Provocolate Greek Culture, Travel, and Lifestyle Thu, 06 Feb 2020 13:01:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Provocolate 32 32 The Best Things to Do in Mykonos Mon, 23 Dec 2019 09:41:32 +0000 Mykonos is a unique place, an island of fascinating contrasts. This is an island where you can dine on exquisite gourmet dishes while you’re barefoot and wearing nothing but a bathing suit and a pareo. You can shop at designer boutiques at midnight, and the supermarket has both laundry detergent and cases of Dom Perignon […]

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Mykonos is a unique place, an island of fascinating contrasts. This is an island where you can dine on exquisite gourmet dishes while you’re barefoot and wearing nothing but a bathing suit and a pareo. You can shop at designer boutiques at midnight, and the supermarket has both laundry detergent and cases of Dom Perignon and Veuve Cliquot.

Mykonos is the name on famous lips when they let something slip about their summer plans, and it is one of the top places to visit, especially for your first time in Greece. Mykonos is one of a small handful of elite, premier cosmopolitan destinations for beach life worldwide. It offers the best of everything, in every category: beaches, dining, clubbing, nightlife, and the ultimate in luxury shopping. There is even some gallery-hopping. This island deserves the hype – you won’t be disappointed.

It’s also a simple, classic Cycladic island of fisherman and herders. There’s a stream of the latest world-famous DJ’s all throughout the season. And then, there are also nights of traditional folk dancing to the music of the bagpipe of Mykonos. This is what makes Mykonos special – it’s authentically beautiful and real.

This Cycladic wonder offers endless possibilities. Mykonos can deliver whatever type of island experience you are looking for – clubbing and socializing in some of the world’s most beautiful settings, or, especially at the season’s edges, simply the most romantic and luxurious destination you can imagine – ideal for a honeymoon in Greece.

A Mykonos vacation package can help you make the most of what Mykonos has to offer you, whatever your travel style. Here are some of the best things to do on Mykonos:

1. Discover the Best Beaches on Mykonos

Of course, everything centers around the beaches, and Mykonos has some of Greece’s finest. Whatever type of beach you enjoy – whether organized and fully serviced or wild, whether calm or windy for watersports, Mykonos will have it.

Best Beaches for a Cosmopolitan Experience

Best things to do in Mykonos - Relaxing as the waves lap the shore
Relaxing as the waves lap the shore

The definitive Mykonos experience combines sand and surf with sophistication – or, in some cases, it combines sand and surf with excellent cocktails, DJs, and a little hedonistic abandon. Here are the best places to have a delightful and deluxe beach experience, Mykonos-style.

Paradise and Super Paradise are likely Mykonos’ most famous beaches on account of the name. The name may not be subtle, but perhaps it’s honest, if your idea of Paradise involves beautiful scenery, beautiful people, and excellent cocktails. Paradise Beach is a great party beach, great for socializing. It’s convivially crowded, a little loud, and the drinks are flowing. Super Paradise Beach is like Paradise, perfected. Smaller, and slightly more refined, Super Paradise has been called the “Party that Never Ends.” In the spirit of embracing the full Mediterranean experience, there may be some nudism.

My personal favorite, the long sandy Elia Beach in its own cove offers just the right mix of natural beauty and sophisticated style. The restaurant, where you’ll dine in the shade with your toes in the sand, has wonderful seafood and salads served with style. There’s also beachside service. Paraga is ultra-glamorous and great for people watching. This is where you’ll want to be looking your Mykonos best – without trying too hard of course. This is a gorgeous beach with excellent waters and excellent services from morning coffee to evening cocktails and excellent dining. Psarou is also one of the premier luxury beaches for socializing and all around glamour.

Best Beaches for Watersports

Some of the beaches are kissed with bracing winds. They keep the larger crowds away, and make windsurfing on Mykonos a pleasure.

Megali Ammos means “Great Sand”. Even though it’s within walking distance of Mykonos Town, you probably won’t find it crowded because of the high winds. This, of course, is what makes it perfect for the windsurfing. Another popular beach for windsurfing is Ftelia. This fully serviced beach that also has a social side later in the evening. Kalo Livadi is a large, family friendly beach is fully serviced and also has water sports facilities. Also family-friendly and popular with windsurfers, Kalafati Beach is next to a charming old fishing village. It has a pleasant local character.

The Best Wild Beaches of Mykonos

Underneath all the glamour and glitz, Mykonos has the elemental, raw beauty of the Cycladic Islands. Pack up your umbrella and towels, a bottle of sunscreen and some chilled bottles of water and a little bread, loutso and Kopanisti (a local cured pork and zesty cheese, respectively) and enjoy these wilder beaches.

Unspoiled Fokos Beach, wild and somewhat remote, inspires a more profound connection with nature, which explains the occasional nudity. Secluded Kapari Beach and its wonderful waters also inspires some nudism. It’s a little difficult to access – part of its charm. Chouklia means pebbles – this pristine, pure white pebble beach is remote, unspoiled, and uncrowded – perfect for a serene experience of Mykonos’ natural beauty.

2. Find your Favorite – Mykonos’ Best Clubs

Best Beach Clubs on Mykonos

Clubs and Beaches in Mykonos are sometimes synonymous. But there are also plenty of clubs in the Chora. These tips are of the moment- part of the fun is tuning in to the vibe of the island and finding the club of the moment. Jackie O’ beach club that overlooks Super Paradise is perfect for lounging by day. There are also special events like theme parties and guest DJs. One of Mykonos’ most legendary clubs, Cavo Paradiso, has an outdoor dance floor that’s full until dawn. Many people head here after things in Mykonos Town start to slow down. Paradise Beach Club – also, logically, on Paradise Beach – books the most prestigious international DJs, like Tiesto and Ministry of Sound. Busy after midnight, and by day enjoy the club’s own beach. Super Paradise Beach Club does a good job of delivering the classic Mykonos beach experience: DJ sets each night, a beautiful crowd with some celebrities, a perfect beach, and cocktails flowing. Pasaji, at Ornos Beach, offers a more relaxed version of the Beach Club experience. Fantastic swimming and beach lounging, then great food and drinks in a sophisticated, friendly atmosphere.

Clubs in Mykonos Town

Things to do in Mykonos - Mykonos Town at Sunse
Mykonos Town is lively from Sunset until the early hours

The streets of Mykonos town pulse with excitement after sundown. Just taking in the nighttime mood with cocktails followed by some after hour’s designer shopping is a quintessential Mykonos experience. Later on, you can join the part and one of these popular clubs, or check out the season’s new arrivals. Along Mykonos’ enchanting alleyways and plateias, you’l find the right club for every style.

That after-hours designer shopping will come in handy if you want to get into Astra, one of the town’s most exclusive and glamorous clubs. Kastro, a bar in Little Venice is the gold standard for the original Mykonos experience. It’s unpretentious, relaxed, and the views are stellar. There’s also Mykonos Town location for Jackie O‘. The famous club features drag shows and lots of over the top fun. This is also a good place to start your evening, with a cocktail while enjoying the sunset views.

3. Sample the Best Restaurants on Mykonos

Thinsg to do in Mykonos - Diner in Little Venice
Dinner by the sea in Little Venice is a classic Mykonos experience

This is an island where you can see world class famous chefs hanging out with the fisherman at dawn, getting their pick of the catch. There is serious, high-end dining on Mykonos, and also plenty of authentic local dining experiences. Here is a small handful of the many choices.

Funky Kitchen, like the name suggests, is an ideal place to enjoy inventive Mediterranean dishes based on prime local ingredients and French techniques. At Elia, a chic restaurant in the sand, you can enjoy elegant grilled fresh seafood and delicious seafood pastas, all steps from the surf of Elia Beach, making it ideal for an après-swim lunch. Bill and Coo, of the Suites and Lounge of the same name, is an award-winning gourmet restaurant, offering one of the island’s best fine dining experiences. Inventive, delightful platings make for a memorable experience. On Ornos bay, you’ll find a branch of the internationally phenomenon the Buddha Bar. In an exotic setting on the beach in the Santa Marina resort, you’ll dine on exquisite Asian cuisine, including impeccable sushi. For a more low-key and local experience with decades of tradition behind it, you’ll want to try Nikolas Taverna. Away from the action of the main beaches and Mykonos town, you reach this charming beach taverna by walking along a path from Platys Gialos. For three generations, this family-owned restaurant has been serving the best in authentic local cuisine, featuring fresh-caught fish and locally-sourced meats.

The Best Cultural Destinations on Mykonos

Best things to do in Mykonos - The Naxion Terrace of the Lions, one of the most famous sights of Delos
The Naxion Terrace of the Lions, one of the most famous sights of Delos

Fascinatingly, this international destination for a contemporary, cosmopolitan experience – in other words, one of the most famous party islands of the world – is the gateway for one of the most sacred sites of ancient Greece. Truly, Mykonos is an island of extraordinary contrasts.

Boats leave daily for Delos, a tiny island that’s one of the most significant archaeological sites in all of Greece. The mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, Delos was a sacred sanctuary. Peoples from all over built temples and elaborate buildings. After the Persian wars, this became the treasury of the Delian league, bringing even more wealth. Wandering through this vast archaeological paradise, you’ll see some famously familiar images, such as the lions of the Lions’ Terrace, and the enormous hand from the colossal Apollo that once was here. Mosaics in situ, the statues of the house of Cleopatra, and the much-intact Sacred Way all evoke ancient splendor. On site you’ll find the Archaeological Museum of Delos (the hand is in here)

The Archaeological Museum of Mykonos is rich in findings from the nearby island of Rheneia and some from Mykonos, from the pre-historic through Hellenistic periods. Pottery, statuary, figurines, grave stelle, and jewelry are on exhibition. At the Maritime Museum, which is in an elegant 19th-century island home, you can learn about Mykonos’ seafaring soul, through nautical objects from the ancient times through the present. Traditional Mykonos thrives amid the contemporary high life swirling around it – the island has a strong and proud culture. Learn about it at Lena’s House, a preserved classic Mykonian house of the 19th century. This is an annex of the Mykonos Folklore Museum. Windmills are such a strong symbol of Mykonos. One of them, the Boni windmill, also serves as an outdoor Museum of Agriculture, displaying a wine press, a water-wheel, a dove coat, and a traditional village-style oven, among other artifacts. It’s a beautiful place to visit.

All the photos in this post are courtesy of Antelope Travel, who are great at sharing the Greek experience.

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Best Places to Spend your Christmas and New Year’s Eve Sat, 21 Dec 2019 12:32:34 +0000 Of all Europe’s excellent choices of places to spend your Christmas and New Year’s Eve, these five cities deliver the perfect combination of maximum festivity and fun, and a surprising minimum of fuss. These five destinations – Baden-Baden, Budapest, Belgrade, London, and Rome – are easy cities to enjoy. And they are all particularly good […]

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Of all Europe’s excellent choices of places to spend your Christmas and New Year’s Eve, these five cities deliver the perfect combination of maximum festivity and fun, and a surprising minimum of fuss.

These five destinations – Baden-Baden, Budapest, Belgrade, London, and Rome – are easy cities to enjoy. And they are all particularly good at celebrating the Holidays – they’re ideal for last minute, spontaneous Christmas and New Year’s Eve vacations.

Baden-Baden – an Old World Classic Place to Spend your Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Best places to spend your Christmas and New Year's Eve - Baden-Baden
The Festive Streets of Baden-Baden by Night

Baden-Baden at Christmas and New Year’s is even more enchanting than usual. This unique town centers around the spas (Baden means “to bathe” in German) that catered originally to royalty and high society Europe. Logically a wealth of leisure and cultural activities followed. It makes an ideal place to spend and festive and rejuvenating Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

I took a fantastic trip to Baden-Baden last year right before Christmas. I came to experience the world-famous Friedrichsbad and its strict – and, as I discovered, strictly nude – 17-step procedure. Everything else was a delightful surprise. I don’t care for gambling, but I loved the Casino of Baden-Baden, essentially a museum of recreation, with gilded walls and baroque ceiling paintings depicting all the towns of Baden-Württemberg.

The Trinkhalle and its murals is still a social gathering place, a setting for the lovely Nativity scene during the holidays. And the great lawn in front of the opulent Kurhaus – were the Casino of Baden-Baden is – has a fairy-tale perfect Christmas market, glittering under a velvet night sky. We shopped, warmed up with mulled wine, and had plates of hearty Spätzle with sauerkraut and Speck.

By day, you can stroll along the banks of the lovely river Oos, and stop for Kaffee und Kuchen – the customary afternoon ritual of coffee, cake, and chat. The best place to for this in Baden-Baden is the Café König, an institution famous for schwarzwälder Kirschtorte – a must when you are actually in the Schwarzwald (the Black Forest). For an refined evening, check the program of the world-famous Festspielhaus – Baden Baden’s elegant performance space hosts internationally renowned productions throughout the season.

There are a host of Gala events for New Year’s Eve in Baden at the finest hotels. There is also a festive New Year’s Eve concert at the Festspielhaus early in the evening. This way you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for celebrating New Year’s Eve in style.

Places to sSpend your Christmas and New year's Eve - Strasbourg
Ornaments and Figurines at one of Strasbourg’s many Christmas Markets

Baden-Baden has many other enchanting cities close by. An efficient train network connects Baden-Baden to Strasbourg, Colmar, and Freiburg, Heidelberg, and other fairy-tale destinations. We saw them all on convenient day trips. The regional network offers great discounts for day tickets for groups, with savings starting at just two people. Each of these towns was full of Christmas markets, Cathedrals, mulled wine, and the scent of cinnamon and snowflakes in the air.

Baden-Baden’s Best Hotels – Wonderful Places to Spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Baden-Baden’s Old Town is the place you’ll want to be. We stayed near the Festspielhaus, which is the only landmark not in the old Town. It wasn’t too far, but it was a chilly walk after an evening in the baths or after the Casino. I’ll definitely stay in the old town on my next trip, at one of these hotels. By clicking on the links, you’ll find candid reviews, photos, and more details about your stay:

The venerable Brenner’s Park Hotel and Spa is an institution, an supremely elegant grand hotel overlooking ts own private gardens. It offers the classic, and exclusive, Baden-Baden experience.

The four-star Hotel Rathausglöckel is a charmer. In a 16th-century building just 50 meters from the Friedrichsbad, this is the best location for the classic Baden Baden experience. Freshly renovated rooms have a stately decor with wood furnishings. A large buffet breakfast – optional – is served in a handsome room, and there is also a romantic wine cellar. The prices for the quality are excellent.

The Boutique-style Hotel Beek has handsome rooms – some with a balcony. You’re right next to the Caracalla Baths, surrounded by the Black Forest. The price includes a very good breakfast.

Elegant and grand, the Hotel Am Sophienpark unites a classic beauty with fresh, contemporary design sensibility. This is one of Baden-Baden’s more indulgent choices, and worth the splurge. It’s close to the Kurhaus, where the Casino is, and to the Caracalla Baths. The rooms are spacious, and include an excellent breakfast.

The stylish Hotel Merkur has an elegant modern decor, large rooms, and an excellent breakfast. The location is excellent, on a quiet street in the center.

Best Places to Spend Your Christmas and New Year’s Eve – Budapest

The best places to Spend Your Christmas and New Year's Eve - Budapest
The Parliament Building of Budapest from the Fisherman’s Bastion

Budapest is festive in any season. This elegant capital with its neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings and beautiful bridges is so ornate it looks like it’s ready for the holidays all the time. But they really go all out for the holidays, with Europe’s most beautiful Christmas market.

Best Places To Spend your Christmas and New Year's Eve - Budapest
In the Matthias Church, ancient Hungarian design patterns serve as the inspirations for a uniquely Hungarian expression of Art Nouveau.

Other beautiful sights include the Fisherman’s Bastion, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Parliament building, and – for Christmas services – the Matthias Church with its bold and colorful interior. This is a fantastic choice if you are looking for a place to spend your Christmas and New Year’s Eve that offers the ideal combination of excitement and total relaxation.

Best Places to Spend your Christmas and New Year's Eve - the Gellert Baths
The Gellert Baths, Decked-out in Bespoke Zsolnay Tile Work

The total relaxation part is the spas, and Budapest is famous for them. Budapest is the world’s premier spa destination. The city is famous for its many hot therapeutic springs. There is an astonishing choice of opulent spas, each in its own style. This cosmopolitan Old World capital combines culture and leisure with unique style.

The creators of the Cafe Society, Budapest still has the world’s most elegant and atmospheric cafes, like the Cafe Central and the New York Cafe. For a holiday fantasy splurge, book the Herrend afternoon tea in the Peacock atrium of the supremely elegant Four Seasons Gresham Palace.

Best Places to Spend your Christmas and New Year's Eve - Budapest
Szimpa Kert – one of the original Ruin Pubs for which Budapest is so well-known – is lively every night of the year.

Budapest holds many possibilities for the ideal New Year’s Eve, whatever your celebration style. Thanks largely to the lively ruin pub scene in the famous 7th district – Erzsébetváros – Budapest is now a famous party and nightlife destination for all Europe. The former Jewish quarter – and present with its many Kosher restaurants – is now the premier nightlife destination, with the famous ruin pubs like Szimpla Kert.

Or you can have a more Old World Budapest New Year’s Eve, at a Gala event at the Danube Palace, enjoying classical music, a ballet performance, champagne, and elegant dining.

Whichever type of New Year’s Eve celebration you choose, you can start with a classic Budapest experience the day before, at a concert of the famous 100 Gypsy Violin Orchestra.

Perfect Budapest Hotels to Spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve

The Four Season Gresham Palace is a landmark on the Danube, an Art Nouveau landmark, stylish and impeccable in every regard. The rooms with the Danube views are a worthy indulgence, especially for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

The Danubius Hotel Gellert is a destination in itself, as much a reason to come to Budapest as a place to stay when you’re here. Massive, slightly quirky, historic Art Nouveau-via-Wes Anderson, the Gellert has character. It’s on the Danube at the liberty bridge and beside the Gellert Hill. But you’re not here for the location. The Gellert itself is the reason I first came to Budapest, and the reason I keep coming back. I love the views and the enormous windows, The keys are heavy brass, not tacky credit card-style. The breakfast room is elegant and the buffet is astonishing. Most of all, I love walking along the oriental carpets through the huge hallways in my bathrobe, on my way to the most opulent thermal baths imaginable – the Gellert Baths.

Design fans will love the gorgeous, high-style Hotel Noble. With a convenient location in Pest and wonderfully unique and beautiful rooms, it’s perfect for an urban getaway.

A low-cost choice that really doesn’t feel like one is the lovely Hotel Memories Budapest. This hotel in a building from 1900 has handsome contemporary rooms as well as a sauna and fitness area. The price includes a full breakfast, and there is free coffee available throughout the day. The location is perfect for exploring the old Jewish quarter of pest, the center for culture and nightlife, and it is very close to the Great Synagogue of Budapest.

You can browse more Budapest choices by clicking here.

Christmas in Belgrade – Twice

Best Places to Spend your Christmas and New Year's Eve - Belgrade
Republic Square, all Dressed Up for the Holidays

Belgrade is a particularly interesting choice when you’re considering places to spend your Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This is a destination with an important difference: The Serbians are primarily Orthodox Christians who follow the old calendar. This means that they celebrate Christmas on January 7th. This can go two ways. One option is that you can enjoy Christmas on the 25th with all of the festive atmosphere, but none of the inconvenience with everything being closed for your holiday. The other option is that you enjoy a second Christmas with the Serbians. You can go for New Year’s Eve and stay on for Serbian Christmas a week later. You can even go for Serbian Christmas and stay for the second Serbian New Year’s Eve. They celebrate both.

Throughout the season, a charming Christmas Market is open in Republic Square. And Sevti Sava wil be a wonderful place for Christmas servces. This Othodox church is the largest in the Balkans. It’s dome is actually several meters higher than that of Agia Sophia in Istanbul.

Belgrade is both cosmopolitan and very old world at the same time. There is a beautiful National Theater with a full schedule of Operas and Ballets. Tickets are very affordable – almost like cinema tickets. Serbians enjoy culture, and Theater, Opera and Ballet accessible to everyone. Here is how to visit the Opera House and see a performance.

The House of Flowers – Tito’s final resting place – is a monument to his enormous charisma. After visiting the House of Flowers, you can visit the museum of Yugoslavia. This focuses on Yugoslavia after WWII, and is on the same property. Both museums are deeply atmospheric, powerfully evoking the era.

The Nikola Tesla Museum is thrilling and fun, and ideal for visitors of any age. In addition to being a museum of Science and his phenomenal contributions, it’s also a tribute to the individual, with many of his personal effects on display (he was a man of refined and extraordinary style). The Kalemegdan Fortress and Park is a favorite destination with locals. perfect for a stroll among the bare trees, even on a chilly day. The scent of roasted chestnuts fills the air and a paper cone full of them will warm you up. There’s also a small zoo.

Sampling a Variety of Rakija along Festive Skardalija
Sampling a Variety of Rakija along Festive Skardalija

Belgrade is a great city for nightlife. Try the charming Bohemian pedestrian street Skardalija. The various Rakija will warm you right up. These distilled spirits are fragrant with the fruit from which they have been distilled. They come in a great variety. Plum is the most common, and quince and pear are delightful. Belgrade is an excellent town for drinking and socializing, with plenty of quality local beers and spirits – here is a guide to what to drink in Belgrade.

There are countless choices New Year’s Eve in Belgrade. This is a great night city. The best way to celebrate may be to pace yourself. Rest up, then bundle up- Belgrade is cold for Christmas and New Years! Start with the fireworks and the countdown, then go from party to part

The Best Hotels for Where to Spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Belgrade

Where to Stay on Belgrade - The Chic Bar of the Hotel Centar No. 1
The Chic Bar of the Hotel Centar No. 1

The classic choice is the opulent, gilded Hotel Moskva. The building is a landmark beauty in a central spot, and this is also a popular meeting point – having a slice of the Moskva Schnitt in the cafe is a Belgrade tradition.

In New Belgrade, across the river, is the inexpensive Garni Hotel Jugoslavija, a showpiece of glamorous modernism from the Tito era. The Hotel Jugoslavija is the subject of an excellent and evocative film.

If you plan to enjoy the nightlife around charming Skardalija, you’ll enjoy the Hotel Bohemian Garnia Skardalija, with an industrial-chic, minimalist decor.

The warm contemporary classic style of the elegant Hotel Centar 1 makes it one of the loveliest Hotels of Belgrade. It’s close to the National Theater.

If you prefer an apartment-style experience, you might try the glitzy and well-appointed Ben Akiba Luxury Suites, some with Jacuzzi. They’re located in Stari Grad, just 100m from the central Republic Square.

These are my top choices for my next trip to Belgrade. There are many more options here.

London – One of the Most Exciting Places to Spend Your Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Best Places to Spend your Christmas and New Year's Evead
London’s Streets Dressed for the Holidays

England – land of A Christmas Carroll and Harry Potter – defines the holiday mood. London is big and splashy and fabulous – the ideal place to spend your Christmas and New Years.

London goes all out for the holidays. Hyde Park becomes a gorgeous Winter Wonderland. There’s an ice skating rink, ice sculpting, a Christmas market, a little Bavaria. There’s also a host of performances, an Observation Wheel 60 meters high, and nine (!) roller coasters. Admission to the extravaganza is free. But it’s wise to book tickets for special events in advance.

It’s not just the Winter Wonderland that sparkles. London goes all-out, all over for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This is a big city. To see the very best of London’s beautiful holiday decorations and hear some wonderful stories and facts along the way, bundle up and take this London Christmas Lights Tour on an adorable vintage open-topped bus. Harry Potter fans will love this tour of Magical London, with a fanatical and fun expert guide.

The famous large department stores have fanciful window displays, and stock special goods for Christmas. Join the festive crowds browsing at Fortnum and Mason, Selfridge’s, Harrod’s, and Liberty of London.

The Opulent Rooms of the Wallace Collection
The Opulent Rooms of the Wallace Collection

London’s year-round attractions are also worth seeing. London’s magnificent Museums are free. You can enjoy a wealth of culture in beautiful, festive settings. The National Gallery and the Tate Britain are filled with masterpieces in wonderful rooms. But my favorite London museum is the Wallace Collection – as much for the collection as for the setting. The Wallace is in an opulent mansion. The walls are covered in shimmering silks in bold jewel tones. In addition to the Old Masters, you’ll see Fragonard, Watteau, Reynolds, Gainsborough. Besides this, there are porcelains, furnishings, snuff boxes, and astonishing collection of armor. It’s never very crowded.

And you don’t really need to actually seek anything out to have the Wallace experience. All you need to do is wander through the rooms and take it in. A glass-covered interior courtyard makes the ideal place to enjoy a classic Afternoon Tea. They do a special edition at Christmas time.

Best Places to Spend your Christmas and New Year's Eve - London
The Atrium of the Tate Britain

With the money you’ve saved on the museums, you can afford a classic London experience – going to the theater. London’s West End is famous for the excellence of its productions. There are several productions just right for the holidays. And you can always count on a first-rate staging of The Nutcracker.

For a perfect London New Year’s Eve, join the crowds on the Victoria embankment and the South Bank area to see a massive. joyous fireworks display. It’s all the more dazzling reflected in the river Thames.

Hand-Picked Hotels for Spending your Christmas and New Year’s in London

Best Places to Stay in London
The London Kimpton – Fitzroy

London has famously expensive accommodations. But many are well worth the indulgence. There are also really astonishingly bad accommodations. Rarely do you see so many 5s and 6s on Budget rooms can be dirty, windowless, or shockingly small. Here are some good choices for a variety of prices for enjoying your London Holiday.

You can get a complete overview, including photos and candid reviews, by following the links below:

The Hotel Indigo London, in Kensington, is juicy design hotel with astonishingly large rooms by London standards (24 square meters). In chic Kensington, you’re very close to the Victoria and Albert and the Museum of Natural History, and also elegant shopping and dining.

If you want to spurge even larger, the Kimpton – Fitzroy is a very appealing choice. In a gorgeous landmark building, the luxurious rooms have a contemporary elegance with a strong sense of London style. In chic Bloomsbury, near Russell Square.

London is big. You’re going to be using public transport to get around as it is. With that in mind, I once chose the MStay Golders Green. The large room with fresh modern decor with its elegant bathroom and well-equipped kitchenette were very nice to come back to after a really long day. The Kosher bakery down the street was a delicious plus. I paid a little less here than I had paid near Paddington station for a dingy, shamefully tiny room. I’ll return to the MStay in the future. Another convenient plus – the Golders Green station is a hub for the National Express bus. This makes getting to Stansted was much faster and easier than from Central London.

If you’re not going to spend much time in the room, but definitely don’t want to be slumming it, the Z Hotel Soho is an interesting choice. The rooms have an ingenious design, compact but luxurious. It makes for good prices. You can save even more by opting for a windowless room – like an airport Yotel. The location is perfect for theater and shopping.

The Best Places to Spend your Christmas and New Year’s Eve – Rome

Best places to spend your Christmas and New Year's - Rome
Bernini, whose sculptures crown the Colonnade of St. Peter’s Square, said the elliptical place embraces the visitor “in the maternal arms of the Mother Church “

Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s is the highlight of a Roman Christmas. This really helpful blog post details how to get tickets (free, but limited). But it also gives alternatives for other Papal ceremonies during the season. And if you can’t get into St. Peter’s, there are many other beautiful churches. You can still stop by Vatican city to see the Nativity scene and the Christmas Tree in Vatican square before celebrating a more intimate mass in a beautiful Baroque church.

Rome is one of the most beautiful and meaningful places to spend your Christmas. Like elsewhere in southern Europe, Christmas in Rome is not a very commercial holiday. The emphasis is not so much on shopping and gifts as it is on the religious celebration. It helps that Italian children receive gifts on Epiphany – the 12th day of Christmas (January 6th).

There’s plenty of celebrating, but it centers of family and foods, like rich and fluffy panettone. Many devout Italians abstain from meat on Christmas eve and eat lightly, feasting only on Christmas day. As to dining for the rest of your stay, you can’t go wrong. Even the simplest foods are delicious. A whisper thin searing hot pie from Ai Marmi is worth the wait in line. This bright, florescent-lit Trastevere pizzeria with its marble tables and lively mood is a Roman classic. Have an aperitivo first at Bar San Callisto in the Piazza of the same name.

Best Places to Spend your Christmas and New Year's Eve - Rome
Rome’s Pantheon is all the more festive for being filled with enthusiastic crowds

On the other days of your Roman Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday, take to the streets and visit Rome’s majestic squares – the Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and more, as you stroll. You’ll enjoy it more if you dress up a little – the Italians certainly do. While you’re out, check out the traffic police officer in the circle in from of the Vittorio Emmanuele – Rome’s busiest intersection. The Pantheon is wonderful, and all the more festive with the enthusiastic crowds.

New Year's Eve in Rome - The Colosseum Aglow
The Colosseum Aglow

If you want to visit the Colosseum, then you may well appreciate the convenience of this skip the line ticket, which includes the Forum and Palatine Hill. The time you save is better spent searching for the perfect pastry shop. If you see one museum, let it be the Villa Borghese. The collection is rich in magnificent works of Bernini and Caravaggio. Plan your visit – there is a timed entry ticket which is actually very convenient, because it eliminates endless lines and also ensures that the museum is not very crowded.

Rome’s Best Hotels for Spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Best places to spend your Chirstmas and New Year's eve - Rome
The Hassler with its sweeping, romantic views of Rome

Luxury Hotels in Rome

The venerable, opulent Hassler Roma, at the top of the Spanish Steps, is a Roman institution. Luxury meets all-out cinematic fantasy with the incredible views. Guests love the warm, personal service. Worth it for a special holiday.

Staying at the Nobildonne Relais, also near the Spanish Steps, is like being the guest of stylish, low-key, charming nobility. If you crave authentic details like ceiling frescoes and intricate mosaic floors, this is the place for you. It’s still a splurge, but far more affordable than the Hassler.

Fabulously Affordable Hotels in Rome

There are many modern apartment hotels in the grand old buildings of of Trastevere. I really enjoyed my stay at the design beauty B&B Trastevere 94.

On another visit to Rome, I tried a completely different kind of hotel experience. we stayed at the old-fashioned Hotel Alexandra, near the top of the Spanish steps on the sweeping curve of the elegant Via Venetto. It was central, with older (but spotless) bathrooms, and lots of classic charm, including antiques in the rooms.

The Trevi Beau Boutique Hotel is a stylish option. Some of the rooms at this cozy, charming hotel have arched or timbered ceilings, plus city views. As the name promises, you are just a minute from the Trevi Fountain, so you can get there before the crowds arrive for the perfect snapshot before you return for a delicious breakfast, included with your room rate.

Each of these options can be a little under €75 or €80 for a double, at the time of this writing.

For more choices in Trastevere – a charming neighborhood to make your home away from home and the center of restaurants, cafes, and socializing for locals, please check here.

For more choices in the center of Rome, close to the monuments and sights, please check here.

Last Minute Inspiration – Best Places to Spend Your Christmas and New Year’s Eve

All of these cities are festive holiday choices, with a wonderful spirit. Better still, you can enjoy them without excessive planning, or any planning at all. Happy Holidays, wherever you plan to be.

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Halkidiki Travel Guide – Where to Stay and Things to Do Wed, 18 Dec 2019 11:08:17 +0000 Halkidiki, Greece, is the most popular beach and resort area in Northern Greece. With silky white sands and jewel-toned waters, Halkidiki’s beaches are as lovely as those of the Greek Islands. Also sometimes called Chalkidiki, this is a large and complex region with a lot to offer. Here is a travel guide to help you […]

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Halkidiki, Greece, is the most popular beach and resort area in Northern Greece. With silky white sands and jewel-toned waters, Halkidiki’s beaches are as lovely as those of the Greek Islands. Also sometimes called Chalkidiki, this is a large and complex region with a lot to offer. Here is a travel guide to help you find the ideal Halkidiki experience for you, including where to stay, and interesting and unexpected things to do.

The landscape is lush, with thick pine forests edging the pristine beaches. It’s also varied, with beautiful mountainous regions, and cliff-top villages with views.

Three of us from Travel Bloggers Greece were on a recent trip to Halkidiki with Pass Partout, exploring the urban centers of Northern Greece, where we also discovered the Pella Region and Edessa. On our trip to Halkidiki, we found that this famous destination offers much more than beaches. Moreover, Halkidki is an inviting destination in any season.

Where is Halkidiki?

Halkidiki is a lush peninsula just east of Thessaloniki. It’s one of Greece’s most interesting and popular destinations, with a varied topography of mountains, forests, islands, and beaches.

It’s also very easy to get to. Many destinations in Halkidiki are only half an hour from Thessaloniki’s Makedonia Airport. Here are simple directions on how to reach Halkidiki by public transportation.

Halkidiki’s Geography

This complex peninsula is divided into distinctive sections, each with its own character. Imagine a fist with three fingers extended. Because of its complex geography, Halkidiki has 500 km of coastline. That means a lot of beaches, and very lovely ones.

Central Halkidiki

The fist is Central Halkidiki, with the green Mt. Holomondas at its center. The capital of the region – Polygyros – is in Central Halkidiki. There are also many charming villages with traditional stone architecture. The forested land is thick with pines and a variety of other trees. This is beautiful countryside, rich with honey and rustic cuisine.


The first “leg” is the one closest to Thessaloniki. This is Kassandra. It’s about 35 kilometers long, and a less than 10 kilometers wide at its widest point. It’s easy drive all around the leg in one day. Kassandra, Halkidiki is only about 45 minutes from Thessaloniki.


The middle leg is Sithonia. It’s a little larger than Kassandra, and a little wilder and more remote feeling.

Mt. Athos

The third leg is perhaps the most famous – Athos. Also called Mt. Athos, this extraordinary area is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with over 20 monasteries, some over a thousand years old. There is also an actual mountain. At the very tip of the leg is the 2033. Mt. Athos.

Eastern Halkidiki

The East Coast of Halkidiki faces the island Thassos and lots of open sea, making for pure waters. This quieter edge of Halkidiki has an extraordinary archaeological site – Ancient Stagira, the city of the philosopher Aristotle.

Kassandra, Halkidiki – What to See and Do

Halkidiki Beaches
One of Halkidiki’s countless soft sandy beaches

The first leg of Chalkidiki is for many the most popular. It’s a quick trip from Thessaloniki. Kassandra is also more developed than Sithonia. This is the leg with the most and liveliest beach bars and nightlife. But there is still plenty of unspoiled nature, as well as unexpected history.

Nea Potidea

There’s also culture and history. Our first stop was in Nea Potidea, at the very top of Kassandra. Potidea takes its name from Poseidon, patron god of the seafaring Corinthians who colonized it in the 7th century BC.

Kassandra, in turn, was named by Cassander – this is the same king who founded Thessaloniki and named it after his wife – Thessaloniki. The bays of Thermaikos (the Thessaloniki side) and Toronoeos (the side facing Sithonia) can be controlled from here.

The Potidea Canal

Halkidiki - The Potidea Canal
The Potidea Canal

Kassandra is attached to the main peninsula by a narrow strip of land, just over a kilometer wide. Likely during the reign of Cassander, a canal was cut through this narrow strip of land, connecting the Bay of Termaikos with the Bay of Toroneos. The Potidea canal renders Kassandra technically an island. Boats are always passing through, saving great distance it would take to navigate around the whole of the leg.

Nea (“new”) Potidea was the name that the refugees from Asia Minor gave the area when they settled here in the 1920s.

Nea Fokea

The beach town Nea Fokea is just over ten kilometers from Nea Potidea. A tall Byzantine tower overlooks the town’s charming marina and beach. As in Potidea, the Nea in the name means new – given by refugees from Asia Minor who settled here.

The Spring of St. Paul in Fokea

Halkidiki - Nea Fokea
The Sacred Spring of Apostle Paul, Nea Fokea, Halkidiki

Besides the Byzantine Tower of Fokea, built in 1407, there’s an even more interesting site – the Spring of St. Paul. It’s just across the road from the Byzantine Tower – on your right as you drive south down the leg.

St. Paul took refuge in this cave when being chased by pagans. In one version, the cave opened up before him as he sought safety. A spring of holy water flowed in the cave, and he used it to baptize new Christians. This has been a holy place since the earliest years of Christianity. Where the water flows, you’ll see traces of religious wall paintings.

The entrance to the spring looks like a small church built into the rock. Descending through a narrow doorway, you’ll see the entrance to a tunnel. With a low ceiling, the narrow 20-meter tunnel is not for everyone. But those who do go should take the scoop attached to a rope – somewhere at the entrance to the tunnel. The water is too far down for your hand to reach.


Halkidiki - Athitos
Enjoying the view of the Gulf of Toroni from Athitos, at Notos Cafe/Bar

Athitos – sometimes called Afitos – is built on the edge of a cliff, 75 m above the Toroneos gulf. The views, of course, are fantastic, and so are the cooling breezes. Traditional stone buildings line the streets of the town, where you’ll find shops with hand-crafted gifts, classic tavernas and ouzeries, and modern cafe/bars. If you want the beach, a soft sand beach is right at the base of the cliff. This is a good choice for charming hotels with sweeping views.

Halkidiki, Athitos
Octopus carpaccio and broiled scallops on the half shell at Tuna, Athitos

We had a fantastic lunch of octopus carpaccio and other fresh seafood pleasures at Tuna, in the Rigas hotel. We were on a veranda with an endless view of the gulf of Toroni.


Just south of Athitos is another village with an authentic character and beautiful architecture. This hillside town edges a silky white beach. And it’s a fantastic beach, with a blue flag for the quality of the waters, beach, and environmentally conscious upkeep. Like so much of Halkidiki, Kryopigi is wonderfully green, fresh with the scent of pine on the breezes.

Agia Pareskevi

The Thermal Spa of Agia Pareskevi, Chalkidiki
The Thermal Spa of Agia Pareskevi, Chalkidiki

Agia Pareskevi, facing the bay of Thermaikos, is not at all what you expect when you come to Halkidiki. We think of beaches and restaurants, maybe some hiking.

But Agia Pareskevi is a spa town, high on a cliff with its views across the bay all the way to Mt. Olympus. We could smell it before we got out of the car, because the air was so thick with sulfur. You won’t mind just as soon as you see the view though – possibly Halkidiki’s best.

The modern municipal facility is built right at the cliff’s edge, with a large deck for enjoying a snack or a drink. There’s an outdoor pool, and an indoor pool. The water is extraordinary. It’s almost opaque and milky white, saltier than the sea by far. It leaves your skin like velvet. The therapeutic water is rich in minerals benefiting the skeletal system, joints, skin, and addressing other ailments (see a list here). There is also a sauna and hamam for making the most of a relaxing afternoon.

Sani Beach

Sani Beach is the most famous resort destination in Kassandra. This is an exclusive resort complex near the top of the leg, facing the Bay of Thermaikos. Sani Beach offers a range of luxury accommodations, a marina, and the lovely Turtle Beach.

Besides the pristine beach and gorgeous natural setting, Sani is also a prime destination for culture. They hold a famous music festival each summer – coming into its 28th year. They also hold a gourmet festival featuring International and Greek Michelin-starred chefs

Sithonia, Halkidiki

Halkidiki’s middle leg is famous for fabulous beaches, serenity, and luxury. Although it is little farther from Thessaloniki, the lush scenery of Sithonia is worth the extra drive.


Halkidiki Nikiti
Old Nikiti has character – it’s full of cobblestone lanes and charming traditional architecture

There are actually two Nikitis. There is the newer seaside Nikiti with its fine beach and excellent tourist facilities. Then there is old Nikiti. Seaside Nikiti doesn’t disappoint. But old Nikiti makes a very special stop. This shady stone village that climbs up the wooded hillside was originally a monastic estate.

During the Ottoman era, it grew to become one of the largest villages of Halkidiki. Old Nikiti is full of enchanting traditional homes, with wooden balconies and wood-burning ovens in the courtyards. This is an ideal place to try local specialties at a rustic taverna.

Elia Beach

Halkidiki - Elia Beach
The pristine, crystal-clear waters of Elia Beach

just down from Nikiti is the fabulous Elia beach. Tall pines shade this lovely beach. bordered by dramatic cliffs. The clean pebble beach is pristine, with pure, clear waters.

Acrotel Athena Palace

Halkidiki Acrotel Athena Palace
The Acrotel Athena Palace is built with traditional stonework for authentic local character

We stayed by Elia Beach at a fantastic all-inclusive five-star resort. I loved the Acrotel Athena Palace. I’m not usually a fan of all-inclusive resorts, because even if they are elegant, they too often lack character. The Acrotel Athena Palace had beautiful, authentic details throughout. Our poolside bungalow had rough stone walls and wooden beams, like the best village architecture. The generous buffets also focused on local specialties are looking for a luxurious and carefree holiday but still want to know you’re in Greece, this is an excellent choice.

Nea Marmaras

Another town – like Nea Fokea and Potidea – that was settled by refugees from Asia Minor in the 1920’s. In fact, a replica of the boat “Santala” floats in the harbor of Nea Marmaras. This is one of the more cosmopolitan towns of Sithonia.

Porto Carras

The Beaches of Porto Carras. Sithonia, Chalkidiki

One of the most famous resorts of all Greece is near Nea Marmaras. Porto Carras features some of the Mediterranean’s best golfing – 18 holes on a 77 hectare course. It’s also a serious wine tourism destination, with Domaine Porto Carras producing some of Greece’s finest wines. Spas, equestrian facilities, exquisite dining, and even a casino ensure that whatever type of holiday you like, Porto Carras can provide the ideal experience.


Even among all the beautiful beaches Halkidiki has to offer, Toroni really stands out. Toroni is nearly at the end of the leg. The beach curves to embrace the Bay of Toroni, with a tiny island on one side and a rocky promontory shielding the bay on the other. The water is beautiful and there is some excellent diving here, with lots to see. Toroni has been inhabited since neolithic times, and had an ancient settlement. There are ruins of the ancient harbor just below the surface.

Porto Koufo

Halkidiki - Porto Koufo
Halkidiki – Porto Koufo

Just past Toroni is another sparkling turquoise bay. This deep bay is nearly completely enclosed. The scenery is dramatic, with rocky cliffs and caves. This is a fine hiking destination. There’s a 4 km circular route to the summit of Kapros. From here, you can admire the bay.

Porto Koufo is one of Halkidiki’s most dramatic areas. Cape Kartalia, Sithonia’s southernmost cape, has rocky cliffs over 100 meters high. The bay of Porto Koufo is the deepest natural harbor of Greece.

There are excellent places to stay in Porto Koufo, such as the elegant Porto Koufo resort. With its well-appointed apartments, its a particularly good choice for families and groups of friends.


Thing get a little wilder at Kalamitsi. At the tip of the foot, Kalamitsi faces out into the open Aegean. This laid-back beach community has three excellent sandy beaches. In addition to the main beach, there’s the beach that belongs to the camping and also a nude beach. The full-service camping is a popular destination, and a very fun alternative to a hotel.


Working our way up the eastern coast of the leg, on the Bay of Mt. Athos, we come to Sarti. This is one of the more popular destinations in Sithonia. Along 3 kilometers of coastline are beautiful beaches, tavernas and cafes. There are also quieter, remote areas, so you can find exactly what you want. The beaches are gorgeous.

Karvourotrypes Beach

Just north of Sarti is the sublime Karvorotrypes Beach. Karvourotrypes has shallow, clear green waters, silky sands, and great white rocks. You can see Mt. Olympus on the horizon in the distance.


Vouvourou with the lovely name is a fantasy beach destination. There are soft sandy beaches, the secluded Karidi cove, the crystal lagoon Livari, and nine tiny islands. Vouvourou has a magnificent coral reef that divers love.

Vouvourou is also fine destination for kayaking. You can explore the dreamy lagoon and the tiny sandy islands. There is a hidden bay, too – it’s even called “hidden” – Kriftos.

Eastern Halkidiki

This quiet side of Halkidiki is popular with people from the region. Because there are fewer tourists, you’ll find tavernas catering to locals. There is excellent fresh fish. The sandy beaches that face the open Aegean are also less crowded. This is also the part of Halkidiki with one of Northern Greece’s most interesting archaeological destinations.

Ancient Stagira

Ancient Stagira was the birthplace of the Philosopher Aristotle. It was originally a colony of the island Andros. They came for the wealth of timber, to build their fleets, and minerals – especially gold – to fund their campaigns.

The city was destroyed by Phillip of Macedon when he conquered the region. But Aristotle was tutor to Phillip’s son – Alexander the Great. Phillip rebuilt Stagira, a mark of his esteem.

This is one of the most lush and exciting archaeological sites you are apt to visit. The views are stellar. And there is a great sense of discovery coming upon the ruins amidst the grasses and trees.


Right next to the site of Ancient Stagira, Ierissos is one of the busiest towns of Eastern Halkidiki. Ierissos was once known for shipbuilding, and had one of the largest shipyards of Greece. Visit Karnagio – the old ship yards, on the was from Ierissos to Nea Roda. There are also Byazntine ruins of a castle and a church. There is also an aquarium in Ierissos.

New Stagira

New Stagira, besides having fantastic views, has the Park of Aristotle. Here, you can experience Aristotle’s observations about physics and perception through interactive installations.

Nea Roda

At the narrowest part of the neck of the Athos peninsula, Nea Roda was the largest of the settlement of refugees from Asia Minor. Today, the village is popular for its long sandy beach and excellent seafood tavernas.

The Canal of Xerxes

Just as there is a canal at Potidea, there was once a canal here, too. It was built in the 5th century BC by Xerxes, when the Persians briefly held northern Greece. The canal has since filled with sediment, but its outlines can still be seen.

Central Halkidiki

Central Halkidiki is densely forested, with Mt. Holomondas in the center. Because of the architecture and the mountainous landscape, it’s a completely different mood here. As you drive through, you’ll see monuments from the Greek war of independence. The information is in English too, and you may be surprised to learn of Halkidiki’s importance to the history of Modern Greece.


Halkidiki - Polygyros
Six Fountains, the Park in the center of Polygyros

Polygiros, the capital, is a lovely town. Stop here for lunch – we dined at Six Springs (Exi Vrysses”), in the park in the center of town. The mood was cheerful at the family style restaurant, and the food was excellent.


Halkidiki - Arnea
The Byzantine ruins under the glass floors of Agios Stefanos, Arnea

A picturesque mountainous town of traditional stone architecture, Arnea makes an excellent stop in summer and winter. Cold sweet water flows from a plane tree in the central square, and there is honey in abundance. The pine honey of Halkidiki is excellent. There is also a magnificent church here. The 19th-century Church of Agios Stefanos is very unusual. During a reconstruction after a fire, Byzantine ruins were found beneath. Now, much of the floor of the church is glass, so you can see the monuments beneath.

The Halkidiki Experience – A Destination for All Seasons

We really loved having the complete Halkidiki experience. With the mild temperatures of Greece, the beaches are actually swimmable sometimes as late as November. In the cooler months, there are the mountain pleasures, beach strolls, culture – like Ancient Stagira, and that fantastic thermal spa. Of course, you can dine on hearty and authentic mountain cuisine by the slopes of Mt. Holomondas, or enjoy the best of winter’s fresh catch from the sea.

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Santorini – Best Beaches, Sights, and Experiences Tue, 17 Dec 2019 17:05:51 +0000 Santorini rises like a vision from the sea. It’s simply one of the most beautiful places in the world. A volcanic explosion that happened over 3500 years ago has shaped a dream-like landscape of surreal beauty. There are breathtakingly high cliffs, otherworldly beaches of red sand or black sand, and the deep blue caldera with […]

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Santorini rises like a vision from the sea. It’s simply one of the most beautiful places in the world.

A volcanic explosion that happened over 3500 years ago has shaped a dream-like landscape of surreal beauty. There are breathtakingly high cliffs, otherworldly beaches of red sand or black sand, and the deep blue caldera with its tiny islands- Thersia, Aspronisi, Palia kameni, Nea Kameni, and Christiana.

This is one of the main stops for people visiting Greece, especially if it’s their first time in Greece. Visiting Santorini is a thrillingly beautiful life-experience. Santorini has a lot to offer – not just the phenomenal geology, the unique beaches, and the legendary sunsets, but also culture, history, gastronomy. A Santorini vacation package will include essential facets of the Santorini experience, and take care of all the details to leave you free to explore.

Santorini is also a premium destination for a honeymoon in Greece. Whatever your travel style as a new couple, you could not hope to find a more romantic destination.

The Main Towns of Santorini – Fira, Oia, Imerovogli, and Firostefani

Fira, Santorini with its dreamy views - Antelope Travel
Fira, Santorini with its dreamy views – Photo by Antelope Travel

Besides these four main towns, each with its own character, there are enchanting villages throughout Santorini, too.


Fira is the largest town of Santorini and it’s the island’s capital. This is the busiest and most exciting town, with lots of warm Mediterranean energy. There is a fine selection of restaurants, cafes, and exciting night spots.

Built at the edge of the cliff, it has a view of the whole of the caledera. The town is also a dream, with the purity of that classic white-washed Cycladic architecture. There are charming paths and alleys to navigate the unique, unspoiled architectural and natural setting.


The name Firostefani means “The Crown of Fira.” It’s exactly that. Considered a separate town, this settlement at the highest point of Fira has a unique character, calmer and more laid-back than the bustling excitement of Fira. It has the charming mood of a village, with lovely and low-key tavernas and cafes. The views, of course, are stellar. And, speaking of stars, don’t forget to look up at night. The night skies of the Cyclades are bright with stars.


Oia – which also has the name “Pano Meria” – is where you come to see the most famous sunset in the world. This enchanting town is on Santorini’s northwest coast. Oia is possibly the very loveliest town of Santorini, cascading down the slope of the caldera.


The views from the edge of the cliff over the caldera

Imerovigli is just 3 km north of Fira. This is Santorini’s highest point – 300 meters above the sea. It’s like flying. From here, you can take in the endless views of the caldera, the tiny islands, and the Aegean beyond. While in Imerovigli, you can see the great rock Skaros. This was the most important of the five fortresses that were once essential for protecting the island in the days that the seas were thick with pirates.

The Best Beaches of Santorini

Santorini Beaches
A Pristine Santorini Beach

Owing to its phenomenal geology, Santorini has some beaches of unique and exotic beauty. This island has 17 beaches, all of them gorgeous. Some of the beaches are cosmopolitan, perfect for socializing, while others are ideal for families. The most interesting beaches on Santorini are the more remote, wilder beaches. Often challenging to access, they offer a more private adventure.

Perissa Beach

On the south coast of the island is one of the island’s most popular beaches. Perissa Beach is a long, full service and very comfortable beach, at the base of the Mesa Vouno peak. You’ll find facilities for children here, including a playground and water park.

Black lava from the volcanic eruption has created black sand – together with the deep blue of the sea, it’s a striking picture. This is a blue flag beach, with excellent water.

Perivolos Beach

The next beach south after Perissa is another black sand beach with fabulous waters. Perivolos Beach is the most entertaining and cosmopolitan beach on Santorini, the most popular beach for a younger crowd. There are daily DJ sets, special events, and many lively beach bars. For an active beach day, you’ll find beach volley – including organized tournaments. Additionally, there are of course plenty of water sports: wind-surfing, jet-ski, and diving.

Agios Giorgos Beach

Agios Giorgos Beach is last beach in this one continuous stretch starting from Perissa. This is the most remote of the three beaches, so it’s often much less crowded. But you’ll still find beach bars and loungers. Also, you can enjoy a full variety of water sports here – scuba diving, jet-ski, and windsurfing, as well as paddle boats and banana boats. As at both Perivolos and Perissa, there are also fine waterfront tavernas and cafes.

Pori Beach

If you are looking for solitude and a more contemplative Santorini experience, leave the crowds behind at Perissa and Perivolos, and head over to Imerovigli. Here, by car or motorbike, then some stairs, you’ll reach beautiful Pori Beach. Bring everything you need, as this beach is completely natural, with no bars, loungers, or other services. Red cliffs surround you at this sandy beach with its excellent waters. Dine like a local too, on fresh fish and local specialties at the taverna over the beach.

Mesa Pigadia

Another beach to escape the crowds and enjoy the majesty of the setting in peace is the lovely Mesa Pigadia Beach. Mesa Pigadi Beach is near the lighthouse of Akrotiri. You can reach it by boats that leave from Acrotiri. Or, you can drive there along a dirt road to reach this secluded and wonderful beach. Great volcanic cliffs shelter the beach from the wind. Along the base of the cliffs are syrmata with their colorful doors. Syrmata are caves in the rock that fisherman use to protect their boats in winter.

There are some sun loungers and umbrellas available at Mesa Pigadia, and there’s also a taverna with local specialties right at the beach.

White Beach, Santorini

A challenge to access and worth the effort, White Beach will reward you with gleaming high white cliffs that form a tiny cove. And you’ll be enjoying it in relative solitude, as not everyone takes the trouble to access White beach.

But the trouble is part of the fun. You either take a boat, from Akrotiti or Red Beach – which you will definitely want to see. Or you can hike here through an incredible landscape.

Red Beach, Santorini

Everyone talks about Red Beach. The bold red cliffs against the Cycladic sky, the colorful beach, the deep blue of the sea make a mesmerizing image. It is a bit of a challenge to get here, too – and signs warn against the danger of landslides. Keep to a safe path, and bring whatever you need to enjoy this wild beach, including water. This sheltered spot can get quite hot in the middle of the day.

A Catamaran cruise can include snorkeling, and a festive BBQ on board. This is a great way to experience Red Beach

Activities Not to Miss on Santorini

Santoini Beaches
Discovering a Hidden Cove by Boat in Santorini

Fantastic as the beaches are, Santorini is more than a beautiful geological phenomenon. This is an exciting destination by any measure – for adventure, gastronomy, wine, culture, and history. A well-tailored Santorini vacation package, like these from Antelope Travel, takes care of the details. This lets you focus on having the complete Santorini experience: not just the beaches and the famously gorgeous towns, but also whatever speaks to you.

Catamaran Cruise

To enjoy the quintessential Santorini experience, you’ll definitely want to get out on the water. We have been focusing on the dreamy views from the cliffs of Santorini, But the view of Santorini itself from the bay caldera is quite a sight. The aforementioned cruise does just that, and also gives you a different kind of Santorini sunset.

Mud Baths

For a completely different way to experience the volcano, sink into the volcanic mud baths and hot springs on the small island Palea Kammeni.

Winery Tour

A Winery on Santorini

Santorini’s volcanic soil produces some delicious wines with a crisp mineral tang. The indigenous grape Assyrtiko is the most famous, but all of the wines communicate the character of Santorini’s unique geology. A winery tour will introduce you to another aspect of Santorini’s culture and magnificent landscapes.

Visit Akrotiri, The Bronze Age Site of Santorini

The Eruption of Thera that shaped Santorini wiped out the sophisticated Bronze Age culture of the island. This fascinating culture is thought perhaps to be the inspiration for Plato’s allegorical Atlantis.

The volcano that destroyed the culture of Akrotiri – associated with the Minoans – also preserved it. There are some magnificent frescoes and artifacts in that were covered in ash. Visit the excavations at Akrotiri and the Archaeological museum to gain insight into Santorini’s rich and ancient past.


There is no better way to get to know the true Santorini than through its gastronomic traditions. You could take a food tour or a cooking class. Or just visit a family style taverna and let them guide you and introduce you to the local specialties. Santorini has elegant, resourceful cuisine, based on produce of unusually intense flavor, thanks to the volcanic soil. Taste the elemental essence of Santorini, and interact with the people of the island for a more authentic experience.

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Honeymoon in Greece – The Most Romantic Destinations Thu, 05 Dec 2019 14:02:04 +0000 What makes Greece a honeymoon destination like no other? There are few places on the planet that have the romance of Greece – the waves splashing against the walls in Mykonos’ charming Little Venice, the Parthenon’s golden glow on a balmy Athenian evening, and – perhaps above all – the view of the sunset over […]

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What makes Greece a honeymoon destination like no other? There are few places on the planet that have the romance of Greece – the waves splashing against the walls in Mykonos’ charming Little Venice, the Parthenon’s golden glow on a balmy Athenian evening, and – perhaps above all – the view of the sunset over the caldera of Santorini.

But in Greece – as, ideally, in love – it’s about much more than the beauty. It’s character and soul that make Greece such a compelling honeymoon destination. Greece’s eternal quality gives it a special kind of romance.

Greece is not a one-size-fits-all honeymoon factory – this beautiful country has a culture and history created over millennia. This ensures that your experience will be authentic and unique. It will be your out-of-the-way taverna under the bougainvillea with the grilled fresh-caught fish, your secret beach, your moonlit stroll along the harbor – in short, your memories.

With experienced planning, your honeymoon in Greece can unfold exactly as you wish. You can see all the places you’ve dreamed of, without concerning yourself with any of the (less romantic) details, like airport transfers and ferry tickets. You can spend your days and nights exploring, discovering the country, and doing nothing at all – something else that Greece is ideal for.

Honeymoon in Greece – Athens

Honeymoon in Greece - The Acropolis aglow by nigh - one of the most romantic sites in Europe
The Acropolis aglow by night – one of the most romantic sites in Europe

Athens is a magical place to begin your honeymoon in Greece. It’s not just the practicality. Athens is, by any measure, one of Europe’s most romantic capitals. Your first glimpse of the Parthenon by night is thrilling. Take in the major sites and world-class museums, or just get lost wandering through the charming lanes of Plaka, looking for the perfect candlelit taverna.

Honeymoon in Greece – Exploring Greece’s Natural Beauty

Honeymoon on Crete - Chania - The silvery white sand dunes of Elafonissi
The silvery white sand dunes of Elafonissi

Of course, Greece’s fabled beauty is one of the main draws of the country. There are so many idyllic Greek settings, each with its special character, that they are actually world destinations in themselves, as recognizable and breathtaking as one’s first view of the Eiffel Tower – or, better still – the glorious Parthenon. Of course, Greece is filled with more memorably beautiful sights than you can count. Your Greek honeymoon with definitely have a cinematic backdrop wherever you go. But a few sights really do stand out, like the caldera of Santorni, uniquely lovely in all the world, or pink sandy paradise of a beach and the crystal lagoon of Elafonissi, in Crete.

Honeymoon Destination Islands

Greece has well over 200 inhabited islands. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong. But it’s very easy to go spectacularly right. A few of the Greek Islands are particularly famous for a reason – they deliver a travel experience so ideal they approach fantasy.

Crete for a Honeymoon in Greece

Honeymoon on Crete, Greece (Antelope Travel)
Chania’s Venetian charm makes for a romantic backdrop for your honeymoon

Of all the Greek Islands, Crete has the most individualistic personality. It has its own fantastic cuisine, a rugged and uncompromising terrain, inhabitants of warmth and courage, and some of Greece’s most stirring and exciting music (no one plays lyre like the Cretans). Moreover, it has a unique and fascinating ancient history.

Historic Crete

Crete was the home of the mysterious and advanced Bronze Age culture, the Minoans, a civilization who was thriving over a thousand years before the Parthenon was built. Knossos, the dramatic red and black palace so spectacularly restored by Sir Arthur Evans, is one the world’s most engaging archaeological sites, full of mystery, secrets, and beauty. A honeymoon on Crete can include as much history and archaeology as you like.

Honeymoon on Crete – Gorgeous Beaches

Honeymoon in Crete, Greeceh Balos by boat, but then you would miss this gorgeous view and hike.
You can reach Balos by boat, but then you would miss this gorgeous view and hike.

Crete also has several of the most famous beaches in all of Greece – and indeed the world. Balos – an island, lagoon, and stunning beach at the very tip of one of the norther peninsulas – was once a secret, known just to local fisherman and herders. You’ll still share the hike down with goats, who love a climb. Or you can reach this hidden marvel by boat. There is also Elafonissi, of pink sands and wildflowers- in fact a protected natural habitat. Or visit the south coast for your choice of pristine beaches on the coast of the Libyan sea. The most famous one is Matala – a free-spirited paradise first popular in the 1960s and 70s (Joni Mitchell even sang about it). There is also Sougia, line with tamarisk trees, and countless hidden covesand beaches to discover. Vai, on the western edge of the island, is the largest natural palm forest in Europe, edging a dreamy, silky white and turquoise beach.

Adventure Honeymoon in Crete

Adeventure can be a wonderful part of a honeymoon in Greece, and Crete provides plenty of opportunity. The Samarian gorge is a famous and unforgettable hike that will take you to the shores of the Libyan sea on Crete’s south coast. It’s all downhill, and suitable for most. But the 17 kilometers of glorious scenery are a challenge. You’ll love your dip in the cool waters of Agia Roumeli before a boat ride back to civilization (no roads reach this rugged corner of heaven), where you’ll stop by dreamy Loutro, also reached only by boat or a hike.

Crete is also a paradise for cavers, with many many caves of both geological and historic fascination. Caving is thrilling, beautiful, and can be an exciting way to cool off.

Honeymoon on Crete – Romantic Cities

A honeymoon on Crete offers a romantic setting. The cities of Crete are full of Venetian beauty. Venice controlled Crete for centuries, resulting in the fairy-tale architecture you can see in Chania, Rethymnon, and Heraklion. Chania is one of Greece’s most romantic cities, with winding narrow alleys lined with pastel traditional homes and sweet boughs of jasmine, seaside tavernas with blue and white checkered tablecloths, a Venetian fortress, and one of Greece’s most idyllic harbors, marked by an Egyptian lighthouse.

Honeymoon in Greece – Mykonos

Honeymoon in Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos Harbor by Evening (Antelope Travel)

There’s a reason Mykonos is so famous. All the hype is true, and in fact it doesn’t even capture the island. A place of contrasts, this is both one of the most glamorous destinations anywhere, and the most authentic. It is teeming with paparazi and free-flowing magnums of Champagne in some corners, and goat herders and fishermen in their beautifully painted boats in others.

That’s the secret to Mykonos’ enduring charm. It’s a place of true beauty that gets discovered over and over again, without ever getting spoiled.

Stroll through the alleys of the Chora, where you can either enjoy some of the world’s most exclusive shopping late into the night, or just get a gelato and watch the crowds go by. This is one of the definitive Cycladic islands, with its pristine architecture of pure white, and bright trim in blues and reds.

By day, enjoy some of the world’s most spectacular beaches in style. Many of the best beaches are fully-serviced. In Mykonos, this does not mean a nylon lounger and an iced coffee. You can have your own soft white bed, shielded from the sun by white curtains, waiter service bringing anything your heart desires. When it’s time for lunch, the most convivial and elegant restaurants on the island have floors of sand and are shaded by reeds. Feast in your bathing suit – everyone else will be, too. You’re also guaranteed the best honeymoon pics ever. It’s just something about the island – the glamour of Mykonos is contagious.


A short boat ride from Mykonos is the archaeological site of Delos, on its own island. Former sacred site and treasury, this magnificent archaeological site rewards exploration.The island has an almost mystical energy. Enjoy the sense of shared discovery on a morning excursion to this fascinating island, a world-famous destination.

Honeymoon on Paros

Paros is one of the Greek Islands on everyone’s lips these days. Although nothing can replace the allure of Mykonos, Paros is quickly becoming the island of choice for those interesting in a buzzing social scene with a pristine Cycladic backdrop.

Discovering Parikia

The main town of many Greek islands is simply called the “Chora”, or town – like Mykonos Town, for example. Paros is different. Here you have Parikia, one of the loveliest towns of the Cycladic Islands with a busy harbor. Parikia has both the classic whitewashed cycladic architect, plus the elegance of neoclassical mansions. A Venetian fortress – the Kastra – overlooks the town. Here you’ll find the same sort of delightful winding alleys as in Mykonos Town. Even though Paros offers a refreshingly more low-key Cycladic experience, you’ll find plenty of elegant and sophisticated dining options and chic bars for your first festive nights out as a newly-married couple.

An Active Honeymoon on Paros

Although they have the name Kalderimi elsewhere, the paths that connect the towns of Paros are “Strati.” Many date from the Byzantine era, and they’re an ideal way to discover the soul of the island. You can walk from the village of Lefkes to the Village of Prodromos for example, and cross over a Byzantine stone bridge en route. Another path, from Marpissa to the onastery of Agios Antonios, takes you by churches, 17th-century houses, and old windmills, and rewards you with magnificent vistas. The villages of Paros a delight. Discovering them is a great way to have a private and unique honeymoon experience, away from the crowds.

Are you perhaps equestrians? No matter if you are not – even beginners can enjoy exploring Naxos on horseback. There are two riding centers on the island, and trails that run along the beaches or inland.

You can also tour along the coast by kayak or canoe together, discovering your own secret coves along the way.

Honeymoon in Greece – Naxos

Honeymoon in Naxos - a great destiantion for a honeymoon in Greece
A dreamy Naxos beach (photo courtesy Antelope Travel)

A honeymoon in the Cyclades delivers a lot of atmosphere and romance. For a more low-key Cycladic experience, you can combine the energy of the Mykonos honeymoon experience with some time on Naxos. Naxos delivers the same pristine Cycladic beauty as Mykonos, and more of it – Naxos is the largest of the Cycladic islands. There are fabulous beaches, authentic tavernas, and a charming town. Naxos Town is filled with the classic white Buildings of the Cyclades, plus grander Venetian mansions is a delight to explore, with a beautiful Kastro area.

Scuba Diving on Naxos

Honeymoon in Greece - Scuba Diving
Scuba Diving in the gorgeous waters of Greece

These spectacular beaches are a great place to so scuba diving. If you are new to diving, this is also a good opportunity to start your new life together with and exciting new experience.

Hiking Honeymoon on Naxos

Hiking on Naxos is a joy. First of all, this is the greenest of the Cycladic islands. Moreover, it’s fun to navigate via a network of old marble paths, called Kalderimi. These are footpaths that connected villages and fields in centuries past. You’ll hike alongside old stone walls, discover tiny villages and churches many centuries old, and perhaps even pass some ancient monuments.

Honeymoon on Santorini

The unforgettable view of the caldera (Antelope Travel)

Santorini may well be one of the most famous honeymoon destinations in the world. There is good reason for that. With a topography unique in all the world, Santorini is unforgettable, a place everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. A honeymoon on Santorini

Honeymoon on Santorini – Greece’s Most Dramatic Island

Santorini is a volcanic island. (In fact, the eruption of the volcano of Thera is what contributed to the decline of the Minoans of Crete.) What once was more or less round, is now a narrow and long island curved around a bay. The bay is the caldera – the crater of the volcano. In the center of the bay are Nea (new) and Palea Kameni, volcanic islands have formed over the last two millennia from repeated eruptions. Theraisa and the smaller Aspronisi are at the edge of the caldera.

Owing to the volcanic explosion, the remaining main island rises sharply from the caldera. It’s a dramatic, even surreal site. Entering the caldera by boat and arriving in the small harbor, a cliff rising sharply in front of you, is unforgettable. The ferry ride to Santorini is inegral to the experience.

Beach Honeymoon on Santorini

Owing to its geologically dramatic past, Santorini has some extraordinary beaches. These include Perissa – famous for its black sand, Red Beach – where the deep terra cotta of the sand meets bold turquoise waters, and White Beach – also called Vlychada beach, famous for its extraordinary rock formations.

The landscape and beaches of Santorini are nearly other-worldly. A honeymoon on Santorini is almost like a honeymoon on another planet.

Honeymoon Accommodations on Santorini

If you are looking for extraordinary accommodations for your honeymoon, Santorini delivers beyond your imagination. There are four towns located directly at the edge of the caldera – Fira (the main town), Oia, Imerovigli, and Firostafani. Many of the finest accommodations are set almost precariously at the edge, for uninterrupted views. Some are even built into caves in the face of the cliff.

A Santorini Honeymoon – Gastronomy and Wine

Besides the drama of the topography, the volcano also gave Santorini unique soil. This means that on your honeymoon in Santorini you can taste extraordinary local foods and wines. The high mineral content of the soil makes for an extraordinary terroir. It’s beautifully expressed in the finest Assyrtiko wines. This indigenous grape thrives in the dry soil, nourished by dew. The flavors are clear and bold. A tour of wineries on Santorini would make a romantic honeymoon activity.

As the Assyrtiko grape thrives in the extreme conditions, so does a special variety of tomato. The small tomatoes of Santorini burst with flavor. One specialty featuring them are zesty tomato croquettes. Other island specialties include stuffed zucchini flowers, fried fish marinated with rosemary, and a seasoned and very flavorful cured pork. The dishes here are resourceful, inventive, and honest. On Santorini, you can enjoy sophisticated meals that have a strong sense of identity.

Honeymoon in Greece – Rhodes

Honeymoon on Rhodes, Greece (Antelope Travel)
A crystal lagoon on Rhodes

This big island was one of the first Greek islands to welcome many visitors from abroad. But Rhodes’early popularity did not spoil it. This is an island that delivers a vast variety of experience, blessed with rare natural beauty.

Rhodes Town

Rhodes Town is not exactly what you think of when you think of Greece, and in a really wonderful way. It has a magnificent Medieval romance. One of the most famous buildings is the Palace of the Grand Master, a 14th-century castle built by the Knights Hospitaller. Along with he Knights Templar, they were one of the most formidable and prestigious military orders of the Holy Land. The walled town is a marvellous medieval labyrinth of charming stone alleys.

History of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the seven wonder of the ancient world- imagine this mighty statue protecting the harbor as you go on a moonlit stroll. Then drive to Lindos. Along the approach to Lindos is the sometimes affectionately called the “Ooh-Ah Corner”, for its majestic and singular views. Lindos is crowned by an Acropolis with its grand gates at of the 4th century BC, and ruins of the Temple Athena Lindia. This is also one of Rhodes’ loveliest towns, with the famously elegant captains’ houses of the 16th to 18th centuries, and classic sugar-cube houses with intricately pebbled courtyards, elegant details, and bright tangles of bougainvillea.

Beach Honeymoon on Rhodes

Rhodes has many, many spectacular beaches, with the happy result that they are often not very crowded, and sometimes not crowded at all – perfect for a honeymoon.

Right by Lindos are two perfect beaches – St. Paul’s beach with its lovely restaurant, and the Megalos (big) and Mikros (small) Yialos (Beach). More unconventional and exciting beaches can be found on the west end of Rhodes. this edge of the island experiences high winds. This keeps larger crowds away, but makes the beaches like Ialysos and Ixya great for windsurfing and kite surfing. Centers rent equipment and give lessons – learning a new and exciting skill together is a great honeymoon activity. If you are looking for something even more romantic and remote, you can try the southern edge of the west side of the island, where you will find hidden coves where you can swim off the rocks in a sea of almost impossible jewel tones. A honeymoon on Rhodes offers plenty of possibilities to make discoveries together.

Natural Wonders in Rhodes

With so many spectacular beaches, you may not be tempted to explore the interior of the island. But Rhodes is full of wonders and surprises. You can start with the famous Valley of the Butterflies, part of the Natura 200 network and just over 20 km from Rhodes Town. Also close to Rhodes Town is Seven Springs (Epta Piges) – another part of the Natura 2000 network and a rich biotope. Escape to this lush woodland filled with springs and a lake. This is a habitat for tortoises, eels, and crabs, as well as geese, ducks, and peacocks.

Hiking Honeymoon on Rhodes

For an active honeymoon in Greece, consider discovering Rhodes on foot. The varied terrain of Rhodes offers fine hiking route for every level of skill or ambition. Mt. Attavyros, at 1250 meters, is the highest point on Rhodes. The ascent begins at 500m near the village of Embona. The challenging hike (bring water and even a sweatshirt as the atmosphere changes, even in summer) will reward you with splendid views. You can also explore the coastline. An excellent path begins near Rhodes Town and leads to the Bay of Ialysos. There are other routes that explore archaeological sites, and even the old moat of Rhodes Town. You can visit this site for more ideas.

Honeymoon in Greece

True – there are a lot of premium destinations in Greece. But this is a manageable country; you don’t need to limit yourself to just one or two, especially with the help of an experienced travel designer (Antelope Travel, for instance, are expert at arranging an exciting multi-destination honeymoon with zero stress). Especially if it’s your first visit to Greece, it’s tempting to embrace it, and experience as much as possible.

“Kala Stefana”

This is the traditional wish given to brides and grooms to be. It literally means “Happy Wreaths” for the wreaths used in the Orthodox Christian wedding ceremony to unite the couple. Happy wedding, and happy planning!

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Edessa – An Ideal Destination for Nature and Culture Mon, 02 Dec 2019 21:28:14 +0000 Edessa, in the glorious Pella region, is famous all over Greece for its waterfall. Spectacular though it is, we found the region offers much more. This is an ideal destination in any season. Edessa was our first stop on a fascinating exploration of the urban centers of Northern Greece with Pass2Greece, an organization that presents […]

The post Edessa – An Ideal Destination for Nature and Culture appeared first on Provocolate.

Edessa, in the glorious Pella region, is famous all over Greece for its waterfall. Spectacular though it is, we found the region offers much more. This is an ideal destination in any season.

Edessa was our first stop on a fascinating exploration of the urban centers of Northern Greece with Pass2Greece, an organization that presents fascinating aspects of destinations for the curious and passionate traveler.

Edessa – an Ideal Urban Destination

For dramatic natural settings, it doesn’t get better than Edessa. This charming traditional town is high on a cliff, over a fertile plain that stretches into the far distance. The town, especially the old district of Varotso, has a traditional character – stone houses and cobblestone lanes. The sound of water rushing through the canals of the town gives a sense of tranquility. The abundant water feeds the mighty plane trees throughout Edessa, making for refreshing shade from the summer heat, and beautiful trunks and branches in the light of winter.

The people of Edessa are the true draw though. This is a hospitable and unpretentious town, a town for locals who know how to live well. A convivial atmosphere fills the central square throughout the seasons, and even more so when the “Cantadores” – a group of strolling singers some 40 members strong, accompanied by guitar and accordion – serenade the town on brisk fall evenings.

The more we travel, exploring Greece together, the more we realize that what stays most in our minds is the human connection. No matter how beautiful the scenery, how fascinating the history, or how delicious the food, the people make the destination. By that measure, and many others, Edessa is one of the nicest places I’ve been in Greece.

The Karanos Waterfall and the Mills of Edessa

Pools by the Waterfalls of Edessa
Pools by the Waterfalls of Edessa

Greece’s most glorious waterfall fills the air with energy. It’s not just our imagination – the cubic tons of water falling from a height of 70 meters charge the air with negative ions. The air is so fresh and invigorating it’s almost delicious, to say nothing of the sound of the water crashing into the pools below. Due to mineral deposits, the waterfall cantilevers out from the cliff. You can now walk behind it to sense the drama of the pounding water, and gaze out onto the plain stretching out below as you take the sweet air in great gulps.

The Karanos waterfall is Greece’s largest. It now supplies energy to the national power company. But it once powered mills, including the Hemp Factory, one of Edessa’s chief sights.

The Old Hemp Factory of Edessa

The Old Hemp Rope Factory of Edessa
The Old Hemp Rope Factory of Edessa

This gorgeous early 20th-century industrial ruin was once one of the four largest hemp factories in Greece. Powered by the mighty waterfalls, the factory produced rope from hemp imported from India as well as locally grown hemp from the area near Giannitsa. At the height of its production, from the later 1920s to the 1950s, the factory employed 150 people.

The factory closed in the 1960’s. It was finally was abandoned. Years later, it became a center for culture and entertainment. This is an elegant example of industrial architecture of the Belle Epoque, and the original machinery has a beautiful, sculptural presence.

The Reptile Museum of Edessa

A Lovely Lizard at the Reptile House of Edessa
A Lovely Lizard at the Reptile House of Edessa

The Giannakis Watermill, one of the several watermills in Edessa, is now a Reptile House. This is a fantastic place to visit, whether or not you are visiting with children. But with children it’s a must. Magnificent snakes, lizards, turtles, and more are tended lovingly by the charismatic Dimitris Dourvanis, a passionate volunteer. Snakes are surprisingly silky. And the larger lizards are mesmerizing. This is a great place to have an up-close reptile experience.

Interestingly, none of the species here are local. These are all exotic foreign species. Wildlife preservation laws protect the Greek species. To see them, you will need to go exploring on your own, or visit another reptile center, somewhere else in Europe.

The Sesame Mill

When you think of Greece, you think of olive oil. But Edessa was not olive country. For centuries, the oil of choice was from sesame. In one of the old watermills, there is now a charming museum where you can see how sesame was ground and oil extracted, and watch a short, informative film on the history of sesame.

The Varosi Quarter

This historic quarter of Edessa is in the most dramatic spot of town, right at the cliff’s edge. Charming examples of vernacular architecture line the cobblestone streets. Some of the buildings are now traditional inns, with spectacular views of the plains far below.

The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin

Edessa's Church of the Assumption of Virgin is one of the finest Palailogan Churches of Northern Greece
Edessa’s Church of the Assumption of Virgin is one of the finest Palailogan Churches of Northern Greece

The Church of the Assumption is one of the most beautiful churches to see in Northern Greece. And that is saying a lot. This is a fragile building, open only a couple of times a year for special Masses, and otherwise just for quiet contemplation. There are no chairs, and the church is often empty.

The 14th century church is an excellent example of the Palaiologian Rennaissance. During the Byzantine Dynasty of the Palaiologos family – 1261-1453 – religious art flourished. Palailogian frescoes are famous for their magnificently expressive narrative power. These are fine examples, as moving in our contemporary era as they were centuries ago.

How the Church and the Frescoes of the Assumption of the Virgin Miraculously Survived- Twice

This was not always the church of the Assumption. It was once Agia Sophia. During the Ottoman reign, an order was sent to every province that any church called Agia Sophia was to be razed to the ground. The glorious Agia Sophia of Istanbul was to be the only Agia Sophia throughout the Ottoman Empire.

What the people of Edessa did was to remove a pillar from the front of the church and send it to Istanbul as proof of demotion. Then they renamed the church The Assumption of the Virgin.

The second miracle was a blessing very much in disguise. The magnificent frescoes are now pocked with holes, which actually is their salvation. When the Ottomans covered the Christian images, they made holes to give the plaster something to grab onto. During a restoration, these vivid frescoes were rediscovered, having been protected by the plaster for centuries. Without the holes, the plaster would have likely bonded to the surface of the frescoes, and they would have been irretrievably lost.

Dining (and Wining) in Edessa

Edessa - The Cantadori brighten the evenings of fall.
The Cantadori of Edessa brighten the evenings of fall.

The tavernas and restaurants here are cooking for locals. That means prime local ingredients and regional specialties – food with tradition and deep roots. But the chefs are also young and ambitious and playful, so you get this sense of adventure and experimentation, along with classic princicipals of regional cooking. The results are excellent. We had dinner at the chic Kattaraktes, and had never had such delightfully rustic and authentic fine cuisine in such a modern setting.

You’ll want to make more of the evening, because Edessa is wonderful for a stroll at night. We ended up at charming Timenidon, in the town square amid the mighty plane trees, for some delicious local wine. It was here that we met the Cantadores.

Exploring the Edessa Region

This is some fantastic scenery. The natural setting is diverse, and includes a marvelous lake, a famous ski resort, and a natural hot springs spa. Additionally, it is full of adventure activities.

Adventure Activities Around Edessa

The Edessa Gliding Club offers lessons and accompanied flights. You can arrange to view the landscape on a glider ride with a pilot, on Sundays from April through October. Arrange in advance through the link above.

That sweeping plain and the dramatic cliffs make an ideal setting for Paragliding. We saw paragliders sailing silently above the landscape, enjoy the endless vistas. If you’re not a paraglider, you can take off with an expert- all you need to do is enjoy the ride.

Agios Athanasios

Agios Athanasios is the closest town to the slopes of Mt. Kaimaktsalan. “Kaimaki” means cream in Turkish, an allusion to the snow. The Kaimaktsalan Ski Center is one of the top ski destinations in Greece. Lifts bring you a thrilling 2500 meters above sea level for some great skiing.

But it’s not just the skiing – the town of Agios Athanasios itself is utterly charming. This traditional stone village at an altitude of 1200m is an attraction in itself. There are also accommodations that offer rustic elegance with an authentic sense of place, like the traditional stone guesthouse Rouga.

The dining in Agios Athanasios is also superb. At cozy Kalyva, in front of a roaring fire, we dined like hunters and foragers, on wild boar with red wine, and orzo with wild mushrooms.


Edessa Region - the view from Panagitsa
The view from Evora, Panagitsa. In the distance, still hidden by a thick layer of early morning mist, is Lake Vritta

At the base of Mt. Kaimaktsalan is a beautiful spot for a hike and then a breakfast of homemade jam and bread and other house specialties at lovely Evora. The view is outstanding. But in winter you may enjoy it through the windows, from a chair beside the fireplace.

A True Art Hotel – Leventis Art Suites in Panagitsa

Edessa Region - Leventis Art Suites
Leventis Art Suites

Lots of places go by the name of “Art Hotel” – a couple of original paintings, some vintage Phillipe Stark furniture, and voila – or so one hopes. These are not really art hotels – they are hotels with a little art in them.

Nothing can quite prepare you for the Leventis Art Suites experience. This truly is a complete work of art, a unique vision many years in the making. The principal areas of the hotel have sculpted walls and frescoes exploring central themes in a contiguous narrative. It is a bold grand-scale artwork, and a joy to inhabit. In the grand yet cozy suites, frescoes, antiques, design pieces, and contemporary fixtures harmoniously create uniquely beautiful environments. It’s almost a waste that this unique hotel experience is located in such a beautiful region – you’d honestly not want to leave. Fortunately, they do have a telescope, so you can stargaze from the comfort of the lounge, listening to their excellent collection of vinyl phonograph records and sipping good scotch.

Lake Vritta – A Protected Wetland and Bird Habitat

Lake Vritta is rich in flora, sustaining magnificent
Lake Vritta is rich in flora, sustaining magnificent biodiversity

Amid all this beauty is a rich and diverse wetland. The glassy, reed-bordered Lake Vritta teems with rare and protected birds. Over 250 species call the lake home at some point during the year, and it is a wintering and breeding site for many birds.

Visiting Edessa - Lake Vritta
Macedonian Warriors from the Balkan Wars silently appeared among the reeds

The day we saw Lake Vritta, it was not the birds we noticed at once. We were met with an astonishing site- men in the traditional costume of the time of the Balkan wars (1912-1913), boating silently among the reeds. In addition to being a nature preserve, this is also an area rich in history and heritage. Our local hosts gave us a rare experience, a living historical snapshot.

The lake is a must for amateur ornithologists, and indeed anyone who enjoys a day in a tranquil and idyllic setting. There is a shack where one can find out about organized rafting and bird-watching excursions, or enjoy a fine meal of fresh trout and local specialties.

Pozar- The Famous Natural Therapeutic Hot Springs of Pella

Pozar Springs near Edessa is even more wonderful by night
Pozar Springs near Edessa is even more wonderful by night. The man climbing over the edge from the river has just doused himself in the cold waterfall. It’s not allowed to climb over the side, but alternating between the cold falls and the hot springs is invigorating.

In a wooded wonderland is a uniquely pleasurable wellness destination, among the very best spa experiences in Northern Greece. The hot springs of Pozar flow at a cozy 37 C (99 F) degrees. The waters are rich in beneficial minerals, effective in targeting all manner of wellness issues. They are also great for relaxing and unwinding with friends. In fact, the baths are open 24 hours a day, so people can come here after a festive night out or a convivial evening with friends.

There are indoor private baths – never closed (book here) – and three outdoor pools. The grand, deep, 25 meter pool closes in the night for draining and refilling, while the wilder outdoor pool – including a hot waterfall – is open until the early hours. The river Thermapotamos flows fresh and cool alongside the wild pools. The river’s floor is white rocks and it cuts a bright and glowing path through the trees – a beautiful sight. Try to go early for a hike long its banks before you bathe. And treat yourself to a massage beforehand, too – there are excellent centers with skilled therapists and masseuses to help you make the most of the wellness experience.

Bring everything you need- towels, bath shoes, a hairdryer. Also – almost unfortunately – a bathing suit (mandatory) – you’ll want as little as possible between yourself and the water. You won’t need any lotion; the water will leave your skin baby-soft.

After a hike and a massage, then bathing in the warm springs, you’ll surely have an appetite. Not 2 minutes’ drive from the spa is Kokkino Piperi (“Red Pepper”). We had excellent local specialties, and platters of delicious fried peppers grown only in the region – some are hot, and some are not. Vegetarians will feast in style here, and the carnivores might join them, even though the meat selections were also excellent.

Staying in Edessa

There are many fine accommodations in town, both rustic inns and comfortable modern family hotels. We were at the Guesthouse Varosi, the Hagiati Guesthouse, and the Alfa Hotel – directly in the town center.

How to Get to Edessa

Edessa is about 100 km west of Thessaloniki – a little under an hour and a half by car, and much of the drive through beautiful and historic lands. It’s also a beautiful train trip through the countryside. The train station of Edessa is particularly charming, housed in its original building dating from the Ottoman era. Trains with direct routes depart from Thessaloniki five times daily, and the journey lasts about an hour and a half. The fare is €7 one-way.

Edessa- An Ideal Destination in Any Season

We discovered Edessa in the fall, with the leaves turning rich gold and rustling in the breezes. Already we’ve planned to come back when the branches are bare and there is the promise snow in the air – imagine soaking in the hot springs of Pozar, steam rising around you, beside the snow-covered banks. Spring around the lake must be beautiful. And under the heat of the strong Macedonian sun, there can be no place more refreshing than beside the Karanos waterfall or under the deep shade of Edessa’s plane trees, on the banks of the rivers running through town.

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First Time in Greece: The Best Places to Visit Tue, 26 Nov 2019 16:59:33 +0000 For your first time in Greece, there are some essential destinations you won’t want to miss. Here are the best places to visit. Don’t be deceived by Greece’s relatively small size. Greece has nearly a fourth of Europe’s coastline – 16,000 kilometers. There are over 200 inhabited islands (and many more uninhabited islands), as well […]

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For your first time in Greece, there are some essential destinations you won’t want to miss. Here are the best places to visit.

Don’t be deceived by Greece’s relatively small size. Greece has nearly a fourth of Europe’s coastline – 16,000 kilometers. There are over 200 inhabited islands (and many more uninhabited islands), as well as more than 30 mountains. The urban centers of Athens and Thessaloniki sparkle with ancient sites, but are also famous for contemporary charms – not least gastronomy and nightlife. Above all, Greece is an endless source of culture, mythology, and history, filled with destinations that are truly milestones in any traveler’s life.

For your vacation in Greece, an experienced holiday designer can help you make the very most of your visit. You’ll be able to enjoy these essential highlights while you discover your own perfect Greece.

First Time in Greece: Exploring Athens

Visiting the Parthenon your first time in Greece
Gazing at the sunset in the company of the Karyatids is an essential Athenian experience

Athens is a part of nearly every first time in Greece itinerary. You’ll remember your first visit to the Parthenon for the rest of your life. But the capital offers much, much more – not just major sites and museums, but the unexpected charms of the contemporary urban experience, both refined and primal. Take in an opera at the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus at the base of the Acropolis, savor the chic serenity of Athens’ best summer cafes, or indulge a memorable night of feasting, music, and dancing, Dionysus-style. A good itinerary lets Athens unfold.

Convenient to fly into, Athens is also the gateway to the islands.It’s also an easy distance from some of the essential archaeological pilgrimages such as Delphi and Epidaurus.

First Time in Greece: The Cyclades, an Essential Greek Destination

There are over 200 inhabited islands. And each one of them has its own enchanting mood. So why do we keep hearing about the same few islands, over and over again? Because – even amid such a vast and beautiful selection – the Cyclades are simply amazing.

When people think of a classic Greek Island, they’re probably thinking of one of the Cyclades. Those white sugar-cube houses with their blue shutters and the domes of white churches against the Aegean blue of the sky are like a stage set for an ideal holiday. The rocky, uncompromising landscape, and the dramatic beaches of silky sands and turquoise waters are the landscape we imagine when we imagine our first time in Greece. Dreamy in the imagination, they’re even more fabulous in real life – definitely one of the best places to visit in Greece.


Santorini- an essential destination for one's first time in Geece
The Bold and Stark Beauty of Santorini

Santorini is in a category all its own, a true life experience, a vision rising sharply from the sea. The stunningly steep cliffs offer some of the world’s most luxurious and unconventional accommodations. From here, the views of sunset are the stuff of modern travel legend.

This volcanic island is full of natural and geological wonders. It has a black sand beach, a red sand beach, and many other natural treasures. But the Caldera- the bay formed by the volcano that gave Santorini its dramatic shape – is the star.

Santorini is, without exaggeration, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It is unique and unforgettable, an essential Greek destination. It’s top on the list of a first time in Greece itinerary, and a honeymoon destination like no other.


Mykonos- First Time in Greece
The Whimsical Windmills of Mykonos

Eclipsing perhaps even Santorini in fame, Mykonos is actually much more than simply the international party and leisure playground for the rich and famous. True, it is one of the most glamorous and luxurious places you may ever see. But it’s also stunning in its simplicity. The sparkling white-washed homes and brightly-colored shutters, the winding alleys and staircases, those iconic windmills – all will enchant you. The elegant boutiques and world-class restaurants take nothing from the authentic beauty of Mykonos town. Watch the waves splash along the promenade of Little Venice while you sip a bespoke cocktail. Then pick out your own fresh-caught octopus drying on a clothesline for a unforgettable meal in the harbor of the Chora.

The world-famous beaches of Mykonos offer the same combination of glamour and authentic beauty. You’ll enjoy a swim in turquoise waters of the Aegean on pristine beaches surrounded by dramatic cliffs. But you’ll enjoy it in style, relaxing afterwards on lush sunbeds surrounded by billowing white curtains, with full-service pampering. Then a glamorous lunch – to experience Greece at its best, you need to eat a lobster with your toes in the sand, while you wear nothing but a bathing suit and a pareo. Mykonos is the place for this treasured summer ritual.

Mykonos is also a surprising destination for lovers of archaeology. From here, an excursion to the sacred island of Delos, one of Greece’s most vast and significant archaeological sites.

The Saronic Islands

Hydra – Perfect for Your First Time in Greece

Hydra- Essential Greek Destinations perfect for your first time in Greece
The Harbor of Hydra

Hydra is an intriguing choice for an authentic island experience for your first time in Greece. It’s also an easy distance from Athens. All the islands of the Saronic gulf are popular weekend destinations for Athenians, and Hydra is the finest among them.

Hydra- One of the Best Places to Visit in Greece for Culture and Art

Hydra has both an artistic pedigree, and a noble role in the history of modern Greece. A wealthy island, the ship-owning families built in neo-classical mansions elegant good taste. The seafarers of Hydra fought in the Greek war of Independence, while the island’s ships and fortunes supported the war. Hydra was both home and inspiration to one of Greece’s most important 20th century painters -Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas. Painters and poets – like Seferis and Katsimbalis, as well as the war hero and chronicler Patrick Leigh Fermor, visited him here. In fact, Katsimbalis once brought Henry Miller along, who wrote about it in the Colossus of Maroussi.

The island continued to draw artists and lovers of art. This was home to Leonard Cohen after he bought a house here in the 1970s. And now the DESTE foundation has turned the old slaughterhouse into an exciting project space or contemporary art.

A Tranquil Island

But perhaps the first thing you’ll notice about Hydra when you enter the picturesque deep harbor is what is not here. The island has no cars or motorbikes to disturb the tranquility as you stroll through the elegant own and explore the rest of the lush island on foot. The dining is excellent, and there are luxurious accommodations with a true sense of place.


Elegant Spetses is one of the most aristocratic of the Greek Islands, with glamorous mansions in the harbor. Like Hydra, the island was crucial to the revolutionary effort. There’s even a grand celebration here each September – the Armata. The highlight is a dramatic reenactment of a major sea battle of 1821.

Like Hydra, you will find no cars here. But, rather than the humble donkeys of Hydra, horse-drawn carriages are the transportation of choice. This sets the tone. Spetses is an island of fine dining and luxury accommodations. This green island is also surrounded by fantastic beaches, some of which are best reached by boat – an exciting excursion.

First Time in Greece – Crete

Balos - A perfect beach for your first time in Greece
The Magnificent Beach and Lagoon of Balos, Crete

This largest of the Greek Islands has such a distinctive identity it’s almost like a nation unto itself. It’s like a concentrated version of everything that is great about Greece. Crete possesses unusually elemental rugged beauty. The villages are charming, the Cretan cuisine and wines delightful. Above all you’ll be struck by the character of the people. The Cretans are proud, hospitable, and as noble and uncompromising as their landscape.

Even their ancient history has a twist. You’ll see the ruins of magnificent palaces of a fascinating culture that preceded the Golden Age of Greece by many centuries. The Minoans were a mysteriously advanced, art-loving, sophisticated Bronze-Age culture, which you can explore at Knossos. Fans of archaeology will love Crete. So will oenophiles- this is excellent wine country. Add to this the world-famous Samarian gorge and the legendary beaches like Elafonissi, Balos, and Matala. Crete also has the white mountains, tiny islands like Chryssi and the storied Spinalonga, plus hundreds of caves. For nature, culture, and pleasure, Crete is an essential Greek destination.

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Best Spas in Thessaloniki – Chic, Historic, Luxurious Fri, 15 Nov 2019 19:38:42 +0000 The best spas in Thessaloniki belong to a tradition with a very long history. Since Roman times, luxurious public baths have been a part of urban life here. The tradition continues today, with a great variety of spas. You can experience a historic Byzantine bath, have an authentic Turkish bath treatment, or explore an array […]

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The best spas in Thessaloniki belong to a tradition with a very long history. Since Roman times, luxurious public baths have been a part of urban life here. The tradition continues today, with a great variety of spas. You can experience a historic Byzantine bath, have an authentic Turkish bath treatment, or explore an array of specialized massages and body treatments at a chic urban spa oasis.

In visiting one of the best spas in Thessaloniki, you share in the city’s centuries-long tradition of indulgence and wellness.

The Historic Spas of Thessaloniki

The Historic Byzantine Baths in Ano Poli - a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Byzantine Baths in Ano Poli – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – operated until 1940.

In fact some of the city’s most beautiful monuments are historic spas. There is the UNESCO Word Heritage monument the Byzantine Baths, as well as the Bey Hamam, or ‘Paradise Baths’ of the 15th century. There is also the “Yahudi Hamam” – or ‘Jewish Baths’ right in the city center, and the ‘Geni Hamam’ – or ‘New” baths – both from the 16th century. Dating from even earlier are the ruins of Roman baths – in the crypt of Agios Dimitrios, in the Roman Agora, and in the Galerian complex.

The Best Spas in Thessaloniki in the Ottoman Tradition – Turkish Baths in Thessaloniki

A Turkish Bath – Hamam or Hammam- is a very specific ritual, and a wonderful indulgence that now belongs to Thessaloniki’s cultural heritage. After you relax in the warm steam, a killed attendant will buff you smooth with a Kese – a pleasantly rough Turkish bath mitt. It’s like a gentle massage that leaves your skin glowing. Then, you will be covered in a dense cloud of foam and bubbles of white soap and enjoy a massage of sweeping motions over your buffed and slippery skin. It’s very had not to sigh out loud.

Visit one of these beautifully appointed baths for a historic and luxurious experience.

Polis Hammam – An Authentic Turkish Bath

This gorgeous marble bath of two domed chambers is as exotic as it is beautiful. Wearing an authentic peshtemal – Turkish bath towel – you’ll recline on a heated marble slab to enjoy the warm steam a you wait for an attendant. The sound of water, flowing from ornate taps into beautifully hammered metal bowls, is hypnotic. Afterwards, recline in luxury on silk pillows, as you sip hot tea from a glass and revive yourself with a loukoumi – a sweet and fragrant Turkish delight. You’ll find a full description of the Polis Hammam experience here.

The Polis Hammam, in Kalamaria (not a 10 minute taxi ride from the center), is open every day of the week, 11:00 am – 11:00 pm. +30 2310 488 216

Hammam Baths Thessaloniki, at the Makedonia Palace Hotel: One of the Best Spas in Thessaloniki

The Best Spas in Thessaloniki - The Luxurious Hammam at the Makedonia Palace
Makedonia Palace Hammam – Thessaloniki’s Most Luxurious Spa

The most glamorous of Thessaloniki’s fabulous five-star hotels, the Makedonia Palace recently had a massive renovation. The Hammam Baths are a new addition. The spacious and elegant all marble baths are modern, yet rich in traditional Ottoman details. The atmosphere is wonderful, and you can choose from an impressive list of treatments, classic and deluxe. In addition to the authentic Turkish bath experience, you can also experience a variety of massages, from the Ancient Greek Malachi massage to a Hanakasumi massage from Japan. Relax with a Turkish-style tea afterwards.

Hammam Baths Thessaloniki, Makedonia Palace Hotel, on the seafront east of the White Tower. Open Monday – Friday, 12:30 pm – 10:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 am – 10:00 pm. +30 2310 810 081

Best Spas in Thessaloniki: A Historic Byzantine Spa Experience

The Besy Spas in Thessaloniki - The Historic Baths at Lagada
The Baths at Lagada

In the suburb of Lagada is a truly extraordinary spa. Travelers throughout the centuries rave about the properties of the Therapeutic waters. These natural therapeutic springs flow at a cozy 39 degrees Celsius. And the setting is extraordinary; two pools dating from the Byzantine Era. The Mygdonia pool is from 1400 AD, and the Justinian Pool is from 900 AD. For both quality of water and beauty of facilities, this is one of the best spas in Thessaloniki.

Men and women bathe separately, in bathing suits. The use of the pools alternates between men and women day by day. There are also private whirlpool bath facilities, and massages for an additional price.

The clean facilities include changing rooms and showers, but no lockers – you can leave valuables at the desk. Bring your own towels, bath shoes, hair dryer, and anything else you think you might need.

The baths cost just an astonishing 6 euros.

The Lagada baths are open daily, from 8:00 am – 10:00 pm. The pools are open in the evening for private parties by reservation. For more information, see their official site here.

Eastern Spa Experiences: The Lotus Oriental Spa

For an exotic spa experience that draws on Eastern traditions, visit the Lotus Oriental Spa in the heart of downtown Thessaloniki. Here, you can enjoy a complete ritual experience that includes a steam bath, body scrub, and massage. They also offer expert massages, including aromatherapy massage, Balinese massage, Thai massage, and reflexology, as well as facial and body treatments.

The Lotus Oriental Spa is right of off Tsimiski street on Grigoriou Palama. It’s open Monday – Saturday, 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm. +30 2310 225 200

Best Spas in Thessaloniki for All Around Pampering

Thessaloniki has a number of full-service urban spas that are ideal for a relaxing and rejuvenating session. These offer beauty treatments, massages, and facilities for relaxation such as steam baths, saunas, and whirlpools. Here are the best rated among them.

Atmosphere Spa

The Best Spas in Thessaloniki - Atmosphere Spa
Interior view of Atmosphere Spa – Sauna

This chic spa offers a splendid range of full-body treatments, facials, and massages. These can be combined with session in the sauna, hamam, or whirlpool. The spa area with the sauna, hamam, and whirlpool can be booked privately for individuals or couples. A full massage menu offers a variety of specialized massages.

Atmosphere Spa is on Tsimiski Street in downtown Thessaloniki. 2310 283 999. Monday – Saturday, 12:00 – 10:00 pm, Sundays 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Soul Senses

Cupping Therapy
Cupping Therapy

At Soul Senses, you can unwind in the sauna before selecting from a menu of massages. Additionally, here you can experience cupping therapy. This traditional therapy uses suction to encourage blood flow and alleviate pain. It’s not necessarily for everyone – do read up on it befoe booking a session. But some people find it effective and pleasurable.

Soul Senses is on Agias Sophias Street 37, by the church of Agia Sophia. 2314 009 929. Monday – Friday, 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

Best for Excellent and Inexpensive Massages – Le Massage

The Best Spas in Thessaloniki - Le Massagei
Affordable Luxury at Le Massage

If you are just looking for a massage, Le Massage is the perfect spot. This innovative massage care center offers just massages, but amazingly cheap massages – many for just €10. Trained professionals administer a full menu of massages, including head massages, facial massages, foot massages, and reflexology. This is in addition to a host of choices of back, neck, and fuull body massages, including Thai oil massage, and a massage of four hands. The spare and simple setting – located in the heart of downtown on Tsimiski – is clean and cheerful, with private rooms and one room for couple’s massage.

Le Massage, Tsimiski 42, 2310 286 454. Monday – Friday 10:00 am – 9:00 om, Saturday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

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Day Trips From Thessaloniki – Discovering Northern Greece Wed, 16 Oct 2019 11:58:32 +0000 There are many excellent day trips from Thessaloniki. Greece’s second largest city is at the heart of a region rich in history, culture, and natural wonders. Here are some of the best experiences you can enjoy on a day trip from Thessaloniki, from archaeological explorations to cruises, and from sacred sites to natural spas. All […]

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There are many excellent day trips from Thessaloniki. Greece’s second largest city is at the heart of a region rich in history, culture, and natural wonders. Here are some of the best experiences you can enjoy on a day trip from Thessaloniki, from archaeological explorations to cruises, and from sacred sites to natural spas.

All these make an exciting add-on to a city break in Thessaloniki. For more on planning your trip, here is a selection of charming boutique hotels you might like. If you feel like a splurge, you can also check out these luxury options. And Thessaloniki is a great place to splurge – your money goes far here, so you’ll have some budget left over for exploring the region.

Day Trips From Thessaloniki: Discovering Ancient Macedonia and the World of Alexander the Great at Pella and Vergina

Marking the waterfront of Thessaloniki, there is an enormous equestrian statue of Alexander the Great. Although we associate Thessaloniki with Alexander, he was never here. The city was founded in 315 BC by Cassander – Alexander’s brother in law – and named “Thessaloniki” after Alexander’s sister. By that time, Alexander had long since left for his glorious campaigns in the east. He died in 323 BC.

Two cities of Macedonian splendor are less than an hour from Thessaloniki: The ancient capital of Aigai (Aegae), at present day Vergina, and the newer seat of government at Pella. Aigai was the place of burial of the Macedonian Kings and the spiritual hearth of the Macedonians. Pella was a glamorous, prosperous metropolis. Alexander left for his campaigns from Pella, and it was the model for the cities he founded along the way.

Day Trips to Pella and Vergina from Thessaloniki

Day Trips fromOne of the Treasures of Pella and Vergina that you can see on a day trip from Thessaloniki
An Ancient Macedonian Crown of Delicate Golden Leaves – Pella

This two sites are especially interesting to see together. Visit both in one day on this convenient day tour. In addition to comfortable transportation, you’ll have the services of a guide, and it also has “skip the line” assistance, so you’ll maximize your time at the sites and museums.

Both the Pella museum and the Vergina museum are spectacular. Seeing the tomb of Phillip II in situ is a moving experience, and the surrounding museum is filled with mesmerizing treasures. At the Pella museum, you’ll have a picture of the splendor of life in Ancient Macedonia. The mosaics at the archaeological site are also spectacular.

Experience Great Wines, the Best in Contemporary Greek Art, and the History of Wine: Ktima Gerovasiliou

The tasting room at Ktima Gerovasiliou
The tasting room at Ktima Gerovasiliou

The Gerovasiliou vineyards and winery offer a first-class cultural experience on every level. The award winning winery, which is responsible for reviving an ancient grape variety, is dedicated to cultivating Greek grape varieties alongside international grapes. It’s a fascinating place to come for a tasting and an easy day trip from Thessaloniki. Visit the luscious vineyards, see the winery, and then visit the world-class wine museum, which tells the tale of wine in our lives from ancient times until the present. In addition to ancient artifacts, you’ll see one of the world’s largest collections of corkscrews. After your museum and winery tour, enjoy the works of prominent contemporary sculptors throughout the vineyards, then have a tasting in a gorgeous room that floats over the vines.

Day Trips from Thessaloniki to Halkidiki: Mount Athos, plus Stagira – the Hometown of Aristotle.

The View from the Walls of Ancient Stagira, on a day trip from Thessaloniki
The View from the Walls of Ancient Stagira

Halkidiki is world-famous for its spectacular beaches. But it’s also a prime cultural and historic destination. The hometown of the philosopher Aristotle is at the eastern edge of the peninsula and it’s a fascinating archaeological site. It’s easy to picture Aristotle at the Academy in Athens, but actually, he was from Halkidiki, the beautiful green peninsula east of Thessaloniki.

Halkidiki has three legs – the first two have the famous beaches. The third leg is something else altogether. Mount Athos – also called Agion Oron (“Holy Mountain”) has been home to Eastern Orthodox monasteries since 800 AD. There are now about 20 monasteries, in addition to the mountain itself, over 2000 meters high at the tip of this narrow peninsula.

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Only men can enter the Mount Athos peninsula. But anyone can see it by boat – it’s an astonishing site.

Experience both Ancient Stagira and Mount Athos on this fantastic day trip from Thessaloniki. You’ll enjoy a guided tour of Stagira, then continue to Ouranopolis for a boat trip along this majestic and mysterious peninsula.

Experience Meteora on a Day Trip From Thessaloniki

Grand Meteora and its majestic vistas
Grand Meteora and its majestic vistas

Geological wonder, architectural miracle, and spiritual haven – Meteora is unique in all the world. At this famous site – another of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites you can visit on day trips from Thessaloniki – megaliths rise 300 to 500 meters into the heavens. On top, you’ll discover monasteries built in the 14th through the 16th centuries.

Visit this astonishing site on a convenient day tour to Meteroa from Thessaloniki.

Visiting the Gods: Mt. Olympus and the Sacred Site of Dion

The dreamy landscape of the sacred site of Ancient Dion
The dreamy landscape of the sacred site of Ancient Dion

Thessaloniki has a great view of majestic Mt. Olympus – it’s directly across the bay of Thermaikos. This was the home of the gods of the ancient world. At the foot of Olympus was the most sacred site of Ancient Macedonia. Alexander the Great came to Dion seeking Zeus’ guidance before he set off on his glorious campaigns.

Visit the contemplative archaeological site of Ancient Dion, and hear the muses whisper along the banks of the sacred spring. Then see the magnificent findings – including a water organ (the hydraulis) and glorious statues – in Dion’s museum.

After the museum and site, you can ascend the base of Mt Olympus. On this small group day trip from Thessaloniki, you’ll continue up to Prionia, one of the rustic mountain shelters used by climbers, and take in the unique energy Greece’s highest mountain – a suitable abode for the 12 gods. For individuals and pairs, this large group tour is a more economical option. Rather than ascending to Prionia, you’ll enjoy an easy hike through the Enipeas gorge.

Go Canyoning at Mount Olympus on a Day Tip from Thessaloniki

Mt. Olympus is oe of the great day trips from Thessaloniki
Mt. Olympus has beautiful places for an exciting day of canyoning

If you were looking for a day trip from Thessaloniki that provides an adrenaline boost, try canyoning. Jump, slide, and abseil down waterfalls on this thrilling half-day trip with a certified team of instructors. No experience is required for this fully equipped expedition – a great introduction to canyoning in an unbelievably beautiful setting.

Go Off-Road – Experiencing the Mountains and Beaches on a Jeep Safari

For a rugged experience of the beauties of rural Greece, take a private mountain and beaches SUV safari. You’ll start out in Chortiatis then go off road through the Mount Chortiatis National Park. Get a taste of authentic mountain Greece at the classic village of Peristera, then head on to a gorge with a waterfall. After a traditional lunch in a rustic taverna with amazing views, you’ll continue on to the sand dunes and sparkling waters of a great beach.

Ski – Or Just Enjoy the Most Majestic View in Greece – at 3 – 5 Pigadia

Day Trips from Thessaloniki: 3 - 5 Pigadia
The View from the Top of 3 – 5 Pigadia

The Ski Center of 3 – 5 Pigadia (“3 – 5 Springs”) is less than 2 hours from Thessaloniki, and only 15 minutes outside of the charming town of Naousa. It’s a gorgeous drive, through the plains towards Veroia, then sharply upward along a road ever more densely forested. There are plenty of places for ski rental, and lessons are also available.

But non-skiers can also have a great time here, just by riding the chairlift to the rustic chalet. The lift tickets – which take you from an elevation of 1430 m to a thrilling 2005 m – are just €5. The ride takes about 15 minutes, in a tiny open chair for two, taking you above the tree tops as skiers slalom below you. The view up here above the tree-line is glorious. Mt. Olympus and other great mountains greet you from the distance across the clear atmosphere as you trudge through deep virgin snow to the chalet.

At the chalet, run by one of the Styllas brothers, from a famous mountaineering family that also runs the highest chalet on Olympus, take off your boots, walk across the cozy flokati-covered floor and settle in for a tsicoudia (a spirit of grape marc) and some meze. Take it easy though – alcohol hits you with a little more force up here in the thinner air.

Indulge in a Spa Break: The Beautiful Natural Thermal Pools of Pozar, Plus a Visit to Edessa, One of Greece’s Loveliest Traditional Towns

The warm springs of Pozar make a good day trip from Thessaloniki
Even on a cold winter day, the therapeutic springs of Pozar will keep you warm.

I just returned from a fantastic trip to Edessa. The capital of Pella, this charming town is nonetheless a relatively unknown destination. And that’s so much the better for you – its authentic character and beauty are untouched by mass tourism. This is the place to experience not just the beauty but also the local character of Greece.

This region is filled with water. The sound of water follows you through the streets of Edessa along canals, and the waterfall – gushing over a cliff 70 meters high – is spectacular. A lush plain stretches out below.

Nearby is more water – the famous Thermal Baths of Pozar. Bathe under a canopy of trees, in therapeutic waters that fill natural pools next to a waterfall. Enjoy them summer and winter – the water is a cozy 37 degrees (magical in the snow!). There are also luxurious private rooms for an indoor experience, and a 25 meter swimming pool.

Enjoy both on this convenient day trip to Pozar and Edessa, where you’ll start with the baths, then dine on the truly excellent cuisine of the region. Then you’ll enjoy the charms of Edessa and the spectacular waterfall.

If you are small group, you might prefer this private trip in a luxury minivan.

Enjoy the Historic Byzantine Spa of Lagada

The warm springs of Loutra Lagada
The warm springs of Loutra Lagada

History and health unite at more thermal waters, close to Thessaloniki. In the suburb of Lagada, there are luxurious thermal waters in 2 marble baths that date from 900(!) and 1400 AD. You can get here by bus – there are several routes a day from the public bus system with the 83M- check here for a schedule.

The baths cost just €6, and can be booked for private groups for evening sessions (€20). For hours and details, visit their site. Including the public transportation, this is definitely one of the least expensive day trips from Thessaloniki.

Discover Thessaloniki from the Water

Elegant Aristotle Square as seen from the deck on a sailing cruise
Elegant Aristotle Square as seen from the deck on a sailing cruise

You don’t need to go far to get a completely novel experience of Thessaloniki. Cruise around the gorgeous Bay of Thermaikos on this small group sailing trip. On this top-rated excursion, you’ll enjoy stories and lore, Greek wines and meze, and incredible views. This three-hour experience is one of the best ways to truly connect with Thessaloniki.

Get Close to Wildlife – Buffalos, Flamingos, Majestic Wetlands and Mountains

A bird landing on the glassy surface of Lake Kerkini
One of the beautiful, wild residents of Lake Kerkini

Northern Greece is full of natural wonders. On this fabulous day trip and boat cruise on Lake Kerkini, you’ll experience one of Greece’s most important wetlands up close. Nearly 300 species of birds and rare animals call this exotic wetland habitat home. After bird watching and a cruise across the lake’s glassy surface, you’ll visit a farm for the local buffalos, all with Mt. Beles in view. Then continue to a traditional village to enjoy true local cuisine at a taverna.

Experience Real Greece – Tasting Traditional Life in Beautiful Villages on a Day Trip from Thessaloniki

A stone staircase running through a rustic village in Northern Greece
A stone staircase running through a rustic village in Northern Greece

The region around Thessaloniki is filled with beautiful and historic villages in dramatic natural settings. On this private tour from Thessaloniki, you’ll visit Livadi, Petrokerasa, Agios Promodromos, and Galatista. Each offers a unique experience – chestnut forests, a magnificent 14th century Byzantine tower, historic churches, and endless vistas. This is a great way to encounter the locals – enjoying a thick, strong Greek coffee at a classic “kafeneio” and dining on authentic local cuisine.

Visit Kavala for the Day

Everyone who visits Kavala absolutely loves it. A charming and hilly city with a lovely waterfront, the locals are proud to call it the “Monaco of Greece” and they are not wrong. There is definitely a sense of glamour in the grand mansions that were built by the tobacco merchants, and an air of the exotic in the grand 19th-century Imaret, high on the peninsula.

Kavala is exactly 2 hours from Thessaloniki on the KTEL express bus, with several departures each day (check here). The bus station of Kavala is directly in the center, by the picturesque waterfront. Kavala is a great city for exploring on foot. There is a fine and small archaeological museum in the center, and also a fascinating (and sweetly fragrant) tobacco museum – Kavala was the center of a prosperous tobacco industry for many decades.

Other sites include a huge Ottoman acquaduct in excellent condition, and a church that was once a mosque – the lovely Agios Nikolaos. Kavala is where St. Paul first set foot on European soil – there is a mosaic depicting his arrival outside the church. You can also visit the Imaret for coffee or a meal in historic surroundings with stunning views, and walk around the old town.

The seas here are generous – you can enjoy an excellent meal at a seaside taverna. We adored the casual and elegant Psaraki, right at the water’s edge, with a view of the Imaret across the water.

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The Best Boutique Hotels in Thessaloniki Sun, 22 Sep 2019 21:19:09 +0000 The best boutique hotels in Thessaloniki capture the city’s unique urban character. This is the ideal city for enjoying a boutique hotel experience. Like the best boutique hotels, Thessaloniki is utterly charming, full of character. Also – importantly – Thessaloniki is just the right size. This a personal city, not too large and anonymous. It’s […]

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The best boutique hotels in Thessaloniki capture the city’s unique urban character. This is the ideal city for enjoying a boutique hotel experience. Like the best boutique hotels, Thessaloniki is utterly charming, full of character. Also – importantly – Thessaloniki is just the right size. This a personal city, not too large and anonymous. It’s a city for exploring on foot, through cobblestone alleys and shady streets, discovering ouzeries, antique stores, and pastry shops along the way.

The best boutique hotels understand the city’s character, and put you right in the middle of the action for an intimate urban experience.

Thessaloniki’s Unique History of Hospitality

Unlike Athens, Thessaloniki has been a thriving city throughout every era of its long history. This was an important crossroads a city of trade. There was once a large caravanserai, and many “hans” – inns for travelers and salesmen, with storage for their wares and space for their animals. There were dozes of hans in the old city.

This is still one of the most interesting parts of town, with rich texture and history. It’s also where many of the best boutique hotels in Thessaloniki have opened up. Most are also in buildings of architectural distinction, giving your stay added charm.

The Best Boutique Hotels in Thessaloniki: the Marketplace and the Plateia Emboreiou (Old Commercial Square)

The Old Commercial Square has been a center of activity for centuries. This is the neighborhood of old spice markets and new wine bars, an essential Thessaloniki destination. The Kapani Market has been lively central food market of the city for generations. This is the perfect place to feel the pulse of the city.

1. The Modernist – The Best Boutique Hotel in Thessaloniki for

Best Boutique Hotels in Thessaloniki - The Modernist
The Modernist is just steps from Aristotle Square

Right by the central Kapani maret in te heart of downtown, the Modernit is in a perfect location for exploring the city. It’s just steps from elegant Aristotle square, and close to the best areas for lively restaurants and bars, both around Agia Sophia Church just to the east and in the Ano Ladadika district just to the west. It’s also close to many historic monuments and places of interest.

This is another of the city’s best-rated hotels (9.5 on Its chic minimalist design is in perfect harmony with its historic 1920’s building.

The Minimalist collaborates with the most interesting and creative individuals and teams in Thessaloniki for unique design, style, and amenities. For example, the excellent breakfast on the rooftop terrace is sourced from Ergon foods, purveyors of specialty and artisanal Greek products.

For details, prices, and booking, please click here.

2. Bahar Boutique Hotel

Best Boutique Hotels in Thessaloniki
The Bahar Boutique Hotel overlooks the Plateia Emboreiou

This newcomer among the best boutique hotels in Thessaloniki is directly in the heart of one of the most vibrant neighborhoods of the moment. On the Plateia Emboriou – the old commercial square, the Bahar is in the center of the best restaurants, bars, and cafes of the city. This neighborhood has terrific character- with the original spice merchants thriving alongside creative spaces and elegant restaurants. Bahar in fact means “spice” in Turkish.

The Bahar’s rooms have plush, elegant contemporary furnishings. The early 20th century building has its original proportions and architectural details. These add grace and authenticity to the chic spaces. An excellent Greek breakfast is served each morning.

For details, prices, and booking, please click here.

3. The Mood Luxury Rooms

Bet Boutique Hotels in Thessaloniki - The Mood
The Mood Luxury Rooms is upstairs from an elegant wine bar

This beautifully restored building is also right next to the Plateia Emboreiou, the center of activity for the best dining, cafes, and culture. You’ll still enjoy a great sleep though, thanks to excellent mattresses (and soundproofing).

Elegant and spacious rooms channel the building’s early 20th-century elegance, while keeping a spare contemporary elegance.

Downstairs is an excellent wine bar for breakfast, brunch, and fine wines, coffee, and drinks throghout the day.

For details, prices, and booking, please click here.

4. The Capsis Bristol Boutique Hotel

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One of the 5-star boutique hotels in Thessaloniki, the Capsis Bristol is also part of the Historic Hotels of Europe Group. When the hotel was built in 1860, this area near the harbor was filled with fashionable cafes and other grand hotels. Now, the central square of the Ladadika one of the most vibrant areas of the city, full of charming ouzeries and bars.

The rooms in the magnificently restored historic Capsis Bristol are full of authentic character. With parquet floors, Persian carpets, and antique furnishings, the modern rooms are full of warmth and character.

Breakfast is served in the hotel’s lovely atrium.

For details, prices, and booking, please click here.

5. Superior One Boutique Hotel

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The Superior One Boutique Hotel is in a beautiful neoclassical building, on one of downtown’s main streets, close to many sites of interest. It’s just 200 meters from the Jewish Museum, in the historic heart of the city. The city’s liveliest restaurants and bars, as well as the traditional central market, are close by.

Guests love the spacious rooms in addition to the ideal location.

For details, prices, and booking, please click here.

The Best Boutique Hotels in Thessaloniki Above Egnatia Street – the Historic Center

The area above Egnatia and around the Roman Agora is a convenient and exciting place to stay. It’s a perfect neighborhood for taking in the mood of the city.

6. Antigon Urban Chic Hotel – The Best Boutique Hotel in Thessaloniki for History Buffs

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The Antigon Urban Chic Hotel is only 5-star hotel in the historic district above Egnatia street, and is only of the highest-rated hotels in the city according to guests. This luxury boutique hotel in a building from the 1930’s is full of character and attention to detail. The hotel’s elegant bistro has a glass floor, revealing the Roman ruins found during the extensive restoration. There is also a rooftop champagne bar. The hotel serves a lovely buffet breakfast.

If you are looking for other 5-star luxury selections, you might like to see this selection of the Best 5-star Hotels in Thessaloniki

For details, prices, and booking, please click here.

7. Gatto Perso

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Stylish Art Deco and Neoclassical details distinguish this 1926 building just steps from the Roman Agora. The historic building has been carefully restored with all period details intact, and all modern amenities added. The decor combines contemporary elegance – in the marble baths and sleek kitchen facilities, and period charm in the furnishings, wall treatments, and drapes. At Gatto Perso, you’ll find 17 charming studios and apartments.

Gatto Perso is on a quiet street but in the middle of a thriving neighborhood for artgalleries, restaurants, boutiques, and cafes – one of the most intersig historic corners of Thessaloniki. It is within walking distance of many of the city’s most popular monuments and historic sites.

For details, prices, and booking, please click here.

8. The Caravan B & B – The Best Boutique Hotel in Thessaloniki for Hospitality

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Another of the highest-rated hotels in the city (guests give it a 9.7 on, the Caravan offers a uniquely personal brand of hospitality. Three friends who love travel realized what is most important to them – true hospitality. The staff of the Caravan are ful of enthusiasm for the city, and are glad to help you make the most of your stay.

The Caravan is a unique experience. Modern decor get a burst of warmth and texture from beautifully restored pieces of furniture from the hosts’ own families. At breakfast, you might try a delicious cake made by one of their mothers.

The rooms have true character united with contemporary comfort. Some have balconies with views of the landmark Hamsa Bey mosque (Alakazar). The lobby and excellent coffee bar make a stylish meeting place to relax.

The Caravan is in a 1929 building that was originally an inn, and its name is inspired in part by the original caravanserai of Thessaloniki that was once right next door.

For details, prices, and booking, please click here.

The Best Boutique Hotels in Thessaloniki in the Heart of Downtown

9. Trilogy House – The Best Boutique Hotel in Thessaloniki for Style and Design

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Some of the most stylish rooms in the city, the Trilogy House’s design-forward rooms have beautiful objects from prestigious international designers. A raw design aesthetic of beautifully distressed walls, polished parquet floors, and original architectural details come together to create unique and extremely pleasing spaces.

The Trilogy House’s 10 rooms – some with a sea view, others looking out to an atrium – are on Tsimiski, Thessaloniki’s main boulevard. This is a perfect neighborhood for experiencing the contemporary energy of the city.

For details, prices, and booking, please click here.

10. The Excelsior

The Best Boutique Hotels in Thessaloniki - the stylish Trilogy House
The Excelsior is on one of the most charming intersections in the center

Another 5-star selection, the Excelsior offers luxury with a modern sensibility. The hotel, set in a gorgeous historic building, has a chic contemporary design aesthetic and the premier downtown location. Just steps from elegant Aristotle Square, the Excelsior is in the most elegant part of downtown, on a the intersection of shady, cafe-lined streets. Breakfast is served in the hotel’s Charlie D. Brasserie. This authentic French-style brasserie in the heart of Thessaloniki is a favorite spot with locals.

The Excelsior is in a prime location for boutique shopping, cafe lifestyle, and just taking n the elegant urban ambiance of the loveliest part of downtown.

For details, price, and booking, please click here.

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