Photo by Els Slots.

The Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika comprise a series of mostly religious monuments known for their mosaics and distinct architectural typology.

Thessalonika was the Byzantine Empire's second city (to Constantinople) and an important artistic centre. These monuments were constructed from the 4th to the 15th century. They contain masterpieces from Early Christian art (such as the mosaics in the Rotunda), as well as subsequent periods, culminating in the churches of the late Byzantine Period.

Community Perspective: Thessaloniki is a convenient hub to explore the WHS of northern Greece. Allow one day in the city itself to check out the 15 components, and be aware that some have very limited opening hours. Assif has provided a good summary, while Hubert additionally recommends the Museum of Byzantine Culture.

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Austria - 30-Dec-23 -

Thessalonika by Hubert

The city of Thessaloniki is not nice. The Byzantine churches are.
Most of the churches in the lower town are squeezed between ugly modern buildings. I liked the upper town better. Some of the old Ottoman architecture has been preserved in the narrow streets and steep staircases. The frescoes there are among the most beautiful in Thessaloniki, but the monasteries are rather inconspicuous from the outside. I walked past the entrance to the Latomou monastery twice before I finally found it.
Assif wrote in his review that it is impossible to find out the opening hours of the churches. This has not changed until today. You can‘t rely on the information provided on the Thessaloniki tourism website or on Google Maps. Even the info boards at the entrance to the churches are not fully reliable. I stood in front of the closed door to the Church of the Saviour three times, although the information board said: open daily from 7am to 3pm. But I only missed this one and the Byzantine Bath (closed on weekends), I could visit all the other monuments from the inside.

I visited Thessaloniki on a weekend in September 2023. On Saturday afternoon I found four churches open, either after a wedding (Hagios Demetrios, Vlatades Monastery) or after evening mass (Agia Ekaterini, Prophet Elias). But all churches were open on Sunday (with the exception mentioned above), from the end of morning mass around 10am until late afternoon. Photography was allowed in all monuments.

My highlights:
Most beautiful frescoes: definitely in Nikolaos Orfanos (lower photo). It is a relatively small church but almost the entire interior is covered with frescoes.
Best mosaics: Hagios Demetrios and the apsis of Latomou Monastery. From Latomou you also have a nice view of the city and the sea.
Most beautiful exterior: Agios Aposteles (upper photo). The decorations of the brickwork are striking. The church is located at the eastern end of the city centre, close to the city wall, in a quiet neighbourhood.
Largest church: Hagia Sophia. The mosaic in the apsis is remarkable. But I was most fascinated by the chandelier with its countless griffins.
Most impressive architecture: Rotunda. It has nice mosaics but it is the architecture of the domed building that impresses the most. In particular because it is the oldest of the inscribed monuments, dating from the 4th century.

The Rotunda is a museum and therefore has regular opening hours. The Old City Wall is also part of the WHS, large parts of which are still intact. The best preserved sections are in the upper town: the Heptapyrgion citadel, the Trigonion tower and the section near the Vlatades Monastery. I wouldn't say that it's a must-see, but as already mentioned, the upper town is the best part of Thessaloniki, very different from the noisy and busy lower town. If you have enough time, it's worth wandering around there.
I completed my visit to Thessaloniki in the Museum of Byzantine Culture. The permanent exhibitions are magnificent and cover the entire Byzantine period. The last room describes the steps from the excavation of an object to its presentation in the museum.

When visiting Thessaloniki, comparisons with Ravenna come to mind, Nan mentioned this in his review. I was also more impressed by the mosaics in Ravenna. And many of the frescoes and mosaics in Thessaloniki are not in good condition, often only fragments are preserved. However, the abundance of monuments and works of art is remarkable. The entire Byzantine era is represented, from the 4th to the 14th century.


Germany - 05-Aug-18 -

I only had half a day to visit the inscribed sites in Thessaloniki so I had to carefully plan my visit. First I picked the churches I wanted to visit most (7 out of 14) and planned a route which went through them. They are all not far from each other and the route can be perfectly done by foot. The problem is finding out the opening times. From the ones I wanted to visit (Rotunda, Acheiropoietos, Hagia Sophia, Panagia Chalkeon, Hagios Demetrios, Hosios David and Nikloaus Orfanos) only the Rotunda now serves as a museum. All the others are functioning churches and it is practically impossible to find out whether they are open to visitors or not before you head there unless you can call them before and talk to the priests in Greek. I was lucky though. In a summer Friday morning all the churches were open, although there were services taking place in three of them. Despite processes of secularisation, Greece is still a deeply religious country. Even morning masses in a working day proved to be well visited. It was impossible to visit the churches during service, but I could still stand at the door, listen to the liturgy and catch a glimpse of the interior, which is way better that standing in front of a closed church.

I will try to summarise my impressions:

1) The Rotunda surprised me as a very impressive massive Roman building. It was the second largest Roman building at the time after the Pantheon. Its walls are 5 meters thick and the ceiling still looks very high even to modern eyes. Many of the frescoes survived and I found Rotunda to be the most impressive of the churches for its size, form and time of construction. Nearby is the Galerius Palace which includes an underground visitor centre and Arch of Galerius. Both were initially planned as a part of the nomination, but were later omitted as the nomination shifted to focus only on the Byzantine heritage. Yet it is worthwhile to visit them as they provide some background as to what Roman Thessaloniki looked like when the Rotunda was built. The Rotunda was not planned as a church at all, but probably as a mausoleum for Galerius. It was, however, turned into a church soon after its completion.

2) Hagia Sophia is the largest of the inscribed churches. It has some nice frescoes, but many were destroyed in a fire in 1890. It surprised me to find out that the Ottomans renovated it (as a mosque), but without interfering too strongly with the original style of the church. They added some faux marble which fits the church in both colour and form.

3) Hagios Demetrios has a very nice prolonged nave, somewhat similar to Acheiropoietos. I couldn't pay any of the two the attention they deserved due to the masses being held there during my visit, but I still stepped in. The catacombs of Hagios Demeterios can be visited even during service. You need to be audacious enough to cross the entire church. In the back of the church you can descend and visit the museum downstairs, listening to the service from below. The museum features only Greek signs, but is still nice to visit.

4) Niklaus Orfanos has the nicest frescoes. It has never been destroyed or ceased to function as a church. It is covered by beautiful floor to ceiling frescoes. Similar to nearby Hosios David it is in the Ano Poli (Upper Town), with characteristic steep narrow streets and old Ottoman houses.

5) When I finished with the churches I went on to visit the Byzantine fortifications. I visited Trigonio, a watch tower. Nearby are numerous cafes with a view of the entire city and the sea. I then walked to Heptapyrgion, a complex that used to serve as a citadel and then as a prison. The outer layer still looks original and it is fun to walk around. It is now used to show some modern art exhibitions and I found them to disagree with the setting.

In general, Thessaloniki gives you a good impression of the history of Byzantine architecture. It has well preserved churches from each age during the history of Byzantium. The churches are also different enough to merit visiting several, or even all of them. The frescoes in most churches were a bit disappointing, but Nikolaus Orfanos was a good compensation in this respect.

I would additionally wholeheartedly recommend visiting the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. It is well designed, with bilingual signs and all of the exhibits originate from Macedonia. Its collection of Macedonian gold objects is of world quality. It struck me how rich and technologically advanced the Greeks of the northern provinces were during antiquity, as they are by far less known than their southern counterparts of the Peloponnese.


Germany - 15-Apr-17 -

Thessalonika by nan

Late antiquity, the rise of Christianity and the early Byzantine empire are periods of history I have grown fond of. When you come from a site like the Pantheon in Rome or Diocletian’s palace in Split and go to a church like San Vitale in Ravenna, you actually see the epic change that took place in late antiquity. Thessaloniki is part of the transition and you will find plenty of sites from the late Roman (300 CE) period as well as early Byzantine period.

Thessaloniki functioned as my hub during my exploration of the Northern Greek WHS. So most of the site seeing was done at late hours and I did not manage to see all I had set out to visit. But possibly due to the upcoming Easter holiday, church services were held mostly in the evenings allowing me to sneak into most. Of the churches I found St Demetrios the most impressive. Also the tiny chapels gave a good impression of early Christianity.

Comparatively, though, Thessaloniki is a bit underwhelming. To me Ravenna offers the better early Byzantine churches. I also found the paleo Christian sites in Italy more appealing (e.g. St Ambrosius in Milan, not a WHS). And the ruins scattered across the city are similar to a site like Merida in Spain. I did wonder why the Roman forum and the palace of Galerius are not included.

Generally, I approve of the reduced scope of the inscription. Sure, Thessaloniki has a nice coast line, but the city itself isn’t nice, featuring primarily Mediterranean concrete appartment blocks. It’s really only about the sites themselves.


Thessaloniki has it’s own hotspot. Aigai, Philippi and the city itself are easy. Meteora is straightforward, too, but it’s a long, possibly very early, but certainly very rewarding day trip. Mount Athos meanwhile could be difficult to do in a day by public transport. And it doesn’t really make sense anyhow if you can get a permit. Finally, Pirin seems impossible, taking into account that you need to cross the border. Twice. And getting into the park isn’t all that straightforward.

The train station is within walking distance of the city center, albeit due to the ongoing construction work for the new metro it’s a bit more complicated. The main bus station for all destinations other than Ouranoupoulis is in the North and well connected via bus line #8. For Ouranoupolis you have to go to the Southern terminal, the easiest option being a cab.


For some strange reason the hotels are regularly fully booked over weekends. I normally book really late and rarely had any issues with this approach. In Thessaloniki it cost me dearly. In the end I was just happy to find a room. My recommendation would be to skip Thessaloniki over the weekend or to reserve well in advance.

Stanislaw Warwas

Poland - 24-Aug-16 -

Thessalonika by Stanislaw Warwas

Visited August 2016.

It is possible to see all inscribed properties in just one day, but you have to start early as some churches are open only from 9am to 11am (Panagia Chalkeon). The most impressive for me was St. Demetrios although its interior looks very new and it’s hard to feel the byzantine atmosphere there. The most beautiful is Osios David/Latomou Monastery. Some of the churches are closed for the public (Christ Saviour). The most beautiful view of the city can be seen from Blatades Monastery and the northern city walls.

I really recommend a guidebook Monuments of Thessaloniki by Nikos Papachatzis in which you will find lots of info about early Christian and byzantine monuments; keeping it in hands while walking through the city you will have a chance to see many details that you would not have noticed without it.

John booth

New Zealand - 12-Oct-15 -

Thessalonika by John Booth

I agree with Charilaos' comment that the church of Ossios David is the most atmospheric of the WHSs in Thessalonika. More like a cave than a building, it is located on a hill overlooking the city.

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos

Australia / Greece - 14-Mar-10 -

The very small Church of "Osios David" adjacent to the hill top Castle walls of Thessaloniki, has a charm and human scale above many of the other churches.

In a concrete city the softness of its stones and trees are very welcoming.

Thessalonikis very easy access to the sea meant that many conquerors or rulers demolished buildings of earlier times and send them as far as Sicily and even Syria.

Osios David has Columns and stones that are obviously broken left over items from the lucrative export industry.

Thessaloniki and its hinterlands easy sea access has left very few items from above ground buildings.

If you walk along the walls of the hill top castle, you can see broken carved columns and carved stones build in to the walls. The pity is that even in the last ten years, some items have been dug out and sold. I believe one column top remains visible on the south east of the wall, that is a replica of the few columns remaining at Pella, Alexanders City, 40Km away.

If you have an interest in human History & Geography, and its winter with no glare, get a good Russian detail map, Greeks do not print maps?, its possible to see 10,000 years of human history carved out in the surrounding landscape of Thessalonikis hinterland.

William Vallone

Italy - 22-Aug-08 -

I have visited Thessaloniki one week ago (August 2008), and I have been deeply impressed by the town. The walk along the waterfront is wonderful and you really can feel the greatness of the town`s position with its historical gulf. Looking at Alexander o Megas statue near the sea gives you a tip about the importance of this metropolis, WH objects are easy to find as streets in Th. are so regular. I particularly appreciated the church of Saint Demetrius, simply amazing...Walk and walk, since the town is really big. Via EGNATIA, the ancient street which linked Brindisi (and Rome)in Italy to Costantinopoli is alive and kicking there, full of traffic. I would not go to Th. in August since it gets very hot in the afternoon.

IMPORTANT> do not forget to walk up the the amazing, fantastic byzantine walls that still sorround the town. YOu can have a fantastic view of Thessaloniki and the gulf from there, at sunset for example, and have good meals in scattered taberna all around. I LOVE THESSALONIKI!

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 12-Nov-03 -

Thessalonika by Els Slots

Thessaloniki is a typical large Greek city. This means four lane roads across the city center, creative parking and so on.

The city's most prominent landmarks are the White Tower (lovely posted near the sea) and the Ayia Sofia. This church has an imposing front, and quite distinguished interior. The main colours inside are a kind of dark green, black and bordeaux. Somewhat mystique, especially in combination with the scarce glimpses of sunlight that manage to get in.

There are also innumerable small Byzantine churches scattered around the city. Quite often they are hidden behind apartment blocks, or blocked from the view by parked cars. If you've got some stamina and good walking shoes you can visit several of them, and also enjoy their frescoes.

Klaus Freisinger

Austria - 01-May-05 -

Thessaloniki was a pleasant surprise for me. I hadn't thought much about it before, but it's really a very clean and modern metropolis with a nice view of the sea (especially from the top of the White Tower) and a much milder (and less smoggy) climate than Athens. Its WH monuments are scattered throughout the city, but are easy to find and represent a good cross-section of the city's history from ancient Greek and Roman to Byzantine and Turkish times. The Byzantine churches especially are very interesting, but also the remains of the Roman Palace and the Triumphal Arch merit a closer look. I wouldn't go to the city just for its WH value, but there are many other reasons to go there, and seeing its historical buildings is definitely a good way to become acquainted with Thessaloniki.

Site Info

Full Name
Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika
Unesco ID
1 2 4
Archaeological site - Byzantine

Site History

1988 Revision

Reduced from former TWHS Thessaloniki (1985)

1988 Inscribed


The site has 15 locations

Thessalonika: City Walls
Thessalonika: Rotunda
Thessalonika: Church of Acheiropoietos
Thessalonika: Church of St. Demetrios
Thessalonika: Latomou Monastery
Thessalonika: Church of St. Sophia
Thessalonika: Church of Panagia Chalkeon
Thessalonika: Church of St. Panteleimon
Thessalonika: Church of the Holy Apostles
Thessalonika: Church of St. Nicholas Orphanos
Thessalonika: Church of St. Catherine
Thessalonika: Church of Christ Saviour
Thessalonika: Blatades Monastery
Thessalonika: Church of Prophet Elijah
Thessalonika: Byzantine Bath


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Art and Architecture
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7241gabi A. Mehmet Haksever AYB Adrian Turtschi Alessandro Votta Alex Marcean Alexander Barabanov Alexander Lehmann Alexander Parsons Alfons and Riki Verstraeten Alfredchu Ali Zingstra Alice Alicemears Aljaz Allison Vies Allnamesused Ammon Watkins Angelo7g Anjimo Anna Wludarska Argo Artur Anuszewski Aspasia Assif Astraftis Atila Ege Aurora Petan Awkwardkeychanged Baudy-Floc h Bazikoln Bborders Ben Pastore Bin Bob Parda Bordes Boroka Szamosi Buffy Butterflybird Can SARICA Carlos Garrido Carlos Sotelo Catalina Belso Cav004 CeeMon Chalford Chenboada Christer Sundberg Christian Wagner ClaraHH Cluckily Cmtcosta Corinne Vail Ctravel CugelVance Czesioszpachelka DAB Dachangjin3 Dan Dan Pettigrew Daniel C-Hazard Daniela Hohmann David Berlanda David Pastor de la Orden Davied Dibro Dimitar Krastev Dimitrios Polychronopoulos Don Irwin Donald M Parrish Jr Dorejd DouglasR Drake544 Drazsika Drinkteatravel ELVAN YURDUSEN Einziger Elaine McArdle Elia Vettorato Els Slots EngelMef Enrico Cerrini Erdem Engin Tavlayan Eric Lorentz Eric PK Erik Jelinek Eva Kisgyorgy FS Fan Yibo Feanster Feldhase Femke Roos Filip Murlak Fotoula Fozzak Frank Britton Frediehung G.L. Ingraham Gabor Garrett Geo Geo.Mav George Evangelou George Gdanski GeorgeIng61 GerhardM Gernot Gi Giannis75 Glendaviste Greg Troy Grimloch Gwythyr Hadrianus Hanming Hannahkv Harald T. Harry Mitsidis Hasco Hdhuntphotography Hdimoshi History Fangirl Hsjamsil Hubert IC Iain Jackson Ian Coldwell Iriss Isa Kocher Ivan Rucek Izzet Ege JBTOR JLuth Jacob Otten Jancidobso Janklak Jarek Pokrzywnicki Jaroslav Klement Jaysutton79 Jcleek27 JeanK Jeanaimart Jens Jessica Rademacher JoStof Joebobs Joel on the Road John Smaranda John booth Jonas Kremer Jonas Martinsson Jorgioz Jose Antonio Collar Joshuakirbens Joyce van Soest Jsalda Judit Dalla Judith Tanner Juha Sjoeblom Julianna Lees Jun Zhou Junwang111 K2flake KAO KB1 Kabubi Kadet722796 KarenBMoore Kasienka5 Katharina Kbecq Kent Keqi Kgeographer Klaus Bondar Klaus Freisinger Klmargit Knut Koen Vliegenthart Krafal_74 Krijn Krzysztof B Kurt Lauer La caperucita roja LaVale Lameduck99 Lars Bogstad Lindsay Hasluck Lisu Marian Loic Pedras Lois Dekker Lorenzo Mejino Lorenzo2022 Lubos Lier Lucio Gorla Ludvan Luis Filipe Gaspar Luisfreire Luki501 MMM MaYumin Majkl20 Malgorzata Kopczynska Marcobrey Markassonne Martijn Martin Richardson Martina Rúčková Marton Kemeny Maryaton Matejicek Matthewsharris MaxHeAnouBen Maxine Eisenberg Mdnichol Melinda Baumann Melissa Harder Michael Turtle Michaelsballard Michal Marciniak Michiel Dekker Mikael Bjork Mikal Ahmet Mikko Milan Jirasek Miloš Tašković Misswanderlust Mkborys Monchan5396 Monica Brode Monika and Rini Morodhi Mysteredgar Nan NataliaS Nathaniel Chin Nej153 Nihal Ege NoahFranc Nomad99 Noralelkes Odolena Orphanos Paczeterson Paolosan82 Pascal Cauliez Pasha Globus Patrik Paul Schofield Paulfrancois Paw90 Peter Day PeterA Philipp Leu Philipp Peterer Pieter Dijkshoorn Pillaus Pink Bunny Purrfect Q Rachel Perkins Rahelka Randi Thomsen Reisedachs Reza Riccardo Quaranta RobRos RobbyBob Robin Frank Roger Ourset Roman Bruehwiler Roman Koeln Roman Raab Ronbon Ross Black Ryan Oliver SHIHE HUANG Sabrina Liebehentschel Sascha Grabow Saxondean Sazanami Schnitzel Sclowitz Shandos Cleaver Shep894 Shkedy_uri Sim CY Simmot2019Z Simonh Sisa_p Socon Solivagant Sophie Stanislaw Warwas Stephanv Stephanvermeulen Stephhollett Stetrab Stewart Findlay Stewie Sue hayton Sutul Svein Elias Swazzer30 Sweetjesus Szucs Tamas Tamara Ratz Tammy Gouldstone Tarquinio_Superbo Tatiana Nikulnikova TheShabe Thomas Buechler Thomas van der Walt Tikhon Puliaev TimAllen Timonator Tingmelvin Tingsukhua Tjark Tommasorossotti Tony H. Tony0001 Tranvianoruega Travellingcat Triath Trine Tsunami UncleSlavi VLabhard Vanessa Buechler Vernon Prieto Veronica Viaje al Patrimonio Violeta Virp Vladimir Voyager WILLIAM RICH Walter H. Waterfighter8 Weggeworfeneleiter Westwards Wojciech Fedoruk Wtrentfox Wuzefelix Xiquinho Silva Yamen Yevhen Ivanovych Yorgxs Yuri Samozvanov Zoë Sheng Zsuzsanna Forray Александар Стојиљковић