The churches of Thessaloniki are remarkable and include UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, Byzantine masterpieces, and a church dating from the 5th century.
It would be possible to spend an entire day visiting the churches of Thessaloniki and still not see them all. There are churches large and small, churches old and churches comparatively new, and seeing them is to take a walk through the history of Thessaloniki.
The churches in Thessaloniki are so remarkable that UNESCO declared its Byzantine churches to be World Heritage Monuments in 1988.
If we limited ourselves to listing only the top ten churches of Thessaloniki then we would be missing out some gems. Here, then, is a list of the most notable churches in Thessaloniki, in alphabetical order, and a little about each of them and where to find them. There are of course many other churches in Thessaloniki, but this is our choice of the ones most worth seeing.
St Catherine’s Church is near the junction of Olympiados with Lampousiadou in Ano Poli, or the Upper City. It dates from the 14th century and has some original murals. These were covered in plaster when the Turks turned it into a mosque but were uncovered again during the 1947-51 restoration of the church.
Agia Sofia was built in the middle of the 7th century and was a copy of Agia Sofia in Istanbul. It’s considered one of the most important churches in the Greek Orthodox religion, and parts of it date from a previous church that was built here in the 5th-6th centuries. It also has remarkable murals which date from the 8th-11th centuries. It was turned into a mosque in 1523 but returned to Christian worship in 1912.
This huge edifice is the most famous Byzantine church in the city. St Dimitrios is Thessaloniki’s patron saint and his church was built in the 7th century on the ruins of a 5th-century basilica. It was destroyed by a fire in 1917 but restored and re-opened in 1948. Some mosaics survive from the 5th and 6th centuries, and don’t miss a visit to the crypt, which was where St Dimitrios was martyred in the early 4th century.
The Holy Metropolitan Church of Agios Gregorios Palamas, which is near the Museum for the Macedonian Struggle, was built in 1914 in Byzantine style. The original 8th-century church on this site was destroyed in a fire in 1890.
Located at Ionos Dragoumi 10, just off Tsimiski, the original church on this site was built in the 8th century, though the present building dates from 1890. It was one of the few churches in Thessaloniki which was not turned into a mosque by the Turks but remained a place of Christian worship.
You’ll find this church on Apostolou Pavlou, near the junction with Koronis. It was built in the early 14th century and many fine original murals can still be seen. It’s considered one of the best-preserved churches in Thessaloniki, and is also worth visiting for the lovely grounds.
This church is on the eastern side of Iasonidou, north of the junction with Egnatia. It is thought to date from the late 13th or early 14th centuries, and some of its original murals can still be seen.
At the western end of Olympou stands one of the oldest churches in the city. It was built in 1310-14 and was originally part of a monastery, of which very little survives. During Turkish rule it was converted into a mosque, a minaret was added, and some of the original murals and mosaics were covered in plaster.
At Agias Sofias 56, north of its junction with Egnatia, this imposing building is on the site of what were the Roman public baths, and the first church was founded here in the 5th century AD. There are mosaics which date back to the 5th century as well as some 13th-century murals.
It is worth making the climb to the upper part of the city just to see this church. It is tiny but wonderfully atmospheric, and dates from the 5th or 6th century. Some original mosaics remain along with others from the 12th-14th centuries, including a rare depiction of Christ without a beard. You also get good city views from here.
Close to Hosios David is the only active Byzantine monastery in Thessaloniki. It was built in the 14th century and some of those original murals remain. Good city views, too.
The Church of Panagia Chalkeon is on Chalkeon at its junction with Egnatia and is impossible to miss with a small park in front of it. It was built in 1128 on a site where a temple had previously been in the chalkos or coppersmiths’ district. In 1430 during the Turkish occupation it was turned into a mosque.
The church of the Prophet Elijah was built from the late 13th to the mid-14th centuries. It’s on Olympiados in the Upper City, near the junction with Varvaki and is an impressive sight with its many arches and domes. Some of the original murals can still be seen.
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