“There is the heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad.”
– Homer, “The Iliad” –
PRINT & GO
Before your departure, do not forget to check/bring with you:
– Boarding Pass and Hotel Reservation
AT THE AIRPORT
I started this fantastic trip from Thessaloniki, the capital of the Macedonian region, the second biggest city in Greece (after Athens). I took a Ryanair flight from Brussels to there and after 2,5h…kalos orisses stin Ellada!
The airport, located at around 14km from the city center, is linked to the city in 2 ways:
– by public transport: you can take bus 78 just outside the main hall. The bus runs hourly from there to Thessaloniki train station. The journey takes around 45mins and costs around 0,50€.
– by taxi: there are taxis just outside the airport running the entire day from the airport to the city center. The trip lasts around 20mins (depending on the traffic) and costs around 15€.
DAY 1: THESSALONIKI
After a good rest in the hotel, time to wake up early in the morning and explore the wonderful Thessaloniki. Besides being the second biggest city in Greece, Thessaloniki is a student city, with a famous university. Therefore the atmosphere is great: young people everywhere, shops, bars, restaurants, concert places, theaters, ouzeries.
There are many interesting places to see in this city (all on foot), which is a mix of Roman and Byzantine art and modern architecture:
- Start your trip from Egnatia odos, one of the main boulevards in Thessaloniki. If you are a shopping fan, you must stop there and check all the stores. If you don’t like shopping, just go ahead and turn to Venizelou street, in the opposite direction of the coast. After few minutes, on your right you will find the Roman Forum, the ruins of the Roman town, with some columns and a theater.
- On the street above the Roman Forum you will find Agios Dimitrios church, probably the most popular one in the city. This church dates back the VII century AC and has very interesting interiors.
- From Agios Dimitrios church, take any street up and walk around 15mins: you will arrive at the Old Town. This is a very nice area, with traditional old houses, small cobbled streets, the ancient city walls and the Byzantine Citadel. But the most beautiful thing in this area is definitely the view. Since the old town is in the upper side, you will have the honor to have an amazing view of the whole city and its gulf…something that will leave you speechless!
- From the Old Town, take the streets down again, this time more on your left, so that you will pass by Agios Nikolaos Orfanos Church, another religious wonder of this city,part of the UNESCO heritage. From there, take the street down passing through the Evangelist Cemetery and after that, just on the left of Agios Dimitrios street, you will arrive at the Thessaloniki Panepimistimio (University). I never visit universities in the cities where I have been, but this one was very tempting and I don’t regret my choice at all. Just take a walk inside the campus, it’s always nice to see students’ areas!
- From the university, take the big street in front (Egnatia str) and you will arrive at the Galerius Arch, a jewel of the Byzantine art in the heart of the city. Admire all the sculptures on the pillars of this arch, it’s simply wonderful.
- From this arch, take the street behind and you will see immediately Agios Giorgos church, a very small building but plenty of charm.
- Now go back to Egnatia Odos and after some minutes turn on your left to Hagia Sofia street: you will get to Hagia Sofia church, another great building of the city.
- Go straight towards the coast now and turn to Tsimiski street, and after few minutes you will get to Aristoteliou Square, the main square of the city. This square is surrounded by very elegant buildings, cafes, and in one side it is entirely open to the sea, by giving a fantastic view.
- After this big day, it’s time to go back to the hotel, take a rest, and get ready for the nightlife! Thessaloniki is definitely the place to be for the nightlife. The streets get crowded with people hanging out in restaurants and bars. For the first night in Thessaloniki, you can explore the area near the port. It is an area that has been entirely renewed for the Olympic games; nowadays you can go there and enjoy a good Greek meal in one of the several tavernas located in those small pedestrian streets. For a drink after dinner, you have a huge choice!
DAY 2: VISIT THESSALONIKI
The second day of your staying in Thessaloniki can be taken more easily. You can dedicate it to shopping, museums and relaxing promenade.
- Leave from Aristoteliou Square and take the street in front of you, the one that passes along the coast. This is also a wonderful waterfront that has been renovated for the Olympic games and the result is simply great: a very long pedestrian street, with a cycling path, parks, modern sculptures…and of course the view on the blue sea!
- Along the coast, you will see the White Tower, which is the hallmark of the city. This is the only Byzantine tower that survived. Inside you can find the Byzantine Museum.
- Just behind the White Tower (taking Germanou street) you will arrive in the Museums district. A MUST is for sure the Archeological Museum.
- From the Museums district you can go through the park nearby and then go back to the coast, just in front of Alexander the Great statue. Then keep on walking and enjoy the beautiful view in front of you.
- After a big walk, you can go back to the hotel and take some energies for the last night out in Thessaloniki. This time you can eat and drink in one of the several restaurants and bars located around the small streets near Egnatia odos.
DAY 3: PELLA, VERGINA, EDESSA, DION
After 2 days in Thessaloniki, it’s time to leave the city and explore other places nearby. I must say that for this big trip to Greece I had a fantastic co-traveler with a car, and I can honestly tell you that the trip we have done can be done only by car. Consider that most of the archeological or natural sites in Greece are located outside the city or in very small towns, and the train system in Greece is not excellent; therefore it might be very difficult to get there. There are some agencies organizing guided tours, so it could be a very good option. But if you want to have enough flexibility you need to rent a car. Renting a car in Greece is not expensive, so for once you can do it!
So let’s switch the car on and leave. First destination: Pella.
- The city of Pella is located at around 45km from Thessaloniki and it is a treasure of ancient Macedonia. In the past this city was one of the main cores of the intellectual and artistic world. Aristotle was born in Pella in 356 BC. Pella’s ruins take only an hour to be seen, as most of the archaeological site is being excavated by students from the University of Thessaloniki. As you enter the site from the right, there is the House of Dionysus, where several floor mosaics have been lifted and are on display at the museum. In the heart of the site are the remains of the agora, the commercial center of the ancient city, with the three wells from which much of the pottery in the museum was collected. On the north of the houses and the agora are the acropolis and palace, which are off-limits to visitors. Directly across the highway, the museum houses gold-leaf jewelry, terra-cotta figurines, and a white marble bust of Alexander the Great.
- From Pella, take the way to Edessa, located 48kms far away. There you cannot miss the waterfalls, falling from a big height and creating a great nature show with all the greenery around.
- After this short stop in Edessa (it will take you just 30mins to see the waterfalls), take the car again, drive 60kms and you will get to Vergina. The interesting thing to see there is the Tomb of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. Together with the tomb, you will be able to see some jewels, weapons and rests of the Macedonian Empire.
- Now take the car again and drive 70kms to get to Dion. Dion is a very nice site, located just under the legendary Mount Olympus.There you can admire the ruins of the ancient city, one of the best preserved till nowadays.
It has been a long day, you are probably very tired and the car is starting getting crazy. So it’s time to go somewhere to rest. We decided to spend our night in a very nice town at around 20mins from Dion: Platamona. This town has a unique location, that makes you see the Mount Olympus on one side and the blue sea on the other side. For dinner, just go to the port of this nice city, eat in one of the several fish restaurants and have a relaxing walk along the coast.
DAY 4: METEORA
I have always believed that, although people have created many artistic treasures, what nature has created is unique…and I had the confirmation of this thanks to Meteora, this wonderful site located on the central-western side of Greece, at around 150kms from Platamona and just next to Kalambaka.
In my life so far I had the luck to travel quite a lot and to see several places…but what I have seen in Meteora is certainly one of the most beautiful thing in my life!
You will stay simply breathless in front of what the nature has created there: huge rocks with fantastic shapes, spaces of green with the background of a light blue sky, ancient monasteries on the top of rocks. A pure poetry for the eyes and for the soul.
What created this rare geological phenomenon is one of the mysteries of nature and there are many theories though they remain theories and none have been proven. But as amazing a marvel of nature as these giant rocks are the buildings on the top of these are a marvel of man and seem just as miraculous and make Meteora one of the most spectacular places to visit in Greece.
The area of Meteora was originally settled by monks who lived in caves within the rocks during the 11th Century. But as the times became more unsure during an age of Turkish occupation, brigandage and lawlessness, they climbed higher and higher up the rock face until they were living on the inaccessible peaks where they were able to build by bringing material and people up with ladders and baskets and build the first monasteries. Nowadays the monasteries are all connected by a series of paths that you can do by car or on foot. Unfortunately I did not have a lot of time to visit all of them, so I just saw 3, but if you have time take your entire day to explore these marvels. Please do not forget that these monasteries are still religious buildings, therefore they require an adequate dress code and a good behavior.
Meteora is for me one of the best places in the world, every corner of this place has a special charm. You cannot go to Greece without visiting it!
After a visit to Meteora, we took the car again and drove to Athens. The trip takes 5hours, but in the way to the capital you will be able to see very nice places, such as Agios Constantinos, a nice town just along the sea, and Thebes (Thiva), with its archeological sites.
DAY 5: ATHENS
Time to leave the car now and go back to the foot and public transport: we’re in Athens! If I had to describe this city with an adjective I would say “magic”! Everything is magic in this city: the architectural masterpieces, the streets, the life, the food, the people, the sea..every single thing has a special and unique charm. I have been there two times and every time was a unique emotion. It’s one of the few places where I come back with pleasure and where I want to go back again.
Since I had already visited the main sites on a previous trip, this time I just visited the places I missed last time. Of course if you have some more days I strongly suggest you to explore this wonder of the world. You can find all the instructions and places to visit in my post about the trip to Athens and Peloponnese.
In that specific trip I visited three wonderful places: the Acropolis Museum, Cape Sounion, and the coastal area.
- The Acropolis museum is located just outside the Acropolis, in the city center of Athens. You can get there by metro 2 (stop Acropolis). It opened in 2009 and it is a real marvel outside and inside. Outside, the building is made with a contemporary style that fuses perfectly with the environment and the ruins. The entire building is made of glasses, that make the inside part very luminous and always with an eye to the Acropolis. Inside, you can admire the ancient sculptures and the rests of the Parthenon, and its reconstruction with the missing pieces (that are unfortunately in London). A huge artistic and historical heritage is inside this museum, open everyday (except for Monday) from 8:00 to 20:00. The admission fee is 5EUR.
- Cape Sounion is a promontory located 69km south of Athens, at the southernmost tip of the Attica Peninsula. You can get there by car or with some organized trips that leave from Athens city center. Cape Sounion is noted as the site of ruins of an ancient Greek Temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea in classical mythology. The remains are perched on the headland, surrounded on three sides by the sea. A wonderful site, where the blue sea and the architecture live together, where man and nature find their harmony. Try to be there during the sunset and you will assist at something that will leave you breathless.
- From Cape Sounion, hit the road again and drive all the way along the coast. The coast side around Athens is very special, with great houses, cafes, restaurants, bouzoukia (the Greek typical concert halls) and fancy hotels. When you arrive in places like Vouliagmeni or Glyfada you will feel like in California, thanks to the large and modern streets and the fantastic seaside. If you are a sea lover, don’t hesitate to go to the beach there, or even just for a coffee, and don’t forget to go out there during the nights, the numerous hyper-stylish bars and clubs get full of people, completely tied up from head to feet. And don’t miss a bouzoukia, a night of great Greek music and Greek atmosphere is always good for the spirit!
DAY 6: LAST DAY IN ATHENS
Unfortunately my trip to Greece is over. As I told you, if you have 1 or 2 days more return your car and stay in the city, visit the treasures of Athens, have some shopping, have some relaxing time and taste the various and delicious Greek cuisine. For additional information on Athens, you can see my post about my trip to Athens and Peloponnese. On the last day then take the metro from the city center (there are metro stops from the main sites: Syntagma, Monastiraki, etc) directly to the airport, the metro runs very often all day long and takes you around 45mins to get to the airport. Leave with all the memories of this unforgettable country with you and with the hope to go back there again soon!