Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Instant weekend: Thessaloniki (The Observer)

Why go now?
Thessaloniki comes into its own during the winter months and a new Easyjet flight has made it cheaper to get there. Indeed, as its proud inhabitants claim, it beats Athens hands down as a lively off-season destination. It may not have the Acropolis but it does have an absorbing range of ancient sights that are eminently walkable thanks to the city's manageable size. Add in some mouthwatering menus and the seemingly never-ending nightlife options and you have a real surprise package. You may even get to toast the gods on Mount Olympus, visible from the seafront on a clear day.
Checking in
On the edge of the trendy Ladadika district, the city's only boutique hotel, the Capsis Bristol (00 30 2310 506500; has a range of rooms tastefully decorated in period style, with doubles from around €160. There is a gourmet restaurant and a classy first-floor terrace to boot. Further inland towards the Ano Poli (Upper Town), the Tobacco Hotel (00 30 2310 515002; has nearly 60 more modern rooms largely in marble and wood; from around €90. The hotel's name reflects the fact that it was converted from one of the area's many tobacco warehouses. Budget options abound on and around the central thoroughfare of Egnatias Street - at the simple Hotel Bill (Syngrou 29; 00 30 2310 537666) , the, er, hotel bill is unlikely to be much more than €30.
Hit the streets
Thessaloniki's prime strolling arena is the central seafront esplanade, bookended by the workaday port and the city's trademark symbol, the White Tower. The tower was originally part of the Byzantine town's defences. Along the front you'll see the city's chic and famously attractive youngsters parading their designer gear and sharp haircuts during the evening volta (stroll). Drink in some of the venerable ancient heritage by admiring imposing structures such as the Arch of Galerius and the Rotunda, both built in the third century AD and situated next to each other just off Egnatias Street. Nearby Ayia Sofia heads an impressive list of Byzantine churches, while the Archaeological Museum (€6; Platia Hanth, just inland from the White Tower) is the place to gaze in awe at the wealth of gold from the Macedon Tombs at Vergina - and that's only part of it. More cutting-edge exhibitions are to be found at two separate portside museums: of Photography and Contemporary Art (entrance free; housed in converted warehouses off Koundouriotou Street).
Coffee break
Greeks love lingering over their coffee and countless cafes line the seafront, the adjoining central square, Platia Aristotelous, and just about every other street corner in the city. For a fine frappé or freddo in the whimsical company of psychedelically lit mini garden gnomes and other figurines, head for Pasta Flora Darling (Zefxidou 6). You should also try the creamy sweet kazan dipi, an eastern version of crème brûlée and a legacy of the Ottoman occupation, available at any zacharoplastio (patisserie).
Neighbourhood watch
Ladadika, next to the port, is a hip district of maze-like alleys that harbour some of the city's most popular restaurants, bars and clubs. Another area that comes alive at night is the Ano Poli, where some excellent cafes and tavernas hide behind the massive Byzantine ramparts and line the road opposite the Chain Tower, a circular keep dating from the 16th century. Among the city's other squares, Platia Navarinou and its surrounding streets constitute another profitable hunting ground for nightlife.
Worked up an appetite?
Thessaloniki is northern Greece's undisputed culinary capital. Its most authentic eateries are tsipouradika, named after the fiery spirit tsipouro. These offer a huge range of dishes and are small, lively places with tightly packed tables and a friendly buzz. One of the best is I Gonia Tou Merakli on Avgerinou Street, just off Platia Athonos. Here you can tuck into delicious favourites such as mydia saganaki (mussels in cheese and tomato sauce) or bekri meze (pork and peppers cooked in a wine sauce). A dozen other joints in the same set of alleys are almost as good. To Spiti Tou Pasa (Apostolou Pavlou Street 35) is a cosy and elegant taverna where you can wash down tender grilled meat or fish with barrelled wine from the nearby island of Limnos. The sturdy of stomach should not fail to try patsas (tripe soup), which is best served at the classic old-style restaurant Tsarouhas (Olimpou 78).
The big night out
Thessaloniki has something for most tastes. A good place to head first is the Mylos complex on the west of town (, where there is a live jazz cafe and a couple of bars among further entertainment options. Decadence (on nearby Andrea Georgiou Street) is the most cutting-edge dance/trance venue. Kissfish (near the port at the corner of Averof and Fokeas Streets) is another popular dance bar, while Santé (Kapodistriou 3) provides a Latin flavour and Dizzy (Egyptou 5, in Ladadika) is the hangout for hard rock aficionados.
Getting there
Starting earlier this month, Easyjet (0905 821 0905; flies from London Gatwick to Thessaloniki, from around £87. British Airways (0870 850 9850; flies from Heathrow to Thessaloniki from £134.
Nick Edwards is the author of the Rough Guide to Greece (see

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thessaloniki at New York Times

NEAR the seventh-century Church of Aghia Sophia in the northern Greek city of Salonika, prides of revelers are filling art-grunge bars like Urban and Pastaflora Darling! on lively Zefxidos Street. It's a weeknight — a Monday going on Tuesday, in fact — but it feels like a Saturday. The tsipouro is flowing, the New Pornographers are blaring, and the people, a blend of wispy artists bobbing to the music, balding academics recalling their anarchist years and caffeinated students now living theirs, are energized.

Stop any of them and they might turn grim and tell you that this majestic city is the ignored, unloved and lonesome little sister of Athens. But don't buy it. Although Salonika, called Thessaloniki in Greece, often loses tourist-brochure headlines to Athens, its growing appeal as a youthful city with an intriguing multiethnic history and an arty counterculture is turning it into something of a Seattle of the Balkans.

Already a southeastern European center for cinema because of its film festivals, Salonika is enjoying a resurgence in its eclectic visual arts and music scenes, evident at contemporary art museums and galleries and clubs like Xylourgeio at Mylos, a flour mill turned entertainment complex. As the suburbs spread and sprout resort hotels, downtown standbys like the Plaza Art Hotel and the City Hotel have been remodeled to accommodate the increasing number of cinephiles for the festivals.

“Salonika has always been an alternative city, moving to its own rhythm,” said Nikodemos Triaridis, 34, who two years ago founded a small record label, Run Devil Run. “After so much lamenting of the chronic loss of the spotlight to Athens,” he said, “we are finally starting to embrace our offbeat sense of self again.”

Salonika, with a metropolitan area of about a million people, was founded around 300 B.C. by Cassander, king of Macedon, who named it for his wife, Thessalonica, half-sister of Alexander the Great. A walk around the city reveals a mosaic of cultural influences: Roman ruins; Byzantine churches like Aghios Dimitrios , the basilica dedicated to the patron Saint of Salonika; Ottoman-era hammams and mosques; the pink house where Ataturk, founder of the Turkish republic, was born in 1881; and the 19th-century brick houses in the Ladadika district, the old Jewish quarter.

Much of the action is concentrated in the historic center, which is anchored by Aristotelous Square. This is where one finds a wonderful view from the Thermaic Gulf to the swell of the historic Ano Poli (Upper City). An international group of architects designed the square and much of Salonika's center in 1917, just after the city was nearly destroyed by fire. Once home to five open-air cinemas, the square today has the Olympion, a theater built in 1948 and now the headquarters for the Salonika International Film Festival, which draws thousands every November. Other annual film events include the Documentary Film Festival in March; the Crashfest, devoted to short films by emerging young filmmakers, in April; and the Videodance Festival in May.

Walking around downtown, you soon notice that young ramblers are everywhere: on the seafront promenade, near the 14th-century White Tower and the statue of Alexander the Great, at the crowded cafes of Aristotelous Square and at the bars built into the old fabric markets in the Bezesteni neighborhood. Most are among the 95,000 students at Aristotle University, the largest in Greece. Many others are young professionals and artists.

Chrissie Tsiota, 35, an artist who specializes in offbeat photo-based narratives, often passes cafes filled with young crooners singing songs by the contemporary Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis as she walks home to her loft in a remodeled former market building in Bezesteni, which she shares with her husband, Nikos Yannopoulos, a 55-year-old filmmaker. They are part of a recent influx of artists and professionals to the once rundown Ottoman-era neighborhood, where chic bistros have arrived — like Ideal at Grigoriou Palama and Tsimiski Streets. It serves boutique wines, tender beef on roasted eggplant purée, and arugula salads dotted with pomegranate seeds and a soft goat cheese called katiki to the accompaniment of live jazz. But the traditional culinary fare — spicy whipped feta, pork stewed with chestnuts and wild-greens pies — offered at the city's ouzeries should not be ignored.

Not far from Bezesteni are the Modiano, Kapani and Louloudadika marketplaces. A stroll through them is a kaleidoscopic journey into scent, sound and color: cumin and sage, broad spreads of fresh meat and fish, Pontic cheeses, even the odd village potion for menstrual cramps, all wrapped in an aural force field of greengrocers promoting their eggplant in booming rhymes.

Founded in the early 1920s by the architect Eli Modiano, a member of a Sephardic merchant family, the Modiano Market was once a hub for Salonika's Jews, many who trace themselves from the Sephardim expelled from Spain in 1492. They thrived in Salonika, at one point a majority, but occupying Nazis in World War II virtually eliminated them. Some 45,000 to 50,000 of the city's Jews — about 96 percent — died during the war, many at Auschwitz. Only about 2,000 Jews live in the city today. Their history is recounted at the Jewish Museum, which follows the narrative from A.D. 200 to the beginning of the war.

The Ladino songs of Salonika's Sephardic Jews enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s, especially when the singer Savina Yannatou and the band Primavera en Salonica performed those songs on the 1995 recording “Spring in Salonica.” At the time, the avenue of clubs at the Mylos complex, near the port, was thriving, fueling the rise of musicians like the jazz-folk fusion group Mode Plagal and the rock bands Trypes and Xylina Spathia. Mylos is far more mainstream now, but Xylourgeio (Carpenter's Shop) draws an intriguing lineup of offbeat artists like Daemonia Nymphe, who make ambient folk music with reproductions of ancient Greek instruments. The music scene is also enriched by indie labels like Ano Kato (Upside Down), Run Devil Run and the electronica-loving Poeta Negra, whose acts perform at small downtown clubs like the neon-blue neo-grunge Zenith.

A frequent listener is Areti Leopoulou, a 29-year-old art historian and music buff. “There's a lot of creative energy,” she said, “and it's bursting to get out.”

The same could be said for visual arts. The painter Vasilis Zografos, for instance, has worked in the city for 20 years and has noted the ingredients for an art renaissance — talent, exhibition space, endless sources of inspiration — but has only recently seen results. The 10-year-old State Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a former monastery in the suburb of Stavroupolis, has been a leader. In 2005, it opened the Center of Contemporary Art in an old warehouse at the port, part of a continuing push to revitalize the area. (Two other museums, one devoted to photography and the other to cinema, opened there in 1995). The center is devoted to emerging visual and performing arts. The museum is also organizing a citywide biennial, starting in late May.

“It's like the pulse of Salonika is quickening, at last,” said Eleni Athanasopoulou, a 28-year-old photography and video artist who works at the center.

After a long day at work, she was unwinding at Urban, a gallery turned colorful bar on Zefxidos Street. The crowd was mostly college students with struggling beards, though a few aging hipsters were hanging on, nursing glasses of vodka. The Scissor Sisters blared on the stereo, and a young woman, her dreds in a beehived updo, serenaded a framed poster of Bruce Lee.

As Monday officially became Tuesday, the party showed no sign of slowing.



United, Lufthansa and Olympic are among the airlines that offer service from New York, starting at about $1,200 round trip. A taxi from the Salonika airport to the city center is about 15 euros, or $20.40 at $1.36 to the euro. Plans for a subway system are moving forward.


The Plaza Art Hotel (5 Paggeou Street, 30-2310-520-120; offers rooms for two starting at 82 euros, while the City Hotel (11 Komninon Street, 30-2310-269-421; is 120 euros. For more luxury, try the Electra Palace (9 Aristotelous Square, 30-2310-294-000), where rooms start from 165 euros to 185 euros.


Dinner for two at the Ideal wine and jazz bistro (1 Grigoriou Palama 1 and 87 Tsimiski; 30-2310-288-844) is about 60 euros. Among Salonika's excellent ouzeris is Agora (5 Kapodistriou, 30-2310-532-428) and Aristotelous (8 Aristotelous, 30-2310-233-195), where a meal for two costs about 30 euros. And sample the buffalo milk-cream kazan dipi at Hatzis (50 Venizelou, 30-2310-279-058) or the chocolate-covered tsoureki at Terkenlis at the Byzantino cafe off Aghia Sophia Square (30-2310-244-876,


The State Museum of Contemporary Art (21 Kolokotroni Street, Moni Lazariston; 30-2310-589-149; has a stirring collection of Russian avant-garde art. The museum's Center of Contemporary Art (Warehouse B1, Port of Salonika; 30-2310-546-683; has eclectic presentations of video and new-media art. Delve into history at the Museum of Byzantine Culture (2 Leoforos Stratou, 30-2310-868-570; or the Jewish Museum (13 Aghiou Mina Street, 30-2310-250-406; Admission to the Museum of Byzantine Culture is 4 euros; for the others, it is 3 euros.


For a sampling of Greek and international music, go to Mylos (56 Andreou Georgou Street, 30-2310-551-838;, a former flour factory transformed in 1991 into an entertainment complex. One of the best spots is the Xylourgeio, which spotlights experimental and alternative music.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Today Rainbow

19 must places to go in Thessaloniki.

01 Bit Pazar (Market of nothing in Turkish) Back to the 50's with delicious food and red wine and retsina.

02 House of Kemal Ataturk the place that Kemal Ataturk was born . If u are from Turkey you must go there. (Ag. Dimitriou str.)
03 Lock of Therme for pik nik and more...
04 Pedion tou Areos a big flower market

05 Next to Posidonia the old beach of thessaloniki.

06 Frankwn str.
one of the oldest markets in thessaloniki
07 Ouziel beutiful buildings coming from the end of 19th century at the east side of city

08 To the museums for coffee Byzintine, Telloglio, Macedonian, Modern art, Photography

09 Markets of Kapani and Modiano here u can find anything about food and drinks.

10 Zeuxidos str. Gallerys and trendy bars.

11 Aigli-Milos-Ydrogios-Fix the nightlife of the city

12 Gardens of Pasha Ottomans monuments at the old city. Masonic symbols, secret geography, mysticism.

13 Churches of Old city the mosta and oldest churches that a city have in Greece.

14 Kodra camp the ex military camp of Kodra today is cultural center of modern art, theatre, music and more.

15 Allies cemetery Zeitelink- Jews cemetery the history of city is there.

16 Palataki (little palace) the summer palace of the ex king of Greece

17 Noesis the techological institute of Thessaloniki. Learn anything aboute stars, black holes, earth and modern technology

18 Votanic Garden at the west side in Stavroupoli

19 Kalohori for ouzo and ecology.

Sunday magazine propose

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Thessaloniki's Biennale 07'

By Andrei Filippov, the “Saw” is part of the “Heterotopias: Beholders of Other Places” exhibition.
By Assan Smati. Installation in the foyer of the Archaeological museum of Thessaloniki

photos by Lucretius (