Departure region Thessaloniki

Jewish Heritage of Thessaloniki

Duration / time start
Half day / 9:00
175 km.
The history of the ancient Greek city is so closely intertwined with the history of the Jewish people that it got the moniker the ‘mother of Israel.’ It’s a side of Thessaloniki not to be missed.

Thessaloniki is not only the largest port and one of the most beautiful cities in Greece — it also known as the mother of Israel (la Madre de Israel). Sephardic Jews came to the city in the 15th century, after their expulsion from Spain. Over the next few centuries the Jewish population here became the largest in Europe. At the beginning of XX century, Thessaloniki not just had a large number of Jewish citizens — it was a Jewish city in essence. And then the great fire of 1917, both wars, WWI and WWII, had their devastating effect on Thessaloniki Jewry. Today Thessaloniki Jewish community, though small, is alive.

In many respects the Jews have contributed to this wonderful Greek city and left a trace reflected in unique architecture, exceptional character and delicious cuisine. There are lots of beautiful sights to see and history to rediscover.

Iconic spots in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki holds many testaments to the glory of the chosen people and traces of their rich culture in the city. It’s impossible to cover all the monuments of Jewish Thessaloniki in one excursion, so we offer a selection of sights. Here are a few examples.

  • The Monastirioton synagogue, 1927. It was built with a donation by Ida Aroesti in memory of her husband, Isaac, and contribution by families from a small town Monastiri (nowadays: Bitola) who relocated to Thessaloniki after WWI. During the WWII, after mass deportation of the Jews, the synagogue was used by the Red Cross as a storage facility and thus escaped destruction. Today the synagogue is a shrine preserving the memories and serving the community now.
  • Yad Lezikaron synagogue is dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. It was built on the site of a small prayer house, also known as Market synagogue, serving religious needs of those working in the nearby marketplace.
  • Aristotle Square. It’s the main square of the Thessaloniki, and most of the buildings around it belong to the city’s Jewish community. In the past they were owned by wealthy Jewish citizens of the city, and their status, tastes and personal stories were reflected in sophisticated architecture.
  • The Jewish Museum. Founded in 1997, it provides the opportunity to see ancient scripts and tombstones, recovered nearby the city walls, as well as a vast exposition depicting life of the Jews in Thessaloniki before the WWII. The museum preserves rare books and keeps the archives.
  • The Old Railway Station. It’s the most tragic place in the city and its most powerful symbol at the same time. From here during the nazi occupation thousands of Jews were shipped like cattle to death camps. It’s hard to face the pain, grief and horror of those dark times, but remember we must.

There’s a colossal dimension of tragedy to these monuments, but they also hold lessons to be learnt today of all times and stories of bravery and compassion of ordinary people facing horror.

Another aspect where Jewish heritage can be traced is architecture. Jewish architectural sights present unique examples of creativity in architecture and hold memories of the past. One example is Casa Bianca. This mansion has traits of Renaissance and Art Nouveau, but it’s also famous for the story of forbidden love that defied taboos and survived the Holocaust. The building has been restored impeccably.

Curious to know more? - Book our excursion and let’s explore.

Let\'s go!

Meet your guide at your hotel's reception (or any other meeting point).

The best view in Thessaloniki
20 min.

The first idea and a marvelouse view of the city at the Trigonion Tower in Upper Town.

Madre d\'Israel
up to 1 hour

Memories & Faces of Jewish history of the city. Excursion in the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki

Black Sabbath
15 min.

Liberty square is where the Holocaust in Thessaloniki started 1942

לשמוע ישראל
40 min.

Visiting the historic Synagogue of Monastirioton

Gone but not lost.

The old Jewish cemetery (what is left of it...) & the Eastern Thessaloniki Jewish Settlements

back home

Transfer back your place



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What to take

- Good mood and explorer’s spirit are a must - You’ll definitely want to document your journey, so make sure your digital devices have plenty of space for lots of photos and check their batteries - Pocket money for souvenirs, food and possible on the go expenses - Bottled water

What to wear

- Since we’re going to visit holy places, please, wear casual, plain clothes covering knees and shoulders - Headcover and sunglasses if suited to the weather