Food and Thessaloniki are two interrelated words. The dining experiences in Thessaloniki are famous and Thessaloniki has every reason to brag about it.
The cosmopolitan Mediterranean city holds memories of every story that unfolded since its founding. A multitude of cultures and tribes lived in the metropolis of the Thermaic Gulf, leaving their mark on its character to this day.
As a city that has learned to respect its past and move forward with it, Thessaloniki makes sure to keep alive the elements that have shaped it into the city we love today. This is evident with perhaps the most important element of culture: food. Jews, Ottomans, Franks, Armenians, Greeks of Asia Minor, Constantinopolitans, and Pontian Greeks are some to whom we owe this colorful puzzle called Thessalonian cuisine.
Spices, combined with fresh fruits and vegetables from the plains and fish from the Aegean Sea, magically combine both taste and aroma, while syrupy sweets lead the way for dessert.
How seriously the people of Thessaloniki take their food can be seen just by looking around the city’s central square, Aristotelous Square, from what it’s surrounded by. It’s nothing more than 3 large food markets.
The Kapani (Vlali Market) is the largest and oldest traditional market.
Kapani means flour market (Un-Kapan) in Turkish. There the locals find the freshest and most affordable food from the city’s surrounding areas. On the other hand, the visitor can get to know a piece of the old oriental Thessaloniki and enjoy a journey through time. However, any kind of visit can end up with a break at the market’s small eateries, experiencing the whole process of “production to consumption” in the very heart of Thessaloniki.
The small but historic and full-of-life Athonos Square.
On the other side of Aristotelous Square, opposite Kapani, is one of the city center’s most beautiful “hidden” corners. Athonos Square stands out for its taverns and cafes around its emblematic Greek plane tree and in its cobbled narrow streets. In addition, the shops selling herbs, pulses, nuts, fruits, and vegetables mingle nicely with the local shops of carpenters and local artists whose presence there span many centuries.
The iconic face of Modiano Market.
This one complements the rest of the food markets in terms of supply to the trade of the city as well as to society. In Modiano today one can see all the new trends in gastronomy perfectly combined with traditional products and drinks from local breweries and wineries. This preserved monument is a typical example of the 20th-century covered markets’ architecture and it’s the first of its kind in Thessaloniki. The recent reconstruction of Modiano turns it into a market of modern data, which, however, is still strongly accompanied by the Thessalonians by images of traditional taverns full of life at night and the producers proud of their wares in the mornings, reminding the city of the previous century.
After a walk – mainly – around Aristotelous Square, you can notice the mix of nations and cultures is pervasive everywhere in the city. And this is clear in its gastronomy, thanks to which you come face to face with an atmosphere that enchants you. On top of that, one can easily understand why Thessaloniki has been distinguished as a gastronomic destination, and a unique Greek one, by UNESCO.
Text & photos by Eleni Ntouvaleti