Athens isn't the only town to boast an Acropolis. Thessaloniki has one too!
Ancient history, crumbling ruins, and spectacular views? Yep, it sounds like the acropolis all right! But I'm actually talking about Thessaloniki, not Athens. Did you know that there are several acropolis across Greece, and even in other countries? The name means "upper city" and an acropolis is a city's highest point and an important strategic location for defense.
The Acropolis of Athens, of course, is famous the world over and it's principle building, the Parthenon, is instantly recognizable. But it is well worth the trip to seek out other acropolis, especially the one in Thessaloniki. Here's what makes it such a special spot.
Just as the Acropolis of Athens has the Parthenon, the Acropolis of Thessaloniki is dominated by its own unique structure, the Heptapyrgion. The Heptapyrgion is a Byzantine and Ottoman era fortress whose northern towers date back the rule of Roman emperor Theodosius I and the years 379-395 A.D. Thessaloniki is renowned for it's Byzantine era structures and the Heptapyrgion is just one example of these amazing ruins.
The Heptapyrgion has grown and changed over the centuries, absorbing the architectural influence of the many cultures, communities, and political dynasties that have made Thessaloniki the diverse city it is today. While it has spent the past 25 or so years as a tourist attraction and a UNESCO recognized site, it's final function for the century or so before its 'retirement' was as a prison - a bit of a gloomy period for an otherwise magnificent building.
There is one point where the Acropolis of Thessaloniki and that found in Athens greatly differ. In Thessaloniki, you can expect to have the hill and the Heptapyrgion almost entirely to yourself. There was only a scattering of visitors when I was there in the middle of the day. In fact, it seemed like it was more of a spot for local delinquents (I jest!) to hang out on the ledges to smoke and brood and take in the views. If you generally feel overwhelmed by the crowds in Athens, Thessaloniki will be a relief.
While in Thessaloniki, I stayed at the Porto Palace Hotel. I really enjoyed the spacious rooms, the bathtub (something I was missing dearly in Athens!) and the incredible breakfast buffet. The staff were really friendly and helpfully came to my rescue when I realized I forgot my toothpaste. I wasn't so keen on the hotel's layout (it felt like maybe one or more sections had been added to the original build) and its industrial surroundings. Still, I would stay here again on a return visit, though I'd be open to trying something new and would likely let the price point win out by using a search aggregator like Travel-Ticker to find great deals on hotels.
My visit to Thessaloniki was sponsored by the city's tourism board and Visit Greece in conjunction with the TBEX conference and we thank them for their support. The article also contains a link from a proud supporter of TurnipseedTravel.com