Where to Go, What to Eat, and Where to Stay in Greece’s Capital of Cool, Thessaloniki

With its unstoppably energetic spirit, Greece’s Thessaloniki is so much more than a “second city.”

People eating seafood in a restaurant in Thessaloniki

In Thessaloniki, much of life revolves around the sea.

Photo by Marco Argüello

After Athens, Thessaloniki is Greece’s largest city—but to locals and in-the-know visitors, it’s second to none when it comes to food, festivals, and culture. Thanks to a student population of 150,000 (the city has the largest university in Greece and the Balkans), Thessaloniki is also known for its carefree vibe.

Here’s what not to miss in its downtown core.

What to do

See the Museum(s)

One of the largest and most important museums in Greece, the Archaeological Museum offers visitors an excellent primer on modern Thessaloniki. A “Museum on the Go” app—which encourages visitors to “discover” certain finds in the exhibits—was launched in 2022 and is available in 12 languages. The city’s Jewish Museum features old Jewish newspapers, traditional clothing, and tombstones from the destroyed Jewish cemetery. MOMus is comprised of four Thessaloniki-based museums and Athens’s Museum Alex Mylona; explore everything from photography to Russian avant-garde works.

Go to Market(s)

The city’s beating heart when it debuted in 1930, Modiano Market reopened in late 2022 after a multiyear refurbishment. Today it functions as a food emporium, with bars, restaurants, and bakeries (including the buzzy 72H Artisanal Bakehouse) sitting alongside stores offering honey, wine, nuts, and products from the islands of Lesbos and Crete. Stock up, then head a block north to Kapani Market for more; an open-air hall with vendors hawking fresh fruit, fish, spices, candy, olives, and kitchen supplies, it could best be described as “lively”—so be ready to jostle. Inside the market, Stou Mitsou is an excellent spot for small dishes and drinks.

Left: a plate of octopus at a restaurant. Right: people eating at Thessaloniki restaurant.

Thessaloniki is well-known throughout the country for its thriving culinary scene.

Photos by Marco Argüello

Where to eat


Location: Kassandrou 50 | Find on Google Maps

This family-run taverna does Greek classics well. Order kolokithokeftedes (zucchini fritters), grilled meat, salads, and fried cheese to share—then load up songs from Stelios Kazantzidis on the old-timey jukebox.

Blé Vin

Location: Geor. Stavrou 14 | Find on Google Maps

Sporting a lengthy wine list, trendy Blé Vin emphasizes local grape varietals and seasonal vegetables.


Location: Siggrou 6 | Find on Google Maps

The restaurant’s creative, changing menu pays homage to Thessaloniki’s diverse influences: think calf’s tongue and ras el hanout salsa, and blistered calamari with tahini.

Deka Trapezia

Location: Str. Kallari 4 | Find on Google Maps

Close to the White Tower, Deka Trapezia draws crowds for its small plates from chef Manolis Papoutsakis, including lamb meatballs, shrimp ravioli, and grilled green beans.

Bougatsa Bantis

Location: Panagias Faneromenis 33 | Find on Google Maps

Specializing in flaky bougatsa pastry, this humble café is an institution for a reason.

Mezen Salonica

Location: Rogkoti 3 | Find on Google Maps

A tsipouro tavern, Mezen Salonica serves the grape-distilled spirit with snacks such as house-smoked feta and fried mussels.


Location: M. Gagili 13 | Find on Google Maps

Opened in 1926 on the water in Kalamaria, this restaurant offers equally beautiful fish dishes and sunset views of the Aegean Sea.

Akadimia Art Restaurant

Location: Ag. Mina 3 | Find on Google Maps

Near the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, chef Kostas Markou serves Greek classics, as well as Sephardic dishes upon request.


Location: Christopoulou 12 | Find on Google Maps

With handmade ceramics, artsy interiors, and a dynamic open kitchen, Mourga exemplifies Thessaloniki’s creative food scene.

Left: A person looking at the waterfront. Right: A fishmonger behind a wall of fish and ice.

Thessaloniki is home to about 800,000 people.

Photos by Marco Argüello

Where to stay


Location: Vasileos Irakleiou St. 45 | Find on Google Maps
From: $244 per night. Book now.

Thessaloniki’s past is present in the design of this Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, which opened in 2022, one minute by foot from Aristotelous Square. Its sleek 91 rooms and 9 suites feature arches and mixed textures; colors, too, nod to the Byzantine—think cream, blush, brown, and bronze. Amenities include an outdoor pool on the ninth floor, a fitness center, and a rooftop bar.

Vanoro Hotel

Location: Dodekanisou 6 | Find on Google Maps
From: $100 per night. Book now.

Housed in a former tobacco warehouse built in 1937, the Vanoro retains its art deco exterior, which has been registered as a work of art by the Greek Ministry of Culture. Inside, the 45 light-filled rooms are minimalist and contemporary, and the Anza Kitchen & Bar serves breakfast all day. The historic area known for its bars and restaurants, Ladadika, is a 10-minute walk away.

Electra Palace Thessaloniki

Location: Aristotélous 9 | Find on Google Maps
From: $150 per night. Book now.

With a curved facade featuring both classical and Byzantine design elements, the 138-room Electra Palace has been a landmark of the city since opening in 1972. After an 18-month renovation beginning in 2020, hallways and public spaces display art from prominent Greek artists, thanks to a partnership with the Metropolitan Organization of Museums of Visual Arts of Thessaloniki (MOMus). The Orizontes Roof Garden, which overlooks Aristotelous Square, is a popular spot to sit for an hour (or three) while nursing a frappé.

Katherine LaGrave is a deputy editor at Afar focused on features and essays.
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