Wish You Were Here: The New Thessaloniki

For a city of its size, Thessaloniki packs an incredible punch as a tourist destination. And it just keeps getting cooler every year.

Alexandra Tzavella | November 2nd, 2018

At the start of this decade, the number of overnight stays in Thessaloniki came to approximately 450,000 per year. Visitors would take a tour around the Rotunda, the statue of Alexander the Great, the White Tower and Aristotelous Square; they would recharge their batteries on the beach, and then depart, taking a few bougatsas, the local custard pies, with them.

As the end of 2018 nears, Greece’s second largest city can lay claim to a very different tourism status, having developed into one of the most fascinating city break destinations in southern Europe. Overnight stays in all types of lodgings keep increasing year after year; for the period January-September 2018, they reached 2.59 million.

The surge in Thessaloniki’s popularity is evinced by hard numbers in terms of flight connections as well. German carrier Lufthansa has just returned to the city after a 17-year absence, while a few months ago there was a significant overture to the Arab world when Thessaloniki became directly linked to two of the biggest air transit hubs in the Middle East via Qatar Airways and Flydubai.

What’s more, a visit to Thessaloniki is no longer just about ticking off the standard classics on the tourist path. The city has become attractive for its highly sophisticated gastronomy, its modern cafés and small bars, its intimate and contemporary museums, the numerous Byzantine, Ottoman and Jewish monuments that are scattered throughout, the aura of nostalgia of the Ano Poli (Old City), and the youthful vibes in the fast-evolving Ano Ladadika district.

It’s telling that more than half of the visitors in the 18-50 age group state that their main reason for choosing the city is its distinct personality. In winter as well as in summer, it has an al fresco culture and a laid-back atmosphere. To feel it, a visitor has only to go and spend a little time one afternoon on the docks of one of the largest commercial ports in southeastern Europe, mingling with locals who use this vibrant seafront spot to clear their minds of humdrum worries while they enjoy the technicolor sunset.

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