This unique megalopolis is itself a large, living exhibit. Its vast history, countless monuments and imperial appearance make it an ever-developing work of art. Simply strolling through beautiful Thessaloniki, the traveller will be enraptured at the sight of the wonder and spirituality of the Byzantine monuments. Churches of outstanding artistry and value, such as the Virgin Acheiropoiitos, Agios Dimitrios, the Virgin Dexia, Agia Sofia, the Virgin of Chalkeon, Agios Ioannis the Ypogeios, the Rotunda of Agios Georgios, are not only places of pilgrimage but aesthetically uplifting too. This cream of Byzantine piety characterizes the neighbourhoods of Thessaloniki and defines its personality. The ancient and Roman past is there, but the true character of the city lies in its Byzantine magnificence.
Beyond its wealth of monuments, Thessaloniki contributes greatly to the full range of the arts. Painting, poetry, prose, cinema, theatre, photography, music, all forms of art are splendidly represented in Thessaloniki. Its great cultural legacy lives on and flows out through melodies, exhibitions, galleries and lively debates between intellectuals and thinkers.
Culture and the arts in museums
Thessaloniki is home to some of the most important museums in Greece. The Archaeological Museum houses the greatest achievements of Macedonian civilization. The Museum covers the entire centuries-old history of the area. The visitor can walk amongst outstanding masterpieces of the ancient world, from deep prehistory up to the first Christian years. The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki was founded in 1912, immediately after the liberation of the city. Following the necessary modernization in 2006, it has become a place of learning and initiation into the history of Macedonia.
The Thessaloniki Museum of Byzantine Culture, the State Museum of Modern Art together with the Folk Museum of Macedonia-Thrace are all guardians of this age-old culture and have made a great contribution to the city.
One of the most important museums is the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki. The Jewish element thrived in Thessaloniki, creating strong bonds with the Christian population and a true community respecting diversity. The violent expulsion of the Jews during World War II hurt both communities. Historical memories are preserved, recorded and perpetuated in this museum, where nostalgia prevails.
In Thessaloniki there are also many theme museums that greatly contribute to the history of the arts and achievements. The Museum of Radio, located on the site of the Thessaloniki International Fair, the Photography Museum, the Goulandris Natural History Museum, the Sports Museum and the Thessaloniki Cinema Museum tell the story through their exhibits of special fields that are of great interest to the public. Also worthy of note are the Railway Museum, the Museum of Ancient, Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Musical Instruments, the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, the War Museum and the Teloglion Foundation of Art.
Thessaloniki of the theatre and the cinema
Thessaloniki has a long theatrical tradition. The State Theatre of Northern Greece as well as restless private companies and schools, have a long history in the city. Besides, all the Athenian theatre companies consider it their duty to present their performances in Thessaloniki.The cinema has become linked to Thessaloniki not only due to the Festival, but because the city has been the natural setting for many films with the wonderful atmosphere it exudes. Thessaloniki is the birthplace of many great creators of the seventh art, directors and actors.
The poets of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki of the poets
The poets of Thessaloniki are its living emblems and proof of its great and lasting culture. The atmosphere charged with memories, the view of the sea, and the sensitive temperament of the people have created the ideal breeding-ground for ideas and inspirations. Some of the greatest, internationally acclaimed, Greek poets have been born in Thessaloniki – and most with gentle obstinacy have refused to leave. Poets adore Thessaloniki and Thessaloniki generously reciprocates.
In Thessaloniki there are over 80 private galleries housing the work of upcoming artists. The School of Fine Arts at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki is one of the foremost in Europe.
Great artists covering the entire range of visual and performing arts exhibit their work in Thessaloniki, giving residents and visitors the opportunity to experience their quests.
Music in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is closely related to music. Various customs brought from distant homelands, converse with those purely Greek, producing fascinating results. It is not an unusual occurrence for one to hear a virtuoso from Iran playing a kanun in Aristotelous Square, or a band from Chile filling the air with the notes of an exotic reality. At the same time Thessaloniki is constantly producing musical culture through Byzantine music schools, traditional workshops and youth formations who begin from here and go on to conquer the world’s stages with their sounds. Concerts, evenings filled with song, small and large hangouts teeming with youngsters, make up the pieces of Thessaloniki’s living history.