Thessaloniki (520 km. north of Athens) is the second largest city of Greece and the most important centre of the area. Built near the sea (at the back of the Thermaïkos Gulf), it is a modern metropolis bearing the marks of its stormy history and its cosmopolitan character, which give it a special beauty and charm.
Thessaloniki, also known as Thessalonica and Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace.
According to the preliminary results of the 2011 census, the municipality of Thessaloniki today has a population of 322,240,while the Thessaloniki Urban Area (the contiguous built up area forming the "City of Thessaloniki") has a population of 790,824; making it the fifth largest and most populated city in the Balkans and the second most populated city that is not a capital, after Istanbul. Furthermore, the Thessaloniki Metropolitan Area extends over an area of 1,455.62 km2 (562.02 sq mi) and its population in 2011 reached a total of 1,006,730 inhabitants.
Thessaloniki is Greece's second major economic, industrial, commercial and political centre, and a major transportation hub for the rest of southeastern Europe;its commercial port is also of great importance for Greece and the southeastern European hinterland.The city is renowned for its festivals, events and vibrant cultural life in general,and is considered to be Greece's cultural capital.Events such as the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival are held annually, while the city also hosts the largest bi-annual meeting of the Greek diaspora. In 2014 Thessaloniki will be the European Youth Capital.
Founded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon, Thessaloniki's history spans some 2,300 years. An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessaloniki was the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. Thessaloniki is home to numerous notable Byzantine monuments, including the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures. The city's main university, Aristotle University, is the largest in Greece and the Balkans.
In addition to its historic roots, Thessaloniki is also a very popular tourist destination in Greece. In 2010, Lonely Planet ranked Thessaloniki as the world's fifth-best party city worldwide, comparable to other cities such as Dubai and Montreal.For 2013 National Geographic Magazine included Thessaloniki in its top tourist destinations worldwide.
Thessaloniki's Archaeological sites
-The ancient forum (dated to the late 2nd or the early 3rd century AD) with squares, porticoes, additional buildings and odeum (293-395 AD), the palace complex of Galerius Maximianus (4th c. AD), the thermae, the hippodrome, the temples and other monuments and moveable finds (among them mosaics of exquisite art) brought to light in excavations and surveys. In the south square, is the famous Stoa of the Idols, which was two-storeyed and lavishly decorated.
-The Triumphal Arch of Galerius (Kamara), built in AD 305 to commemorate his military successes in general in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire.
-The Rotunda is an early 4th century building which later was converted into a Christian church.
Thessaloniki's Byzantine monuments
Thessaloniki, with its host of Byzantine monuments (due to it’s significance during the Byzantine period), justifiably is considered an open-air museum of Byzantine art. Wandering through the city, it is worthwhile to see:
-The churches of Acheiropoietos (5th century) a three-aisled, timber-roofed basilica, the Holy Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia) (7th century), the Panaghia (Virgin) Chalkeon (1028), Hosios David (12th century), St Panteleemon (late 13th or the early 14th century), is of four-columned cross-in-square type, Ayioi Apostoloi (1310-1314),Taxiarches (14th century), Panagouda a three-aisled basilica with significant icons, Agios Ioannis Prodromos (Nymphaion),Vlatadon monastery a 14th century foundation of which only the katholikon and two cisterns within the precinct survive, Ayios Demetrios a splendid basilica dedicated to the patron saint and protector of the city, etc.
-The Byzantine walls of the city
-The archaeological site in 3 Septemvriou St., with remnants of a cemetery basilica, a martyrion and Early Christian graves.
-The Byzantine bathhouse (late thirteenth century).
-The Heptapyrgion castle was raised in stages, from the early years of the Byzantine Age into the Ottoman period.
-The White Tower (15th century), the hallmark of the city.
-The Mosques of the Hamza Bey Cami (15th century), the Aladja Imaret Cami (1484) and the Yeni Cami (1902).
-Hamams (turkish bathhouses): The Pazar Hamam (15th century), the Pasha Hamam (15th century), Bey Hamam (16th century), Yeni Hamam and the Yahudi Hamam.
-Bezesteni, a rectangular building with lead-covered domes and four entraces was built in the late fifteenth century and operated as a cloth market.
Source : Wikipedia and National Tourism organisation