I’ll hold my hands up, whenever Joe and I go on holiday to Greece we tend to hit the islands and veg – sunshine, cocktails, good food and relaxation is the game and a lot of the time we don’t tend to venture out of our 5* enclosure. However, after my trip with the #BlogTrottersGR team to Thessaloniki a few weeks ago I’ve found a new love for the country and have seen a whole other side to Greece I honestly didn’t know was there until now.
Let’s address the Elephant in the room – Greece is in crisis. It’s a strange feeling heading over to a country that’s been spoken about from all angles in the media and I honestly didn’t know what we were going to find. What we did find completely took me aback and it was only of the most interesting trips I’ve been on so far.
The purpose of our journey was to meet the people of Thessaloniki and discover what makes it special. The second largest city in Greece Thessaloniki has five universities and was voted ‘Youth Capital of Europe 2015’ which is pretty darn impressive. It’s known for it’s festivals, events and vibrant culture which we were lucky enough to experience throughout our 4 days in the city. During our stay we visited a plethora of restaurants and bars which really showcased the youth of the city for me and I have to say that I felt so safe. There aren’t many places in the world with such a vibrant nightlife that don’t leave you clutching your handbag and side-eying everyone you pass – it was incredibly refreshing.
Alongside the youth of Thessaloniki it has an incredibly interesting past. We took a trip to The White Tower – a monument that can be seen across the city – to learn about the cultural and historical stories of Thessaloniki from our tour guide and I was absolutely fascinated. So many have passed through this city and it has such a multicultural background which makes for a very interesting museum indeed – certainly one to visit.
The views from The White Tower were quite amazing and throughout our walk around the city we discovered so many interesting and though provoking sculptures. There’s so much to look at and explore I was hooked right from our first day.
We took a bus tour up to the castle ruins and some of the remaining city walls which gave a whole different perspective of the city. From the high-rise building blocks near the port to graffiti’d houses stacked up on a hill we were immersed in yet another facet of this pic n mix city and I was in awe. Sadly when we were up there it began to rain so we didn’t spend long looking out over the rooftops. I’d love to visit here again and take a walk through the streets at the top of the city, I found this part of the city incredibly inspiring.
There’s such a mix of buildings in Thessaloniki – with industrial looking office blocks surrounding beautiful old stone buildings. Modern coffee shops on one side of the road facing old stores that have been there run by the same families since the 1920’s, it’s a raw blend of culture that plays homage to the city’s diverse past.
On our second evening we were taken on a Handpeak Tour around the city to visit local businesses and talk to some of the residents of Thessaloniki. There are some incredibly talented people in this city with beautiful furniture, art, clothing, and pottery stores nestled in old cobbled streets. Our group visited a school for underprivileged children and this is where my ‘eureka moment’ from Thessaloniki hit me. The leaders in this tiny school hidden away down a side street deep in the city were so proud of their home, regardless of the current situation, and were on a mission to give the young generation of Thessaloniki hope that everything is going to be ok – not just for Greece, but in life.
For me the 15 minutes we spent in that room summed up our entire trip and I was left looking at Thessaloniki, at Greece, with a whole new perspective. No matter what you may read in the papers or see on the tv, Greece is full of people who are proud of their country and are keen to welcome people into their home. The people of Thessaloniki make this city what it is and I feel privileged to have been shown the city through their eyes in such an intimate way.
If you’re looking to visit a city, with intriguing architecture, multicultural history, a vibrant nightlife and truly incredible people then Thessaloniki is your destination. Book yourself onto a Handpeak Tour and emerse yourself in the all-embracing vibe of this fascinating place, you won’t regret it.
Don’t forget to watch my vlog from our first day in Thessaloniki!
Looking for somewhere to stay in the city? Take a look at my review of the Electra Palace Hotel.