When most foreigners think of Greece they imagine the majestic Parthenon overlooking Athens or the colorful buildings of the island of Santorini. However, these popular sites have become inundated with tourists making it tough to get the “immersive experience abroad” that can really define your future and help you grow personally in a way that is not possible at home. As the second largest city in Greece and a student paradise, Thessaloniki has become an increasingly popular option for studying abroad in Greece, as students realize the vast benefits in taking “the road less traveled.”
Here are just a few of the reasons why Thessaloniki is the best place to study abroad in Greece:
It has something for everyone.
Thessaloniki is the second largest city in the country and located on the coast in Northern Greece. With Greece’s largest public university and a wide range of other colleges, Thessaloniki is the student and cultural hub of Greece, and the city is structured in a way that is accessible and exciting for young people, with loads of restaurants, bars, and cafes where students can enjoy the European lifestyle for a cheaper price.
The city boasts a six mile long boardwalk, which is filled with youth running, riding bikes, or enjoying some of the incredible history and artwork which can be found throughout the city. The active lifestyle coupled with abundant nightlife would make this city great to study in any country, but combine this with the rich history and pivotal location of Greece and you have one incredible city to call home for a few months while studying abroad.
It hosts people from around the world.
The best reason to study abroad in Thessaloniki is not the active lifestyle or the nightlife, however, but the people that you will find in the city. Having a ten percent student population, not only is the infrastructure built around you and the young adult experience, but the interactions you have in Thessaloniki will be a reflection of this. International student life is abundant and it is common to find students from different schools and areas of the world socializing, learning from each other, and traveling together. Because of this vast student population and regularity in seeing students from other countries, Thessaloniki breeds intercultural dialogues, relationships, and friendships.
These unique relationships cause students to grow exponentially in their understanding of the world and lead to greater, more unique travel experiences, which can be tough to come by in study abroad locations which cater to “the American traveler.” It is not uncommon for international students in Greece to spend Christmas in the Balkans with their friends from school back in Thessaloniki.
Study abroad in Thessaloniki truly offers the opportunity to expand your world.
It has a long standing place in history.
Unlike the better known city of Athens, Thessaloniki is a city that has never moved; from the era of the ancient Romans to the Byzantine times and the modern ages, a walk around the city is truly a walk through history. Founded in 315 BC by a Macedonian King, Thessaloniki was conquered by the Romans, followed by the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, until the first Balkan war in 1912 when the city was liberated by Greece and became the capital of Macedonia. During WWII, the Nazi’s occupied and bombed much of the city and an earthquake in 1978 leveled many Byzantine monuments. But even so, you will find sites from the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Era, the Ottoman Empire, WWII, and more; each block of the city tells a new tale of the rich and deep history of Thessaloniki.
One of the most famous sites of Thessaloniki is the White Tower, which has stood through the transition of several empires. The tower still stands along the boardwalk, where a Byzantine tower once stood before being replaced by a tower from the Ottoman Empire, which was used as a prison and is now accessible to travelers and provides a great view of the city.
Another great view of the city can be found from the massive Byzantine fortification walls found on the outer edge of the city, which provide a great viewpoint looking down over the Thessaloniki; on a clear day you can even see all the way to Mount Olympus. Other notable sites in Thessaloniki include Aristotle Square, Hagia Sophia (a Greek Orthodox Church built in 537 AD), the Roman Forum, several sites where Paul the Apostle is said to have preached to the Thessalonians, and some incredible museums which house historical artifacts and modern artwork.
It is surrounded by sites worth seeing.
While Thessaloniki itself boasts enough history and architecture to study for a lifetime, it is the surrounding areas that can add even more to a study abroad experience in Greece for international students. But don’t worry, you can always spend a gap year in Thessaloniki if you need more time to see the sites. Top sites around Thessaloniki include:
- Halkidiki Beach
- Mount Olympus
- Vergina and Pella
- Great Monasteries of Meteora
- Pozar Hot Springs
Thessaloniki and the surrounding area offer a great deal of incredible opportunities, but we all know that studying abroad means expanding your world beyond your city of study, with short trips to other areas near your study abroad location. Being located in Northern Greece near the Balkans, students who study abroad in Thessaloniki have greater travel opportunities than many of those who study in more Western European countries.
The local airport has cheap flights with Easy Jet and Ryan Air which will bring adventure-seeking students all over Europe, from Barcelona to London to Ireland and everywhere in between. Train travel is also available throughout Greece and the Balkans, and a weekend trip to Moscow, Russia or Sofia, Bulgaria can expand your world even further than you would imagine.
Studying on the road less traveled in Thessaloniki will allow you to have a study abroad experience that truly expands your thinking, and your world.
Historically, the rich and continuous past of Thessaloniki offers the chance to explore eras throughout the ancient and modern world right at your doorstep, or down the road at the monasteries, Mount Olympus and Vergina, which are all within an hour or two of the city.
Living in this student-centered city allows individuals to make connections all over the world that will last a lifetime and will allow for more travel to more places long after study abroad has ended. With a location at the crossroads of eastern and western civilization, it is easy to see that this (secret) location in Greece is the ideal place to complete your study abroad experience.
This article was contributed by the American College of Thessaloniki (ACT), the ideal destination for students seeking a unique and immersive study abroad experience. With a small student body, comprised of 50 percent Greeks and 50 percent international students from over 30 countries, and a plethora of community outreach opportunities, international students will find plenty of valuable cultural immersion experiences at ACT.