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Info on Thessaloniki Greece - Visit Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki, Greece

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Thessaloniki - Greece vacations

Thessaloniki is Greeceís second largest city, the capital of Macedonian Greece, the gateway to the north and a place often missed by tourists. The city of a million people is a thriving town, with a fascinating history, amazing cultural features, funky bars and clubs and some of the best shopping found in Europe.

A gateway to the north, a city has been on the present site for more than 2000 years. As a large trading centre and the second city of Byzantium, the city is still an important part of the Balkan trading route. It was also one of the first places in Roman Greece to be visited by Christians, St Paul writing two letters to the Thessalonians found in the New Testement of the Bible. Itís position as a gateway to the east and north made it vulnerable to attacks over time, being overtaken by Goths, Slavs, Franks, Turks and many other races in the last thousand years. It also was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1978.

Modern Thessaloniki was rebuilt in 1923 in its current layout after the city was returned to Greek rule, partly to cater for the influx of immigrants coming from Turkey. The wide, tree-lined streets with squares and gardens gives the city a true cosmopolitan feel. The town is also known for itís wonderful cultural life, with its many beautiful Byzantine churchs, museums, clubs and bars, and a thriving festival at the end of September.

Thessaloniki may lack the historic sights of Athens, but it had plenty to keep tourists occupied for a few days. Like many other Greek towns, the city has its different sections to be explored. The Kastra to the North is the most historic part of the city, its ramparts dating back to the fourth century. This old part of the city has narrow, winding streets, and houses built up the hills,overshadowing the streets, giving wonderful views of the new town and the Thermaic Gulf. This part of town has a charm of its own, different to the bustle of the new town below.

The churches in the town are notable for their beauty and longevity. Considering that over the centuries, after many invasions, earthquakes and conversions to mosques and syngogues, the buildings remain standing. The cityís churches represents some of the best Byzantine art and architecture in the country. The Church of Agia Sophia has undergone major restoration, but itís remarkable central blue dome is remarkable. The other well known church in the city is that dedicated to Agios Dimitrios, the site of his martyrdom and home to specatcular mosaics. There are plenty of other smaller churches to explore in the city, and what they may lack in grandeur, they make up for in atmosphere.

The White Tower is the cityís most recognisable landmark, built in the 15th century on the harbour foreshore. The building has been used as a jail and barracks over time, and it has a particularly bloody history. After the Turks were removed from power, the tower was painted white as a symbolic gesture. Today, the whitewash that used to don itís walls has now been removed and the building is a museum, displaying the best of Byzantine artefacts.

The Arch of Galerius, near the Church of Agia Sophia is one of the oldest momuments in the city. Erected in 303AD celebrating the victory over the Persians, the freizes show scenes of the battle. Nearby is the third century Rotunda, which was orinally built as the tomb for Galerius, but was turned into a church by Constantine. It was transformed into a mosque in the 15th centuries, evident by the minarets which remains.

Museums abound in Thessaloniki. The Archeological Museum has many artifacts from the nearby site at Vergina, where the unopened tomb of Philip II was found. Among the artefacts was found a solid gold casket containing the kingís remains. Both this and the skelton of the king are on display, along with other treasures comparable to those found at Mycenae. The Folklore Museum and the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle are also of interest, giving more information on the life and history of the area. For those after some aventure, a visit ot Ataturkís House can fit the bill. A visit to the Turkish Consulate and a flash of your passport will get you a tour of this faithful restoration of the first president of Turkeyís childhood home.

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