The Perfect 1, 2 or 3 Days in Thessaloniki Itinerary

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by Lizzie Fitzgerald

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Home to one of the largest student populations in Greece, anyone interested in having a good time should plan a 1 2 or 3 days in Thessaloniki itinerary. Despite being the second biggest city in Greece, Thessaloniki is an under-visited gem! Most visitors flock to Athens and the Greek Islands – but to not visit this city would be a great shame.

This ancient city is the cultural capital of Northern Greece and is the gateway to the Greek regions of Macedonia, Halkidiki and Thrace. There are lots of things to do in Greece’s second city and it’s well worth taking the time to add to your trip to this incredible country!

How Many Days in Thessaloniki?

A big question for any first-time visitor to mainland Greece is how many days to spend in Thessaloniki?

Spending just one day will give you a glimpse into this busy coastal city – you’ll get to see many of the big sights and try some amazing food. One day will certainly leave you wanting to return.

Whereas 2 days in Thessaloniki is enough time to explore a little more comfortably. You’ll get to explore a little more of the city with your taste buds too – Thessaloniki is, after all, one of the food capitals of Greece.

However, 3 days are perfect for a trip to Salonica, as some locals call it. You’ll have time to explore ancient ruins, taste the modern delights on offer, gaze at incredible coastal views, and even get a day trip out of the city. Remember, Thessaloniki is the gateway to the under-visited, yet unforgettable north of Greece.

Thessaloniki's White Tower
Thessaloniki’s White Tower

Getting To & Around Thessaloniki

You’ll be pleased to hear that Thessaloniki has a well-connected airport.

Thessaloniki Airport Makedonia is located 15 km from the city centre. The non-stop 01X bus (01XN at night) connects to the city 24/7, taking around 50 minutes. Make sure you have cash, preferably the exact change. You can also grab a taxi or pre-book a transfer, and takes about 30 minutes, expect to pay a little more after midnight.

You can catch the train from Athens, which runs throughout the day and takes four hours, arriving at Thessaloniki station in the city centre.

If travelling to Sofia, Skopje or Istanbul, intercity buses leave from Makedonia Intercity Bus Station. You can view bus schedules here.

For exploring Thessaloniki, you can see most sights on foot, and you’ll be amazed by what you see! You can hail affordable taxis anywhere in the centre, or you can use the local buses which are a bargain at €1, or even cheaper if you’re a student!

Thessaloniki has been trying to build a metro for nearly twenty years, and it was set to open in 2023, however, it is now expected to only be operational at the end of 2024. Through debt crises and incredible archaeological finds, the project hit repeated setbacks. When it does open, these driverless trains will link the airport to the city centre and far beyond.

Thessaloniki waterfront
Thessaloniki waterfront

2 to 3 Days in Thessaloniki Itinerary

Day 1 – Old Town Highlights

While you can certainly explore the Old Town independently there are also a number of guided tours such as this walking tour, this bike tour and this food tour that will help you learn about the city.

Explore Roman Thessaloniki

The history of Thessaloniki is abundant as you explore the city. Even though it dates back to the time of Alexander the Great, the city really came into its own under the Romans. A major port on the road to the rich eastern provinces of the empire, Thessaloniki (then Salonica) became a powerful trading hub.

Walking down Filippopu Street, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, you’ll pass the huge Roman Forum of Thessaloniki, before making your way to one of the most impressive Roman monuments in the city, the Rotunda.

The Rotunda is the oldest building in the entire city, dating back to 306 CE, and was designed as the tomb of one of Rome’s emperors, Gallerius. Gallerius was buried in Serbia instead, so this building became a church, and more than a thousand years later a mosque.

Now it’s a museum, with astounding acoustics, and the last remaining minaret in the city. Even if you only spend one day in Thessaloniki, this site is a must. Not far from the Rotunda, you can also visit the Church of Agios Dimitrios where you can see its ancient Roman bath house along with beautiful frescoes.

And if you want to learn even more about the ancient sites in this Greek city, make sure to visit the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.

In the evening, walk under the Arch of Galerius and past the remains of his palace towards the waterfront.

Roman Forum in Thessaloniki
Roman Forum in Thessaloniki

Try Bougatsa at “Bougatsa Giannis”

Though it has its origins in Greek Constantinople, the sweet or savoury filo treat known as bougatsa is a firm Thessaloniki favourite.

Now the cultural property of this city (Thessaloniki is Greece’s first UNESCO city of gastronomy), there are many shops where you can try this delicacy, but my personal favourite is Bougatsa Giannis.

Open for much of the day the store sells custard or cheese bougatsa, with a variety of toppings, alongside a collection of filo pies at a bargain price.

The White Tower of Thessaloniki

If Athens has the Acropolis, then Thessaloniki has the White Tower. This attraction is an instantly recognisable fortification overlooking the Thermaic Gulf has stood since the Ottoman period, as part of the old city walls.

Known and feared for many years as the “Tower of Blood”, due to the Turkish prison and garrison within. The tower was painted in 1891, and given its current name.

Now it is a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage site, giving insight into the history of the area, but there are also incredible views offered from the viewing platform atop the tower.

Not far from the White Tower you will also find Navarinou Square, a city square dedicated to the Battle of Navarino during the Greek War of Independence.

White Tower in Thessaloniki
White Tower & Waterfront

Sunset at the Waterfront

The White Tower is an excellent local meeting point, from here many locals will go for strolls along the pedestrianised and regenerated waterfront promenade.

Any determined walker can stroll for over 3km uninterrupted by cars. Along the way take in beautiful sites like the Statue of Alexander the Great, the famous Umbrellas sculpture, and the tranquil Garden of Remembrance.

There are plenty of spots to grab a drink, a delicious snack, or even jump on a boat for a cheap sunset harbour cruise.

Dinner in Ladadika

Although Thessaloniki is an ancient city, wandering around you’ll probably find that much of it feels like it has been erected in a sprawling manner over the past few decades.

One part of the city where you can feel like you’re really stepping back in time is the nightlife district of Ladadika.

Feeling a bit like Athens’ Monastiraki region, Ladadika is a hotbed of nightlife – pubs, tavernas and coffee houses all spill out onto beautiful and atmospheric cobblestoned streets.

It’s an area where you can stop by for a quiet beer, or party until dawn alongside the city’s many young revellers.

Day 2 – Thessaloniki’s Unique Neighbourhoods

Aristotelous Square

If you’re exploring Thessaloniki in two days, start the day with a breath of fresh air as you wander in the largest of the city’s public squares, Aristotelous Square.

Built in the 1950s and restored in the 2000s, you can sit and enjoy breakfast at one of the many cafes, whilst the sea air fills your lungs.

If you find the statue of Aristotle and rub his big toe, legend says that you will surely return to Greece one day.

Aristotelous Square
Aristotelous Square

Try Tsoureki at Terkenlis

If bougatsa didn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, then stop by Terkenlis, a bakery in business for more than 70 years, to try their famous tsoureki.

A tsoureki is a braided sweet bread that is eaten all over Greece at Easter, but at Terkenlis tsoureki is their speciality year-round. Here you can find the regular almond topped, white or dark chocolate dipped loaves, alongside vegan loaves.

They have a myriad of other sweet treats, any of which go great alongside a strong Greek coffee.

Explore the Agoras

If you plan on spending your time in Thessaloniki adding a few extra inches to your waistline, then you’ll be delighted to hear that you can find two of the city’s most atmospheric shopping experiences a stone’s throw from Aristotelous Square.

Agora Modiano opened a century ago, as the first covered market in the city was integral to the life of all citizens, until its decline and closure in 2016. It has since been redeveloped as the gastronomic heart of the city, featuring many cutting-edge eateries serving Lebanese food, dumplings and Peruvian cuisine.

A block away, you’ll find the vibrant sprawling traditional open Kapani Market. Here you can find everything from wholesale olives and seafood, to spices and knockoff t-shirts. It’s a great place for souvenirs, or to load up on goodies for a picnic.

Hagia Sophia

Anyone who has been to Istanbul (or Konstantinopoulos as it’s still known by Greeks) will have laid eyes upon the Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom. In the 7th century the Byzantine Empire which ruled both Constantinople and Thessaloniki built a second Hagia Sophia in this city too.

Although this Byzantine church spent 400 years as a mosque, it has spent nearly a thousand years of its total life serving Christianity. It remains one of the city’s longest-serving churches, and it’s full of mystery, wonder, incredible mosaics and relics.

It’s completely free, and no Thessaloniki itinerary is complete without including a visit – it’s my favourite site in all of the city.

Hagia Sophia Church in Thessaloniki
Hagia Sophia Church in Thessaloniki

Explore Ano Poli

Spend the end of your second day exploring Ano Poli, the oldest part of the city. Much of Thessaloniki was destroyed in a great fire in 1917, but Ano Poli was spared, giving it a completely different feel to the rest of the city.

Here you can explore beautiful Greek and Ottoman-era houses along quiet cobblestoned streets. Be sure to investigate the beautiful churches and monasteries of Ano Poli, alongside the fearsome Heptapyrgion fortress. It’s a great spot for sunset, to watch it setting over the city and the Thermaic Gulf.

On your way back into the city, you should hunt out The Stop, it’s a traditional meze taverna located close to the Holy Church of Nicholas Orphanos.

Here you can find very affordable hot and cold meze plates in a very local setting, alongside very cheap beer and wine! And, if you want to feel like a local, end your meal like a Macedonian with a glass of ouzo!

Day 3 – Day Trip to Meteora, Mt Olympus or the Halkidiki Peninsula

If you’re lucky enough to be spending more than 2 days or a weekend in Thessaloniki, you might consider heading out further afield to some of the amazing sights in Northern Greece.


Located about 250 km from Thessaloniki, Meteora is a must-see sight in Greece.

If you’ve never heard of it, Meteora is a series of six monastic complexes that are located high up in the mountains above the town of Kalambaka.

The monks and nuns who made this their home in the 14th century wanted to be as isolated from the world as possible, and so the monasteries are literally perched atop rock pillars or up steep staircases.

If you’re an adventurer, interested in history, hiking or photography it is a must to visit this incredible place. It even featured in the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only”.

Getting there can be expensive using public transport or driving, but the easiest way is to take an organised tour with a guide from Thessaloniki. Some options include this full-day tour by bus or this full-day tour by train.

Agios Stephanos Monastery in Meteora
Agios Stephanos Monastery in Meteora


If you want to learn more about the history of Alexander the Great and the historical area of the Kingdom of Macedonia, then you can also take a day trip from Thessaloniki to this region.

This includes the archaeological site of Pella, which was the historical capital of Macedonia and the birthplace of Alexander the Great. You can organise a full-day tour here.

Mt Olympus

If you’re craving some fresh air after all that time in the busy city, you could do worse than a day trip to Mt Olympus, home of the ancient Greek gods.

Located around 100 km from the city, Mount Olympus National Park is best accessed from the town of Litochoro, a delightful mountain village where you can rent hiking equipment and great tavernas will fill your belly.

There are many low-level hikes around the national park, but if you want to tackle the peak, you’ll need two days, including an overnight stay in a refuge and some technical experience.

You can get from Macedonia Bus station to Litochoro in 75 minutes, with a change in Katerini. Alternatively, you can organise a full-day tour here.

Mount Olympus in Greece
Mount Olympus

Halkidiki Peninsula

If you don’t fancy spending another day on your feet, a better choice might be a day trip to the Halkidiki peninsulas.

Eastern Athos is a religious peninsula, full of monasteries that only men can visit with a permit. Then there’s rural, relaxed Sithonia, the middle peninsula, and finally westernmost Kassandra.

It’s the holiday hub of Northern Greece, and people will fly here and just spend their time relaxing on the beaches. Beyond the beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters you can find cute villages, picturesque hikes and forgotten ruins.

Where to Stay in Thessaloniki

Blue Bottle Boutique Hotel – This 3-star hotel located in the centre of Thessaloniki is a great option for mid-range visitors to Greece’s second city. They have a number of lovely rooms on offer and there is even a breakfast available each morning.

Teight Hotel – Those looking for a hip place to stay will love this swish hotel located in central Thessaloniki. They have a number of cool rooms to choose from, a great location for exploring the city and there is a great, hearty breakfast available daily.

Zeus is Loose Hostel – If you’re travelling solo or on a tight budget, then this hostel is the perfect choice. As one of the highest-rated options in Thessaloniki, they have a range of both dorms and private rooms on offer and there is even a rooftop bar to enjoy and mingle with other travellers.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Thessaloniki hotels!

Ultimately, you can try to do justice to Thessaloniki in 3 days, but this ancient beguiling metropolis will leave you wanting to return to explore its sights and to taste its delights for centuries. But remember, however long you choose to spend here, if you’ve rubbed Aristotle’s toe you’ll be sure to return!

Are you planning to visit Thessaloniki? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Lizzie is a writer for The World Was Here First. She loves travelling and discovering new places but also often finds herself returning to her favourite destinations. She has a particular affinity for Greece where she has visited countless islands and destinations on the mainland.

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