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While most visitors make a beeline for Athens, Thessaloniki, the country's second-largest city, offers plenty for visitors interested in ancient history. Three days in the city let you cover all the highlights, visit the Monasteries of Meteora, and try out local cuisine. Here's how to maximize your time.
Day 1: Ancient Attractions
Spend your first day in Thessaloniki exploring ancient archaeological attractions. Sightseeing tours typically take visitors to Vergina, the ancient Macedonian capital of Aigai. This area is best known for its burial mounds, some of which date back to 11th century BC; Alexander the Great's father, Philip II, is interred here.
After your tour, return to Thessaloniki to visit some of the city's most important historic attractions; these include the two-terraced Roman Forum; the Church and Crypt of Agios Dimitrios, which was used as a mosque under Ottoman rule; and the White Tower, a fortification that now houses a museum of city history. Finish your day at the stately Aristotelous Square, or stick around the Ladadika area for dinner and drinks.
Day 2: Culinary Culture
Thessaloniki has a ton of great restaurants, bars, and markets, so spend your second day experiencing some of its finest culinary offerings. A good way to get your bearings is on a food tour; doing so introduces you to local shops and restaurants that aren't generally on the radar, and also gives you the chance to try out different Greek dishes, pastries, and coffees.
If you discover a passion for Greek food and want to learn how to make it at home, take a cooking class. Alternatively, if food isn’t your thing, consider spending the day at Kerkini Lake, an artificial lake near the Bulgarian border that boasts diverse species of bird.
Day 3: The Monasteries of Meteora
On your last day, head out to Meteora, a dramatic rock formation about three hours from Thessaloniki. The region's scenery is reason enough to visit, but it's best known for its Eastern Orthodox monasteries, which have earned the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the caves here were inhabited for thousands of years, and the oldest such structure—the Theopetra Cave—is believed to date back to Paleolithic times.
Popular monasteries include the medieval Holy Trinity Monastery, the Monastery of Great Meteoron (the largest monastery in town), and the Roussanou Monastery, which is a fabulous place to watch the sunset. While travelers can visit independently, day trips let you skip the hassle of care hire and come with a guide who provides information that’s crucial to understanding the history of the area.