Provocolate Greek Culture, Travel, and Lifestyle Wed, 08 Apr 2020 12:01:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Provocolate 32 32 Best Things to Do in Thessaloniki: Sights, Activities, and Cultural Experiences Tue, 07 Apr 2020 14:00:01 +0000 Whatever your travel style is, you’ll find a wealth of interesting things to do in Thessaloniki, famous for its culture, lifestyle, and rich history. This beautiful Mediterranean port city has over two millennia of history. Thessaloniki has been an important urban center for a full 23 centuries. There are beautiful historical sights from its Roman, […]

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Whatever your travel style is, you’ll find a wealth of interesting things to do in Thessaloniki, famous for its culture, lifestyle, and rich history. This beautiful Mediterranean port city has over two millennia of history. Thessaloniki has been an important urban center for a full 23 centuries. There are beautiful historical sights from its Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman eras, as well as fantastic examples of Belle Epoque architecture. We’ll explore here the top 10 historic sights of Thessaloniki. But it’s not all about history – this city also has a reputation of being one of the most fun cities in Europe, famous for its 24 hour a day lifestyle. Enjoy it like a Mediterranean, by experiencing 10 of the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki. Besides the incredible history and enviable lifestyle, Thessaloniki has a dynamic contemporary cultural scene. Explore it through some of the 10 best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki, an Easy City Break Destination

This is a very easy city to get to know. Thessaloniki has all the makings of an ideal, hassle-free city break. It’s very easy to get into the city center from the airport. It’s also now very easy and inexpensive to get from Athens to Thessaloniki. The city has an excellent reputation for gastronomy, from classic to creative. Also, the city has a long history of hospitality. The historic caravanserai and hans have given way to some luxury hotels with style and personality. There are also several excellent boutique hotels in Thessaloniki, expressing the city’s unique character and architectural heritage.

Related post: The Best Boutique Hotels in Thessaloniki

An Ideal Base for Exploring a Fascinating Region of Greece

Thessaloniki is in the center of a region rich in every kind of attraction. My. Olympus is less than an hour away, and the museums of Pella and Vergina are also very close to the city. Even closer, on the city’s periphery, there are famous wetlands, natural thermal spas, and first class wineries (here’s more on our absolute favorite – Ktima Gerovassiliou). T

Thessaloniki is also just an hour from Halkidiki and its gorgeous and glamorous beaches. It’s very easy to get to Halkidiki from Thessaloniki.

Related post: How to Get From Thessaloniki Airport to Halkidiki by Public Transportation

here are even fine beaches in the eastern suburbs of Thessaloniki. After a day of sightseeing, you can unwind with an evening swim and some fresh seafood and ouzo in the sand.

Related post: Best Beaches in Thessaloniki by Public Transportation

There are many easy and excellent day trips you can make from Thessaloniki, whether you’re a swimmer, a hiker, an oenophile, a bird-watcher, or a devoted fan of history.

Related post: Day Trips from Thessaloniki – Discovering Northern Greece

Best Things to Do in Thessaloniki: The Top 10 Historic Sights in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki has a rich, complex urban texture. Those 23 centuries of history have played out in a compact area. This means that within the same square you can, for instance, find a Roman Agora, a Byzantine Church, and a luxurious 15th C Hamam. Or you can see a famous Ottoman Market with a glamorous Belle Epoque apartment house right next store, all just steps from the site of the Caravansarai. Sightseeing in Thessaloniki is effortless – it’s just part of the everyday experience of the city. Here is a selection of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki. They represent different periods in Thessaloniki’s centuries of history. Most of them are within a short walk of one another.

1. The Top 10 Historic Sights in Thessaloniki: The Byzantine City Walls of Thessaloniki

The Byzantine Walls are one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
The Kastra – or Byzantine City Walls, are a UNESCO World Heritage sight and popular monument – a symbol of the city

The Byzantine city walls are Thessaloniki’s most obvious monument. They crown the city – glowing golden by night. The Byzantine walls are often called the “Kastra” – the fortress. Many of the original walls remain, principally in Thessaloniki’s charming Old Town – “Ano Poli.” The Byzantine city walls once extended to the sea. They also went along the sea front, from the White Tower to the harbor in the west. The Byzantine Walls are in part additions to earlier fortifications. Walking along the city walls brings you to Trigonio Tower – one of the best places in Thessaloniki to enjoy the sunset. From here, you have a spectacular view of the Thermaikos bay and even Mt. Olympus beyond.

The Byzantine city walls themselves are a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. In fact, they’re one of 15 UNESCO World Heritage Monuments in the city. This was a significant center during the Byzantine Era. Among the UNESCO World Heritage sights of Thessaloniki, there are 13 glorious Byzantine Churches, and the Byzantine Bath of the late 12th/early 13th century. This beautiful bath closed in

2. The Roman Agora

The Roman Agora is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
The Roman Agora is in the center of one of Thessaloniki’s most interesting neighborhoods for contemporary culture

Exactly in the center of one of the most dynamic and creative contemporary neighborhoods in the city is the Roman Agora. It makes a fascinating historical counterpoint. The Roman Agora is one of the most engaging Roman sights in Thessaloniki – definitely one of the most fascinating of the top 10 historic sights of Thessaloniki.

The Roman Agora of Thessaloniki was the administrative, cultural, and commercial center of the city from the 2nd century, with much of it in use until the 6th century. The agora – or Roman forum – was built on the site of an earlier agora. Its ruins tell a lively story. We can clearly see an elegant Odeon, the baths house, the mint, and the shops. There were stoas – arcades – along three sides of the Roman Agora. An elegant cryptoporticus on the south side takes advantage of the natural slope of the site.

There’s a museum underground, in the northwest corner of the archaeological site. Here, artifacts and text narrate the history of Thessaloniki from the Roman era until the 20th Century.

One of the most interesting facts about the Roman Agora of Thessaloniki though is perhaps the fact that it’s “new”. The Roman Agora was only discovered in the 1960’s, during excavations for a new courthouse. Now, it’s impossible to imagine the city without it.

3. The Church of St. Dimitrios – Agios Dimitrios

Agios Dimitrios is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
The Crypt of Agios Dimitrios – a former Roman Bathhouse – is now a museum

Agios Dimitrios is the church of the patron Saint of Thessaloniki. According to tradition, this military saint was martyred in the Roman bath house that is now the crypt of the church. Agios Dimitrios is Thessaloniki’s most revered saint. In fact Thessaloniki celebrates liberation from Ottoman rule on October 26th, the feast day of Agios Dimitrios. Because of its cultural and spiritual importance, the church of Agios Dimitrios is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki. The church we see today, a large five-aisle basilica, dates from the 7th century. It has several wonderful mosaics.

The great fire of 1917 destroyed much of Agios Dimitrios. It remained in ruins until its reconstruction, which finished after WWII. The plaza outside the church has a dark history – tombstones of Thessaloniki’s Jewish Cemetery pave the outside. Other building projects during the reconstruction also used tombstones from the Jewish Cemetery as raw materials.

4. The Bey Hamam

The Bey Hamam is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
The Roof of the 15th century Bey Hamam is one of the most exotic places in Thessaloniki’s complex urban landscape

Thessaloniki was conquered by the Ottomans in 1430. For nearly five centuries this was an important port city of the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman influence in the city, and the centrality of the sight rank the Bey Hamam among the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki.

The Bey Hamam, one of several exotic Ottoman monuments in the city, was one of the first built. The luxurious hamam is close to the present Church of the Panagia Achieropoietos. This is because the church became a mosque as soon as Thessaloniki was conquered. The hamam was therefore essential for preparing for worship. It was built in 1444, and has extraordinary architectural details, like the ornate muqarnas above the main door. This magnificent hamam long outlasted the Ottoman empire. In fact, it functioned all the way until 1968.

The Bey Hamam of Thessaloniki now sometimes hosts exhibitions. Also, it has a beautiful cafe. You can enjoy a glass of wine on the roof amid the tiled domes of the hamam – one of the most interesting and intimate settings in Thessaloniki.

Related Post: Ottoman Thessaloniki – An Exotic Heritage

4. Aristotle Square

Aristotle Square is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thesslaoniki
Aristotle Square is the heart of the city, a lively cosmopolitan plaza on the bay of Thermaikos.

This beautiful plaza with its surrounding colonnaded arcade defines the city. Aristotle Square – or Plateia Aristotelou – looks like it’s always been here. But actually, it’s a relatively new addition. Much of the downtown of Thessaloniki was lost in a great fire in 1917. As a result, the formerly dense Byzantine and Ottoman city was re-imagined. Thessaloniki adopted the character of a European capital, with grand public spaces.

The architect and urban planner Ernest Hebrard was in Thessaloniki during WWI as part of the Entente forces. He designed an urban plaza that expresses Thessaloniki’s distinctive Byzantine character. The cream and Bordeaux color scheme, as well as the incorporation of Byzantine decorative motifs, join the classical rhythms and proportions of the buildings surrounding the square. The plaza opens at the sea to embrace the gulf of Thermaikos. Moreover, it perfectly frames Mt. Olympus.

Although the plaza only took shape over the middle of the 20th century, it is so definitive of the city that it definitely ranks among the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki.

5. The Top 10 Historic Sights in Thessaloniki – The Modiano Market

Thessaloniki’s covered market is a glorious example of industrial architecture. Eli Modiano, of the prominent Jewish Modiano family, designed the market in the 1920’s. In this lively marketplace under its soaring glass and steel roof, people shopped for produce, meats and poultry for generations. The Modiano Market – just steps away from Aristotle Square – is undergoing an extensive restoration to become the hub of the commercial center once again.

6. Agia Sophia

This Constantinople-style Cross-in-square church with a dome, is one of the most famous churches of Thessaloniki. Agia Sophia, defining the heart of downtown in its own plaza, dates from the 8th century. The interior is magnificent, like a cool drink of water on a scorching day. Painted in quenching shades of blue and green, it features botanical motifs and tromp l’oeil marble. Interestingly, much of this dates from the Ottoman era, when the church was a mosque. More interesting still are the original mosaics, because they represent so clearly different theological periods. In the apse over the altar, a simple Cross represents the iconoclastic period (726 – 787), while the central dome has an elaborate mosaic of the 9th century.

7. The Rotonda

The Rotonda of Thesaloniki - one of the top10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
The Rotonda, Thessaloniki’s oldest building, is a dramatic and beautiful space.

Among the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki are definitely these famous Roman sights, defining the cityscape for centuries: the Rotonda, and Kamara – part of the Galerian Complex. You can;t miss the Rotonoda – it’s Thessaloniki’s largest and oldest building. The magnificent Rotonda of Thessaloniki dwarfs the surrounding buildings. At 30 meters high and 25 meters wide, it’s massive. And the uninterrupted space under the soaring dome is extraordinary. After their recent restoration, the splendid mosaics of the Rotonda glow.

The Rotonda of Thessaloniki is unique in that it expresses the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman eras. It was built by Roman Tetrarch Galerius in 306 AD. Soon after, in the late 4th century, it became the Church of St. George. In 1591, the Rotonda became the mosque of Hortaz Effendi, acquiring its minaret, the only one remaining in Thessaloniki. Additionally, you’ll see an iscription in Arabic Turkish above the door, and if you walk around the Rotonda, you’ll see the tomb of Hortaz Effendi.

8. Kamara

Emperor Galerius won a great victory against the Persians in the battle of Satala (present day Armenia). The relief sculpture on this glorious triumphal arch tells the story of the great battle. The surviving arch was once part of an impressive 8-pillar gateway spanning via Egnatia – still Egnatia street. One of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki, Kamara is also one of the most popular landmarks, a meeting point for centuries.

9. The Palace of Galerius, the Octagon, and the Roman Baths

The Galerian Palace - one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
As you wander In the ruins of the Galerian Palace, you can find beautiful original details.

If you continue from the Rotonda, past Kamara, and cross Egnatia, you are following the ruins of the great Galerian complex. Today, this is a lively pedestrian zone that is the heart of the student quarter, with the partially excavated ruins running through its center. The Galerian Complex culminates in the Palace of Galerius. This is one of the most significant Roman sights of Thessaloniki. A large excavation reveals the foundations of an impressive palace complex. This includes the Octagon – once a throne room, wit a magnificent mosaic floor. There are also the foundations of a grand Roman house. Additionally, you’ll see the ruins of the original Roman Baths. Beautiful original mosaics survive. But perhaps mot interesting of all are the engravings of game boards in stone – a pleasant echo of the backgammon you will hear students playing at the cafes all around the ruins.

10. The White Tower

The White Tower is one of the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki
Landmark and symbol of the city, the White Tower is now also an excellent museum of the history of Thessaloniki

More than just chief among the top 10 historic sights in Thessaloniki, the White Tower is the undisputed symbol of the city. It’s on the postcards, refrigerator magnets, and souvenir coffee cups. However, it’s anything but kitsch. This magnificent round tower was once the easternmost bastion of the city walls.

The popular symbol was not always so beloved, nor was it even white. Built in the 15th century, it had many names over the years. It was the Lion Tower, then the Tower of Kalamaria. Finally, when the tower was used as a prison, the tower was called the “Kanle Kule” – the Tower of Blood.

It finally became the “Beyaz Kule” – White Tower, in the 1880’s. This was part of a campaign of the Ottoman Empire to rebrand its image. Clearly, it worked.

Today, the White Tower has a museum of the history of the city. The displays are primarily in Greek but there is a great free audio guide. The interior spaces are fantastic, and so it the view from the roof.

If you would like to learn more of the story of the White Tower and information about visiting, please see this related post: The White Tower of Thessaloniki

Top 10 Locals’ Favorite Activities in Thessaloniki – Enjoy the City Like a Local

Set among monuments from many centuries of culture, there is a playground of a city. Thessaloniki has a lively Mediterranean temperament. This is a city made for pleasure. Join the locals at their top 10 favorite activities in to get the true flavor of Thessaloniki lifestyle.

1. Enjoy the Seafront Promenade of Thessaloniki

A walk along the seafront promenade at sunset is among the top 10 locals' favorite activities in Thessaloniki.
A walk along the seafront promenade at sunset is among locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki has one of the most impressive seafront promenades of all Europe. In every season, and especially at sunset, you’ll find Thessaloniki’s waterfront promenade jammed with locals. Pretty much all of the city – plus their dogs – enjoy an early morning or an evening stroll here. The stroll begins at the “Palia Paralia”- Old Seafront – stretching from the pier in the west to the White Tower. From here, the promenade widens into a parkland. The skateboarders practice their jumps at the statue of Alexander the Great, while both tourists and locals line up to take instagram shots at the famous Umbrellas sculpture. This has been topped the list of the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki for generations.

A walk along the seafront is essential. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki. The promenade is quite long. So to explore more, you can rent a bike or a scooter, or just enjoy a leisurely sunset walk towards the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. It’s a little over 3 kilometers to the east.

2. Shop Like a Local at the Kapani Market

Shopping for food is one of the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki? Oh, you bet. First, Thessaloniki has a serious reputation for excellent food. And besides that, Mediterraneans in general are not one-stop convenience shoppers. In the central market, shopping for food is more like a sport. It’s also one of the liveliest and best things to do in Thessaloniki. The marketplace is pure pleasure, and it’s also serious business. Join the locals at the Kapani Market, supplying the city since the Ottoman era.

Fish scales fly, vendors shout, customers haggle, and meats swing from hooks. The best of the season’s produce glistens in heaps. Cheeses, poultry, eggs and dry goods are at the edges of the marketplace, and housewares – including religious articles, are in the eastern plaza. After you browse around the marketplace, you can stop for a coffee right amid the chaos. You’ll find a cafe across from the olive vendors. A visit to the marketplace is one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki.

3. Have a Koulouri in Aristotle Square

Thessaloniki is famous for “Koulouri” – a simple bread ring covered with toasted sesame seeds. Although they don’t look like anything special, they’re actually really delicious. Vendors sell them in the mornings, and especially around Aristotle Square. Enjoying a koulouri in the square, humble as it sounds, is one of locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki. Do like the old men, and share the crumbs with flocks of pigeons as you stroll along the colonnade and gaze out at the sea – it’s like a little Greek Venice, via Angelopoulos.

4. Have a Very, Very Leisurely Coffee by the Waterfront

Thessaloniki loves leisure as much as it loves caffeine. And besides, everyone loves a view. This is why the seafront, from the port to the White Tower, is lined with cafes. First find the one with the mood you like best, then stake out a table. No one will rush you as you sip on your Frappe or thick Double Greek coffee. How is something as simple as drinking coffee one of locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki? Because here, coffee is not a beverage; it’s an event.

5. Explore Ano Poli

Hiking up to the Byzantine City Walls for the sunset view of one of local's favorite activities in Thessaloniki
Hiking up to the Byzantine City Walls for the sunset view of one of local’s favorite activities in Thessaloniki.

The Old Town of Thessaloniki – “Ano Poli” (upper town) is the most charming area of the city, with its authentic historical character intact. One of the locals’ favorite activities is hiking up along the Byzantine city walls to explore the Kastra and catch an amazing view. First, get lost in the winding alleys, and admire the traditional architecture. Then discover the some of the hidden historic sights of the city, including several UNESCO World Heritage monuments. One of these is the Byzantine Baths. These baths served the community from the late 12th/early 13th century all the way until 1940 (but you can still bathe in an authentic Byzantine bath in the nearby Loutra Lagada).

Old Town Thessaloniki is an essential destination. For everything you need to know about Ano Poli, including a complete list of things to do and a map, please visit this related post: Things to Do in Old Town Thessaloniki – Ano Poli.

6. Eat Fried Salt Cod and Drink Retsina

Having Salt Cod off of a sheet of grease paper, accompanied by chilled retsina and conversation, is one of locals' favorite activities in Thessaloniki.
Having Salt Cod off of a sheet of grease paper, accompanied by chilled retsina and conversation, is one of locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki.

After your hike in Ano Poli, you’ll have an appetite. This traditional dock workers’ lunch is just the thing – a Thessaloniki specialty. Even though there is so much fantastic fresh fish and elegant meze, this classic meal remains a favorite. Tender salt cod is fried in a crisp and fluffy batter. On the side are “skordalia” – a spread with an indecent amount of raw garlic – and a searingly hot fried pepper, zingy with vinegar. The bold combination is delicious, and one of the classic tastes of Thessaloniki.

This is the perfect time to get to know retsina, because its clean aroma of resin stands up perfectly to the bold flavors. You enjoy this fabulous meal in the alleys near the harbor. Service is no-frills – you eat right off of a piece of grease paper. Salt cod in the afternoon is one of the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki, and definitely one of the best things to do.

Related post: The Fabulous Food Specialties of Thessaloniki

7. Have a Beer on a Mini Cruise

A cocktail cruise of one of the top 10 locals' favorite activities in Thessaloniki
The view of Aristotle Square is very fine from the sea

By the White Tower, there are several boats lined up that offer harbor cruises for the price of a drink. They look like a tourist attraction, but locals love them. In fact, having a cocktail on a mini sunset cruise is one of the local’s favorite activities in Thessaloniki. Choose the boat with the music you like best. Then order your drink, and enjoy a 30′ – 40 minute cruise around the Bay of Thermaikos. The schedules for departures, as well as the drink prices, are posted outside each boat.

8. Enjoy a Film Under the Stars

Catching a film at a summer cinema is one of the top 10 locals' favorite activities in Thessaloniki
Catching a film at an outdoor summer cinema on a hot summer night, with the scent of jasmine in the air, is one of locals’ favorite activities

Between May and October is the season of the Outdoor Summer Cinemas. Thessaloniki was once full of many “Therina” Cinemas (“therino” is summer), and a handful remain – still very popular. This has been one of locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki for decades. In these fragrant gardens open to the sky, you can see a first run film or a classic, in its original language with Greek subtitles. There are light refreshments, snacks, and even hard liquor available.

9. Join the Locals for the Nightlife of the Kato and Ano Ladadika

Because Thessaloniki is so famous for nightlife, one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki is to ignore the hour like the locals do and join them for some late-night culture. A typical Thessaloniki evening out starts with a long and festive dinner. Then there’s some bar hopping, followed by dancing as night turns to dawn. A late night out is an essential – one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki. You can start in the Ladadika. This is a historic neighborhood of converted warehouses right by the port. This area is now full of lively restaurants, places for ouzo and meze, and popular bars.

Across Tsimiski street is the now extremely popular “Ano” (upper) Ladadika – with more chic restaurants, bars, and multi-purpose spaces. Further up is a younger and slightly louder crowd gathers along Valaoritou street. Enjoy the fray, then escape to one of the rooftop bars for cocktails and starlight. This is definitely one of the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki, especially on a hot summer night.

10. Enjoy a Nightcap, Thessaloniki-style

An after-hours bowl of Patsas is one of the top 10 locals' favorite activities
Having a bowl of patsas, a soup of tripe and trotters that’s famous for preventing hangovers, is a classic Thessaloniki after-hours ritual.

No one goes home hungry in Thessaloniki. There are two favorite after-hours’ meals. One is the cult ritual dish “patsas”- a tripe and trotter soup. Patsas is served with garlic and hot red pepper. With its high collagen content, it has the reputation of healing joints, banishing crow’s feet, and – most importantly – warding off hangovers. An after-hours bowl of Patsas ranks for locals among the locals’ favorite activities in Thessaloniki, and it’s definitely one of the best cultural experiences. However, this potent, strong-smelling brew is definitely not for everyone. Don’t worry though, because no one goes hungry after hours in Thessaloniki. There’s a tasty alternative. Around 5 or 6 am, the Best Bougatsa shops start opening. This hot flaky pie from Asia Minor comes with fillings of sweet cream, minced meat, cheese, or spinach, It’s a delightful bedtime snack – or early breakfast.

The 10 Best Cultural Experiences in Thessaloniki

This city has an incredible contemporary cultural scene. There are many unique museum experiences. But there is more going on in Thessaloniki’s cultural scene. Here are the 10 best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki:

1. Visit the Port of Thessaloniki for the Excellent Museums

Visiting the port and its museums is one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki
The Port of Thessaloniki is an essential destination for leisure and culture.

There are many things to do in the Port of Thessaloniki. The beautiful brick warehouses of the port are now some of the most exciting cultural venues in Thessaloniki. Some serve as screening rooms for the international film festival and the documentary festival. Also,there are three excellent museums here. There is the MOMus Experiemental Museum, where you can experience avant garde art encompassing various media and performance. There is also the MOMus photography Museum, the only museum on Greece solely exhibiting photography. Lastly, Greece has a strong affinity for cinema and an impressive history of cinema – get to know it at the Thessaloniki Cinema Museum.

These are just three of Thessaloniki’s many excellent and diverse museums. Please refer to this related post for more: Museums in Thessaloniki : Archaeology to Contemporary Art.

2. Go to a Concert

Thessaloniki has a very active contemporary music scene. One of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki is to enjoy live music with the locals. For international concerts, check the calendar of the Principal, a large and comfortable venue with excellent facilities and the best concert calendar in town. Smaller alternative clubs in town and even some bars have live bands several nights of the week – check posters around town.

3. See Local Contemporary Art at Thessaloniki’s Art Galleries

To see what’s going on in the contemporary art scene and some of the best works of local artists, go gallery hopping. Some of our favorite spaces for art include Nitra, Lola Nikolaou, and Zina Athanassiadou.

4. Experience Live Theater

Yes, of course it will be in Greek. But you will enjoy some top quality productions for a very reasonable price. If you pick a classic ancient Greek tragedy or comedy, you’ll enjoy one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki, especially if it is at one of the outdoor venues. Check out the program of the National Theater of Northern Greece.

5. Discover Centuries of History of the Jews of Thessaloniki at the Jewish Museum

Thessaloniki was home to one of the largest communities of southern Europe, until the mass deportations during World War II. The city is currently building a very large new Jewish Museum. Until then, the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, in a historic commercial arcade, will absorb you with a moving story. The Jews of Thessaloniki have been part of the city from the founding of the of Thessaloniki until the present. The Jewish contributions to the culture, architecture, and society of Thessaloniki tremendous. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn about this precious and vital part of Thessaloniki’s rich heritage. This is much more than simply one of the best cultural experiences of Thessaloniki. Visiting the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki is an essential human experience.

6. Glimpse the Mystery and Beauty of Ancient Greece through Music at Seikilo

Fans of music and fans of ancient history will find Seikilo absolutely fascinating, and so will anyone else. A visit to Seikilo, whatever your interest or age group, is one of the 10 best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki. This family of musicians and scientists have realized an incredible project, reproducing ancient instruments by uniting science and archaeology. The instruments themselves are things of beauty. Get to know the Chelis – the original lyre formed of a turtle shell (of course at animal-friendly Seikilo, they are a beautiful replica) – the invention of Hermes as a gift to his older brother Apollo. Come for an experience to immerse yourself in a world of ancient music, mythology, and universal artistic values. A visit to Seikilo is among the very best things to do in Thessaloniki.

7. The Olympion Cinema

Seeing a film at the Olympion is one of the top 10 cultural experiences in Thessaloniki
The Olympion Cinema is in one of Thessaloniki’s most beautiful buildings, curving around Aristotle Square

Thessaloniki is a serious cinema town, and seeing a movie with your fellow cinephiles while you’re here may be one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki. The Olympion Cinema of Thessaloniki is in one of the defining historic buildings that curves around of Aristotle Square. The building is from 1950, by architect Jacques Moshe. This venue has had the city’s largest theater and screening room since its opening, and is now the main screening room for the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. This is where all the first quality international films and art films screen. It’s an excellent space to enjoy a film.

8. Visit the Villa Bianca

The Municipal Art Gallery of Thessaloniki has three intimate exhibition spaces. Each of them is historic and beautiful. Because of both the setting and the exhibitions, visiting the Municipal Art Gallery is among the 10 best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki.

The main space of the Municipal Art Gallery of Thessaloniki is the eclectic mansion Villa Bianca, a work of the architect Vitaliano Poselli. In this Belle Epoque wonder, you can see excellent contemporary exhibitions. Additionally, there is an excellent collection of the works of Nikolaos Gyzis, a late 19th century artist of the Munich school. It’s a beautiful collection of paintings, prints, and sculpture. And it has an extraordinary space to match. There’s a pleasant cafe in the garden. After your visit, enjoy a stroll, because this neighborhood east of the center is beautiful for exploring.

9. Visit a Dynamic Cultural Center at the Bensousan Han

Visiting the Bensousan Han is one of the top 10 cultural experiences in Thessaloniki
The Bensousan is one of the most atmospheric spaces in Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki was once full of “Hans” – inns for travelers and merchants with space for their pack animals and goods. The Ano Ladadika district had several. The Bensousan Han operated until the 1930’s, and then was abandoned for decades The inspiring space was then used occasionally for avant-garde theater productions, concerts, and other arts events. Now, it’s an active cultural space with a full calendar of events throughout the week in its diverse, extremely atmospheric spaces. When you are exploring the city in the evening, stop by for one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki. You may even get an impromptu tour – the director of the space is warm and dynamic.

10. Have a Unique Experience of History with Thessaloniki Walking Tours

A tour with Thessaloniki walking tours id one of the 10 best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki
On a tour by sailboat with Thessaloniki Walking Tours, our guide Tassos Papadopoulos narrated a series of fascinating events from throughout the history of Thessaloniki

Of all the ways to get to know Thessaloniki, this is one of the very best. The team of Thessaloniki Walking Tours is the most engaging group of scholars in town. They presents fascinating views of history. With a complete historic context, and attention to vivid details, their thematic tours cover a broad range of topics. Thessaloniki Walking Tours delve deeply into various aspects of the city’s history. These tours are a combination of solid history, spellbinding performance art, and meaningful dialogue with the past – one of the best cultural experiences in Thessaloniki. Here’s another excellent experience with Thessaloniki Walking Tours:

Related post: Kinda Blue – Exploring the Roots of Rebetiko

The Best Things to Do in Thessaloniki – Just Wander and Let the City Happen to You

Of course should should see the top historic sights, and taste the best dishes, drink coffee with the locals, and experience the city’s culture. And you will – Thessaloniki is so compact, so dense with fascinating activities, sights, flavors, and experiences that you cannot help but have a great time. Be on the lookout for these highlights of Thessaloniki, and you are sure to run into them as you just enjoy getting lost in the beautiful urban tapestry, take-out frappe in hand.

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Etiquette for the Epidemic – Gracefully Navigating Our New Social Reality Tue, 31 Mar 2020 10:32:05 +0000 No handshake, no hugs, no kisses on both cheeks – in our strange new reality, etiquette plays a valuable role. While we learn how to handle new physical perils in the outside world, we also suddenly need to gracefully navigate an extremely stressed social climate. Etiquette for the epidemic isn’t superficial; it protects and strengthens […]

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No handshake, no hugs, no kisses on both cheeks – in our strange new reality, etiquette plays a valuable role.

While we learn how to handle new physical perils in the outside world, we also suddenly need to gracefully navigate an extremely stressed social climate. Etiquette for the epidemic isn’t superficial; it protects and strengthens our social fabric.

Social Distancing, Social Media

Social media may help to fill the enormous gap left in our lives because of social distancing. But it can only go so far.

Just as before, social media can connect us across geography and time, which is something we can appreciate now more than ever before. But social media can also serve as an ersatz social life. Quantities of friends and numbers of likes can mask the absence of meaningful connection.

Etiquette for the Epidemic: Using Social Media Well

On the plus side, social media gives us the chance to find out how far-away friends and family are coping. It can also connect us with more distant friends – people we see infrequently and aren’t in close contact with. I’ve been moved by the genuine interest that acquaintances have shown. I’ve also been surprised by the superficiality, or even absence, of exchanges with people I’d thought I was closer to.

We can shape a meaningful virtual world by using social media with sincerity. One way is to connect with people on an individual level. Another is to share constructive information. I’m always grateful for something novel to read – some new ideas. Some people have a gift for inspirational or entertaining content.

You’re Not Alone

You’re not the only person experiencing the pandemic, even if social distancing makes you feel like you are. That’s what the word pandemic means – everyone is experiencing it. Everyone else is also experiencing the same isolation, the same concerns, and many of us are going through much worse. Unfortunately, it’s not just about you.

Boredom Is Not in Fashion

Complaining about boredom is out.

Time is a gift, not a burden. Speaking of ways to pass time, to kill time, is in poor taste. The essential workers protecting us would be grateful for the reflective time we have. More to the point, people struggling for their lives are struggling for more time. Time is life itself, and if it’s abundant, we can only be grateful.

Pushiness Is Also Not in Fashion

Maintaining safe social distancing isn’t just about good manners; it’s an essential for public health. For some of us, it’s even a survival skill. We’ve all seen altercations arise from people taking advantage and squeezing in between responsible people waiting 2 meters apart in line. Then the shouting – shouting of course was never in, but now it’s simply unsafe.

Keeping a safe distance from others can be an exhausting exercise in vigilance. We’re trying to stay to one side of the pavement when we do go out. Particularly when someone can’t see us, we take responsibility for maintaining the appropriate distance.

Socializing During the Epidemic

Etiquette for the Epidemic - Writing postcards is a nice way to create a tangible connection.
Writing postcards is a nice way to create a tangible connection.

It would be nice if some of our new ways of relating to one another could stick. We’re all missing human contact. To stay socially connected, we can revive some pre-social media customs:

Communicating with Strangers

I was walking the dog. Another woman was walking her dog. As we passed each other across a distance of 3 – 4 meters, we gave a courteous nod. Then, we saw each other again 20 minutes later. We were both disproportionately thrilled.

Face masks hide our smiles so we have to incorporate gestures – a wave to say hello, touching our chest to say thank you. Maybe we’ll make up new gestures along the way.

Reinventing the Neighborhood

We’re also getting to know our neighbors better, calling across from balcony to balcony. No one seems to want to miss an opportunity for socializing.

It’s really nice to shake off a little of our urban cool.

Talking on the Landline

Etiquette for the epidemic - Try a long phone call, with no distractions.
Try a long phone call, with no distractions.

Some of remember a time when there was such a thing as a long distance call. They were really expensive. We counted the moments and enjoyed the voice on the other end as long as we could afford to.

A phone call was an event. We didn’t have any distractions, like a TV on in the background. We focused totally on the other person. We can make conversation matter the same way now.

Analog Communication: Using the Mail

We’re missing physical contact more than anything. It’s nice to get an instant message or an email. But a letter or postcard you old in your hands is a rare treat. Writing them is also a meaningful way of connecting for you.

Virtual Cocktail Party

To these vintage communication standbys, we can add another favorite with a 21st century twist. The other night, all of us in Travel Bloggers Greece had an evening of wine and conversation via Skype. It was strangely touching to see the faces of friends gathered together again.

Etiquette for the Epidemic – How to Communicate with Compassion

Etiquette’s not about making an impression; it’s about showing care for others. Kindness and sincerity are the foundation of good manners.

It’s nothing more than a set of guidelines to help us gracefully through social situations, particularly unfamiliar ones. The epidemic is the definition of an unfamiliar situation, and that makes etiquette indispensable now. It’s essential for nurturing our personal relationships – no matter how casual or how close. But more importantly still, it keeps society intact. We don’t just survive as individuals; we survive as a culture.

It’s comforting to be able to rely on these rules. Just when we need them most though, in a situation of panic or distress, they seem to abandon some of us. All we need to do is treat people as we wish to be treated. If that’s challenging, we can just take our cue from the other person, by responding in kind.

Responding in Kind

When people reach out to inquire about you, trust in their sincerity. No one’s asking you about yourself just to get you to ask how they are. But do ask – and not just because of conventional etiquette. Not showing an interest in others now can communicate an unseemly self-absorption. Good manners are fundamentally an expression of character.

Following up with a reciprocal inquiry is also important for you, for preserving your own humanity. There’s so little most of us can do about the pandemic. But one thing we can do is to take an interest in others. It’s also a relief to take a break from having life just be about you.

Questions vs. Good Wishes

Asking how your friends, neighbors, and family are faring actually does two things. You get the information you need, but you also engage more deeply. Good wishes are nice, but eliciting information demonstrates a more sincere interest – you’re not just hoping they are well, you want to know.

What to Ask During the Epidemic?

Most of us aren’t as concerned about ourselves as much as we are about the others in our lives. Some have friends and family doing essential work that puts them in harm’s way. And most of us have more vulnerable people in our lives – our older parents, or friends and relatives who are in delicate health. Also, many also have family and friends who are separated from them by oceans, continents, and closed borders, or who live in countries that have been hit particularly hard. It’s nice when someone takes an interest in the people we care about.

We can meet distress with compassion. And on the other hand, many of our inquiries will be rewarded with good news, allowing us a moment to experience gratitude.

Compassion and gratitude both are becoming essential survival tools. It’s helpful to seek every opportunity to practice both.

And Whom Do We Ask?

Some of the most meaningful and sincere exchanges I’ve had have been with people I haven’t seen in a very long time. Others have even been with people I don’t know that well. It’s the distance itself that makes them so meaningful, proving the strength of our society in tough times. We can strengthen it further by widening our circle.

There’s nothing obscure or arcane about good manners. Etiquette at heart is an expression of character and compassion. Doing what feels natural and kind is always the right thing.

Wishing you all good health.


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Lagada Baths: Experience Historic Byzantine Baths at Loutra Lagada Wed, 25 Mar 2020 20:34:50 +0000 Just outside of Thessaloniki, in the suburb of Lagada, there is a unique historic bathing experience. The Loutra Lagada – or Lagada Baths – have a history centuries’ long. Therapeutic waters have been flowing into these baths for over a millennium.  Thessaloniki has a history of bathing culture, but many of these historic baths are […]

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Just outside of Thessaloniki, in the suburb of Lagada, there is a unique historic bathing experience. The Loutra Lagada – or Lagada Baths – have a history centuries’ long. Therapeutic waters have been flowing into these baths for over a millennium. 

Thessaloniki has a history of bathing culture, but many of these historic baths are now closed, and serve as monuments. This is the only historic bath among the best spas in Thessaloniki.

The Mygdonia Bath of 1400 - Lagada Baths - Loutra Lagada
The Mygdonia Bath of 1400

The Baths of Lagada

Inside this clean but dull municipal facility is a fabulous surprise: there are two Byzantine era baths, beautifully intact. The Mygdonia bath is from 1400, and the Justinian is from a full 500 years earlier – 900 AD. Bathing here is not just therapeutic and enormously pleasurable; it’s a novel way to experience history. The baths have enjoyed centuries of uninterrupted use. 

Visiting the Lagada Baths – Loutra Lagada is one of the best things to do in Thessaloniki – combining history, luxury, and health. It’s a great way to experience local culture.

Related post: Best Things to do in Thessaloniki – Sights, Activities, and Cultural Experiences

History and Legend of the Lagada Baths

The history of the baths starts long before their construction. The rich therapeutic spring that fills the baths was fabled centuries earlier. Legend has that Constantine the Great (272 AD – 337 AD) and his mother Helen (according to legend the discoverer of the true cross) bathed in these healing springs. Constantine the Great and his mother Helen are now Saints in the Orthodox church. The chapel at the baths is dedicated to Saints Constantine and Helen. Moreover, the town of Lagada celebrates these Saints on their feast day – May 21st – some with an astonishing ritual of fire walking.

The first pool of the Lagada baths – the Justinian Bath – dates from around 900. There are two explanations for its name: one gives credit to a military physician Justinian, another to a Roman general of the same name. 

After the Ottomans conquered this region in 1430, under Murad II, they redid the Byzantine pools in the Ottoman style. The great domes over the baths have characteristic Ottoman brick arches, while the original Byzantine masonry is still in evidence. The baths, very much as we experience them today, appear in the famous 17th-century chronicler Evliya Çelebi’s Seyahatnâme: Book of Travels. Other visitors to baths include the Ottoman geographer M. Halzi-Salfa, who attested to the effectiveness of the waters in 1670, and the British traveler Martin William Leake, who came here in 1835.

Experiencing the Lagada Baths – Loutra Lagada

The Koroneia Bath at Loutra Lagada - Lagada Baths
The Koroneia Bath is available for private groups by reservation

Each of the moderately-sized pools – comfortably holding perhaps a dozen bathers (maximum capacity 18) – has wooden planks on the floors which is very pleasant. Marble lines the baths and there is a high dome overhead, and plenty of natural light. The water is about chest high, and at 39° C  (102° F), perfect for wallowing in and still just cool enough to paddle around in slowly. More therapeutic water cascades from fountains from the edges of the pool, making for a fine massage of the shoulders and neck. 

There are also additional pools at the baths which are available for private groups by reservation. The Artemis and the Koroneia are modern pools.

There are also many private whirlpool baths with thermal therapeutic water available, also by reservation.

The Water Composition of the Lagada Baths – Loutra Lagada

The warm waters of the Lagada springs are rich in beneficial minerals. They contain sodium (Na), calcium (Ca2), sulfate (SO4), bicarbonate (HCO3), potassium (K), and fluorine (F). This mineral composition renders it useful for a number of ailments. In additional to being beneficial for the joints and bones, the waters are useful for motor and rheumatic disorders, disorders of the circulatory and nervous systems, gynecological disorders, dysfunction of the liver and kidney, sensitivities of the gastrointestinal system, and skin diseases. The water is also suitable for drinking cures. 

Even those who have no particular complaints will benefit from these healing waters. Its mild alkalinity makes it particularly soothing to the skin.

What to Bring to the Lagada Baths

The therapeutic waters of the Lagada Baths leave the skin silky soft. So you will not need any body lotion. Bathing suits however are required at the baths. You’ll also need a towel or two and a plastic bag for your wet bathing suit. A bathing cap is always advisable.

There are no lockers at the baths. You can leave valuables at the front desk.

Are the Lagada Baths Loutra Lagada Single-Sex or Mixed Gender?

Single-Sex and Mixed- Gender bathing are both available at the Lagada Baths - Loutra Lagada
Single-Sex and Mixed- Gender bathing are both available at the Lagada Baths – Loutra Lagada

The main pools at the Loutra Lagada – the Justinian and the Mygdonia – are single sex. They alternate between men and women on a daily basis. This applies from when the baths open until 19:30. After that time, the pools are available for private parties until the baths close.

Private groups of mixed or single gender can book the Koroneia (capacity 15) or Artemis (capacity 18) baths for a private session.

What Are the Hours of the Lagada Baths?

The Loutra Lagada are open every day from 8:00 – 22:00. The may close on some holidays. Consult their Facebook Page here.

How Much to the Lagada Baths Cost?

Not much! Individual entry to the Lagada Baths is €6. To reserve one of the Loutra Lagada pools – including the Justinian and Mygdonia (by evening) – call ahead. The price is €20 per group of four, and €4 for each additional person.

How do You Get to the Loutra Lagada?

The 83M brins you to the Lagada Baths - Loutra Lagada
The 83M brings you from the landmark arch Kamara to the Lagada Baths in just over half an hour.

The Lagada Baths are in the town of Lagada, a suburb of Thessaloniki. It’s easy to reach by public transportation. The bus line 83M leaves makes several departures a day, between one and two hours apart. You can board the bus 83M at the bus stop “Kamara” on Egnatia. This is about 40 meters before the triumphal arch, as the traffic flows. Many buses say 83 and they all go to Lagada, but only the 83M will take you to the Lagada Baths, which are just outside of town. You can also get the bus at other stops further along Egnatia. For schedule information, please see here.

The bus makes a loop. Therefore, in order to return to Thessaloniki, you get on one of the buses arriving from Thessaloniki. Calculate approximately 40 minutes from the departure time. The people at the desk can help you with the schedule. You may need to transfer buses at the terminal in Lagada. The bus drivers will guide you.

The Loutra Lagada are less than a half hour away from Thessaloniki by car, along the E79/E90 Thessaloniki – Kavala highway. Follow signs to Lagada, then turn right at the sign Lagada – Lagina. Turn left at the traffic lights and drive into the town. After that, turn right at the first traffic light in town. Continue on this street until the next lights. Finally, make another right and the road leads directly to the Loutra Lagada.

The Loutra Lagada – Lagada Baths

Especially if you’re visiting Thessaloniki in fall, winter, or spring, this makes a relaxing outing – like a beach day, but with more history. You won’t soon forget the experience, and your skin will not forget the therapeutic treat.

Have you been to a natural spa in Greece?

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5 Days in San Francisco – a 5 Day San Francisco Itinerary Thu, 05 Mar 2020 23:46:54 +0000 5 Days in San Francisco – How to Make the Most of the City In 5 Days in San Francisco, with careful planning, you can have a full experience of the city. In this 5 day San Francisco itinerary, you’ll be able to make the very most of your stay. It covers the principal sights, […]

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5 Days in San Francisco – How to Make the Most of the City

In 5 Days in San Francisco, with careful planning, you can have a full experience of the city. In this 5 day San Francisco itinerary, you’ll be able to make the very most of your stay. It covers the principal sights, nature splendor, and world-class museums. We’ll also make time for dining, neighborhood walks and getting the flavor of local life. This city is a fantastic destination for an urban holiday.

5 Days in San Francisco, Day 1 – Get Oriented with a Tuk Tuk Tour. Then, Union Square and Cocktails in the Tonga Room

To really feel like you have experienced a city and you know it, you need to get an overview. Speeding from landmark to landmark via UBER or metro, you miss how one area relates to another. Also, you miss all of the texture in between. If you have 5 days in San Francisco, you won’t be able to see the whole city on foot.

We had a fantastic time making a huge loop of all the principal sites in a comfortable tuk-tuk on this excellent San Francisco tuk tuk tour. Our guide, Bailey, knew plenty of entertaining and informative stories to help us get to know the city. We stopped for photos and a break along the way. I have never had a better introduction to any city I have visited. Moreover, this was not my first visit to San Francisco. It was, however, the first time I saw nearly all of it all at once in the space of an afternoon.

This was the perfect start to a 5 day San Francisco itinerary – a fun and thorough orientation. After this complete overview, we were able to give our favorite sites the time they deserve in the coming days.

Union Square, San Francisco

We finished our tour in Union Square. This is the commercial center of downtown. The large open square has a couple of cafes as well as plenty of seating and tables. San Franciscans meet here to eat their lunch, as visitors enjoy a coffee and taking photos of the surrounding skyscrapers. Even if you do not care for shopping – several world-class shops like Tiffany and Gucci are around the square – you may enjoy the cosmopolitan buzz.

Cocktail Time

Have your first San Francisco cocktail in a unique lounge, part of the nightlife of San Francisco for decades. The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar, in the legendary Fairmont Hotel, offers plenty of photogenic, tropical decadence. Enjoy a menu of bites inspired by the Pacific Rim, and elaborate cocktails just as San Franciscans have been doing since 1945. Oh, also – they call it the Hurricane Room because they actually stage periodic tropical rainstorms with thunder and lightning.

A 5 day San Francisco itinerary, day 2 – Art and Culture Downtown: SFMOMA, the Jewish Museum. More Art and Culture: Castro, The Mission

Today, we’ll see two of San Francisco’s finest museums – one a powerhouse of contemporary culture, the other a more intimate, manageable experience. By starting out early at the SFMOMA, we can give it a good two or three hours to see the highlights.

Minamoto Kitchoan – Japanese Patisserie

Market Street is one of the main streets of downtown San Francisco. The main transportation lines – the BART, MUNI, street cars, and several busses run along Market Street.

First, near the Montgomery Street Station of the BART, on Market Street, is a famous Japanese patisserie/confisserie. The displays and the confections themselves are so exquisite it looks like a jewelry store. Try a delicate mochi scented with cherry blossoms or any other of the ethereal confections, many of them seasonal. Since we’re having an art day, it makes sense to start with an edible work of art.


A 5 day San Francisco Itinerary
Alexander Calder at the SFMOMA

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is spectacular, definitely one of the highlights of 5 days in San Francisco. After tripling its size in a stellar expansion by the architectural firm Snohetta, the SFMOMA is now among the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the United States. The collections include familiar highlights of early 20th century art – Kandinsky, Tanguy, Khalo, Magritte, etc. But most compelling are the vast collections of later 20th and even 21st-century works. These span early Lichtenstein, Thiebault, Still, Richter, Kiefer, and many others. Expert to see some monumental paintings, some of tremendous scale, in amazing spaces.

Take a Break

For hectic downtown, places for a snack or a coffee rarely come more pleasant or affordable than the museum’s own places. Moreover, the SFMOMA shop is an excellent place for gifts and books related both to contemporary art and culture and to San Francisco itself.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum

Architect Daniel Libeskind’s vision for the Contemporary Jewish Museum, incorporating a historic power station of 1881, is reason enough to visit. The building is wonderful, from the inside and from without. Exhibitions inspired by Jewish culture and the Jewish presence touch on universal aspects of life. Most recently, the central exhibition relates to Levi Strauss, the inventor of the iconic American garment that has defined decades of sartorial culture and identity. The Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco is very close to the SFMOMA

After visiting these famous centers of contemporary culture, we’ll feel the cultural pulse of the city in a more intimate context, by visiting two of the city’s best-known neighborhoods – Castro and the Mission. Getting there is part of the experience.

Taking the Streetcar F from Market Street

The San Francisco MUNI system includes some lines serviced by gorgeous streetcars from the 1930s and ’40s in excellent condition. The F line runs from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Castro, via Market Street. You can’t get lost – we’re going to the last stop – 17th Street and Castro.

The Castro

This is ground zero for San Francisco’s LBTG/LBTGQIA community. San Francisco has been proudly progressive about sexuality, identity, and alternative lifestyle choices. This means it’s an important center for the worldwide community, flag flying high. What this translates to for the visitor is one of San Francisco’s most lively and interesting neighborhoods. We’ll find excellent shops and cafes, street fashion and lifestyle.

Stop by the Castro Theater to see their schedule. This classic grand movie house of 1922 shows first-run features, classics, and has famous sing-alongs to musical films.

After visiting the main commercial streets, we enjoyed walking through the residential neighborhoods with their classic examples of San Francisco’s famous Victorian architecture. Pass by Le Maison Bleue – once a famous commune and the inspiration for the 1972 Maxime le Forrestier song (it’s on 18th street between Sanchez and Church). Then continue the French vibe with an impeccable croissant and a cafe au lait at charming Le Marais. on the corner of 18th and Sanchez.

We’re now near Mission Dolores Park.

The Mission

One of the most famous neighborhoods of San Francisco, Mission is a fascinating mix of its local Spanish-speaking population, street art, and creative communities. It takes its name from the actual Mission – the historic Mission Dolores.

Mission Dolores

Originally, and still, the Mission of St. Francis of Assisi, this historic Mission of 1776 is almost always called Mission Dolores, for a creek that was once nearby. This beautiful building is the oldest intact building in all of San Francisco. Come here to see first hand an example of Mission style architecture, which you will see emulated in homes and mansions throughout California. In the cemetery of the Mission rest original Californians of the Ohlone and Miwok, as well as early settlers.

Mission Dolores Park

From this beautiful park on its hilly slope, we’ll enjoy great views of the city. It’s also perfect for people watching. We can like the locals and grab an ice cream at the nearby Bi-Rite.

Creativity Explored

For an inspiring start to our art-forward exploration of the Mission, we can visit Creativity Explored. This community of artists with developmental disabilities create beautiful and moving works in an airy studio space. A gallery and a store are in front.

Street Art

5 Days in San Francisco -The Mission is famous for its politically and socially conscious Street Art
The Mission is famous for its politically and socially conscious Street Art

The mission is world-famous for street Art. We’ll see it all over the place throughout this large and diverse neighborhood. But here are a few addresses that are particularly rewarding:

Clarion Alley

Parallel to 17th Street between Valencia and Mission, Clarion Alley is the center of the CAMP (Clarion Alley Mural Project), started in 1992. Here we’ll find hundreds of murals exploring political themes, community soul, and social consciousness.

The Women’s Building

On 18th Street we’ll find the Women’s Building This community center , which opened in 1971, houses and fosters a host of women’s organizations, workshops, services, and celebrations. The 1994 mural, which covers the entire facade, is the collaborative work of several local female artists. It celebrates the contributions of women throughout time, both mythic and historic.

Balmy Alley

At the other end of the neighborhood, off of 24th street which is one of the main streets of Mission is another famous alley of murals – Balmy Alley. The original works here focused on the female experience and was started by the all-female collective Mujeres Muralistas in 1972. Subsequent waves of works focused on indigenous Central American cultures, and more lately the challenges that face the community, including police harassment, narcotics, and gentrification.

Precita Eyes

Those with a strong interest in street art and the history and present of the street art of the Mission district in particular can check in at Precita Eyes. Here, at this non-profit arts organization dedicated to art and community, we found books, information, and guided tours

5 Days in San Francisco, Day 3 – Must-See Highlights

Just because we’re interested in high art and street culture doesn’t mean we should overlook the obvious. This the the all out fun day – full of classic “tourist” attractions of San Francisco. These are essential experiences for a complete 5 day San Francisco itinerary. Each is emblematic of the city.

Most of our activities will be at the waterfront. We will be covering much of the north coast of San Francisco.

The Ferry Building

San Francisco's historic Ferry Building houses food stalls with the best and mist interesting California specialties - 5 days in San Francisco
San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building houses food stalls with the best and mist interesting California specialties

The old ferry terminal had a complete renovation and reopened in 2003. Now, this beautiful and historic space has the best of California’s culinary scene, from artisanal bakers like Acme, Fromageries like Cowgirl Creamery, and inventive ice cream like Humphrey Slocombe.

From here, we can either board the street car F, but this time going in the direction of Fisherman’s Wharf, or we can walk. Keep in mind we will be doing a lot of walking today, though.

The Cable Car – Essential SF

A 5 day San Francisco itinerary - the Cable Car
A Cable Car ride is an essential San Francisco experience

We’ll start our day at Powell and Market Street to take the cable car – the Powell/Hyde line – over to the north side of the city.

The cable car was invented in San Francisco to scale the incredible hills the city is famous for. Cable cars were declared a San Francisco landmark in 1964.

Totally worth the $8.00 fare and the long wait in line (30 minutes is not at all unusual), the cable car is an icon, one of the best things to do in 5 days in San Francisco. It’s also more thrilling than you expect. The views are fantastic, the sounds cinematic, the engineering impressive. You really feel the power as they are pulled up by the cables running under the street. In order to have the best experience, ride standing up. But be careful, and don’t lean out.

Pier 39

The Sea Lions lounging off of Pier 39
The Sea Lions lounging off of Pier 39

A couple of blocks to the east is the most famous of San Francisco’s piers. To be sure its the most touristy. But the stars of the wharf make it worthwhile – this is home to many many Sea Lions, who find both safety from predators and plenty of delicious fish.

Pier 39 is also where our bay cruise sets off.

Bay Cruise

5 Days in San Francisco - Alcatraz Island from the Bay Cruise
Alcatraz Island from the Bay Cruise

One of the best things to do in a 5 day San Francisco itinerary is to experience the city from the Bay.In order to do this, we took the Blue and Gold fleet’s one-hour Bay Cruise Adventure. This took us underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and round Alcatraz Island. Besides the excellent views and photo opportunities, there was informative narration, so we got a thorough overview of the history of the city and the specific sites we saw en route.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Any 5 day San Francisco itinerary will have to include Fisherman’s Wharf. Walking back towards Hyde street and passing Pier 39 brings us here. Even though this is a admittedly a very touristy strip along the bay, it has a certain retro charm, sort of ’70’s mood. Take a snapshot of the famous sign that looks like the steering wheel of a ship. Also, stalls sell Dungeness crab and other local fresh seafood specialties on ice – more fine photos. For a sit-down meal, many people enjoy the classic restaurants like Cioppinos and Aliotos.

From here, we will walk a couple of blocks to the corner of Hyde and Beach, just above the turning platform of the cable car.

Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista

5 days in San Francisco - The Buena Vista  perfected the Irish Coffee in the 1950s
The Buena Vista perfected the Irish Coffee in the 1950s

On a 5 day San Francisco itinerary, it’s fun to visit a famous San Francisco institution like the Buena Vista. This classic bar opened in 1916, and is a great place to have a drink at the bar. The drink of choice, of course, is Irish Coffee, because the Buena Vista is the first place in the United States to serve it. The owner developed it with the help of a travel writer in the 1950s, modeling it on the coffee served at the Shannon airport. You sip the strong, hot and boozy coffee through a thick head of whipped cream.

Close by, just past the landmark Fontana apartment buildings, at North Point Street and Van Ness, we can catch the MUNI bus 28.

The Palace of Fine Arts

5 Days in San Francisco - The Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts, Bernard Maybeck’s Pavillion for the Panama Pacific Exhibition of 1915

We’ll ask the driver where to get off for the Palace of Fine Arts. Here is one of the surprises of our 5 days in San Francisco. Around a pond filled with swans and other serene water birds is a series of monumental structures that look like the setting of a dream. The Beaux-Arts fantasy of a structure calls to mind monumental ancient ruins. The original Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Bernard Maybeck for the Panama Pacific Exhibition of 1915. Then, years later, citizens of San Francisco saved the temporary structure from destruction, and it was re-built from more permanent materials. This is one of the most romantic sights of San Francisco, indeed the world. The many bridal couples who crowd here for their photographs confirm it.

The same bus continues to the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge – a Highlight of a 5 Day San Francisco Itinerary

A 5 day San Francisco itinerary - The Art Deco details of the Golden Gate Bridge, glowing in International Orange
The Art Deco details of the Golden Gate Bridge, glowing in International Orange

5 days in San Francisco could not be complete without walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. This icon, a wonder of engineering and beauty, spans the strait between San Francisco and the Marin headlands. It marks the passage from the open Pacific Ocean to the San Francisco Bay. This was the “Golden Gate,” and it was in part called this because of the Golden Horn in Istanbul. Just as the Golden Horn was the gateway between east and west, so the Golden Gate was the opening to trade with the far east.

The Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937. The length of 1.7 miles/ 2.7 kilometers made it the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened. Even today, it remains among the world’s longest. It’s a magnificent sight. The color, made for the bridge, is called International Orange and it glows with beauty. The stylish bridge is crafted with the Art Deco details of its era.

It’s well worth the long walk across for the stunning view of the bay. But first, we can read about the history of the bridge from the informative outdoor displays, which will make our walk more fun. As we walk, we’ll get an up close experience of the monumentality of this world-famous landmark.

After walking across the bridge, we can stop at the visitors’ center for general San Francisco information. There’s also an excellent souvenir shop (not an oxymoron – they had tasteful and pretty things). Additionally, there’s a coffee place with, of course, a fantastic view.

We can now board the bus #28 going in the opposite direction- back to North Point Street and Van Ness – from the very same bus stop where we got off.

Ghirardelli Square and Cheese and Wine at the Cheese School

Artisanal Cheeses at The Cheese School, San Francisco
Artisanal Cheeses at The Cheese School

Another favorite landmark and on many a 5 day San Francisco itinerary, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory on the bay of San Francisco is now a restored industrial building housing many businesses. It looks like – and is – another tourist spot. But it is also a surprisingly excellent location for a delicious tasting meal.

At The Cheese School, we enjoyed fantastic views of the bay through the wall of glass, while sampling superb cheeses. Each board came with a careful selection of quality local cheeses and accompaniments such as raisins steeped in desert wine and crisp nuts. Wines by the glass were delicious. This really is a school – you can even come for seminars about cheesemaking and inevntive cheese pairings with wine or chocolate, for example.

If you’re still hungry, you can visit the Ghirardelli shop for a famous hot fudge sunday.

Day 4 – Japantown, Chinatown, North Beach, Coit Tower, Seafood at Pier 23, the Exploratorium

The fourth day of our tour brings us to the Western Addition for a stop in Japantown, then back into the popular tourist area. But this time the emphasis is on culture, social history, and lifestyle. Plus, we’ll visit an interactive museum that will make you feel the thrill of discovery, like being a child again.

San Francisco’s Japantown – Nihonmachi

Today, our 5 day San Francisco itinerary starts with total serenity. San Francisco’s Japantown – Nihonmachi as it is called in Japanese – is distinctive. This compact, spotless, and supremely peaceful district is the largest Japantown in the US. Japantown has a strong identity, organized around the elegant Japan Center of 1968. Its two buildings are separated by a plaza where we will find the elaborate five-tiered, 30 meter (100 foot) Peace Pagoda. We can shop for fine traditional products, visit the exquisite supermarkets, and join the locals at Benkyodo on the corner of Buchanan and Sutter streets for delicate mochi.

Learning about the Japanese-American Experience

Walking around the neighborhood, you’ll see plaques dedicated to the Japanese-American experience. Learning about the peoples who have made San Francisco this fascinating place is an important part of what we can experience in 5 days in San Francisco. Because of this, it’s worth taking time to read them, even though they are difficult. This is because they inform the reader about the internment camps where Japanese Americans were relocated to during the second world war. This is a shameful chapter in the history of the United States, from which hopefully much can be learned.

The MUNI bus #38 on Geary will bring us back downtown.


5 Days ion San Francisco - The Chinatown Gate
The Chinatown Gate

Another essential in a 5 day San Francisco itinerary, this is just one of several Chinese neighborhoods in the Bay Area. But the central downtown Chinatown is the most photogenic of all. In sharp contrast to Japantown, Chinatown is cluttered, not clean, very chaotic, and loud. It’s also quite fun. The ornate Chinatown gate opens onto Chinatown’s main drag – Grant Avenue. This is prime cheap souvenir hunting ground, with a few more elegant stores offering traditional Chinese clothing and gifts. Most locals eat Chinese food elsewhere. But there are dim sum parlors, restaurants, and bakeries for a snack. Our favorite snack of all was a sack of fresh, crisp fortune cookies (a Chinese-American invention) from the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Ross Alley.

As we continue along Grant Avenue, we eventually come to Jack Kerouac Alley on our right, where the scene changes abruptly.

North Beach – The Birth of the Cool

5 Days in San Francisco -Cafe Vesuvio in North Beach
Cafe Vesuvio in North Beach

One of the best things about spending 5 days in San Francisco is experiencing such radically different moods and characters from neighborhood to neighborhood. In San Francisco, each area has its own distinctive identity and history. Even though North Beach is directly next to Chinatown, it could not be more different.

North Beach is where the Beat Generation and Italian Culture mingled over strong cups of espresso. Walking through Jack Kerouac Alley, lined with quotes in the pavement and murals on the walls, we come to the corner of Columbus Avenue. Cafe Vesuvio is on our right, and the City Lights Bookstore is on our left. Founded by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin in 1953, this is the birthplace of Beat Poetry. Then, two years later, they founded City Lights publishing. It remains a bastion of counter-cultural literature and thought and is an excellent bookstore experience.

A 5 day San Francisco itinerary - Molinari Delicatessen, North Beach
Molinari Delicatessen, North Beach

If we turn left on Columbus Avenue, we’ll pass by Italian restaurants and espresso bars. North Beach has historically been an Italian American neighborhood, and it still has this flavor today. A perfect example is Molinari Delicatessen. It’s beautifully stocked and the best bet for a picnic lunch. So we can pick up one of their fabulous sandwiches and a San Pellegrino for a picnic in Washington Square, the park in front of Saints Peter and Paul.

One of the most famous Italian Americans to come out of North Beach was Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees. He also had a famous wife for a while – Marilyn Monroe. The famous couple took their wedding photos on the steps of this church overlooking the park. But they married at City Hall, because this is a Catholic church and they both were divorced. Washington Square is lively with people and dogs and makes a pleasant interlude.

Coit Tower

5 Days in San Francisco - Coit Tower
Coit Tower

From Washington Square, it’s a short but extremely steep walk up to Coit Tower. This Art Deco style tower was built with a bequest from San Franciscan Lillie Hitchcock Coit. The tower is on a hilltop in Pioneer Park and rises 64 meters (210 feet) to offer sweeping panoramic views. Even if you’re not interested in going up in the tower – there is both a fee and a line for the elevator – it’s worth coming up here. There are also great views from the surrounding park, and the tower is lovely. The murals on the ground floor of the tower are prime examples of Social Realism.

The Parrots of Telegraph Hill

This is the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, and it has some exotic and elusive residents. Escape domesticated parrots have bred. Telegraph Hill proved a hospitable ecosystem, and now this flock of wild parrots numbers as many as 500. It’s worth keeping an eye out for these lovely birds. They are bright green with red heads and are hard to miss.

The Exploratorium

This hands-on museum of science, psychology, and perception is wonderful at any age. The regular hours are open for everyone. But there are also special evening hours – the Exploratorium After Dark – on Thursdays from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. The Thursday evening session, with events, music, and guest speakers, is only open to visitors 18 and over.

Seafood by the Pier

Pier 23 is a classic old-style San Francisco spot – on the pier of the same name – for classic old-style San Francisco seafood dishes. On the menu are clam chowder, shrimp and crab Louie, Dungeness crab in the shell, and superb fish and chips. They also serve hamburgers, and a good selection of beers and wines.

5 Days in San Francisco, Day 5 – The Palace of the Legion of Honor, Golden Gate Park, The California Sciences Center, the de Young Museum, Tea in the Japanese Garden, Haight-Ashbury,

5 Days in San Francisco - The Lawn of the Palace of the Legion of Honor
The Lawn of the Palace of the Legion of Honor

We’ve hit many of the highlights of the center in our 5 days in San Francisco. So today, we can head for the open spaces and beautiful sights of western San Francisco. Our day will include museums, Golden Gate Park, and the Japanese Tea Garden, as well as one of San Francisco’s most famous neighborhoods.

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor

The Legion of Honor is a Museum of Fine Arts in Lincoln Park, a dramatic setting overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. The museum is an exact replica of the French Pavillion of the Panama Pacific Exhibition of 1915 (the same exhibition that gave the city the Palace of Fine Arts). The French Pavillion, in turn, was a replica in 3/4 scale of the Palais de la Legion d’Honeur.

The collection here spans 6,000 years of Ancient and European art. The collection is particularly strong in European art of the 16th through 20th centuries, including masterworks by Titian, El Greco, Rembrandt, Gainsborogh, van Gogh, Monet, and Renoir. Additionally, there’s a grand gallery of sculptures by Rodin. There are also porcelains and other objects, reconstructed rooms of historic design eras, and books and graphic arts. Before leaving, we stopped in the museum’s cafe. With its outdoor tables on a patio under the trees, it has a Parisian charm.

Hang on to your admission Ticket; it will also cover admission the same day to the de Young Museum later on.

Golden Gate Park

This park of over 1,000 acres stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the heart of San Francisco offers a great variety of experiences.

The Japanese Tea Garden

This lovely Japanese Garden is complete with pagodas, a tea pavillion, a koi pond, a zen garden, and an arched drum bridge. Like the Palace of Fine Arts, the Japanese Tea Garden was originally conceived for a fair. In this case, it was a “Japanese Village” for an international exhibition in 1894. The project was expanded and made permanent by the landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara, who devoted his life and his personal fortune to the project.

Wonderful for wandering and contemplation, the Japanese Tea Garden also does serve tea, along with Japanese delicacies, in an ideally tranquil setting by a reflective pool.

The de Young Museum

Very close to the Japanese Garden, this museum’s collections comprise Oceanic art, African art, and art of the Americas. Additionally, they exhibit fascinating costume and textile Arts and graphic arts. The de Young museum also holds dynamic contemporary and thematic exhibitions of broad impact and interest. Tickets from your same-day admission to the Palace of the Leion of Honor will also grant you entrance to the Young. Special exhibitions are often charged separately.

The California Academy of Sciences

Across from the de Young Museum, this dynamic building is in itself a worthy destination. A study in sustainability, this is the “greenest” museum building in the world. Its architect, Renzo Piano, planned to “lift up piece of the park and place a building beneath.” explaining its beautiful integration with its surroundings.

The California Academy of Sciences comprises a planetarium, aquarium, a natural history museum, and even a rain forest. This is an education forward experience. We left feeling closer to our beautiful planet. We also gained an increased dedication to the environment and all our fellow living creatures. Truly an inspirational experience.

Haight Ashbury

Our 5 day San Francisco itinerary is nearly complete. We’ll finish with one of the best-known neighborhoods in all San Francisco worldwide – Haight Ashbury. Otherwise called the Haight, it’s usually known by its most famous intersection – Haight and Ashbury. The reason people all over the world know Haight Ashbury is that San Francisco became the epicenter of counter-culture during the Summer of Love, 1967. As many as 100,000 people converged here in Haight Ashbury, espousing counter-cultural ideals and rejecting war, materialism and conformist ideology and lifestyle.

Of course, the Haight has moved on with the times, and is now a prime commercial area for contemporary design boutiques, vintage clothing shops, and record stores. Still, there is a degree of nostalgia, and the hippie aesthetic lives on.

Using a San Francisco CityPass to make the most of a 5 day San Francisco Itinerary

We saved some money and a lot of trouble by getting a CityPass, there are a couple of choices – you can read about them here. Our CityPass included a 3-day MUNI passport covering buses, street cars, MUNI, and cable cars – so we could ride the cable cars as much as we liked. If you plan on seeing even more in your 5 days in San Francisco, you can get additional MUNI passports. They are available for one, three, and seven days. More information here.

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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.

The post Best Places to Spend your Christmas and New Year’s Eve appeared first on Provocolate.

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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 […]

The post Halkidiki Travel Guide – Where to Stay and Things to Do appeared first on Provocolate.

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.

Halkidiki is less than an hour from Thessaloniki. Famous for its lifestyle and nightlife, this is an excellent city break destination. Thessaloniki is full of diverse cultural attractions and UNESCO World Heritage monuments. It makes a great addition to a Halkidiki holiday.

Related post: Best Things to do in Thessaloniki – Sights, Activities, and Cultural Experiences

Exploring Halkidiki

The landscape of Halkidiki is lush, with thick pine forests edging the pristine beaches. It’s also varied. Besides the world-famous beaches, there are 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, a large peninsula just east of Thessaloniki, is one of Greece’s most interesting and popular destinations. It’s very close to the Thessaloniki Makedonia Airport/SKG. But it feels like a remote, exotic island.

How to Get to Halkidiki

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. It’s also fun to explore by car.

The Geography of Halkidiki

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 […]

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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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