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Drenched in mythology and the warm Mediterranean sun, Greece's "Second City" is a first-class delight. Thessaloniki owes part of its appeal to its picturesque location on the sultry Aegean Sea, amid the backdrop of Mount Olympus, and part to its rich cultural heritage. Founded in 315 B.C. and named after the sister of Alexander the Great, it's one of Europe's oldest and most commercially significant cities, as one magnificent Byzantine church after another attests to. Yet, these formidable landmarks do more than just offer an enduring reminder of Thessaloniki's historic rise to prominence. Along with tree-lined boulevards, a glistening harbor and a lively cosmopolitan air, they make it an absolutely beautiful place to visit.Find Cruises Sailing to This Port
The White Tower, a massive circular fortress which dates back to the 15th century (and which is no longer purely white) is widely regarded as the icon of Thessaloniki. After going through several incarnations, including one in which it was used as a prison for death-row convicts, the tower is now home to the city's Museum of Byzantine Cultures. The museum itself houses a splendid collection of sculptures, frescoes, and icons.
Water-related sports like rafting and kayaking are favorite pastimes here, as are active pursuits higher above sea level. And while Mount Olympus may be more than you have the time or the inclination for, there are plenty of opportunities to hike or mountain bike. Keep in mind as well that Thessaloniki is the birthplace of modern Greek basketball, and a game of hoops here always makes for a rousing good time - especially if you're rooting for the home team.
The food in Thessaloniki, which is marked by a delicate, aromatic character and a tremendous variety of game, is widely believed to be among the finest in all of Greece. For a taste of the very best of the best, try the hors d'oeuvres, known as "mezedes" or "mezedakia." Yet another great way to sample the cuisine is to drop by the open-air markets, where produce, cheeses and barrels of olives mingle with herbs, spices, wines, honey and nuts, many of them organic and all fresh from the local farming community.
With its modern-day spirit and irrepressible youth, Thessaloniki has earned a reputation as one of Europe's more fashion-forward cities in recent years. So it stands to reason that the shopping here is good. Quite good, in fact, with a range of shops to suit every budget. Shoes and leather goods, as well as hand-crafted jewelry, are among your best bets. And with a bar or café around every corner, there's always a place to stop before you drop.
The Euro (EUR), the currency of the European Union, is the official currency of Greece. Many stores and restaurants also accept major credit cards, which usually offer you a good exchange rate. When shopping, remember there is a Value-Added Tax added to most purchases.
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Learn more about this port city with these tourist information guides.