I Heart My City: Martina’s Thessaloniki

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When Martina Papaiaioannou decided to go back to school, she traded one port city in Greece for another, moving up the coast from Volos to Thessaloniki. When she isn’t riding her bike around town or going to classes, she writes about her favorite places and experiences in what she calls the “ultimate student city in Greece” for Spotted by Locals.

“From metalheads to traditional Greek music lovers, from fashionistas to foodies, from locals looking for a relaxing place to gather their thoughts to tourists searching for adventure, Thessaloniki offers everything,” she says. Here are a few of Martina’s favorite things about the cultural crossroads she’s proud to call home.

Thessaloniki Is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is by the seafront for a beautiful morning walk and evening cocktails at Fragile, my favorite rooftop bar.

April or May are the best times to visit my city because the weather is hot enough to be considered summery, but cool enough that people from northern countries won’t suffocate.

You can see my city best from Kastra, the old castle.

Locals know to skip Aristotelous Square and check out Navarinou Square instead.

Modiano Market is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs like herbs, spices, Greek delicacies, and traditional drinks.

In the past, notable people like Gus G., the lead guitarist for Firewind and Ozzy Osbourne, philosopher Saint Cyril, and businessman Yiannis Boutaris have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art because even though Greece is famous for its history, there is a lot of innovation and originality as well.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s to skip the buses and walk because you’ll come across awesome graffiti when you least expect it. If you’re in need of a taxi, I suggest using the Taxibeat app.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is in the little square where Zefksidos and Iktinou streets meet, which is full of life day and night. You can also relax at one of the tables outside RE Take Me There or have a bite at the Meet The Ball cafe.

My city really knows how to celebrate Tsiknopempti, the Thursday before Christian Lent begins. Most shops host barbecues in the streets, people walk around in costumes, and there is a party on every corner.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they say malaka (a mild curse word, which is also used to refer to close friends) a lot or are running late because they lost track of time while relaxing at a cafe.

For a fancy night out, I head to Ypovrihio or Bord de L’eau for cocktails.

Just outside my city, you can visit Vergina, a city full of history and ancient artifacts.

My city is known for being a student-oriented metropolis, but it’s really a city where people from all ages and backgrounds can find their niche.

The best outdoor market in my city is Kapani (aka Vlali), where you can ask for a sample of the food being sold and browse through clothes and decorative items.

IHeart is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Mpougatsa Giannis is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Spotted by Locals or simply ask a local, which is also a great opportunity to meet a new friend.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I grab a beer from a corner market and hang out on the grass under the White Tower.

To escape the crowds, I take a relaxing walk around the dock and grab a new read from the Think Tank, a free, mobile library that operates on a “take a book, leave a book” policy.

The dish that represents my city best is pitogyro (known as souvlaki in other parts of Greece), and retsina is my city’s signature drink. Sample them at Express Snack Grill and Glykia Symmoria, respectively.

Eightball Club and Live Stage and Mylos are the best places to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out 4 Epoxes (and when that one closes, it’s time for Berlin Bar).

A 24-hour bar crawl could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should hop on a boat bar for a short cruise around the Thermaic Gulf.

In the summer you should head for Chalkidiki, where some of the best beaches in Greece are located.

In the fall you should not miss the Reworks International Music Festival.

In the winter you should attend the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss WE and Public.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because even if it’s not really your cup of tea, Thessaloniki won’t bore you—not for a single second—because it never ever sleeps.

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