Five Ways to Experience Thessaloniki: insider tips from a local guide

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Today our guest blogger is Kevin, an American expat and local guide in Thessaloniki. Kevin has lived in this Northern Greek city for the past six years and loves the simple pleasures the city affords: good food and drink, atmospheric neighbourhoods, and a wealth of history. Here are Kevin’s five favourite recommendations for visitors to Thessaloniki.

• Enjoy a coffee, soda, beer, ouzo or tziporo with a plate of "meze" (Greek hors d'oeuvres) at one of the cafeterias in the city's public parks. I like the one by the quay the best (near Makedonia Palace hotel).

• Wander around the city's main fresh markets in the center - the old Modiano and Kapani markets. You'll find anything you want from fresh rabbit to candied chestnuts. Eat at some of the tavernas, ouzeries and ovelesteria (grills that serve meat) where workers usually lunch. (Near Ermou St. & Aristotelos Square).

• Go to the Jewish Museum in the center, at Ag. Mina and Venizelou St. Here you will learn about one of the most important aspects of Saloniki history that is largely ignored within Greece - the 2,300-year presence of Jews in the area. From 1492 to 1912 they were the largest ethnic group in the city and helped transform it into a major European trade center.

• Walk around the "Ano Poli" (Upper City) above Kassandra St. where the old Turkish streets and houses still stand. There are small cafes and restaurants, old churches and mosques and the atmosphere of Ottoman Saloniki. Urban redevelopment was stopped before it could obliterate the area. (There are steep lanes, cobblestones and many steps here, so I only recommend it for those without mobility issues.)

• Wander around the old quarters in the center known as "Ladadika" (area for olive oil sellers) and Frangon St. Here you will see the old merchants' and foreigners’ quarters from late Ottoman times. This area was spared by the great 1917 fire that destroyed most of old Saloniki. There are cafes, restaurants and thousands of wholesalers' shops selling everything from lace to copper liquor distillers.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history and culture of Thessaloniki, or perhaps going for a bike ride through the city streets, consider starting a conversation with Kevin!
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