Thessaloniki – Landmarks and Sights

Before we begin our travels around the varied and beautiful region of Chalkidiki, we should become acquainted,  if only briefly,  with the city of Thessaloniki itself, the second city in size and importance in Greece and, so to speak, the gateway to Chalkidiki.

Thessaloniki is the capital of northern Greece and its largest urban, cultural, and industrial center. It is here that the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace is based, as well as the Aristotle University; here, too, are located the Center for the Studies of the Peninsula of the Aneros ( the Institute of Balkan Studies ), the Theater of Northern Greece, various institutions of higher education and several cultural and social organizations. It is a key point of the Balkans and one of the large harbors of the Mediterranean. Here East and West meet harmoniously.

After the great fire of 1917 which destroyed a large part of the city, Thessaloniki was rebuilt almost from its foundations, by the needs of the new times. Of the old, densely built city, only the Upper Town and some quarters of the Lower Town have survived. Thessaloniki today is an attractive city with green parks, large squares, and tree-lined avenues, among which is Aristotle Avenue, ending up at the square of the same name. The city was built after 1917. on plans of the Ebrard commission, which combined Byzantine with Western European and Mediterranean elements. It is an attractive city where brightly lit shop windows, luxury hotels, theaters, cinemas, restaurants, and a variety of places of entertainment for the evening hours, stand side by side with traditional coffee shops and “ouzeries”, and places where one can hear the plaintive and passionate “Rebetiko” songs that Thessaloniki claims as her own.

The city also has important monuments, an archaeological museum with unique exhibits, as well as other interesting museums, a cinema club, and art galleries. Worth visiting is the picturesque Upper Town, the old quarter with its narrow streets, its characteristic houses with their hayiatia, sahnisia, and tiled roofs, its tiny gardens, narrow squares, and animated taverns. An important event in the life of the city is the International Trade Fair held during the first fortnight in September. It is a revival of the old county fair that took place during the festival of the Demetria, held in honor of St. Demetrius and which was at its peak in the 12th century ( 1150 ). Such fairs were held in various parts of Macedonia and contributed to the promotion of commerce and the encouragement of the regional economy.

Those that were held once a year lasted for about a week. Since 1926, when the International Trade Fair of Thessaloniki – the largest in the Balkans – was first instituted, to our day, it has acquired an increasing international reputation. Its installations cover over 20,000 sq.m, in the city center, and the various pavilions are exhibited an impressive variety of industrial, agricultural, and other products. Many cultural events and conferences are organized to coincide with the Fair.

Another important cultural event in Thessaloniki is the Greek and International Film Festival held in November of each year, which attracts cinema enthusiasts from all over the world.

Important Landmarks In The History Of The City

The first settlements in the area of Thessaloniki have been dated to around 6000 BC. In the 5th century BC, we have the first mention, by Ecataeus of Miletus, that on the site of Thessaloniki stood the city of Therme, which was part of the kingdom of Macedonia. In 432 BC Therme was conquered by the Athenian general Callias. Around Therme, according to the testimony of the famous geographer Strabo ( 1st c.BC-1st c.AD ) who described the Greek world, there existed 26 small cities, some of which were situated along the coast and others inland.

In 316/315 BC one of the successors of Alexander the Great, Cassander, who had been appointed ” steward of the kings” and “general of Europe”, recognized the strategic importance of the site of Therme, at the head of the bay of the Thermaic Gulf, its suitability for the creation of a commercial and military harbor and as a center of communication with the other parts of the Greek world and with the East. Fie thus decided to make it the new capital city of Macedonia and gave it the name of his wife, Thessaloniki, who was a half-sister of Alexander the Great. To increase its population, he obliged the inhabitants of the surrounding settlements to resettle in the new city, to which he applied the “Hippodamian” or grid system of town planning, dividing it into blocks of approximately 60 X 100 meters and girding it with a strong wall.

In the center of the city was laid out the Agora, its economic and administrative center, while to the west lay the temple area. Following the defeat in 168 BC of the Macedonian king Perseus by the Romans, at Pydna, the city of Thessaloniki, together with the rest of Macedonia, came into Roman hands. In 146 BC it became the capital of the Roman eparchy of Macedonia ( Provincia Macedonia ). In 130 BC, when was built the Via Egnatia, running from Dyrrachium on the Adriatic to the Evros river, Thessaloniki was linked by road to the entire known world of the time. In 42 BC, after the battle of Philippi, it was declared a “free city” ( civitas Libera ), was exempted from taxation, acquired its own rulers and senate, and minted its own coins. In 50/51 AD the apostle Paul came to Thessaloniki to preach Christianity and founded a Christian church.

It was at the end of the Antoninian dynasty ( middle of the 2nd century AD ) and during the years of the Severian dynasty ( 193-235 AD ), that the Roman agora, the commercial, administrative and social center of the town, was created.

Around 303-305 AD, Galerius Maximian, one of the four tetrarchs ( co-rulers of the Roman empire – the other three were Diocletian, Maximian, and Constantius Chlorus ), and the one in charge of the Balkans, made Thessaloniki his administrative capital. In the eastern part of the city, he built a complex known as basileia – that is, a palace and a hippodrome. He also built the Octagon and the Rotunda, while the Thessalonicans erected a triumphal arch in his honor, the so-called “Kamara”.

In 306 AD, in the time of the emperor Diocletian, at the height of the persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire, Saint Demetrius was martyred in Thessaloniki, and later became the patron saint of the city.
In 322/323 AD Constantine the Great came to Thessaloniki, which he used as the headquarters of his military expeditions against his brother-in-law Licinius. During his stay in Thessaloniki, he built a large artificial port for his fleet in the south-western part of the city, now filled up and known as the “Ladadika” (oil depots).

In 380 AD Theodosius the Great, during a meeting with Gratian, established Thessaloniki as the administrative center of the “administration” of Macedonia, and made the town the base of his operations against the Goths. In the same year, he was baptized in Thessaloniki by the bishop Acholius. It is believed that this was also the time when the Byzantine walls of the city were erected and the Rotunda converted into a Christian church.

In 390 AD seven thousand Thessalonicans were slaughtered in the hippodrome by the Gothic guard of the city, on the order of the emperor Theodosius. Thereafter the Hippodrome was never used again for contests.

From the first centuries of the foundation of the Byzantine Empire, Thessaloniki was an international crossroads and a political, economic, and religious center, in which the arts also flourished greatly. It was the second most important city of the Empire after Constantinople, and from the 5th until the 7th century AD was the administrative capital of Eastern Illyricum, the western part of the Byzantine Empire. The Via Egnatia linked it to Constantinople and the East, and Europe through Dyrrachium, while secondary roads connecting it to other parts of the Balkans.

In 863 AD the Thessalonican brothers Cyril and Methodius were sent to Moravia to preach Christianity to the Slavs. In 904 AD the city was taken for a short period of time and sacked by the Saracens. Around the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th centuries it suffered attacks by the Bulgarians, who were routed, in 1014, by the emperor Basil, “the Bulgar-Slayer”. Thus, after 1019., a new period of peace and prosperity began, which was interrupted for a short while in 1040 by another wave of attacks by the Bulgarians, who were soon repulsed. From 1081-1118 it became the theater of the Norman wars, and it was from here that the emperor Alexius I Comnenus ( 1081 -1118 ) organized his military expeditions against the Normans.

In the 12th century, Thessaloniki experienced a new period of cultural development, which, however, was interrupted in 1185. by the siege and destruction of the city and the slaughter of its inhabitants by the Normans. After the Frankish conquest of Constantinople in 1204. Thessaloniki passed into the hands of Boniface, Marquis of Montferrat. It became the capital of a Latin kingdom and the church of Aghia Sophia became the Roman Catholic cathedral. In 1224 the city was taken by the despot of Epirus, Theodorus Dukas Comnenus. There followed years of unrest until 1246, when the city and the surrounding area became part of the Empire of Nicaea. After the restoration of the Byzantine Empire in 1261, Thessaloniki, together with the rest of Macedonia, became part of the Empire.

In the 13th century, although the Empire had lost a great part of its territories, we find Thessaloniki playing an important role as an agricultural and urban commercial center and experiencing periods of economic prosperity.

In 1387. for the first time the city fell into the hands of the Turks, who, in 1403, surrendered it to Manuel II Palaeologus. In 1423. its administrator Andronicus Palaeologus agreed to cede it to the Republic of Venice, but it was retaken by Sultan Murat II in 1430. The Sultan ordered the following words to be inscribed in Turkish on a pillar of the church of the Acheiropoieta: “The Sultan Murat II conquered Thessaloniki in 833 ( = 1430 )”. During the early years of Ottoman rule, many of its inhabitants abandoned the city, and the most beautiful of its churches were turned into mosques. Of the 100,000 inhabitants, it had numbered in the 12th century very few remained. In the 16th century there were in all 20,000 Greeks, Jews, and Turks, and this only because, thanks to the privileges that the conqueror was obliged to grant at the end of the 15th century, some Christians, followed by a good number of Jews, had once again begun to settle in the city. Thus, in the 16th century, a flourishing Jewish community existed in Thessaloniki. Slowly, but surely, the city once again began to grow, and by the 18th century it had regained its position as the economic capital of the Balkans, to which were brought the manufactured and agricultural products of the surrounding area.

The Thessalonicans took part in the Greek War of Independence of 1821., and from 1904. to 1908., Thessaloniki was the center of the Macedonian Struggle, during which Greek forces clashed with Bulgarian troops throughout the territory of Macedonia. The city was liberated from the Turkish yoke in 1912. In 1917 a large fire broke out which burnt down most of the city, including the Basilica of St. Demetrius. 1926 saw the foundation of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki and the establishment of the International Trade Fair. From April 1941 to October 1944 the city suffered the German Occupation during which most of the city’s approximately 60,000 Jews were deported and exterminated.

Sights In The City

Thessaloniki having been inhabited continuously from Hellenistic times to our day, it is difficult to uncover monuments that can be dated back to the first years of its existence. The edifices which have come to light date mainly from Roman times. Most of the city’s monuments, however, are connected with its Byzantine period.

Of the city of Hellenistic times, two cemeteries have been discovered, to the west and the east of the city. The eastern one, which must have been the most important, extending from the area of the “Kamara” to the headquarters of the 3rd Army Corps. Excavations have brought to light five “Macedonian graves”, that is vaulted underground tombs with one or two chambers. They have an elaborate facade in Doric or Ionic style, and a triangular pediment. Chronologically they belong to the period from the 4th to the 2nd century BC and in them were buried members of the royal family and the ruling class. Of the five tombs which have been discovered, two may be visited. The tomb in A. Papanastasiou street, opposite the Old Maternity Hospital, dates from the 3rd century BC, and has a facade in Doric style and one chamber with three couches, while that of the Phoenix, near the Aghios Pavlos Hospital, dates from the 4th century BC, and has one chamber and a facade in Doric style, with painted decoration on the pediment.

Monuments Of Roman Times

One of these is the building complex of Emperor Galerius, in Navarino Square. It was built around 305 AD in the eastern part of town, which was the safest. It stood not far from the sea, with which it communicated directly, and must have had its own harbor. It included Galerius palace, the Hippodrome to the east, the Octagon to the south-west, and the “Kamara” and Rotunda to the north.

The palace ( Navarino Square ) was a complex two-story building, of which the square central court ( the atrium ) has come to light. There were porticoes on three of the sides of this court, with various rooms leading out onto them. The main entrance to the court was in the middle of the south side of the edifice, while there was a second entrance on the northern side. All four sides of the building were surrounded by spacious corridors. The floors of the rooms were paved or were covered with mosaics and the walls were adorned with frescoes. On the south side was the grand entrance to the palace, which linked it to the harbor and to the Nymphaeum which lay further east.

Southwest of the palace, excavations have brought to light the Octagon. It is, as its name indicates, an octagonal room on the outside, with an entrance on the south side. On each of its seven sides, on the inside, is formed a semicircular conch, the one opposite the entrance being larger than the others. The Octagon, which resembles the Mausoleum of Diocletian at Spalato in Italy, must have been a throne room.

The Hippodrome took up the entire southeastern part of the complex and covered an area of approximately 30,000 sq.m. The race track stood on the spot where today lies Hippodrome Square. Traces of it have survived in basements of nearby blocks of flats. The “Kamara” ( Egnatia and Dimitriou Gounari street ), the triumphal arch, which was built around 297-300 AD, was erected to commemorate the victory of Caesar Galerius Maximian against the Persians in 297/298 AD. It had the form of a tetra pylon – that is, it consisted of two parallel arches joined by a dome. Today, the fourth pillar of the western arch and the entire eastern arch is missing. Under the “arched way” passed the processional road linking the palace to the Rotunda. The monument also straddled the Via Regia, which was the most important street of the city, and which ran from the western part of the wall – the Vardar or Golden Gate – to the eastern part – the Cassandrian or Kalamaria Gate. The pillars of the “Kamara” are adorned with reliefs depicting scenes of Galerius’ expeditions against the Persians.

On the northernmost end of the complex of Galerius stands the Rotunda, erected around 300 AD. It communicated with the other buildings through the “Kamara” and the professional way, which was flanked by arcades. In Roman times the edifice was circular and topped by a dome, which used to be pierced by a hole closed in Christian times.

On the lower part, the interior wall has eight rectangular conches with arches, which today are adorned with mosaics (south, southeast and west conch and south, and southeast arch), while further up there are eight arched windows and, higher still, at the base of the dome, another eight semicircular openings. The Rotunda is believed to have been a temple dedicated to Zeus, the patron of the Tetrarchs. Here must have been held the official celebrations of the palace. In the years of the emperor Theodosius the Great, the Rotunda was turned into a Christian church, initially dedicated to the Holy Power, then to the Holy Bodiless Ones, and finally to St. George. For this purpose, certain alterations were made: the opening of the eastern conch of the Roman edifice and the addition at this point of a large vaulted apse created the space for the sanctuary of the church, while with the opening of the western conch a new entrance was created and an antechamber added. The walls of the church were decorated with wonderful mosaics.

On the dome is depicted Christ, in a Glory held by four angels, while lower down are portrayed the first Christian martyrs. In the 9th century, the conch of the sanctuary was decorated with a fresco of the Ascension, which, however, has not survived in good condition, and further alterations were made to the church in the 11th century. In 1590., the church was converted into a mosque. After the liberation of the city in 1912, the Rotunda once again functioned as a Christian church until 1920., when it was used to house early Christian and Byzantine sculptures. Today we may see there, apart from this collection of sculptures, a unique series of early Christian mosaics.

The Roman agora ( situated above Aristotelous Square, on Philippou, Agnostou Stratiotou, and Makedonikis Amynis Streets ) must have been created, around the late 2nd or first half of the 3rd century, on the site of an older one. It consisted of two squares surrounded by porticoes. The larger of the two squares was the south one, which in Byzantine times was known as Megalophoros. The two squares communicated through a grand stairway. The main entrance of the agora must have been through the south portico of the Megalophoros – later known as “Las Incantadas”, that is a portico of the “Enchanted Ones”, which was thus called because the pillars of the two-storied colonnade were adorned with eight exquisite relief figures – that of Dionysus, of a Maenad, of Leda, and Ariadne on the one side, and those of one of the Dioscuri, of Ganemedes, of Nike and Aura on the other.

These reliefs are now in the Louvre in Paris. Through the south portico also passed the Via Regia. The second, northern square, has been uncovered for the most part, as well as the eastern and southern porticoes. The south portico of the northern square rests on a double cryptoporticus, which is an underground portico. In Byzantine times the underground ( “krypte” = hidden ) portico was converted into a cistern for water. Today it is used for various temporary exhibitions. Next to the eastern portico excavations have brought to light the Odeon, in which were held athletic and musical contests as well as combats of wild beasts. It was built in the time of Galerius on the site of an older theater or on the site of a bouleuterion ( a building that housed the council of citizens ( boule ) in Ancient Greece ) and could accommodate four hundred spectators.

The Fortifications Of The City

The eight-kilometer-long walls that surrounded Thessaloniki were built in the form of a quadrilateral, and are believed to have been constructed in the late 4th or mid 5th century. Over time, they underwent many additions and alterations. For their construction were used stone blocks and marble fragments from Roman monuments of the city, and they were further strengthened at various intervals by triangular, square, polygonal, or circular towers. Several gates in the walls led to areas outside the city. On the western side were the Top Heine, the Golden and the Letaean gates; on the eastern side the Roma Gate, the Kalamaria Gate, the Asomatoi, and the New Golden Gates; on the northern side two gates ( the Anargyroi gate and the Portara ) led from the citadel to the town, while the Anna Palaeologina Gate leading from the citadel into the countryside beyond the city.

The southern end of the city was protected by the sea wall where the Lion Gate or Sea Gate led to the port. The sea wall extended along Metropoleos Street. To the west, the fortifications passed by present-day Vardari Square, while on the east they followed Vasilissis Sophias Street and ended up at the Trigonion Tower in the Upper Town. On the northern side, the city was crowned by a strong citadel and the Heptapyrgion fortress, which was built at the time of the Palaeologan dynasty ( 1261-1453 ). The citadel had the shape of an irregular triangle and large blocks of stone had been used in the construction of its walls.

Today, of the fortifications, about four kilometers have survived, mainly above Aghiou Dimitriou Street. One of the many towers which fortified the walls and which has been preserved to our day is the White Tower, the symbol and hallmark of Thessaloniki. It was part of the fortifications of the sea wall and stands where the sea wall and the eastern wall met. The tower is circular, 32.5 meters in height, and its perimeter measures 70 m. It consists of a ground floor, five stories, and a small turret at the top. It is thought to have been built in the late 15th or early 16th century on the site of an older Byzantine tower. Before it became known as “White Tower”, it was known as the Kalamaria or Lion Tower. During the period of Ottoman rule, it was known as Janissary Tower and Bloody Tower because it was a jail and a place of execution. To erase the horrible memories associated with it, when it ceased to function as a jail, in 1878., it was whitewashed and renamed the “White Tower”. Today it houses a permanent exhibition on the history and culture of Thessaloniki from 300. to 1430., AD.

The Trigonion tower, also known as Tower of the Fall or Pyrovoleion ( pill-box ) tower, was erected at the same time as the White Tower, where the eastern wall joins the northern one. It was through this tower that the Turks entered Thessaloniki in 1430.
The Ormisdas Tower fortified the eastern wall of the city. It stands opposite the Protestant cemetery. From the inscription on the wall, we learn that Ormisdas fortified the city with impregnable walls. This must-have occurred in the late 4th century AD.

Monuments Of Early Christian Times

The church of the Acheiropoietos ( 56 Aghias Sophias Street ), is the oldest of the better-preserved churches of Thessaloniki. It is a three-aisled basilica with a wooden roof and was built after 447/448 AD on the site of a complex of public baths. Its walls were decorated with mosaics, of which a small part has been preserved. In the second half of the 13th century, certain walls of the church were decorated with frescoes. Some of these have survived to our day. Besides the frescoes and the mosaics, the church also had sculpted decoration, which can be seen in the surviving columns and their capitals. After the Turks took Thessaloniki the Acheiropoietos was converted into a mosque and was reconverted into a Christian church again in 1930.

The basilica of St. Demetrius, patron saint of Thessaloniki, is situated in Aghiou Demetriou Street, above the Plateia Dikastirion ( Law Courts Square ). This is a five aisled basilica with a wooden roof, a transverse nave, and a large apse. The founding of the first basilica, which is placed in the middle of the 5th century, has been attributed to the eparch of Illyricum, Leontius, who, according to legend, was healed of paralysis thanks to St. Demetrius. The church was built over the ruins of the Roman baths, where the saint had suffered his martyrdom. It was burnt down twice, the first time around 620AD. It was rebuilt in the 7th century, was burnt down again in the 1917 fire, and was restored in 1948.

In the course of this restoration, the surviving 5th and 7th-century parts were retained. In a silver reliquary, placed in the western aisle of the church, is kept the saint’s skull. Today, in the church we may see early Christian and Byzantine mosaics, frescoes, and a collection of sculptures. We may also see the tomb of a notable of Thessaloniki, Loukas Spantounis, who was buried in the church in 1481. The impressive crypt was made in Italy. Below the sanctuary of the church lies the Crypt of St. Demetrius.

Here are the ruins of the Roman baths where, according to legend, the saint was martyred. Until the time of Ottoman rule, from the central apse flowed into the semicircular stoup holy oil, which the faithful carried away with them in small flasks.

In the church of Hosios David in Timotheou Street ( an extension of Aghias Sophias Street, in the Upper Town ), can be seen early Christian mosaics and Byzantine frescoes. The little church was the katholikon of the Latomou Monastery and is believed to have been built in the late 5th century over Roman baths. Today, of the original church, the dome and part of the western section are missing. Among the mosaics, of particular interest is that of Christ in the apse of the sanctuary, one of the oldest mosaic portrayals in early Christian art.

Below the overpass of 3rd September Street, between the area of the International Fair and the installations of the third Army Corps, have come to light the foundations of a cemetery church and a cross-shaped martyrium ( that is, the funerary monument of an honored person ). In the area, east of the church has been uncovered early Christian tombs. The finds have been dated to the 4th century AD, to the time of Theodosius the Great.

Monuments Of The “Dark Ages'”( 6th to 9th Centuries )

In the church of Aghia Sophia (Aghia Sophia Square) can be seen Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. The church is thought to have been built in the middle of the 7th century on the site of an early Christian basilica, of which it retains certain morphological elements, to which has been added a dome. It belongs to the transitional type of cruciform church with a dome and a peristoon ( which is an ambulatory with galleries ).
On the inside, pillars and columns separate the space into three aisles. The church is adorned with mosaics and frescoes dating from four different periods. The mosaics belong to the 8th, to the late 9th, and the 12th centuries, and the frescoes to the 11th century.

Monuments Of The Middle Byzantine Period ( 10th to 11th Centuries )

The church of Panaghia ton Halkeon ( the Virgin of the Coppersmiths ), a domed cruciform church built in 1028., has been adorned with frescoes, which date from the second quarter of the 11th century. It is also known as the “Red Church”, and stands on the site of the Roman agora, on the Via Egnatia.

Monuments Of The Paleologan Or “Golden” Era ( 13th – 14th Centuries )

The church of St. Catherine ( Aghia Aikaterini ), near the northwestern walls, where Sahini and Tsamadou streets meet, is believed to have been built in the late 13th or early 14th century. It was the katholikon of a monastery dedicated to Christ. It belongs to the cross-in-square type of church; it has five domes, a portico running along with three of its sides, and is adorned with Byzantine frescoes.

The church of the Prophet Elijah, above the Dioiketerion ( Government House ), in the Upper Town ( Olympiados Street ), is decorated with 14th-century Byzantine frescoes. It also offers a marvelous view of the city.

The church of the Taxiarches ( Theotokopoulou 40, in the Upper Town ). It is a double storied single-aisle basilica, with a wooden roof and is surrounded by a portico. It is believed to have been built in the first half of the 14th century. Of the painted decoration of the church, a few frescoes have survived, which probably date from the second half of the 14th century.

The church of Aghios Nikolaos Orphanos ( Herodotou 20, in the Upper Town ) is a three-aisle basilica, with a dome. It has marvelous frescoes dating from the second decade of the 14th century, and a marble iconostasis.
The Vlatadon Monastery in the Upper Town ( Acropoleos Street ) was built in the 14th century. Here we may see Byzantine wall paintings and a small collection of Byzantine sculptures.

The church of the Holy Apostles is adorned with fine Byzantine wall paintings and mosaics. It was founded by the Patriarch Niphon ( 1310-1314 ) and belongs to the cruciform type of church with five domes.
The church of Saint Panteleimon is situated in the center of the town, next to the Rotunda. It is a cruciform church with two domes and was built by the Metropolitan Bishop of Thessaloniki, Iakovos ( 1295.-1314. ).

Also worth seeing are the Byzantine baths, situated east of Koule Kafe Square, at the junction of Theotokopoulou and Chrysostomou Streets, which date from the late 13th century. During the time of Ottoman rule, many post-Byzantine churches were built in the city. Of these, the following have survived: the church of St. Athanasius, that of Panagouda or Panaghia Gorgoepikoos, that of the Hypapante, that of the Panghia Lagoudiani or Laodegetria, that of the Panaghia Trani or Nea Panaghia, that of St. Anthony and that of St. Minas. They all belong to the type of three aisles of the wooden roofed basilica. They are richly decorated inside with delicate wood carving, especially in the superbly elaborated iconostases ( Nea Panaghia, 18th c. ) and carved ceilings. Only Nea Panaghia has a few samples of the painted decoration survived.

During the period of Ottoman rule, the city developed without any system or plan, initially in the area enclosed by the walls and from the end of the 19th century on also beyond them. The Turkish inhabitants clustered in the Upper Town, the Jews in the town center and west of the Lower Town, while the Greeks settled in the southeastern part.

Of the buildings erected during this period, and preserved to our day, worth mentioning are the following:
Of the mosques, the Alaca Imaret or Ishak Pasha Djami, near Cassandra Street. This is an early Ottoman mosque. It was built in 1484., and belongs to the inverted T type. Today it houses various municipal exhibitions.

The Hamza Bey Djami, at the junction of Egnatia and Venizelou streets, now houses the Alcazar cinema in its covered courtyard. It was built in 1467/1468, but was destroyed by an earthquake and was rebuilt in 1620.
Of the hamams, the Turkish bathhouses, which faithfully followed the rules of hygiene prescribed by the Koran, we can still see the Bey Hamam ( Paradise Baths ), at the corner of Egnatia and Aristotelous streets.

This was a double bathhouse – with separate areas for men and women, and was built in 1444. In front of it, and below street level, have been preserved fragments of the marble pillars of a Roman platform of the Via Regia.
The Yiahoudi Hamam, at the junction of Herakleiou and Comnenon streets, is also a double hamam and was built in 1500-1550.

Here are housed flower shops – which have given the hamam its modern appellation of “Louloudadika” ( flower shops ), and a taverna Also still standing is the Yeni Hamam (Aegli), on Cassandra Street, which was built in 1575-1600., and serves as a venue for cultural events, and the Pasha Hamam (Loutra Phoenix) on the corner of Paparrigopoulou and Karatza streets, near the church of the Holy Apostles, which was built in 1520-1530.

Finally, still surviving in good condition, at the corner of Venizelou and Solomou streets, is the Bezesteni, the covered market for luxury fabrics, which was built at the end of the 15th century as an emporium where gold and other precious merchandise were sold. This is a rectangular building and has four entrances. It is topped by six lead-covered domes set in threes over the two parallel rows of the edifice. In the second half of the 19th century, the construction of the railroad ( 1881-1888 ) linking Thessaloniki to the Balkan cities made the town an important transit center, carrying 40% of the external trade of the Ottoman Empire towards the Balkans.

As a result, the town prospered economically and its population increased. After 1856. began to be built up the area known as the Ladadika, which fortunately was not burnt down in the great fire of 1917., that destroyed the town center. It is circumscribed by Katouni, Salaminos, and Tsimiski streets. The buildings were built by French engineers in dark brick, with decorated roofs, and they are reminiscent of buildings in North Sea port towns.

The grand villas which were built in the eastern part of Thessaloniki from the White Tower to the Depot ( the so-called “Castle area” or “quarter of the Parks” ) date from the post-1880.year period. They were originally country homes and later became the permanent residences of the wealthy inhabitants of the town.

Some have survived to our day. Of these, worth mentioning is the building of the School for the Blind ( built-in 1907 ), on Vasilissis Olgas 32, the Center for Byzantine Studies ( 1896. ), at number 36 of the same avenue; the three-storied building at number 68, built in 1910. to 1911., known as the Old Administration Building, which now houses the Ethnological and Folk Art Museum of Macedonia. Also interesting are the mansion of the Cultural Capital of Europe, at no 105; the Kapandji mansion, at number 108, which was built in 1890. to 1895., and houses the Cultural Center of the National Bank; the building of the Municipal Gallery ( Mordoch villa ) at the comer of Vasilissis Olgas 162 and 25th March Street, built in 1905.; the Allatini villa – the largest villa in the “Castle area”- which stands on Vasilissis Olgas 198, was built in 1898., and today houses the Prefecture of Thessaloniki, and the Villa Bianca, at number 214, which was built in 1911. to 1912.

We must not fail to mention also the Yeni Djami ( 1902. ), at Archaeologikou Mouseiou Street no. 30, which was the mosque of the Jews of Thessaloniki, ho had been converted to Islam ( don-medes ). It presents elements of Renaissance, Baroque and neoclassical style and also shows the influence of Byzantium and Islam.

It now houses municipal exhibitions. Finally, other representative buildings of this period are the old customs house ( 1910. ) at the port, and the old railway station ( 1909. ) at the western entrance of the city, while, in the industrial zone of Thessaloniki, we find the Mylos ( the Mill, an old complex of flour mills ), on 26th October street, which, now restored, is used for cultural events and as a recreation center, and the VILKA cultural center, at number 21 Andreou Georgiou Street, which was once a factory producing the material for wrapping bundles of tobacco.

1 thought on “Thessaloniki – Landmarks and Sights”

  1. It is one really old town, I haven’t even know most of the fact I read in this article. It’s amazing how they recognize other religions, and yet have one of their own…and I must mention, by the pictures I’ve seen, it must be so interesting to visit this town. I’ll keep it in mind next time I’m decide to have a longer vacation.

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