The Aristotelous square in the middle of the city was the liveliest place of the city. Almost all of the city was around this square. The street that lays from this square to the sea was closed to traffic. There were many stores and cafes on this street. In the alleyways that go through the square, there were mostly fish markets, taverns, large and small stores.
The hotel we stayed was only 2 minutes by walking. We got to the square in no time to do sightseeing and to eat something. When you come to the square and face towards the sea, there is a downtown just like Kadıköy in Turkey. It was possible to find fish, vegetable and many bazaar products in this area. At the street on the left, there were tarverns and various local food restaurants.
You should definitely eat seafood in these local restaurants. They were very successful with any kind of seafood. And the side dishes were great. Just be careful not to order too much. Because the portions were really big. The flavors were not unusual for us but I assure you, side dishes were 10 times better than ours. You can drink Ouzo along with these delicious food. It resembles Turkish Raki a lot. If you order a homemade kind, you will have a unique feast for yourself. About the prices, I should say they were really cheap. We ate a portion of calamar, a portion of octopus, shrimp stew, tsatski, eggplant salad, borlotti beans in olive oil, and drank 2 glasses of ouzo for only 20 Euros.
The only negative side of the restaurants was the slow service. This is completely a cultural aspect for them. They say “No need to rush, make the most of everything.” This is why we had to wait 15 minutes to pay the check.
If you walk around this square, you should definitely get in the side streets, you will find many different and colorful stores. And there is a middle sized mall called Galeries Notto… Because it was the New Year’s day when we were there, the mall was also very crowded, just like the street. The New Year decorations they did were very interesting. The snoring Santa Claus on the shop window at the entrance of the store made everyone turn back and look again.
There was an ice rink on the beach side. Right next to it, a stage where Greek national dances were taking place.
When you walk to the seaside, you can clearly see that quality level of cafes and restaurants have increased. But of course the prices have increased accordingly.
They had started the New Year entertainment towards the evening. We entered a passage incidentally. It was like a narrower and closed version of the Nevizade in Istanbul. There were no plates on the tables, everything was served on papers. But it was incredibly crowded. We had a hard time walking. Some people were on the tables, dancing, some of them were passed out drunk on the tables, before it was even 17.00. We tried to take photos while passing but they stopped us yelling “take a photo of us too” and smiling. It was a very interesting passage. But it is certain that the public is having fun here.
If you want to go to a tavern at night, you have to go to the restored historical Ladatika area, which had been the area of olive oil extraction depots back then. Today there are many taverns there. According to a Turkish person we met who lives in Salonika, a bottle of liquor and food is about 150 euros in the taverns around there, on special events like New Year’s night.
There weren’t any crowded groups in Salonika square towards the evening. When I saw the early celebrators, I wondered how crowded it would be at night but it was empty. Usually there would be a New Year celebration event in the city centers. There would be firecrackers or something. But it was empty, even if it was 22.00. I think the government did not make any organizations this year because they thought it would be inappropriate when they could not pay the salary of their workers because of the crisis.
And yet, we decided to go to the casino in Salonika. The biggest casino of Greece, Regency Casino, is 12 kms away from the city. It is pretty close to the airport. You can take a cab from the city center, it costs about 20 euros.
Casino was very large and crowded. Hot and cold drinks are free inside. If you want to use the open buffet, you have to pay 18 euros. But you should definitely try this. The buffet is really big and the food is delicious. There is a free champagne service for everyone.
The casino that belongs to Hayat Regancy Hotels, was pretty big. I have never seen any casino that big, not in Cyprus, not in Europe. There were at least 30-40 roulettes. I don’t know if it was a New Year thing but there were 15 people at least on every roulette that night. We were pretty lucky. We had our New Year meal and taxi fee for free. We went back to our hotel around 5.00 am.
The next morning, we packed up around 10.30 and took our seats in the bus for our return journey. The reason we left Salonika early was to stop by Kavala as well to see And I can tell you this, a full day, will be enough for Salonika.