South of Thessaloniki, Kalamaria is a suburb established in the 1920s with the arrival of Anatolian and Georgian refugees from the Greco-Turkish war.
In Greece, Kalamaria is best known for Palataki, a neoclassical mansion on a headland that was once favored by the Greek royal family and several Greek prime ministers, but now needs a renovation.
At the northernmost point of the city, Nea Paralia begins, a long promenade completed in 2013 that leads through a series of theme parks all the way to Thessaloniki’s White Tower.
Near Calamaria there are beaches, natural beauty and the largest shopping mall in Southeast Europe.
From Kalamaria, the city centre of Thessaloniki with its ancient monuments and museums is within easy reach.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Calamaria:
1. Thessaloniki Walls
Thessaloniki was first established in the 4th century BC and was protected by city walls.
Today’s defenses have their origins in the Byzantine period at the end of the 4th century AD. The former city walls were eight kilometers long, ten meters high, and five meters thick in some places.
In the eastern corner of the city, there is a mighty remnant tall.
The Trigonion Tower is a relatively new structure, dating from the second half of the 1600s, placed in a strategically important position by the Ottoman Empire to defend against artillery bombardment.
From here you can walk west through the park in the shadow of the wall to examine stone carvings dating back 1,600 years.
2. Thessaloniki Science Center and Technical Museum
Close to the Mediterranean Cosmos shopping center and a few minutes from Calamaria is a science museum that underwent a major renovation in 1998. In the new building, designed by French architect Denis Lamin, facilities at the time included the 300-seat Cosmos Theater and the largest flat screen in Greece.
There is also a 25-meter-diameter dome digital planetarium and a motion simulator theater with three platforms.
Major exhibitions focus on topics such as mechanics, optics, magnetism, and electricity, and also describe the technological leaps the ancient Greeks made in engineering, shipbuilding, and architecture.
3. New Paralia
From Thessaloniki Concert Hall on the water in Kalamaria, you can start a waterfront walk all the way to the White Tower.
The best thing is that you don’t have to cross a road for the entire walk.
Nea Paralia is a long-term project to transform Thessaloniki’s waterfront, completed in 2013, linking 12 waterfront parks, each with a different theme.
These have names like Music Garden, Water Garden, Rose Garden, Sand Garden and Shade Garden.
Along the entire route, there is a wide boardwalk along the water (you’ll find a lot of fishermen during the day). Next to it is a concrete road that makes it easier and safer for cyclists to get around.
Facing west, the sunsets at Nea Paralia are stunning and there are several bars where you can watch the sunset.
4. Hagios Demetrios
Hagios Demetrios is located on the site of the martyrdom of Demetrius of Thessaloniki, the patron saint of the city, dating back to the 7th century.
Since then, there are six stunning mosaic panels showing Demterius and the children and the people responsible for rebuilding the church.
One of the images has an inscription praising Heaven for saving the citizens of Thessaloniki from a Slavic attack in 612. The crypt under the church was forgotten during the 400 years that Hagios Demetrios was used as a mosque, but excavations in the 1930s and 40s revealed the baths where Roman saints were imprisoned and killed, a Roman well from the church’s 4th and 5th century origins of sculpture and architecture.
All of this can be visited in seven subterranean rooms arranged as museums.
5. White Tower
At the end of Nea Paralia, you will see the main landmark of Thessaloniki, a 6-storey circular tower built after the Ottoman army occupied the city in the 15th century.
For the next 400 years, it was a place of real infamy as a prison for mass executions, earning it the eerie nickname “Tower of Blood”. The tower houses a branch of the Museum of Byzantine Culture, detailing the history of Thessaloniki with a timeline and artifacts.
You can also go up the spiral staircase to the Thermaic Bay and Mount Chortiatis in the southeast.
6. Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum
In a country with outstanding archaeological museums, Thessaloniki is one of the best, showcasing artifacts found from around the city as well as from the Macedonian region.
These start in the prehistoric period and include the ancient, classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods.
If you’re pressed for time, there are a few things you can’t leave without looking.
One of them is the Derveni Krater found in a tomb in Derveni in 1962.
Weighing 40 kg, the massive vessel is made of tin and bronze alloy and is decorated with depictions of Sartre, animals and Ariadne and Dionysus.
The same excavation revealed the Deveney Papyrus, composed at the end of the 5th century and containing philosophical treatises from the pre-Socratic Anaxagoras circle.
7. Rotunda and Arch of Galerius
At the beginning of the 4th century, Emperor Galerius commissioned two monuments in a new royal precinct connected to his palace.
The Arch of Galerius was built in AD 303 to celebrate his victory over the Sassanid Persians at the Battle of Satara.
While only three of the eight pillars are still here, you can check out the reliefs showing Galerius attacking the Sassanid Shaanaseh on horseback.
Not far away stands the Rotunda, which dates back to 306 and was intended as Galerius’ mausoleum.
The building is 25 meters in diameter and the walls are 6 meters thick, which explains how the building was immune to earthquake damage for such a long time.
It became a church in 326 and then a mosque from 1590 to 1912, and you can still find fragments of early 4th century Christian mosaics on the walls.
8. Thessaloniki Concert Hall
The seafront in northern Kalamaria was completely transformed in the early 2000s with the construction of Thessaloniki Concert Hall, which consisted of two separate buildings.
The brick M1, with its 1,400-seat main auditorium, is a monolithic structure inspired by Thessaloniki’s Byzantine history.
Next to it is M2, a cube-shaped glass building designed by Japanese architect Isozaki that features two smaller halls.
As of this writing in January 2018, there is an exhibit of Greek Holocaust survivors and a Tosca show by Puccini.
9. Macedonian and Thracian Museum of Folklore and Ethnology
In front of the Nea Paralia sculpture garden is the Art Nouveau Villa Modiano, built in 1906 with a loggia overlooking the sea, which today contrasts with the high-rise apartment blocks next to it.
This is the address of a museum on the pre-industrial culture of Macedonia and Thrace, which contains short-term exhibitions on specific topics.
The museum houses 15,000 objects, including musical instruments, metalworking and woodcarving tools, weapons, everyday household items, embroidery, woven textiles, and folk costumes.
10. Photography Museum
This charming local museum has archives dating back to 1838, when photography was just taking off.
The series centers on the work of photographers active in Greece during the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Philippos Margaritis, known as Greece’s first photographer, and Dimitros Konstantinou and Petros Moraitis, who specialize in photographing ancient monuments.
In addition to capturing the ancient heritage of Greece and Anatolia, the museum has taken photographs that document some of the key moments in Greece’s past, such as railway construction, the Balkan Wars, and the First and Second World Wars.
11. Fragma Thermis (Thermis Dam)
A few minutes east of Kalamaria is a reservoir on the Vathilakos stream, which was formed when the dam was built in 1993. The lake is divided into two parts, with pine and cypress-covered shores on both sides and illuminated trails along the shore.
These large bodies of water create a cooler microclimate than the adjacent hills, and on your walks you should be able to spot waterfowl such as cormorants, herons and ducks, as well as turtles, frogs and harmless snakes.
In summer, when the weather is not too hot, this could be the first step in a 10km hike along the riverbed, while there is also a café/bistro and a children’s playground next to the lake.
12. Mediterranean Cosmos Mall
Opened in 2005 on the outskirts of Calamaria, this mall claims to be the largest in southeastern Europe.
Mediterranean Cosmos Center All the brands you’d expect to find in the city center, such as Mango, H&M, Sephora, Lacoste, Foot Locker, Bershka and Oysho.
When it comes to food, you’ll also have plenty to choose from, with Greece’s most popular Goody’s, cafés, pizzerias and a range of international fast food chains.
The mall also has an 11-screen cinema, and the good news is that most movies are shown in their original language, with Greek subtitles.
13. Waterland Water Park
On the other side of Kalamaria’s Thessaloniki Airport, Waterland is a classic water park that will be appreciated by young kids and teens alike.
On 150,000 square meters of land, there are enough attractions for hours of fun like a wave pool, “Pirate Island”, “Crazy River” subway ride, multi-lane sides where you can race your friends and meander Serpentine sink.
Parents can hide from the chaos in the “Zen Pond”, while in the park’s green surroundings is a new zoo with farm animals such as camels, roe deer, ostriches and donkeys, sheep and goats.
14. Peraya Beach
The closest beach to Thessaloniki is 10 km from the coast of Kalamaria, right next to the airport.
Pereia has recently been modernized and is now awarded the Blue Flag (the gold standard for beaches) every year.
At the eastern end, the beach shrinks to just a few metres wide, but it’s more spacious as you head west to neighbouring Neoi Epivates.
The water along the way is shallow, clear and calm.
Immediately next to the shore is a long line of cafes, restaurants and bars that bring a party atmosphere on summer evenings.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Kalamaria, Greece
Lowest Price Guarantee