(average charge – all included by a Private Transfer) From Naxos Airport.

Destination PRICE
Parikia Town (Capital) 48€
Naousa 57€
Paros Port 48€
Punta 44€

About Thessaloniki History

Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, is a vibrant metropolis steeped in history. Situated on the Thermaic Gulf, it has been a crucial hub for commerce, culture, and politics for over two millennia. Founded in 315 BC by King Cassander of Macedon and named after his wife, Thessalonike, the city boasts a rich tapestry of historical influences, from ancient Greek and Roman to Byzantine, Ottoman, and modern Greek periods. This article delves into the major historical epochs that have shaped Thessaloniki, highlighting its transformation from a Hellenistic city-state to a contemporary urban center.

Historical EraTime PeriodKey Developments and Events
Ancient Times315 BC - 168 BC- Founded by King Cassander of Macedon. Named after his wife, Thessalonike.
- Emerged as a major trade center during the Hellenistic period.
Roman Era168 BC - 395 AD- Became part of the Roman Republic, later the Roman Empire.
- Strategic stop along Via Egnatia.
- Early spread of Christianity, Apostle Paul visits.
Byzantine Period395 AD - 1430 AD- Became the second most important city in the Byzantine Empire.
- Suffered from various sieges but maintained strong defenses.
- Thrived as a cultural and religious center.
Ottoman Period1430 AD - 1912 AD- Fell under Ottoman control, significantly altering the city's demographics and architecture.
- Became a melting pot of Greek, Jewish, and Turkish cultures.
Modern Era1912 AD - Present- Liberated from Ottoman rule during the Balkan Wars.
- Rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1917.
- Suffered during WWII, but saw significant post-war recovery.
- Evolved into a modern urban and cultural center.

Ancient Times

Foundation and Early History

Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by King Cassander of Macedon. He named the city after his wife, Thessalonike, who was the half-sister of Alexander the Great. The city was strategically located at the crossroads of vital trade routes, making it a prime commercial hub from its inception. Built on the site of the older city of Therma, Thessaloniki quickly grew in importance due to its advantageous position along the Thermaic Gulf and proximity to the ancient Macedonian kingdom’s heartland.

Hellenistic Period

During the Hellenistic period, Thessaloniki thrived as a major port and trade center. It became a melting pot of cultures, attracting settlers and traders from across the Mediterranean and beyond. The city’s economy flourished, driven by commerce, maritime trade, and its strategic location. Thessaloniki also emerged as a cultural and intellectual center, contributing significantly to the arts, philosophy, and sciences. The city’s architecture and urban planning reflected the grandeur and sophistication of the Hellenistic era, with impressive buildings, public spaces, and a vibrant marketplace.

Roman Era

Integration into the Roman Empire

In 168 BC, Thessaloniki became part of the Roman Republic following the defeat of the Macedonian Kingdom. It was later incorporated into the Roman Empire, where it continued to prosper due to its strategic location. Thessaloniki was a crucial junction on the Via Egnatia, a major Roman road that connected the Adriatic Sea to Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul). This road facilitated trade, military movements, and cultural exchanges between the East and West, further cementing Thessaloniki’s role as a significant economic and logistical center within the Roman Empire.

Christianity in Thessaloniki

The Roman era also marked the early spread of Christianity in Thessaloniki. The Apostle Paul visited the city during his second missionary journey around 50 AD, preaching to both Jews and Gentiles. His letters to the Thessalonians, which are part of the New Testament, highlight the establishment of a Christian community in the city. Thessaloniki’s early embrace of Christianity played a crucial role in its religious development, and it became a key center for Christian thought and practice in the region.

Throughout the Roman period, Thessaloniki experienced significant growth and development. The city’s infrastructure was enhanced with the construction of public buildings, baths, forums, and other amenities typical of Roman urban centers. The blend of Roman architectural styles with local traditions created a unique urban landscape that reflected the city’s diverse heritage.

Byzantine Period

Role in the Byzantine Empire

With the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, Thessaloniki became a key city in the Byzantine Empire. Its strategic importance was second only to Constantinople. Thessaloniki was not only a major political and military center but also a significant cultural and religious hub. The city was adorned with impressive Byzantine architecture, including churches, monasteries, and public buildings that showcased its grandeur.

Attacks and Defense

Throughout the Byzantine period, Thessaloniki faced numerous attacks due to its strategic and economic significance. The city withstood sieges by Slavs in the 7th century, Avars, and other groups. Despite these challenges, Thessaloniki’s strong fortifications, including its famous city walls and the White Tower, helped defend against many invaders. The resilience of Thessaloniki during these turbulent times underscored its importance to the Byzantine Empire.

Cultural and Religious Significance

Thessaloniki was a major center for early Christian thought and theology. It played a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity throughout the Balkans. The city’s religious significance was bolstered by its numerous churches and monasteries, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites today. Thessaloniki also became a center for the development of Byzantine art, literature, and scholarship, contributing significantly to the cultural heritage of the Byzantine Empire.

Ottoman Period

Conquest by the Ottomans

In 1430, Thessaloniki was captured by the Ottoman Empire after a prolonged siege. The city’s integration into the Ottoman realm brought significant changes in administration, society, and urban development. Under Ottoman rule, Thessaloniki retained its importance as a major port and commercial center in the Balkans.

Cultural and Demographic Changes

The Ottoman period saw a significant transformation in Thessaloniki’s demographic makeup. The city became a melting pot of various cultures and religions, including a substantial Jewish community that thrived after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Greek, Turkish, and Jewish communities coexisted, contributing to Thessaloniki’s rich cultural tapestry. The city’s architecture also reflected Ottoman influences, with the construction of mosques, public baths, and other buildings characteristic of Ottoman urban planning.

Modern Era

Liberation and Integration into Greece

Thessaloniki was liberated from Ottoman rule in 1912 during the First Balkan War and was subsequently integrated into the modern Greek state. This period marked the beginning of significant political, social, and economic transformations. Thessaloniki’s liberation was a pivotal moment in its history, reshaping its identity and future.

20th Century Developments

The 20th century was a period of both challenges and growth for Thessaloniki. The Great Fire of 1917 devastated much of the city, leading to extensive rebuilding and modernization efforts. In the aftermath of World War I, the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923 significantly altered the city’s demographic landscape, with many Greek refugees settling in Thessaloniki.

During World War II, Thessaloniki experienced occupation by Axis forces, and its Jewish community faced tragic persecution and deportation to Nazi concentration camps. Despite these hardships, the post-war period saw Thessaloniki’s recovery and development into a modern urban center. Industrialization, infrastructure development, and cultural revival characterized this era.

Contemporary Thessaloniki

Today, Thessaloniki is a bustling metropolis and a key cultural, educational, and economic center in Greece. The city is renowned for its vibrant cultural scene, with numerous festivals, museums, and historical sites attracting visitors from around the world. Thessaloniki’s rich historical heritage is preserved in its many archaeological sites, Byzantine churches, and Ottoman-era buildings, making it a living museum of its diverse past.


Thessaloniki’s history is a testament to its resilience and adaptability through the ages. From its founding in ancient times to its role as a major Byzantine and Ottoman city, and its evolution into a modern Greek metropolis, Thessaloniki has continuously shaped and been shaped by the tides of history. The city’s historical journey reflects its enduring significance and the rich cultural legacy it offers to future generations. As Thessaloniki continues to grow and modernize, its historical heritage remains a vital part of its identity, reminding us of the city’s profound influence on the region’s history and culture.