City Discovery: Thessaloniki, a Young, Old and Overlooked Greek City

Thessaloniki has the highest youth population in all of Greece! The high youth population, combined with the city’s rich history, helps to give Thessaloniki a unique and lively vibe. In 2014, Thessaloniki was named the European Youth Capital and in celebration of this exciting award, Thessaloniki’s 200,000 college-age residents continue to organize fun events that encapsulate the city’s joie de vivre.

In Thessaloniki, there is history on every corner- and in this case, under every corner!  Near the city center, you can watch as archaeologists unearth an ancient Roman market. The market is located nearly 6 meters underground and features beautifully preserved streets and shops. This archaeological treasure was discovered during the building of Thessaloniki’s first subway system.



Intercultural experiences highlight exposure with the local culture, promoting a multilateral exchange of ideas, language and opinions.

As part of the Bridging Cultures Program, Thessaloniki students can try their hand at making classic Greek dishes such as dolmades (stuffed grapevine leaves) or tzatziki sauce during an exclusive ISA cooking course.  This course is instructed by the head chef at the fabulous LePalace Hotel, and the recipes taught in this lesson are carefully selected for their cultural prominence and feasibility. Students can take the lessons they learn from this course and re-create traditional Greek dishes in their apartments abroad or in their dorm rooms back home on campus

Explore Thessaloniki’s local flavor with a tour through the city’s bustling and vibrant open-air markets. Led by a local chef, ISA students will sample flaky pastries and sip on strong Greek coffee as they visit both the oldest and newest markets in town. This tour will enlighten ISA students to the Greek way of life as they engage with local shopkeepers in a multitude of languages and purchase souvenirs and packaged treats for their friends and family back home.



ISA excursions and cultural activities highlight historical parts of the local culture to help students better understand their new environment.

After a long day of classes at the American College of Thessaloniki (ACT), students can head on over to the east side of Thessaloniki to indulge in a traditional Greek spa day. Bathhouses, known as hamam in Greek, have been a cultural fixture in Thessaloniki since the time of the Byzantine Empire. The hamam experience will truly scrub away your troubles and help you soak in Greek history and culture! A trip to Pasa Hamam, one of the oldest bathhouses in Thessaloniki, is included as an ISA excursion, but many students treat themselves on the weekends with trips to the various bathhouses around town.

Founded in 315 B.C, Thessaloniki has seen the rise and fall of great Eurasian empires, and has, without question, stood the test of time. To help preserve and share Thessaloniki’s rich history, there are museums sprinkled throughout the city that help to shed light on life in Thessaloniki in every era. During the program, ISA students will take guided tours of both the Byzantine Museum and the Jewish History museum. If you’re a budding historian, ACT also offers Greek history courses that incorporate educational day trips to historical sites around town.



Sociopolitical discovery highlights social and political activities or experiences.

Do you enjoy political discourse? Then Thessaloniki is the place for you! ACT is home to the Michael and Kitty Dukakis Center for Public and Humanitarian Service. The Dukakis Center has been shaping young minds since 1999 and is deeply invested in the welfare of the community. ISA students can sit in on a round table discussion or voice their opinions and enjoy a lively debate with the ACT Model United Nations team. The Dukakis Center often holds forums that are perfect for catching up on world affairs and networking.

Located in downtown Thessaloniki, Aristotelous Square has played an integral part in Greek culture, politics, and history. Within the square, numerous large rallies and political speeches have been orchestrated- such as the rally for Macedonia in 1992. Aristotelous Square is also utilized for many cultural events, such as local festivals and the annual Christmas and carnival celebrations. ISA students will tour Aristotelous Square during their first days in Greece, as it is the best place to soak up the local culture, meet locals, and get involved with community events.



Professional experiences provide exposure to professional development opportunities during an ISA program.

At ACT, ISA students have the option to enroll in thematic programs which offer a focused set of courses in specific fields and concentrations such as Hellenic Heritage and special topics in History and Religious Studies. These certificate programs are excellent resume builders and will set ISA students apart from other job and graduate school applicants.  In addition to the certificate programs, ACT also offers specialized courses in Business, Information Technology, and International Relations.

Focused on finding a job after graduation? Studying abroad is the perfect time to expand your professional network on an international level!  Our Resident Director, Spilios, and the helpful staff at ACT can help get you in touch with representatives from local NGOs and businesses. If you’re interested in internships, there are opportunities available through the Dukakis Center and the ACT Business School. For detailed information on opportunities, please contact the Greece Site Specialist.



Environmental experiences expose students to different environmental aspects of the host country.

Situated on the Mediterranean coast, Thessaloniki is surrounded by magnificent white-sand beaches that progress into breathtaking turquoise waters. ISA students can learn to navigate these waters by enrolling in a sailing course through ACT. The course offers hands-on sailing experience and field trips, as well as a certificate. If you’re involved with the sailing team at your home university, you can also join the ACT Sailing Club and participate in nautical adventures with your colleagues.

The aptly named Ano Poli ( in Greek: Upper Town) is located just north of downtown Thessaloniki. The area is known for its spectacular views and classic, Ottoman- influenced architecture.  On a clear day, ISA students can catch a cab up to the highest point in Ano Poli, soak in the scenery, and even see Mt. Olympus from across the gulf! Mt. Olympus is the tallest mountain in Greece and is regarded in Greek Mythology as the home of the twelve Olympian gods.

Discover more about Greece’s second largest city.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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