Thessaloniki and Environs


Thessaloniki, also known as Thessalonica, is the second-largest city in Greece. It was first established in 316 B.C. by the general Kassandros and named after his wife, Thessaloniki, half-sister of Alexander the Great. Thessaloniki was 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 northernmost Byzantine walls of the city and parts of the western walls are still standing, as is the city's symbol - the White Tower, built in the 16th Century AD - 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 as Agios Demetrios (7th Century CE) and Agia Sophia (Holy Wisdom, 9th Century CE), and many lovely smaller ones in the upper town (St. Nicolaos Orfanosis is particularly worth a look for its frescoes ), which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. One of them, the Rotunda, started life as a Roman temple of Zeus, built by the emperor Galerius, and is almost as old as the Pantheon in Rome. Next to the Rotunda is the Arch of Galerius and the ruins of his palace. The Arch was 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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