THESSALONIKI: your family friendly destination in Greece
Thessaloniki is a Greek city that can be considered as one of the most friendly and exciting destinations for families in the country. Often overshadowed by the metropolitan capital, Athens, it is a city loved by both its locals and visitors for its vibrant character, its beautiful urban imagery and its long and enchanting seafront with an unbeatable view to the Mount Olympos!
Thessaloniki can be proud of many things: important cultural attractions, numerous culinary hot spots, small but refreshing green oases, contemporary infrastructures and attractive urban spots both for parents and children. Put on your travelling shoes, plan a fun and easy-to-follow schedule and let yourselves be carried away by the city charms!
Day 1 – the city centre (a)
A walk downtown, the city centre we love for its vivid atmosphere and its numerous carefree groups of friends chatting while enjoying their coffee.
- Walking around the city centre: you can shop in the commercial heart of the city around Tsimiski street and stroll around the traditional Modiano food market, Louloudadika (Flower shops) district and Chrimatistiriou (Stock market) square. For a snack, you can try the famous koulouri of Thesaloniki, a bread ring coated with sesame seeds, sold in pastry shops or at food stands on the street, or bougatsa, a pastry filled with cream, cheese or minced meat.
- A tour on the public cultural bus line nr 50: this cultural route introduces you to the most important historical and cultural monuments of the city. During the tour, a video will guide you through the cultural history of Thessaloniki. The route’s start and end point is Lefkos Pyrgos (White Tower). Tip: Get off at Ano Poli (the oldest section of the city uphill) to walk around for a while and take fantastic pictures.
- A city sightseeing bus tour: this is a complete tour of Thessaloniki on a fabulous open deck bus. The tour duration is 80 minutes and contains 8 hop-on/hop-off stops at the most important sightseeing spots around the city.
- The Museums: the city port has turned into an excellent museum area, where you can find the Museum of Photography, the State Museum of Contemporary Art and the Thessaloniki Film Museum. Climbing up the White Tower (an excellent museum offering a breathtaking view from the rooftop) is a must-experience if you want to brag about having been inside the landmark of the city. The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, the Museum of Byzantine Culture and the War Museum are all in the city centre. Here you can find a complete list of all the city museums.
- Take the boat to Perea. Perea is a seaside suburb of Thessaloniki. In spring 2014, after many decades, a suburban ferry route linking the city port with Perea was launched and the Thessalonians loved it right away. Get on board and you will feel like sailing to a Greek island!
- For a movie, visit Assos Odeon multiplex.
- Feeling hungry? Thessaloniki is a city famous for its amazing variety and high quality, as far as food in concerned. I recommend ergon foods, brothers in law for burgers. I could go on forever and urge you to visit more places downtown, in Ladadika and Athonos districts, but, unfortunately, most of them are not smoke-free. However, in summer, your alternatives are endless: Dore–Zithos across the White Tower, La Place Mignonne placed on a tiny square adjacent to the central stage of the National Theatre of Northern Greece, offering a lavish brunch on Sundays in a French bistrot atmosphere, and numerous restaurants and tavernas that you can discover and explore on your own!
Remember to visit our favourite one, TOMS Flagship Thessaloniki for a coffee or a snack!
- Worth visiting: Join the Juice Co. for freshly-squeezed juices and healthy snacks, Choureal for choux pastries and profiteroles, the playground on Navarino square.
- If your family loves puzzles and mysteries, then it is worth visiting one of the many escape rooms that have recently opened around the city centre: The Mindtrap, Locked, Braingame, TheCue. Pick a room that suits your puzzle-solving skills and, once you successfully complete your first mystery game, cry out loud: “Elementary, my dear Watson!”
Day 2 – the city centre (b)
The start point is again the city centre, only this time you’ll be heading to the eastern part of the city. The walk unfolds along Nea Paralia, the city’s seafront extending from the White Tower to Megaro Mousikis(Thessaloniki Concert Hall). This area underwent an extensive reconstruction and now is one of the most favourite spots of the Thessalonians, who enjoy its thematic parks and unobstructed sea view walking their dogs, cycling, jogging, resting on its benches, sipping their coffee or taking selfies and playing with the Umbrellas, the famous sculpture by Yiorgos Zongolopoulos. Walking along Nea Paralia you can do one, some or all (!) of the following:
- Rent a bike and cycle away without being disturbed by traffic and cars along the seaside city front!
- Walk to the Megaro Mousikis through beautiful thematic parks, where you can play or have a picnic. Other spots along your route: the children’s traffic park (next to Makedonia Palace Hotel), unique playgrounds and spots ideal for you and your family to rest and play for a while. Just before the Megaro, you will find the only –for now- café along the route for a coffee or a snack.
- Walk up Tritis Septemvriou Av. and visit the amazing action sports & culture venue WE. Older children will absolutely love the exciting activities they can choose from: ski and snowboard simulator, climbing, circus, inline skating, aerial arts!
- Visit the special indoor playground Playcorner, which is close to the City Hall and the ET3 park (aka Anthokomiki park). It is ideal for younger children, who will enjoy themselves playing with wooden kitchen and food toys, dolls and Playmobil toys. At the same time, you can relax and have a coffee or a snack in a clean and tastefully decorated café.
- Take a small detour and visit the ET3 park. Small ponds full of fish and turtles, smooth hills with green grass and a small playground offer a relaxing setting and an ideal spot for a picnic.
- Get on board on one of the small wooden ships anchored in the White Tower area and sail away around Thermaikos gulf. It is a unique opportunity for your eyes to savour the view of Thessaloniki seafront and your kids to feel like pirates conquering the city!
- Feeling hungry? Great choices are the fish tavern Triaktis close to the Megaro Mousikis or the modern bakery Theya serving light meals, which is located on Sofouli Str., a street running along the sea with high trees and scattered neoclassical buildings, remnants of another era. Take one of the small streets that take you to the sea and, if you happen to be there at sunset, the view of the pinkish sea and sky will impress you!
Day 3- in the outskirts of Thessaloniki: action and fun for everyone!
This plan is full of action and family fun! For this one, you will definitely need a car. If you manage to overcome this small obstacle, this is what this drive can offer:
- A visit to the Mediterranean Cosmos for shopping, a coffee break at the cozy and family-friendly Biscotto coffee+ and a movie at Village Cinemas multiplex.
- The NorthSkatePark venue, behind the Mediterranean Cosmos, an ideal place for BMX, skateboard, rollers, etc, aficionados.
- In the wider area, you can also find the Thessaloniki IKEA store. Take a break, shop, have a low-budget meal and let your kids play their hearts away in the store’s indoor playground.
- It is summer, the weather is hot and you feel like melting? Waterland is the place to be! A water park with water slides for adults and kids, a pirate’s island, a wave pool and a free ride on the bus taking you there! Free entry for children 0-4 years old and family tickets available.
- The Thessaloniki Science Center & Technology Museum NOESIS, with a digital planetarium, a motion simulator, a 3D giant screen cinema, a technology museum and exciting exhibitions.
- Feeling hungry? You can either return to the city centre or have a light meal, a brunch or a proper lunch at Mediterranean Cosmos. Perea, a seaside suburb of Thessaloniki is a few kilometers away and is an ideal place to have a typical Greek fish meal. Choose one of its small fish taverns by the sea, take your shoes off, take a walk on the sandy beach and enjoy the view of the city.
Day 4 –so close and, at the same time, so far away! For nature lovers!
This plan takes you away from the urban scenery of Thessaloniki. It is full of nature, serene locations, animals and lots of picnic spots.
- Before leaving the city behind you, you can drive uphill to the city suburb Panorama; there you will find the unique indoor playground Kids Fun Factory. Crafts, everyday workshops, books, dress-up costumes and many more will keep your youngsters busy while you can have your coffee in a tasteful, colourful and smoke-free environment.
- Once you exit Panorama heading towards Chortiatis, turn to your right at the crossing that leads you to the recreation area Platanakia (there is a sign). In less than 3 minutes, you will arrive in a wonderful forest, an…urban wetland habitat. Small waterfalls, a playground, domestic animals, pathways in the forest, a restaurant/café and a cool breeze even in the hottest summer days.
- Somewhere between the suburbs of Thermi and Panorama, you can find the Ecofarm of Dimitris and Veatriki. There are animals to feed, horses to ride and a peaceful rural environment to relax in.
- In the wider Thermi area, there are two more natural havens: the Thermi Dam with an artificial lake full of fish and rare bird species, and the Environmental Park, which used to be a waste disposal area, but now is a valuable green area with picnic kiosks, a playground, football and basketball fields and a unique view.
- I’ve already recommended certain spots that are ideal for a family picnic, but the city has even more for you to choose from: the Pasha’s Gardens, the Atlantida leisure area in the urban forest of Seich-Sou (between the Theatro Dasous and the city Zoo), etc.
- When you reach the village of Chortiatis, the city is far away. Park your car at the area where the telecommunication antennas are and walk up to the Chortiatis Refuge. Your lungs will fill with fresh air, your body will love the mild exercise, your kids will run, climb and play, and nature will be at its best be it summer, fall or spring.
- Feeling hungry?: There are plenty of places to eat in Panorama or Chortiatis. If you choose to stay at the Chortiatis Refuge, you will enjoy your meal close to nature with dishes that may be plain and few, but always delicious and served in a friendly ambience. The Refuge is open only on weekends and it is wise to call before you visit. For a high-quality fresh snack, go to the modern bakery Klea in Panorama.
For more information, check this Cultural Map of Thessaloniki.
Visitors can now find in Thessaloniki a variety of family-friendly hotels. Depending on your budget and your taste, you can choose one of the following:
- On the more expensive side, there is Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki, MET and City Hotel
- For the budget-conscious travellers, there is Le Palace Art Hotel
- Low-budget choices are the apartments for short-term rental, a new trend in hospitality, as well as a series of modern youth-hostel style venues, such as Colors Ladadika Central, Colors Rooms & Apartments and The Caravan
Themed walks and alternative routes in the city:
Getting to Thessaloniki:
Airport: If you fly to our city, you can either rent a car at the airport or take the airport bus or a taxi to reach your hotel or apartment.
Bus or train: If you are travelling by bus or train, a taxi or a city bus will take you to your accommodation.
Getting around Thessaloniki:
In the city, you can get around on foot, by taxi or by bus.
You can always rent a bike, either at the six public bike rental stations (operated by the Municipality of Thessaloniki) (i-bike) or at the rental spots owned by private companies throughout the city (thessbike and BikeIT).
Finally, you can also move around using your car. It is very difficult to find a parking place in the city centre, since the majority of the parking spaces are available only for the city centre residents (special vignette). If you are lucky enough to find a parking space, check if you need to buy a special parking card (1,70€/hour). There are, of course, several private parking areas, the cost ranging from 1,50€/hour (parking in the Port Authority area) to 5€/hour (in the “Plateia” shopping hall), with an extra charge for each extra hour.
Some useful phrases in Greek:
Hello! Γεια σου! [yAsou_informal]
Γεια σας! [yAsas_formal]
Good morning! Καλημέρα [kalimEra]
Good evening! Καλησπέρα [kalispEra]
Good night! Καληνύχτα [kalinIkhta]
Pleased to meet you! Χάρηκα πολύ! [khArika polI]
Yes Ναι [ne]
No Όχι [Okhi]
Thank you! Ευχαριστώ [efkharistO]
You’re welcome! Παρακαλώ [parakalO]
Please Παρακαλώ [parakalO]
I don’t understand Δεν καταλαβαίνω [den katalavEno]
Do you speak English? Μιλάτε Αγγλικά; [milAte anglikA?]
Some typical Greek dishes you should try:
- The typical horiatiki salata with tomatoes, cucumber, olives, feta cheese, and onions. You can find it in almost every restaurant and tavern you will visit. Some chefs work on the basic recipe and slightly twist it; they add an extra ingredient, change the dressing or turn it into an extravagant modern salad. Either way, you should definitely taste it!
- Fava, yellow split peas puree. A delicious legume usually served with fresh olive oil, caper or caramelised onions.
- Grilled eggplant salad with garlic, feta cheese, parsley. It you are lucky enough, it will be roasted directly on coals and its smoky flavour will elevate its taste.
- Fresh fish, squid and mussels are easy to find in Thessaloniki. Fried or roasted, they’re an excellent dish, both tasty and healthy.
- Kokkinisto. Beef stew in tomato sauce. Usually served with French fries or rice. A typical family comfort food.
You can wash your meal down with a glass of wine (Greek wineries have a variety of A-list etiquettes to offer), one of the Greek beers that have recently started to re-emerge (Bios5, Alfa, Fix, Vergina, etc) or a typically Greek tsipouro or ouzo. Your kids will love the freshly squeezed juices and Greek soft drinks, such as Vikos or Lux.
I would really love to help by offering my customised tips!
So, please, do not hesitate to get in touch with me and share your ideas. Ioanna