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or the empire.
Indeed, one Young Turk and Thessaloniki native, Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) would become modern Turkey’s founding father.
Thessaloniki suffered successive tragedies over the following four decades.
The August 1917 fire burned most of it, and ethnic diversity shrank with the 1923 population exchanges.
During the WWII Nazi occupation, Thessaloniki’s Jews were deported to concentration camps and other non-Greeks were expelled following the Greek Civil War.
By 1950, Thessaloniki was learning to become a Greek city again.
Sights Thessaloniki’s Byzantine and ancient sites (and its museums) constitute its major attractions.
Steadily refurbished Ottoman structures also appeal.
Thessaloniki’s former Jewish population is attested by some surviving buildings and a small, mostly elderly community.
Find Jewish Sites in Thessaloniki: Brief History and Guide by Rena Molho and Vilma Hastaoglou-Martinidi (Lycabettus Press) at bookshops and the Jewish Museum.
White Tower HISTORIC BUILDING MAP (Lefkos Pyrgos; 2310 267 832; www.lpth.
gr; 8.
30am-3pm Tue-Sun) The history of Thessaloniki’s most famous landmark, the pacific White Tower, is actually bathed in blood.
In 1826 Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II massacred rebellious janissaries (elite troops of forcibly Islamicised Christian boys) here.
After the 1913 Greek reconquest, the ‘bloody tower’ was whitewashed to expunge this grisly past.
Although the whitewash is long gone, the name stuck.
The tower’s interactive museum presents Thessaloniki’s history through multimedia displays.
Palace, Arch & Rotunda of Galerius HISTORIC AREA MAP Three major Roman monuments of early-4th-century Emperor Galerius spill across Egnatia at Plateia Navarinou.
The ruined Palace of Galerius MAP (Plateia Navarinou; 8.
30am-3pm Tue-Sun), sprawling east–west across the square, contains floor mosaics, columns and some walls.
North of Egnatia at Kamara, the Arch of Galerius (AD 303) celebrates a victory over the Persians, with carved, lunging soldiers.
North of this arch is the Rotunda (Mausoleum; 2310 218 720; Plateia Agiou Georgiou; 8am-5pm Tue-Sun).
Galerius built this hulking brick structure as his future mausoleum, but he died in retirement in today’s Serbia.
Constantine the Great made it Thessaloniki’s first church (Agios Georgios); the Ottomans made it a mosque (note the restored minaret).
Some frescoes survive inside.
Roman Agora RUIN MAP (Plateia Dikastirion; 8am-3pm Tue-Sun) The Agora lies north of Plateia Aristotelous, on Plateia Dikastirion.
In the 3rd century BC, Macedonians made it a commercial centre and the Romans maintained this function.
An English- language placard explains the site, which contains clustered shop walls and mosaic floor remnants.
In summer, it hosts the city-sponsored Urban Picnic, which livens up the ruins with free food and live music.
Kastra (Ano Poli) & the Byzantine Walls HISTORIC AREA The Kastra (Castle), also called Ano Poli (Upper Town), contains important Byzantine churches and timber-framed, pastel-painted houses with overhanging upper storeys.
Panoramic views of the city and gulf are had from the Byzantine Walls ’ eastern edge, in the pyrgos (tower).
The tower – recently renovated and opened to visitors – is a marvellously atmospheric structure.
Ascend it for expansive views.
Emperor Theodosius (AD 379–475) built these walls according to his own great Constantinopolitan wall system.
They were rebuilt in the 14th century and in 1821 the Turks removed marble stones from the Jewish cemetery to strengthen them further.
You can walk them from opposite the university (Panepistimio Aristotelion) almost all the way uphill.
Only Ano Poli (then, the Turkish Quarter) largely survived the 1917 fire – although it originated there, the wind swept the flames towards the sea.
Today, it’s a refuge for Thessaloniki’s leftists and lazing cats, with a quiet residential charm.
Church of Agios Dimitrios CHURCH MAP ( 2310 270 008; Agiou Dimitriou 97; 8am-10pm) This enormous 5th-century structure honours Thessaloniki’s patron saint.
A Roman soldier, Dimitrios was killed around AD 303 at this former Roman bath site, on orders of Emperor Galerius, infamous persecutor of Christians.
The martyrdom site is now an eerie underground crypt, open daytime hours and for a Friday-night service.
Dimitrios’s relics, returned from Italy in 1980, occupy a silver reliquary inside.
The Ottomans made Agios Dimitrios a mosque, plastering over frescoes.
After the 1913 Greek reconquest the plaster was removed, revealing Thessaloniki’s finest church mosaics.
While the 1917 fire was very damaging, five 8th-century mosaics survive, spanning the altar.
Church of Agia Sofia CHURCH MAP (Plateia Agias Sofias; 7am-1pm & 5-6.
30pm) This 8th-century church occupying Plateia Agias Sofias was modelled on its ?stanbul namesake.
Its dome has a striking mosaic of the Ascension of Christ.
Built over a previous 3rd-century church, it’s notable for the cross-basilica style associated with middle-Byzantine architecture.
Church of the Panagia Ahiropiitos CHURCH MAP ( 7am-noon & 4.
30pm) This basilica-style 5th-century Byzantine church has notable mosaics and frescoes.
The name, meaning ‘made without hands’, refers to a miraculous 12th-century appearance of an icon of the Virgin.
Monastery of Vlatadon MONASTERY (cnr Eptapyrgiou & Agathangelou; 7.
30am-5pm & 5.
30-8pm, museum 10am-noon Sun) Near Ano Poli’s Byzantine Walls, this relaxing place in a leafy, secluded location has a small museum and gift shop.
Founded by the pious brothers Vlatades (1360), it was important during the Hesychast spiritual movement, as attested by a fresco of St Gregory Palamas, Hesychasm’s spiritual leader.
Other remarkable frescoes date from 1360–80.
A now-lost imperial chrysobull (gold-sealed decree) of the Byzantine Empress indicates Anna Paleologina endowed Vlatadon, which still preserves a rich archive of documents dating to the 15th century.
Church of Osios David CHURCH (Vlatadon 1; 9am-noon & 4-6pm Mon-Sat) This little 5th-century church allegedly commemorated the baptism site of the anti-Christian Galerius’ daughter, Theodora, a ceremony conducted secretly while her father was away on business.
It contains well-preserved mosaics and rare 12th-century frescoes depicting the baptism of Christ.
Church of Nikolaos Orfanos CHURCH MAP ( 2310 213 627; Irodotou 20; 8.
30pm Tue-Sun) This 4th-century church has superb (though age-darkened) frescoes.
To preserve them, candles are only lit during Sunday-morning mass.
Archaeological Museum MUSEUM MAP GOOGLE MAP ( 2310 830 538; www.amth.
gr; Manoli Andronikou 6; adult/student/child 6/3/free; 8am-3pm) Macedonia’s major prehistoric, ancient Macedonian and Hellenistic finds are here, except for Vergina’s gold tomb finds, which are exhibited in Vergina.
The Derveni Crater (330–320 BC) is a huge, ornate Hellenistic bronze-and-tin vase.
Used for mixing wine and water, and later as a funerary urn, it’s marked by intricate relief carvings of Dionysos, with mythical figures, animals and ivy vines.
The Derveni Treasure contains Greece’s oldest surviving papyrus piece (250–320 BC).
The ground-floor exhi
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