Thessaloniki and Environs


Thessalonikialso known as Thessalonicais the second-largest city in Greece. It was first established in 316 B.C. by Kassandros and named after his wife, Thessaloniki, half sister of Alexander the Great. Thessalonikiwas also the second most important city of the Byzantine Empire next to Constantinople and is full of beautiful examples of Byzantine art and architecture.

At about a million inhabitants today it is considered Greece's cultural capital, renowned for its festivals, events and vibrant cultural life.

The city center is bounded by the sea in the south, Olympiados street in the northeast (from which then the upper town begins), Bardariou (aka Dimokratias) square in the northwest and in the southeast by the University campus of the Aristotle University and the facilities of Thessaloniki International Exhibition Center.

The northernmostByzantine wallsof the city and parts of the western walls are still standing, as is the city's symbol - theWhite Tower, one of the 16th Century. AD fortified towers - which is the only surviving tower on the seafront.

A must see are the Byzantine churches built between the 5th and 14th century ACE, such asAgios Demetrios, (7th Century. ACE) andAgia Sophia(Holy Wisdome, 9th Century. ACE), and many lovely smaller ones in the upper town (StNicolaos Orfanosis particularly worth a look for its frescoes (open Tue-Sun 8.30am-3pm)), which are on theUNESCO World HeritageList. One of them, theRotunda, started life as a Roman temple of Zeus, built by ceasarGalerius, and is almost as old as the Pantheon in Rome. Next to the Rotunda is theArch of Triumphof Galerius and the ruins of hispalace. The Archwas built in 303 AD by Galerius, then Caesar of the East, to celebrate his victory over the Persians in 297 AD. 

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