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Tourist Places To Visit In Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is the 2nd largest city in Greece, rich in history and culture. The history of the city is quite different from the rest of the country. The most notable places to see in Thessaloniki are the Byzantine monuments, which are in plenty. It was once the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia and was an important trade hub. The city was also an early centre of Christianity and hence you will find many churches here, some of them still being used. Here are some of the most coveted tourist places to visit in Thessaloniki.
The White Tower of Thessaloniki has a gory past but stands as an iconic symbol of the city. This tower originally replaced a Byzantine fortification which ran around the entire city. It is located near the waterfront and overlooks the sea. The structure was modified many times over the years. It was used as a fortress and prison during the Ottoman rule. In the 1826 massacre, it came to be called the Tower of Blood, but once Greece attained its independence, they painted it white as a gesture of cleansing.
Arch of Galerius
This monumental Arch, also known as Kamara, is a very distinctive Roman structure of Thessaloniki. It was constructed in the 4th century CE and the decorative marble panels on each pillar were crafted to tell the story of the triumph of Rome. It was commissioned by emperor Galerius to celebrate the victory against the Sassanid Persi. It is located very close to the Rotunda.
The Rotunda has a very interesting history. Originally believed to be a Roman Temple, it was used as a Mausoleum of Roman Emperor Galerius. Around 400 AD, it was made into a Church and later during the Ottoman period, it was converted to a mosque with a minaret added to its structure. Currently, it has been declared as an Archeological site and is opened to the public. But once a month, holy mass is still conducted here. Visit it to see the beautiful frescos on the ceiling of the dome.
Hagia Sophia of Thessaloniki
Hagia Sophia is one of the oldest churches in Thessaloniki. The church was constructed basis the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (currently known as Istanbul) and dates back to the 8th century. It is adorned with beautiful Byzantine as well as Ottoman era décor. You can notice this especially in the walls - the lower half has floral motifs - which was a popular design in Mosques during the Ottoman period, and the upper half still retains the original gold mosaic and frescos from the Byzantine church.
Museum of Byzantine Culture
If you want to learn more about the Byzantine culture, character and beauty, this museum is for you. It houses many unique exhibits and artefacts showcasing the entire Byzantine period and is very informative and well organized. There are different thematic sections, including wonderful mosaics, wall paintings, jewellery, scripts and rare books.
Church of St. Demetrios
The Church of Agios Dimitrios is dedicated to the protector saint of Thessaloniki, Saint Dimitrios. It is built upon a Roman Bath and you can even today see the remains in the underground Crypt. The history behind the church was that Saint Dimitrios was imprisoned here and martyred in 306 A.D during the Christian persecutions of Galerian. The temple is a beautiful example of the Byzantine Architecture. It was turned into a mosque during the Ottoman rule.
In the midst of a modern city, you will come across a large patch of ground with the ruins of a Roman Market along with a small theatre and 2 Roman baths. Some of the pillars can still be seen and it has some interesting history behind it. It was accidentally dug up in the 1960s. The exact date of construction is unknown, though it is believed to have been in use during the 2nd to the 6th century.
Church of Panagia Chalkeon
The Church of Panagia Chalkeon is located close to the Roman Agora. It was built in 1028 CE and was typical of the Byzantine style of architecture. There are beautiful frescoes, some as old as the 11th century. Similar to the history of all other churches in the city, this too was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman rule. Some believe that before the church was built, there was a Greek Temple in its place devoted to Hephaestus.