If you’re looking for a Greece winter getaway, Thessaloniki is a fantastic choice.
It’s far north enough to get the occasional dusting of snow, and it’s a great gateway to day trips like Meteora.
It’s quiet, it’s non-touristy, it’s quirky, it’s delicious – what’s not to love?
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Take in a winter sunset at the umbrella installation
I love winter sunsets – there’s almost no one around and you can see some spectacular views all to yourself.
Normally, this umbrella installation is one of the most popular Instagram spots in Thessaloniki and is super crowded with people in the summer. Forget about getting a good photo at sunset in summer – you’ll have to vie for a person-free spot. In winter in Thessaloniki, though, you’ll have not a single problem.
See the White Tower covered in snow
If you’re lucky enough to visit Thessaloniki in the snow, head down to the waterfront to see the symbol of Thessaloniki (and the symbol of Macedonia, really) all under a beautiful layer of snow.
Even without snow, it’s well worth a visit, and you should definitely pop inside the excellent museum which covers its history from the Byzantine era forwards.
Visit quiet churches and archaeological sites
Greece isn’t a popular winter destination on the whole, but it’s hard to find a less touristic destination in Greece than Thessaloniki in winter.
If seeing quiet, little-visited churches, centuries-old ruins, and relics of the Ottoman era — all without tourists — sounds like heaven, you’ll a fantastic time in wintry Thessaloniki.
Marvel at the view from Ano Poli
I love the charming yet gritty neighborhood of Ano Poli (Old City in Greek). Two-thirds of Thessaloniki was destroyed in a huge fire in 1917; as a result, the city’s architecture isn’t as beautiful nor as historic as, say, Athens.
The exception to this rule is Ano Poli, the one of the few parts of Thessaloniki to survive the destruction. It’s full of street art, cute tavernas and cafés, and plenty of spunky resident stray cats and dogs.
It’s also home to some of the best views of Thessaloniki, so climb higher and higher and you’ll see some impressive sights.
Sip on a coffee at a Thessaloniki café
Thessaloniki can get quite cold in the winter, and as a result, you’ll definitely want to spend some time inside.
I spent around three weeks in Thessaloniki in January checking out the café scene. While there are a lot of nice cafés in Thessaloniki, the problem is that in winter everyone smokes inside in restaurants and cafés. This is despite smoking inside being against Greek law, but that doesn’t seem to scare off even the Greek Health Minister.
I’ve picked out a few of my favorite cafés (and one you should avoid at all costs) in this Thessaloniki café guide, but for non-smokers, I recommend Ypsilon which is beautiful and has a non-smoking side and TOM’S which has a high enough roof in the courtyard that the smoke isn’t that suffocating.
Eat a delicious Greek meal
Greek food is one of my favorites, and it’s just as tasty in the winter as in the summer! While many Greek dishes like Greek salads and fresh seafood are far better enjoyed in the summer, there is a hearty side to Greek cuisine that shouldn’t be forgotten in the winter.
Nothing is more delicious in winter than a steaming plate of moussaka – except perhaps eggplant covered in meat sauce and plated atop yogurt or a perfect souvlaki wrap.
Take a snowy day trip to Meteora
If you’re lucky enough to visit Meteora in the snow, it’s truly something out of a dream. The landscape is pinch-me-beautiful basically any time of year, but Meteora in winter is just phenomenal if you have the chance to see it covered with snow.
If you want to know how to get from Thessaloniki to Meteora on a day trip, I’ve written it up here.
What to Pack for Thessaloniki in Winter
We have an entire Greece packing list that includes exactly what to bring to dress for winter in Thessaloniki, but here are some essentials you don’t want to miss!
A Guidebook – While travel blogs are great, we also definitely see the benefit of having a good paper guidebook in hand to refer to in your on-the-ground travel. We own and recommend the Lonely Planet Greece book.
Winter accessories: Bring a winter scarf like this one (women’s) or this cashmere scarf (men’s) to help block out the wind. We recommend women’s gloves like these which are compatible with your smartphone (for a men’s version, check these). You lose also lose a lot of heat from the top of your head and ears, so a fleece-lined knit hat (women’s) that you wear tight, like a beanie, is a fantastic choice. Pick a colorful one for cute photos! Here’s a men’s version as well.
An ultra-light down jacket: You can wear this on its own or pair it with a warmer jacket for colder days. This rolls up and packs easily in your day bag so it’s good to bring along – I have one really similar to this (women’s) but there’s a men’s version as well. If you really want to be warm, I recommend a winter jacket like this North Face parka which I’ve owned for years and years.
Winter boots: It was snowy and icy for much of my first week in Thessaloniki in January and a lot of the streets were extremely slick. For snowy days and super cold weather when you still want to be comfortable, I love these knee-high waterproof Blondo boots and have owned them for over a decade. For men, I suggest a waterproof boot with good traction, like these Timberlands.
Motion sickness pills: Great for bus rides especially on mountain roads such as if you’re going to Meteora – I buy these non-drowsy ones. You can also try these natural motion sickness bands which use acupressure to reduce nausea – they actually work pretty well.
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.
More Greece Resources
Headed to Greece? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more.
If you’ve decided to visit Greece in winter, do check out the winter sections of our Greece packing list!
For Thessaloniki, we currently have a guide to the best Instagram spots in Thessaloniki and our favorite Thessaloniki cafés. If you’re trying to decide on Thessaloniki vs. Athens, we have a guide to help you! We also have a post on how to get from Thessaloniki to Meteora on a day trip.
We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.
Finally, Make Sure You Come to Thessaloniki with Travel Insurance
I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world!
Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While Greece is safe, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury — especially when it comes to winter travel, where a slip and fall on the ice could potentially ruin your trip — so it’s better to play it safe.