Eating out in Thessaloniki: how Greece’s culinary capital is reinventing itself

It is Greece’s second city but its gastronomic capital – and its bars and restaurants refuse to let tough times spoil a good night out. Just one reason it makes a great city-break alternative to Athens now

Talk to Thessalonians and you could be forgiven for thinking the word “crisis” means “opportunity”. “BC” stands for “before crisis”, but it’s referenced when describing an innovation or entrepreneurial venture that arose in response to it. Of course, the collapse of the economy has brought hardship and deprivation here in Thessaloniki, as in the rest of Greece, but locals – from the 150,000-strong student population to the 73-year-old mayor – have refused to let it stop the city moving forward. And nowhere is this more evident than in its thriving gastronomic scene: Thessaloniki might be the country’s second city, but it is the gourmet capital.

Located in the far north of the country, it has for over 2,000 years been a melting pot of cultures – reflected in the blend of spicy eastern, French, Balkan and Mediterranean flavours of its cuisine, and in its cosmopolitan vibe. are part of the culture, and while everyone has been forced to tighten their metaphorical belts, no one wants to tighten their real ones. So, gone are the days of meals in tavernas setting you back around €30 per head; in their place are good-value bars and cafes.

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