NORTHERN GREECE ONE WEEK ITINERARY, THINGS TO DO, HOTELS & GREAT YOURS!
Discover the best sights, the point of interest, day trips & Hotels in Thessaloniki & Halkidiki (Chalkidiki)
By en:User:Adam Carr [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
When thinking about organizing a vacation to Greece, most people go for the “obvious” choices of wanting to see the Greek Capital Athens and the enchanting islands of Santorini, Mikonos & co, completely disregarding some incredible locations and hidden gems in the north of the country.
I was lucky enough to spend a one week holiday in northern Greece and I was amazed by the variety of things you can do and see in there, such an underrated place if you ask me!
In this article, I will give you a list of my favorite activities, from visiting Thessaloniki Town (the second biggest city in Greece after Athens), and including a couple of unmissable day tours and trips you can take from there, to the incredibly beautiful Halkidiki beaches. Seriously, being spoiled with the most beautiful Sardinia beaches (check my top 10 list), Halkidiki is one of the few places that TRULY impressed me, at it says it all!
TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN THESSALONIKI
I usually don’t particularly love to visit cities just for the sake of it, I’m more of nature/outdoor/beach person but certain cities are simply a pleasure to explore and Thessaloniki was one these for sure. Did the fact that the city overlooks a beautiful view of the sea, especially at sunset? I’m sure that contributed a bit for sure but it was definitely not the only factor.
So, let’s see the other “X factors” you’ll love about Thessaloniki.
1 | Take a Walk At the Port Promenade
This is a must! I put this as my favorite thing to do in Thessaloniki but you first need to schedule your other sightseeing for the day as the 12 km promenade is truly beautiful just before sunset!
Starting from the Old Port, with a mandatory stop at the famous White Tower (more on that later) and ending at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, nearby my Hotel and also well worth a visit. Click on the link to see their seasonal program and events.
From the White tower on, the walk is absolutely stunning, you will find thematic gardens, art installations (like the one in the picture above), benches, skaters, street food vendors and the locals enjoying their city of course!
2| Visit The White Tower
Well, the White Towers is certainly one of the most (if not THE MOST) iconic places in Thessaloniki! The only tower remaining on the waterfront, it has a truly fascinating history behind, from being used for protection from enemies coming from the sea during the Ottoman Empire, to serve as a place of imprisonment by the allies in WWII, today it turned into an exhibition center, featuring mostly the Byzantine history and while getting to the top to enjoy the view, you will learn a lot about its own history too.
3| Admire the views from the Upper Town (Ano Poli District)
The Byzantine walls are still intact in Thessaloniki Upper Town (also known as the Ano Poli District) and the view is breathtaking from that vantage point! Too bad that we didn’t spend nearly as much time as I would have in that enchanted place!
The old, traditional colorful houses, the vibe, the local artisans & cafes, the view… they deserve AT LEAST a whole afternoon to explore, so take your time, your camera and your curiosity and simply wander around in marvel because Apo Poli is the most well preserved and authentic area in Thessaloniki!
TIP: The Best viewpoint from Ano Poli: Don’t’ miss the Pyrgos Trogoniou or “Trogoniou Tower”, and save a lot of your camera battery, trust me on this one!
4| Visit the Byzantine Churches & Museums
If this advice comes from me (not very much into history and churches) be sure that they are truly worth visiting! The following ones are a must:
- Agia Sophia (9th Century)
- Agios Demetrios (7th Century)
- St Nikolaos Orphanos in the Upper Town, famous for it beautiful frescos, listed (among other Byzantine pieces of art) in the UNESCO Heritage list
It will take you an entire day (or maybe two to visit the Churches and also the Museums scattered around Thessaloniki. Some Museums I was able to see and thoroughly recommend are:
- Museum at the White Tower. Obviously located inside the tower at the seafront promenade.
- Museum of Byzantine Culture. Address: Stratou avenue 2. Awarded the Best museum in Europe in 2005.
- Thessaloniki Museum of Photography & Cinematography. Address: Harbor, Warehouse A.
- Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum. This place is simply awesome! If you also like Science check what the museum has to offer in here. I’m a science freak so to me, this was obviously the most fascinated museum in Thessaloniki.
5 | Enjoy The Nightlife in Aristotle Square and the markets at Athonos Square
What’s a visit to Northern Greece and especially Thessaloniki without a bit of nightlife! Well, whether you are in your 20’s, 30’s… and 80’s… The city offers so much in terms of restaurants, cafes, pubs, and nightclubs (some of them located in old factories, beautifully decorated with graffiti on the walls outside.
TIP: Check out the street art of Thessaloniki by taking the public buses operated by OASTH or, even better, use the Hop on – Hop off bus service if you don’t have time to figure out which bus goes where 😉
Glue your face to the bus’ windows or, even better, stay on the top open side of the touristic bus with your camera ready, as you will see so many incredibly beautiful Murals scattered all over the city!
The main plaza in Thessaloniki is certainly Aristotle Square or as the locals call it: ” Aristotelous”, a big plaza with restaurants and pubs, and just behind it, talk a short walk and check out the lovely Athonos Square with its lively market where you’ll find all sort of teas, spices, fruits and local restaurants of course!
6| Best Day Trips & Tours From Thessaloniki
When I mentioned that for a one-week itinerary in Northern Greece you should stay at least four days in Thessaloniki, I was also taking into account the possibility to enjoy one of these amazing day tours (all of them are so worth it!).
If you have more days, let’s say at least 10 days, you can take more than one day trip before heading to Halkidiki to enjoy its fabulous beaches!
WHERE TO STAY IN THESSALONIKI
The best Hotels in town with sea view or right in the heart of the Ano Poli Old town District
When planning a one week (or why not? 2 weeks) itinerary to visit Northern Greece you can either do it independently or if you want to spoil yourselves a bit, go for an all-inclusive vacation , obviously the choice is yours and depends on how you like to travel!
If you decide to discover Thessaloniki independently, here are a few suggestions of Hotels you can check out to add even more allure to your holiday!
Because let’s face it, when coming back from a full day out walking and having a great time, nothing beats having your bed facing some of the most fascinating spots in town. Resting and still soaking in the magic of Thessaloniki all in once!
Hotels in Thessaloniki with sea view:
Makedonia Palace: Let’s start with the Hotel I stayed (above in the picture), what can I say if not… WOW! The location is perfect, right in front of the promenade, with swimming pool, Indoor pool, fitness center, bar, fantastic restaurant and … well, if you book this, you’ll see for yourself 😉 Check it out/book in here!
Mediterranean Palace: It’s also a Hotel I saw passing by and judging from the pictures you will feel like a prince or/and a princess! Incredible views over the sea, fabulous reviews, and excellent location as it’s also right in the center, you get out and walk to the main sites. Check it out/book in here!
Hotels in Thessaloniki in the Upper town “Ano Poli” District
Traditional House in Ano Poli : The name itself should say it all! When I research for Hotels to recommend, apart for adding the ones I’ve personally stayed, I do A LOT of research using this criterion: If I had to book a Hotel for myself now, what would strike my attention and makes me want to book it straight away?
I check the pictures, locations & reviews and this is one of them! Perfectly perfect! It’s not even a Hotel. It’s a proper villa in the heart of the beautiful upper town, it will feel like you are a local! Check it out/book in here!
THINGS TO DO IN HALKIDIKI & BEST BEACHES!)
Halkidiki is also called and known as “Chalkidiki”(As the first name wasn’t difficult enough to write! ) 🙂
I don’t know you but I’m very visual, so given that Halkidiki is mostly about gorgeous beaches, I found this video with the top 10 (including names) so that you can remember them better and take a few notes of the ones you want to visit 😉
Halkidiki is the perfect ending for your one-week itinerary in northern Greece! The Chalkidiki peninsula is a true gem in the Macedonia area, it resembles a hand with 3 fingers (or “legs”) and is located around 1 hour south of Thessaloniki by car (to get to the Capital of Chalkidiki Polygyros). If you want to discover its marvelous beaches you need to drive further down.
The three legs/fingers are called (from left to right):
- PALLENE (Now called “Kassandria”)
- SITHONIA (The middle finger, no pun intended!)
- AGION OROS (with the famous Mount Athos and its beautiful monasteries)
How To get From Thessaloniki To Halkidiki By bus/coaches (Public Transport):
As you can see from the map, the area of Chalkidiki is quite vast and renting a car is, in my opinion, the best option if you want to explore more in depth and with more freedom. But if you are not willing to drive, there are daily buses departing from Thessaloniki coach station KTEL several times per day.
The routes from Thessaloniki cover all the villages in Chalkidiki and the buses get close to most of the beaches so it is definitely doable if you plan carefully your itinerary. Below is an example of how easy it is to go from Thessaloniki to Kassandria by bus, including prices and times (I didn’t include the weekends to avoid a very long list)
The website is quite easy to navigate so you will have an idea of where you want to go and how to move around from one village to the other. Another great way to explore the Chalkidiki/Halkidiki peninsula is by boat and with organized day trips. Check out some of the most convenient below!
So, Have you ever been to Northern Greece and visited Thessaloniki and Halkidiki? Let me know if I missed something by commenting below or if you need some more info! Thanks for reading 🙂
This amazing trip was made possible by Discover Greece and Aegean Airlines who kindly invited me to discover the hidden gems of Northern Greece. Needless to say, all opinions ar my own. Better put… I had a fantastic time in Greece! 😉
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