The administrative center of Macedonia and Thrace, the second largest city in Greece, which is often called its Northern capital, the city with an interesting and complex history of almost two and a half thousand years long — all of that is about Thessaloniki. Here is situated the largest academic institution of Balkan Peninsula — the Aristotle University, as well as one of the most important sea ports is located here and the second in items of passenger traffic on Greek mainland airport operates in this city, too — Thessaloniki throughout its history has been an important economic and commercial center of the country.
The present city of Thessaloniki is full of the most important historic sites that demonstrate culture and history of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. Ancient churches and monasteries, unique architectural models of different historical periods combined with Greek hospitality and warm waters of Aegean Sea annually attract more and more tourists from all around the world. One of the most amazing places for relax is the seafront of Thessaloniki — Paralia, where both visitors of the city and locals like to spend their free time.
The renovated seafront of Thessaloniki stretches along the Thermaikos bay, embracing a 3.5 km stretch of coastline — from the city port to the Concert Hall. This is a place where everyone can find his own way to relax from hustle and bustle, enjoying the atmosphere of Greek coziness and magnificence of nature.
The seafront consists of several zones — the cyclists smoothly run their vehicles on the specially allotted lanes and do not disturb those who are not set up for active kinds of rest.
Opening an endless view of the Bay from one side, Paralia offers not only romantic walks along the shoreline, but also theme parks, lots of cafes and restaurants, sport grounds, various monuments and installations. The bicycle zone stretches along the whole promenade and offers an opportunity not only to strengthen your health but also to have fun during the cycle ride. For those who don’t have their own bike, private companies suggest renting a variety of models of this vehicle — from a usual two-wheeled to hybrid, kid’s bikes and four-wheeled models designed for family rides. You can rent a phaeton or enjoy a romantic stage-coach ride.
It is possible to have a look on Paralia from the sea as well, if having appeared on the board of one of small cruise ships or you can try some dishes of amazing Greek cuisine in one of floating cafes and restaurants.
The history of Thessaloniki seafront begins just after the demolition of the city fortress walls. During the Europeanisation period, the first seaside promenade was created. It connected the White Tower and the city port, — now it is the Leoforos Nikis Street. At that time on the one side of the seafront there was a beach, and on the opposite side there were various cafes, taverns and shops.
The seafront remained this view until 1955, when the prime-minister of Greece Konstantinos Karamanlis took a decision to create a new city seafront. Now the monument to this outstanding Greek statesman is installed on Thermaikos coast not far from the “Umbrellas” installation.
By 1970, the waterfront reached the Karabournaki cape, but the first plans of its complete renovation appeared just in 1997, when Thessaloniki was declared a cultural capital of Europe. Then European architects developed project plans and on the spot of city Luna-park the Concert Hall was built.
But actually the reorganization of the coastal zone was initiated just in 2008 and continued until 2012, and the final works were carried out in December of 2013. A result was an updated promenade with great number of theme parks, recreation and sports areas and a wonderful view on Thermaikos Bay.
After the major reorganisation and expansion, Thessaloniki waterfront turned into a huge park with an area of almost 24 hectares. The authors of the project were Prodromos Nikiforidis and Bernar Kuomo, who were later awarded the prize of Greek Institute of Architecture. The project includes 16 theme parks that are situated on the bay coast.
The tourists who start their walk along Paralia from the White Tower, appear in the first theme park in this area — the garden of Alexander the Great. Here a bronze equestrian statue for great Greek commander Alexander the Macedonian is installed — a work by sculptor Evangelos Moustakas that is 11 metres high, behind which there is a wall with an embossment of the Battle of Issus. The square in front of the monument is lined with marble, the marble benches are set on the both sides of it. Besides, young trees were planted and beautiful fountains were organised here.
Just a step away from the “Umbrellas” installation, in front of the Macedonia Palace Hotel, there is one more theme park with unique sceneries and views — the Afternoon Sun Garden. The triangle form of the garden is organized in such a way that from this place you can watch the sun changing its color while setting behind the Thermaikos Bay. The park is separated from the Leoforos Meg.Alexandrou avenue by the wire-nets with stones that hide the resting people from curious passers-by’ eyes. In the evening, the atmosphere is especially romantic — the setting sun enters the garden and makes a soft illumination in some of its places.
Moving forward along the shore, we get into the garden of Sand. There is a transport park here where you can safely learn cycling without any fear for your safety. There are tennis courts equipped with all necessary things nearby, and right opposite it, the playground for children with a huge sandbox is located. The natural extension of this park is the Garden of Shadow with its landscaped shadowed areas for relax.
This is a unique stretch of the promenade that is especially loved by both locals and guests of Thessaloniki. Depending on the season, the park utterly changes its appearance — a beautiful emerald color of Greek nature has something in common with artificially created landscape. The garden is decorated with vivid flower arrangements and marble benches, and on the artificial slope in the open air there is an amphitheatre where various events are held.
If you run an imaginary line from the German Consulate in Thessaloniki and Kallidopoulou Street to the sea, the area between them will appear to be Foka’s Garden. In this green district there is a children’s playground with different activities for kids with an emphasis on their safety and controlled access. The territory is arranged in such a way that children with special needs can relax here as well.
Right opposite the Church of Cyril and Methodius there is the Mediterranean Garden — a park with great number of fragrant plants and citrus trees growing in the Mediterranean. Quite sizable area with changing landscape is suitable for slow walks, there is a zone for relax and a separate park for dog walking, too.
In the area between the Folklore Museum and Sailing Club of Thessaloniki there is a Sculptures Garden, where various modern sculptures are set. The recreation area is equipped with benches and surrounded with flower beds, at night the territory is illuminated by special lighting. Opposite the Garden, the building of yacht club is located, on the near-by territory a restaurant and a bar are open from early morning till late night, a famous fish tavern is close to this place, too.
In this park two pergolas are constructed — the structures are decorated in a special way and in summer months they are a place where multifarious activities are held. On the trellises of their walls various climbing plants scramble, and high trees cover the park from the scorching sun. There is a small water channel with reeds thicket on the territory.
A wonderful park with massive trellis, which separate it from the noise of cars, daily bustle and other gardens. The territory is divided into three zones — a children’s playground, a pavilion and a garden with amazing rose-beds.
The Garden of Remembrance has all the necessary conditions for a good multifaceted rest. Large flowerbeds with beautiful fragrant plants are surrounded by terraces for a calm repose. Those who like sports can practise it on one of the basketball courts or play tennis on specialized courts. There is a park for dog walking in close vicinity to this garden.
A special place, where the force of water dominates, is one of the most favourite parks for guests of the city and local residents. Perfectly organised space allows you to relax from the daily hustle and bustle — the sound of running water, neat ponds with goldfish, turtles, frogs and various aquatic plants, wooden passages between the ponds make a special atmosphere of serene and tranquility. You can sit on benches and right on the lawn, enjoying the coolness in hot summer period. There is a special area nearby where the skateboarders practise, as well as rollers and sportbike fans, showing unusual tricks to the sounds of appropriate music.
This is the last theme park of the renovated seafront, which is located in close neighbourhood with the city Concert Hall. The territory of Music Garden has a triangular shape and is fenced around the perimeter by the tall trees, leaving a spacious lawn in the center. Kids can gambol on the playground, and adults would enjoy multifarious activities that are held in the amphitheatre in the open air. For those who just start the walk along the coastal part of Thessaloniki from this place, there is a bicycle rental service for a fascinating ride along the Paralia towards the White Tower on a specially designated bicycle lane.
If you are going to stroll along the Paralia theme parks, beginning your way towards the Concert Hall from the White Tower, it is easy to get here almost by any city bus. If you take a bus No. 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 31, 39 or 58, you should get off on the Stratigio bus stop (it is also called The Museum of Byzantine culture). The buses No. 3, 5, 6, 33, 39 and 78 stop at City Hall. If you would like to get to the Thessaloniki port and the main square of the city first, and then continue your acquaintance with it while walking along the promenade, use the buses No. 3, 5, 5А, 6, 12, 33, 33А, 39 or 39А, which will take you to the bus stop at the Aristotelous Square.
The Thessaloniki promenade is full of interesting sites and beautiful places for fantastic photos. Take a camera with you and while walking slowly along the picturesque Thermaikos bay, do not forget to take commemorative photos with amazing landscapes. One of the most popular places for making photos in the evening is the “Umbrellas” installation by sculptor Zongolopoulos and the work “The moon on the shore” installed on the plank platform at the water’s edge.
Keeping in mind that Paralia is quite long, and there are a lot of parks and interesting places along it, be ready to have a long walk — put on comfortable shoes and take a head-gear and drinking water. In case if you would decide to have a snack, just look around — there are a lot of cafes, restaurants and taverns along the seafront, where you can partake amazing Greek dishes, drink a cup of coffee or order a refreshing drink.