Thessaloniki is a lovely but gritty seaside town that’s often overlooked in favor of Athens or Greece’s islands.
But Thessaloniki has a lot going for it: cheaper prices, a vibrant youth culture thanks to the largest university in Greece being set right in Thessaloniki, and what I’d wager is the best food scene in Greece.
But in terms of “Instagrammability,” Thessaloniki is a bit rough around the edges. There are a few famous sights – the Thessaloniki umbrellas, the White Tower that are essential Instagram spots in Thessaloniki – but as for finding more offbeat ones, it’s a bit hard.
Luckily, I spent about 3 weeks of the city discovering its most charming corners – and I’m here to share my knowledge with you!
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Map of the Most Instagrammable Spots in Thessaloniki
Our Favorite Instagram Spots in Thessaloniki
The Umbrella Installation
It seems like every city is getting its own umbrella street – but Thessaloniki has one-upped them all with this gorgeous umbrella installation right on the seaside, which is the perfect spot for some sunset snaps.
I visited Thessaloniki in January – hardly high season! – and there was just one other person getting her photos here, but I imagine it would be quite crowded in the summer and you’d have to work pretty hard to get a people-free shot.
To find this installation, walk from the main square towards the White Tower. Once you reach the White Tower, continue walking away from the center about 5 more minutes, and you’ll reach the waterfront installation quite easily.
The White Tower of Thessaloniki
Dating back to the 12th century and reconstructed by the Ottomans during their occupation of the city, this beautiful building has a tragic past as it was the site of many imprisonments and executions during the Ottoman reign.
After being free from occupation nearly two centuries, the White Tower has escaped some of its past connotations as a prison and execution site and is now regarded as the symbol of Thessaloniki and a point of pride for its citizens.
Thessaloniki’s winding old town on the top of the hill, Ano Poli is one of the oldest parts of the city as much of it was destroyed in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917, which destroyed two-thirds of the city.
On these steep and winding hills is where you’ll find some of the most photogenic corners of the city and some gritty street art tucked away on side streets, so save yourself at least an hour or two to explore, map tucked away, in search of beautiful corners of this neighborhood.
With a zoom or telephoto lens, you can capture some really beautiful sea photos of the boats on the Mediterranean, giving your Instagram feed those sparkling sea vibes while your feet are firmly planted on the ground.
All along the waterfront, you can snap beautiful photos of the different boats, and this area is also fantastic at sunset when you can capture the sun dipping below the mountains and illuminating the whole harbor with gorgeous sunset colors.
Colorful, vibrant, full of great coffee shops and restaurants: Ladidika is my favorite part of Thessaloniki by a long shot. You’ll find plenty of cute Thessaloniki photography spots here.
One of my favorite places here is Ypsilon, which has an actual non-smoking section of their café (swoon – I was practically asthmatic by the end of my 3 weeks in Thessaloniki in the winter!). It has great coffee, a lot of great places to work if you find yourself in need of some laptop time, and it’s on one of the cutest streets in Thessaloniki.
Arch of Galerius
Kamara – also known as the Arch of Galerius – is one of many Roman ruins in the heart of Thessaloniki, dating back to the 4th century AD, surviving both fires and occupation.
It’s right in the heart of Thessaloniki so it’s hard to miss this gorgeous, historic building (nor should you miss the nearby rotunda, also dating back to the 4th century).
The OTE Tower
For some of the best views of the city, be sure to ascend the space-age looking OTE Tower which is not far from the White Tower of Thessaloniki – about a 10 minute walk away.
You can ascend to the top of the rotating restaurant, where for a premium price, you can enjoy a glass of wine or cup of coffee while taking in incredible views. I think we paid around 9 euro for a glass of wine and about 5 euro for a coffee, so it’s not cheap, but those views are worth it!
Love capturing colorful food on your Instagram? There are a handful of beautiful, colorful restaurants serving up gorgeous dishes in Thessaloniki, but if you want to snap some serious dessert photos that are worth every sugar-laden bite, head to Poco Loco.
Here you’ll find freakshakes begging to be Instagrammed as well as a handful of other desserts that are as tasty as they are photogenic.
La Niña Frida
For a cute and colorful café, check out La Niña Frida with its gorgeous Frida Kahlo mural and turquoise-blue walls.
While I’ve heard great things about the food, it was always too packed to sit and eat something here – but it’s on my list for next time. It’s located right near Kamara (Arch of Galerius) earlier on this list, so it’s easy to cluster your visit to maximize your time.
Estrella World Street Food
Another one for the foodies and sweet tooths out there, the restaurant Estella World Street Food is absolutely worth a visit while in Thessaloniki – it was my favorite non-Greek restaurant I ate at while there (because sometimes, you just gotta take a break from tzatziki and fava)
They’re known for their sumptuous cakes and ultra-fluffy pancakes, but they serve up plenty of other dishes, including a gorgeous smoothie bowl if you wanna pretend you’re in Bali, as well as several tasty savory dishes (my egg brunch entrée was incredible!)
Bonus: Don’t Miss Meteora!
While not in Thessaloniki by a long shot, it’s the most common day trip for people to do from Thessaloniki and it is entirely worth it! While yes, it’s a long day involving about 3 hours of drive time each way, when else can you see a place this beautiful and unique?
It’s a little difficult to get around unless you rent a car or take a shuttle there – I’ve gone over the details in my guide to visiting Meteora from Thessaloniki. Yes, it’s an all-day affair, but it’s entirely worth it if you have more than 2 days in Thessaloniki.
Where to Stay in Thessaloniki
Budget: For a vibrant and unique hostel experience in Thessaloniki, I suggest Stay Hybrid Thessaloniki. It’s located near my favorite neighborhood, Ladadika, which has some of the best bars, restaurants, and cafés in Thessaloniki. The hostel has beautiful design elements that bring it a step above other hostels in terms of sophistication, yet the price is still affordable. There’s a roof terrace for sunset views, a shared kitchen to cook in, and everything has a funky music theme! Check prices and availability here.
Mid-Range: For a funky B&B a 10-minute walk from Aristotelous Square, you’ll be enamored by The Caravan B&B. It’s perfect for people who want the comfort of an Airbnb with the seamlessness of a hotel, including perks like daily housekeeping and reception services like luggage storage. It’s cute, it’s quirky, it’s conveniently located — what’s not to love? Check prices and availability here.
Luxury: For an impressive place to stay in Thessaloniki, it’s hard to beat the 5-star Electra Palace Hotel on Aristotelous Square – and in winter, Thessaloniki hotel prices are rock bottom, so you can get an incredible room for an affordable price! You can bundle up on the rooftop bar for epic sunset views, relax and warm up in the saunas and steam rooms of the Spa Electra, enjoy some fine dining, or simply look out at the winter sea from your room. Check prices and availability here.
Greece Travel Tips
Here are a few things to know before coming to Greece. First, you can read our article on planning a trip to Greece to make sure you’ve thought about each of the travel planning steps on our eleven-point checklist.
Second, if you’re planning to explore the islands as part of your trip here, we have recommendations in our Greek Island Hopping Guide and our Greek Destinations Guide. If you’re interested in the most romantic spots in Greece, we’ve narrowed the list down to our favorite Greek honeymoon spots.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Finally, we always recommend you travel with valid travel insurance. Greece is a very safe place to travel, but accidents and theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.