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Thessaloniki's Beating Heart: Aristotelous Square Walking Tour

This is a local's guide to Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki, Greece with narration, covering all the must-see sights.

We are guiding you on a walking tour along Thessaloniki's central and most popular square.

We start from the Holy Church of Saint Demetrius, Patron Saint of Thessaloniki.

Then we walk a bit further down to the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum and the Bit Bazar area.

Just before Egnatia Street, we approach the Statue of Eleftherios Venizelos.

We keep walking to the middle part of the semi-pedestrianized area from Ermou to Tsimiski Street, until we finally reach the main square, just by the seafront.

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We have more walking tours in Thessaloniki and even aerial videos with practical info about what to visit in the city. For your convenience, we have created a relevant playlist. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLxRHhKvfPjpUWtFV8IjoofOrC-KHD_0zG

Saint Demetrius

The Church of Saint Demetrius, also known as Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki, Greece. It dates back to a time when Thessaloniki was the second-largest city of the Byzantine Empire. The church has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1988 as part of the site "Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki".

It was built in the early 5th century AD by Leontius, the prefect of Illyricum, over the tomb of Saint Demetrius. Saint Demetrius held the military office of proconsul during the reign of Emperor Diocletian in the early 4th century and was martyred as a Christian by imperial decree.

Saint Demetrius is revered as the patron saint of Thessaloniki and is believed to have intervened to save the city from invading foreigners.

The Church of Saint Demetrius is known for its impressive architecture and Byzantine mosaics. The present structure is a reconstruction of the 7th-century church destroyed by fire in 1917. The church features a five-apse design and a crypt that houses the tomb of Saint Demetrius. The crypt also contains the remains of the first chapel built on the site and a large marble basin that was used to collect the holy myrrh that emanated from the grave of the martyred saint.


Roman Forum

The Roman Forum of Thessaloniki is an ancient Roman-era forum at the upper side of Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki, Greece. It is a large two-terraced forum featuring two-storey stoas (covered walkways), which were accidentally discovered in the 1960s. The forum complex also includes two Roman baths, one of which has been excavated, while the other remains buried beneath the city. Additionally, there is a small theater that was used for gladiatorial games. The initial complex was not built in Roman times but was largely refurbished in the 2nd century AD. It is believed that the forum and the theater continued to be used until at least the 6th century .

The Roman Forum is the largest archaeological site in Thessaloniki and holds great historical significance. It was the center of political and public life in the city, displaying its financial prosperity during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The forum was connected to all the main streets, including the Roman commercial path of Via Egnatia and the city's main avenue, Decumanus Maximus .

When visiting the Roman Forum, there are several notable features to see. These include:

Two-Storey Stoas: The forum features impressive two-storey porticoes that were important buildings in Roman Thessaloniki. They were decorated with twin columns and served various functions.

Roman Baths: One of the Roman baths has been excavated and can be explored. These baths were an important part of Roman social and cultural life.

Small Theater: The forum includes a small theater that was used for gladiatorial games and other performances.

Underground Museum: Beneath the ancient agora and Roman forum, there is a museum that showcases findings from the Hellenistic era and the golden age of the Roman Forum. It provides valuable information about the history of Thessaloniki and the effect of major events that shaped the city.

Roman Agora Neighborhood: The area surrounding the Roman Forum is known as the Roman Agora neighborhood. It is a vibrant area with eclectic shops, cafes, and restaurants, making it an interesting place to explore.

Bit Bazar

Just to the right of the Roman Forum there is The Bit Bazar of Thessaloniki, which has a fascinating history that dates back to 1928. It all started when immigrants from Asia Minor arrived and constructed buildings with small shops.

The neighbourhood was once home to numerous antique shops, and to this day, a few of them have managed to survive the test of time.

In recent years, the Bit Bazar Thessaloniki has transformed into a haven for traditional taverns.

You can check our video


Northern Part - Venizelos Statue

This upper part of the square has gone through various transformations through the years. Locals still remember that it used to be a hub for public buses. Nowadays, there is only a taxi stop at Egnatia Street. In December, this is the area where the Christmas village is installed. You can check our separate relevant video

Before we reach the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos, take note that there are two important landmarks you can admire to the left and the right of the area.

The Church of Panagia Chalkeon is an 11th-century Byzantine church located to the right as we walk. It is one of the 15 Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki that were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988.

The church's name, Panagia Chalkeon, translates to "the Virgin of the Copper-smiths" and is derived from its proximity to the area traditionally occupied by the city's coppersmiths.

Architecturally, the Church of Panagia Chalkeon follows the tradition of Constantinople and belongs to the type of four-columned cross-in-square church with a dome. It has a classic Byzantine cross-in-square plan with three apses on the east end and a narthex on the west end. The church is constructed of deep red bricks, giving it a local nickname of the "Red Church".

The church contains an almost complete cycle of frescoes and is known for its splendid cruciform and dome, which are considered masterpieces of Byzantine art. The frescoes depict various religious scenes and are a testament to the artistic and cultural significance of the church.

The Church of Panagia Chalkeon has undergone various transformations throughout its history. After the Ottoman conquest of Thessaloniki in 1430, it was converted into a mosque. However, with the liberation of the city in 1912, it once again became an Orthodox church.

Just some steps to the left, we see Bey Hamam, also known as the "Baths of Paradise". It is a Turkish bathhouse located along Egnatia Street. It was built in 1444 by Sultan Murad II and is considered the first Ottoman bath in Thessaloniki and the largest preserved one in Greece.

The architecture of Bey Hamam reflects the Ottoman style and is an important example of Ottoman cultural heritage in the region. The bathhouse consists of separate compartments for men and women, with the men's section being more spacious and luxurious. The baths were organized into three rooms: the cold room, the tepid room, and the hot room. Adjacent to the baths, there is a large rectangular cistern that regulated the water supply.

The Baths of Paradise remained in use until 1968, after which they were leased to the Greek archaeological service for four years. Following the 1978 Thessaloniki earthquake, the baths were restored and have since been used for cultural events and short-lived exhibitions.

Middle to Southern Part - Ermou to Seafront Main Square

Now we cross the street and walk to the middle part of the square.

This area is semi-pedestrianised and will soon lead us to the main square, where we will find the statue of Aristoteles.

We have created this walking tour with you the visitor in mind.

We offer you a unique chance to see in real-time what to admire in the city and how close or far away each point of interest can be.

Some more words about the history of the square, as we walk further down to the waterfront. Aristotelous Square is the main city square of Thessaloniki. It was designed by French architect Ernest Hébrard in 1918, although most of it was built in the 1950s. Many of the buildings surrounding the square have been renovated, and its northern parts were largely restored in the 2000s.

The square is named after the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and is dedicated to him. It is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike, offering a vibrant atmosphere and stunning views of the Thermaic Gulf. Aristotelous Square is known for its neoclassical buildings and a green park in the middle. It is lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels, making it a lively hub of activity in Thessaloniki.

Throughout the year, Aristotelous Square hosts various events, including concerts, exhibitions, and cultural festivals. During the Christmas season, the square is adorned with festive decorations, and a prominent illuminated ship-shaped metal structure is erected. The square is also a starting point for exploring other attractions in Thessaloniki, such as the White Tower and the paved promenade along the sea.

Have you been there?

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