Thessaloníki The Main Sights:

Ancient Agora: in Platía Dhikastiríon

What we can see are remains of the Roman Forum built in the 2nd century AD over the Greek agora. Four columns without capitals and column bases remain of the double stoa which ran round three sides of the large paved square. One complete monolithic Roman column with Corinthian capital is standing. To make use of the sloping site the southern stoa was built over a cryptoporticus, a series of brick arches. There are five doorways or square arches in front of odeon. The odeon became a circus. The site is still being excavated and restored.

Panayía Halkéon (the Church of Our Lady of the Coppersmiths) This little brick church set in a lovely rose garden is well worth a quick visit. It was built in 1028 on the site of a temple of Hephaistos and turned into a mosque in Turkish times so only a few of the frescoes have survived.

Bey Hamam (Parádhisos Baths) Egnata/Aristelous open Mon-Fri 0800-1430 entrance free

The first Ottoman bath house built in Thessaloniki in 1444, and the largest in Greece, it was in use until 1968. It is a double bathhouse with separate male and female sections (and separate entrances).

It is a little gem of a place, full of arches and niches and gorgeously decorated walls, floors and ceilings, with two octagonal rooms; the first has a wonderful painted dome and a staircase to the wooden upper gallery. Through arches are small rooms each with four oval marble basins.

Modhiáno Market, named after the Jewish family is opposite the baths. This is a typical eastern market with meat (sometimes alive!), fish and vegetables in abundance as well as almost anything you could possibly need. I haven't made a note of opening times but I think it close in the early afternoon.

The Hamza Bei mosque was built in 1467, restored after a fire in 1620. The largest mosque in Greece, more recently used as the Alkazar cinema.

The Bezesténi (just below the junction of Egnatia and Venizelou) is the old cloth market, built at the end of the 15th century, and was for a long time the commercial centre. It is an interesting building with six domes (originally lined with lead) but the shops inside are disappointing. There are entrances on each of its four sides.

The Arch of Galerius (Kamara) at the junction of Egnatia and Gounari.

Built as a triumphal arch by Galerius around AD 305 to celebrate his victories over the Persians in 297. It formed part of a grandiose complex of buildings including the Palace, the Hippodrome and the Rotonda. (It stretches now from Odos Tsimski, across Nikolaou and Egnatia up to the Rotonda)

Very little now remains of this elaborate structure, originally it had two sets of parallel arches supporting a dome. Two of the original four brick pillars survive with bands of bas-reliefs which show Galerius in various triumphant poses in the battle with the Persians. The southern pier is the best preserved with Galerius addressing his troops, prisoners begging for mercy, the surrender of a town, Galerius riding in his chariot and on horse back.

Rotonda, or Church of Saint George: entrance free (sign book). Built by Galerius in AD 306, possibly as a temple to Zeus or as his mausoleum but not used as such. The circular brick wall is over six metres thick; there are eight recesses each with a window above. The dome is 24 meters in diameter and 30 metres high, Theodosius turned it into a church and in 1590 it became a mosque when a minaret was added, now the only one standing in the city. There is not a lot to see inside apart from some marvellous mosaic ceilings on the right of the sanctuary and over the South door, with charming game birds and fruit and lots of gold. There are remains of frescoes over sanctuary, some in the dome, also some (now hidden by scaffolding) round the base of the dome.

The Palace of Galerius in Pl. Navarinou free, open 0830-1300.

There is masses of information on the history, building and excavation of site. Still busy restoring/excavating, all restoration is clearly defined by lines of mortar. Nice geometric design mosaic floors. Don't miss the ones on the left/North side.

Entrance to The Octagon is on the SW corner (Vironos). This is possibly the throne room. It is 30 metres in diameter and has seven semicircular niches. The main area was paved with marble squares and diamond shapes some of which remain. It is surrounded by tower blocks and still being excavated.

Ayia Sophia: In Plateia Ayia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). The church is not beautiful from the outside, very square, painted yellow ochre, and uncathedral like to our eyes, but is quite stunning inside. The original church was 4th century but what we see today dates from the 6th or 7th century modelled on Ayia Sophia in Constantinople (and is probably contemporary with it). It was the city's cathedral from 1204 until it was converted into a mosque in 1585. It was damaged by fire in 1890 and substantially restored in 1907. in Fine Corinthian columns divide the church into a nave and two side aisles. There is a wonderful 9th century 10 metre diameter cupola with gold mosaic depicting the Ascension, under which are two fabulous gold and silver chandeliers with griffins. Another fine mosaic of Virgin and child is above the Sanctuary.

The Archaeological Museum: at the corner of Angelaki and Stratou. In May 2006 open every day 10.30 to 1500 (winter hours include end of May!) Remember the finds from Philip of Macedon's tomb are not here now but at Veryina. We will be going to see them!

Good labels and background information in English. Downstairs first room Neolithic (note the boxes used by archaeologists to store some of the finds. Upstairs: Fabulous display of Macedonian gold from various sites. Bronze helmets decorated with gold, bone dice, silver cups, stool, sarcophagus of mother and baby, large vase not gold but bronze with a high tin content, silver casket.

White tower (Léfkos Pyrgos) The tower stands 37 metres high and was probably built during the Venetian rule (1423-30) at the time when the walls came down to the sea here. The Turks used it as a prison in the 18th and 19th centuries and it had a reputation as a place of torture and execution giving it the name of 'Bloody Tower'. Later it was painted white hence the name.

The Basilica of Ay Dimitrios on Ay Dimitrios, north of the agora. Open till 10pm, Mass was being celebrated at 1900 on Tuesday last year. A very splendid five aisled basilica, the largest in Greece, and built on the site of the martyrdom of Saint Dimitrios. Originally 5th century it was badly damaged by the fire of 1917 and restored with the timber roof being replaced with concrete in the same style. Eleven fine 5th-6th century wall mosaics survived the fire. It was used as a mosque during the Turkish occupation (1493 - 1912)

From the Rotonda go uphill (Gounari) then left into Ag Dimitrou and immediately right you come to the house (no 17) where Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey was born. Continuing on up you then come into little streets with pretty houses with overhanging balconies and bays.

(Up here is the small church of Nicholias Orphanos C14th, a woman came with the key to open up, open till 1500 (closed Mondays, so probably no good for us.) It is tiny and charming, and has some lovely frescoes.) The house on the left just up from the church has unusual second floor bays with painted decoration underneath. Continuing up here you come eventually to the ramparts.

The ramparts In the 4th century AD Emperor Theodosius built 8 kilometres of walls running from the acropolis in the north of the city down to the sea, with over 40 towers. The walls were A large portion was demolished by the Turks in the 19th century to allow sea breezes to cool the air but over half the wall (4,300 metres) remains in good condition.

 

 

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