Sheltered at the top of the Thermaic Gulf, Thessaloníki (or Salonica), with a population of over a million in the metropolitan area, is the second city of Greece. But you’ll rarely hear Greeks indulge in the banter that often characterises the relations of first and second cities, like Barcelona and Madrid, or Rome and Milan; in fact, many Athenians readily admit that Thessaloníki is a much nicer place to live, where life unwinds at a less hectic pace (its motto is χαλαρά (chalará) or taking it easy).
Many of the 150,000 university students who come here to study never leave, adding to its vibrant cultural life, its great bar and restaurant and festival scene, and sizzling nightlife.
Music and culture
The biggest festival in northern Greece, Street Mode draws more than 40,000 visitors to Thessaloníki at its venue at the port at 26is Oktovríou 15 for four days in late August and early September, with graffiti and street art contests, live DJ sets, street dancing, free running, parkour, skateboarding, and massive parties.
For three days in late August/early September, Greece’s micro-breweries rule at the Thessaloníki Beer Festival (f), at the TIF HELEXPO, followed by the Thessaloníki International Fair, one of the biggest events in southeast Europe – and heir to the fairs that took place here in Byzantine times – attracting 1,500 exhibitors over two weeks in mid-September, with a different country featured each year. This kicks off Reworks, a major five-day contemporary music festival.
Culture and film
Starting at the same time of year is the Dimítria, an international cultural festival of drama, dance, music and more held since 1965, taking place in venues throughout the city during the first three weeks of October.
In early March there’s the Thessaloníki Documentary Festival (TDF), an off shoot of the November Thessaloníki International Film Festival (TIFF), the biggest film festival in southeast Europe. Both are headquartered in the Olympion Cinema on Plateía Aristotélous 10. The Museum of Cinema itself, adjacent to the Museum of Photography, covers the history of Greek cinema, with equipment, old hand-painted posters and photos.
Going strong since 1959, the Thessaloníki Documentary Festival features Greek and Balkan productions from emerging directors, all competing for the Golden Alexander; screenings are in English or with English subtitles. Over five days in August the Taratsa International Film Festival presents fictional indie shorts by new filmmakers on rooftop cinemas, while the Thessaloníki Animation Festival takes place over four days in late October.
The below is an abridged version of the information about Thessaloníki's festival scene taken from our comprehensive guide to northern Greece:
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