Thessaloniki’s Ano Poli - the City Above the City
Upper Town Thessaloniki is the most ancient part of the city that is approximately 2300 years old. Here you may see the ancient Byzantine wall with its towers, ancient religious sites with Byzantine mosaics and frescoes, and other remnants of the city's great civilization.
Αno Poli, an enchanting mix of stone-paved alleys, traditional houses and impressive Byzantine era monuments is Thessaloniki’s most cohesive and colorful neighborhood. Also the view of the city and the Thermaikos Bay, and the top of Olympus standing imposing on the background is at its best from the Byzantine walls of the Upper Town.
Start your journey from Moni Vlatadon to visit the monastery of the same name. From there, head downhill, following signs to reach the Church of Osios David. Going down Theotokopoulou by the Taxiarchis Church and continuing downhill, will soon bring you to the Byzantine Bath (just above Olimpiados).
Off the larger streets bordering the neighborhood’s lower western edge are the Profitis Ilias Church, from the 14th century, and the 13th-century Church of Aghia Aikaterini. Yet another church among the cobblestone paths of Ano Poli elicits the same sense of mystery as Osios David – the 14th-century Church of Aghios Nikolaos Orphanos. It is prized both for the engaging narratives told by its frescoes (dating from the Paleologian Renaissance) and for its rambling garden. The city Byzantine Walls – which define Ano Poli’s upper edge – are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as all the above mentioned sights.
Tsinari, with its peaceful cobblestone streets and charming tavernas, is like a traditional village right in the city. This is a pleasant place to have a rest after seeing the many sights that the Upper Town offers.
If you start your journey from Trigonio Tower, once the city’s upper gate, it’s easy to see why Ano Poli was the city’s favored neighborhood for centuries. The forest is to your left and the whole of the Thermaikos Bay is stretched out beneath you. Directly across the water, the majestic peaks of Mt Olympus feel stunningly close.
This view is one of the city’s most romantic, and you’ll find as many locals here as visitors. Time your visit for sunset, when the last rays etch the mountain’s silhouette clearly against the sky. Then watch as, below you, the city lights go on and the tower glows gold.
Next stop is “Yedi Kule” or Eptapyrgio, a really impressive building, which consists of ten towers as well as more recent buildings inside and outside of it. Known by the dozens of rebetiko songs written for its history, it was a fortress of the city since the first centuries A.D., while it was turned to a prison until 1989, being for many years a symbol of fear for the city, due to the brutal conditions prevailing there. In 1989 the prison was transferred elsewhere and Eptapyrgio, which has been characterized as a part of world heritage by UNESCO.
A little higher, on Chilia Dendra (“A Thousand Trees”), the famous cedar hill hosts the fauna of the Zoo. At the district of St Paul, dominates the majestic church dedicated to the Apostle of the Nations, just above the Apostle Paul’s Holy Water, since the area is related to his passing from Thessaloniki in 50 AD. Very near is the “Pasha’s Gardens”, the large park facing the eastern walls, will reward you with cool moments and pleasure combined with the wonderful view of the city.