Thessaloniki, often referred to internationally as Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the geographic region of Greek Macedonia. It is a city with a continuous 3,000 year history, preserving relics of its Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past and of its formerly dominant Jewish population. Its Byzantine churches, in particular, are included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Thessaloniki is Greece’s second major economic, industrial, commercial and political centre, and a major transportation hub for the rest of southeastern Europe; its commercial port is also of great importance for Greece and the southeastern European hinterland. The city is renowned for its festivals, events and vibrant cultural life in general, and is considered to be Greece’s cultural capital. Events such as the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival are held annually, while the city also hosts the largest bi-annual meeting of the Greek diaspora.
Founded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon, Thessaloniki’s history spans some 2,300 years. An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessaloniki was the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. Thessaloniki is home to numerous notable Byzantine monuments, including the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures. The city’s main university, Aristotle University, is the largest in Greece and the Balkans.
Thessaloniki is a popular tourist destination in Greece. In 2010, Lonely Planet ranked Thessaloniki as the world’s fifth-best party city worldwide, comparable to other cities such as Dubai and Montreal. For 2013 National Geographic Magazine included Thessaloniki in its top tourist destinations worldwide.