museum as well as various cultural sites and gardens.
How to get to Edessa
There is a train to Edessa from Thessaloniki every two hours and frequent buses as well.
If you have a car you can drive to Edessa on the EO2 highway which takes around 90 minutes. It’s quite close to Pella and the Pozar Baths so it’s worth combining them for a great day out.
Tours to Edessa from Thessaloniki
You can also do an organised tour such as this one which takes 8 hours and includes lunch in a local village and a visit to the market.
Halkidiki is a regional unit east of Thessaloniki that consists of a number of large peninsulas featuring verdant forests and some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece.
The westernmost peninsula, Kassandra, is the most developed and is only a one hour drive from Thessaloniki. Places of interest here include Mavrobara Turtle Lake, Crazyland Water Park, Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort and numerous beaches such as Kryopigi Beach and Possidi West Beach.
Elsewhere on Halkidiki you can visit numerous beaches, coves and bays, olive groves, wineries and traditional villages as well as Aristotle Park a very clever outdoor park with various scientific activities dedicated to the famous philosopher who was born in this area.
How to get to Halkidiki from Thessaloniki
Having a car is a great idea for a day trip to this area as it gives you the ability to explore at your leisure.
If you would prefer someone to drive you check out this private day trip to the Kassandra peninsula.
The National Ski Centre of Greece is situated in Kato Vermio and is the oldest ski resort in Greece. Seli and is open between October and April each year. It was the first organised Ski resort in Greece and offers a wide variety of track fields for tourist and race skiing, playgrounds and long distance race tracks. There are also some very good hiking trails.
In nearby Kato Vermio Village there is a variety of accommodation, bars, restaurants and other facilities for visitors.
Other things to so in the area, in winter or otherwise, include a visit to the archaeological sites Vergina and the Macedonian Tomb in Lefkadia, a visit to neighbouring areas such as Barbouta and Kiriotissa in Veria and a visit to a visit to the artificial lakes along the river Aliakmonas.
How to get to Seli
Seli is 95kms from Thessaloniki which takes less then 90 minutes to drive on the Odos/A2/E90 route ( with tolls).
The Voras Mountains are situated on the border between Greece and Skopje, North Macedonia. The highest peak is Kaimakchalan ( Kajmakčalan).
This range is home to a popular ski resort and the Louta Loutrakiou hot springs. Nearby is pretty Agios Athanasios village which is also worth a visit.
If it is winter it is worth spending a few days in this are to make the most of the snow and hot springs.
Other great day trips from Thessaloniki
Edessa is a small city north of Thessaloniki and the capital of the regional unit of Pella. It is situated above the Loudhias Potamos River and is home to around 30,000 people.
During the Peloponnese War Amphipoli became the main base for the Athenians in Thrace and therefore a target for their Spartan opponents who eventually conquered it.
Throughout Macedonian history Amphipolis was an important economic and strategic city and Alexander the Great included it as one of the six great cities to build his decadent temples. It was also one of his more important Naval ports.
Excavations in and around the city have revealed many important buildings, tombs and artefacts.
Discovered quite by accident in 1958 this impressive cave has a huge range of stalactites and stalagmites full of fossils and is readily frequented by Historians, Palaeontologists and Geologists. Its most famous find is the ‘Petralona Skull’, considered to be the oldest European hominoid remains ever found and thought to be over 800,000 years old.
The cave is open to the public and there is also a nearby archaeological museum where its artefacts are kept.
This seaside town was founded by the Corinthians around 600BC. Its main claim to fame is being the site of the first recorded tsunami in history which occurred while besieged by the Persians in 479BC.
Stagira was founded in 655BC by settlers from the Cycladic Islands of Andros.
in 348BC, Phillip II of Macedonia conquered and razed the city but in return for Aristotle tutoring his son, Alexander, he later rebuilt the city and returned the enslaved former inhabitants. He also built an Aquaduct, two temples to the Goddess Demeter and many new houses and public buildings to show his repentance and gratitude.
Redina was an important fort in the last 200 years of the Byzantine Empire, that served as a strategic stronghold in the Mygdonian basin at the eastern point of thema Thessalonikon. It is well preserved and an interesting site to explore today.
This small, traditional town is in the Kilikis regional unit in Northern Greece and is home to around 4000 people.
It is a well-regarded wine region and popular with visitors wanting to see an authentic and very quaint regional Greek town with numerous points of interest including the Old Church of the Virgin, the Monastery of Paiko (St Raphael) and the Silk Factory, which showcases one of its most important former industries.
The main attraction here is a magnificent cave which is located 6kms outside the town of Alistrati, in a tiny hamlet called Petroto. The antechamber of the cave is 8 meters high and the area is over 14000 m2.
This is right near Goumenissa so worth combining if you have a car, along with nearby Doriani and Kilikis too., popular World War I sites.
This castle played an important part during the crusades. It was built between 1204 and 1222 and is southwest of Mt Olympus in a strategic position with views over the Tempe Valley and the roads that connected Thessalyand Macedonia with southern Greece.
It’s an impressive structure and a fine example of Medieval construction.
Sailing to Shipwreck Bay
This glorious day trip exploring the deep blue water of the Thermaic Gulf and snorkelling and swimming around an abandoned shipwreck. It includes a great lunch on board and wine. Lots of fun in summer!