Thessaloniki - A Resilient City

Friendly, charming and with a hint of mystery and a wealth of cultural attractions, the second largest city in Greece is located in the northern part of the country. It is a longtime melting pot of cultures, a feature that is reflected in the spicy flavors with eastern influences, as well as flavors from France and the Balkans, but also in its cosmopolitan atmosphere.

This is also visible in the city’s architectural fabric, where Byzantine, neoclassical, turn of the century Art Nouveau and Eclecticism, Art Deco and other styles combine in the city center.


In 2014, Thessaloniki was selected as part of the second cohort of cities to join the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network. This constitutes a unique opportunity for the city to implement a robust, participatory approach and create a long-term strategy to address current and future challenges.

 The 100RC methodology provided an innovative model for the local authority to develop a holistic city strategy in collaboration with adjacent municipalities, local academic institutions, the nonprofit sector, private stakeholders, citizens, and communities of the city. More than 40 organizations and 2000 citizens participated in the city’s resilience dialogue, ensuring the strategy aligns with and complements other strategic initiatives in the local, regional, national and international domain, including the city’s 5 year Operational Plan 2020 and European Strategy for 2020.

Resilience Strategy reflects Thessaloniki’s ambition as a city that wants to be inclusive, locally oriented but with international partnerships and exchanges; and forward looking to address interrelated challenges, goals, targets and actions. A city that guarantees the well-being of its people, and nurtures its human talent, while strengthening its urban economy and respecting its natural resources. The Resilience Strategy is based on eight city values : Social Cohesion, Local Identity & Heritage, Environmental Management, Health & Wellbeing, Youth Empowerment, Multi-stakeholder Engagement, Technology Adaptation and Economic Prosperity.

During its 2,300 years of history, Thessaloniki has weathered many waves of merchants, migrants and marauders, but with more than 150.000 students at present day, it maintains a youthful energy. It’s a city you can simply walk around, admire the numerous sights and stop anywhere you like for excellent food.

The surrounding area is very fertile and the sea is on its doorstep; so the combination of fresh local produce and a new generation of chefs makes it a wonderful place to eat.


Thessaloniki sprawls around an arc of coastline at the top of the Thermaic Gulf. The main area of interest to visitors is along the shore between the ferry port and the city’s emblem, the White Tower, and in the area that rises inland from there to the ancient city walls. It is the gateway to numerous fascinating sitesinNorthern Greece – renowned beaches, inland destinations, and beautiful, refreshing mountains like Mount Olympus.

Thessaloniki has long been Greece’s real cultural capital. For a city of one million people, the number of monuments and museums is astonishing: 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 30 museums dedicated to everything from archaeology to contemporary art and avant-garde Russian works. The Dimitria Cultural Festival, a three-month-long celebration of the arts first celebrated by the Byzantines, was revived in 1966. Then there’s the Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, which runs from June to September every two years and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, a ten-day celebration of young cinematographers from around the globe, every November.


Thessaloniki is a gathering point for artists, but it’s also cosmopolitan and creative. Multiculturalism isn’t just a politician’s buzzword here, it’s part of the city’s identity. Until 1912, Thessaloniki was still an outpost of the Ottoman Empire, and most residents spoke several languages.

Much of Thessaloniki’s Ottoman character went up in smoke in 1917, when a fire destroyed most of the city centre. It was redesigned by a French planner, named Ernest Hébrard, with a grid of boulevards stretching out from Aristotelous Square. This seaside plaza, lined with colonnades and cafés, is filled with people day and night. Ships and seagulls ebb and flow across the Thermaic Gulf. On a clear day, you can see Mount Olympus on the horizon, across the water.

The capacity for regeneration and the ability to blend the past with the present is typical of Thessaloniki. The misty sunsets, the spice stalls and meze points in the bazaars, the traces of Byzantine and Ottoman splendour that survive among the street-art-covered modern blocks, the growing creative scene, the international events and crowds, all constitute a juxtaposition of historic monuments and urban culture is Thessaloniki’s trademark.
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© 2018 by V. Papas