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Thessaloniki is the second city of Greece and the capital of the Greek region of Macedonia. Sometimes the name is abbreviated to Saloniki or Thessaloniki. The old city is situated like a kind of amphitheatre around the Bay of Thessaloniki, with as a point of recognition the White Tower from the Byzantine era. Along the sea, there is a 12 kilometre long promenade. The other remains of the Byzantine city wall are situated to the north of the old city. In the centre there are beautiful Byzantine churches.
The city itself has 360,000 inhabitants and in recent years that number has been falling. More and more people leave the busy centre and move to the suburbs, which are located primarily to the east of the city. Including the suburbs, the city has over a million inhabitants.
Thessaloniki is located in the north of Greece, on a bay that has been named after the city. The bay is part of the Aegean Sea.
The city has an important port and is the industrial and economic centre of Northern Greece. In the harbour area there is much petrochemical industry (for instance oil refineries). In addition, there are steel and machine factories, as well as an extensive pharmaceutical industry.
The city is a transport centre and benefits from the emergence of the new economies in Eastern Europe. Many products originating from or destined for these former communist countries are shipped via the port of Thessaloniki.
The international Makedonia Airport is located 15 kilometres to the south-west of the city. Many planes to or from the Greek capital Athens make a stopover at the airport. In addition, there are direct connections to, among other places, Milan, Rome, Zürich, Düsseldorf, Munich, Moscowand London. Also, there are flights to the islands in the Aegean and Ionian Sea.
At the moment, the city's public transport consists entirely of city buses. There are two types: regular buses and compound buses. On compound buses you enter the bus via the rear door and buy a ticket from the conductor. Regular buses only have a ticket machine and require exact change.
In 2006, work began on the construction of a metro system, which is expected to be ready in 2012. The expectation is that the metro will alleviate the enormous amount of traffic that currently plagues the city.
Thessaloniki is a train junction. There are various trains to Athens (Larissa Station), including a night train, as well as other destinations in Greece. There are international train connections to Skopje in Macedonia, Belgrade in Serbia, Budapest in Hungary and Istanbul in Turkey. Most trains don't have a smoking compartment.
Furthermore, there are of course many ferry services to the islands in the Aegean Sea.
The GR-1/E75 motorway connects Thessaloniki met Athens (a 5 hours' drive). Around the city there is a circular road from the industrial western part in the west to the residential areas in the east.
The street pattern in the city centre is regular, but traffic is busy and chaotic. There are many one-way streets, which is often badly indicated on maps. Add to that the fact that parking spaces are hard to find. If you do want to visit the centre of Thessaloniki, it is best not to take your rental car.
If you do want to park your car in the city, you can try the car park at the Plateia Eleftherias. If that car park is full, park your car on the free municipal car park to the south of the Museum of Byzantine Culture, not far from the White Tower. From there, it is a 20 minute walk to the city centre. This car park is not safe at night!
A remarkable thing is the underground and automatic car park near the YMCA. You park your car in a kind of elevator that transports your car to a free parking space, fully automated. Work is underway on the construction of more underground car parks.
Because the city is a centre for trade, many hotels are geared toward business people. They are usually not very cosy and they are above all functional, although in recent years some so-called 'boutique' hotels have been built. All year through we recommend booking your hotel room in advance, especially in the Autumn, when there is a large trade fair, followed by the large cultural festival of Demetria.
For more information about Thessaloniki, we recommend Google, and the following sources: