Thessaloniki's markets are a bit of Levantine exotica that knock the socks off anything in Athens. And "anything" is what you can find here, whether it's knockoff designer bags, copper pots, piles of black-and-white postcards, and sheep's bells (or sheep's heads, for that matter). It's a great place to stroll, get lost, and have a snack or a meal.
Thessaloniki's best galleries often have exhibitions worth taking in, although most keep irregular hours. Find out about them from posters in town, from the Greek National Tourism Organization office at 136 Tsimiski St., and from the listings published on Tuesday in Kathimerini, the English-language supplement to the International Herald Tribune. The weekly publication City is in Greek, but has enough information in English to be useful for non-Greek readers. As you explore the city, feel free to step inside any of the galleries; questions about exhibits are usually welcome.
One not-to-miss place is the Teloglion Foundation of Art, 159A Ayiou Demetriou, on the Aristotle University campus (tel. 2310/247-1111; www.tf.auth.gr/teloglion). The gallery displays the collections of a number of prominent Greek art collectors and also holds important exhibits. If that's not enough reason to visit, consider this: Chef Ektoras Botrini's Mediterranean cuisine at Art02-Ristorante Botrini, the in-house restaurant, won Athinorama magazine's "value for money" award in 2009
Check out Apothiki, on Nikis by the waterfront (tel. 2310/240-877); Foka, 17 Foka (tel. 2310/240-362); Kalfayan, 43 Proxenou Koromilia (tel. 2310/231-187); and Metamorfosis, 128 Tsimiski (tel. 2310/285-071). Terracotta, 13 Chrysostomos (aka Chrys.) Smirnis and 76 Mitropoleos (tel. 2310/235-689), features works by some of Greece's best-known contemporary artists as well as works by the up and coming.
In addition to these galleries recommended, several museums and other galleries, open most days during normal business hours, emphasize the art and life of Thessaloniki and Macedonia, with particular reference to the lively pre- and post-World War II art scene. These include the Municipal Art Gallery, 162 Vas. Olgas (tel. 2310/425-531), with a collection of 19th- to 21st-century works by Greek artists, many from Thessaloniki, the Gallery of Fine Arts, 1 Nicephoros; Germanou, inside the National Theater Building (tel. 2310/238-601); the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, 21 Kolokotroni, in the Lazariston Monastery (tel. 2310/589-140; www.greekstatemuseum.gr), with a collection of 20th- and 21st-century Russian art; and the National Bank's Thessaloniki Cultural Center, 108 Vas. Sophias St. (tel. 2310/586-123). Two museums in the art complex housed in renovated waterfront warehouses in the Port of Salonika are reached through Gate A off Koundouriotou St.: the Museum of Photography, Warehouse A (tel. 2310/566-716; www.thmphoto.gr), and the Center of Contemporary Art, Warehouse B1 (tel. 2310/546-683; www.cact.gr). Galleries are free; museum admissions are usually 3€.
Catching a Local Festival -- If you are in Salonika in September, check with the GNTO for details on the weeklong wine festival usually held in Anhialos, a village 15km (9 miles) northwest of Thessaloniki. Traveling around May 21? Check out the celebrations in the village of Langadas, 20km (9 miles) northeast of Thessaloniki. It's one of only a few places in Greece and Bulgaria where the devout walk on fire (coals, actually). No one is really sure why the anastenarides (firewalkers) do this: Theories include the survival of a pagan custom or the commemoration of an occasion when the devout saved icons from a church conflagration without suffering any burns.
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