Experiencing Thessaloniki Greece and the Luxurious Hotel Olympia

Written by Lara Dunning

August 11, 2017
Home >> Destinations >> Europe >> Greece >> Experiencing Thessaloniki Greece and the Luxurious Hotel Olympia

When most people think of Greece, they think of the ancient city of Athens, the blue domed roofs of Santorini, and the windmills of Mykonos. On our holiday, we explored Halkidiki, known for its unspoiled landscapes, forested peninsulas, and white sand beaches. To start our journey we began in Greece's second largest city, Thessaloniki, with an overnight stay at a luxury accommodation in the Hotel Olympia.

Thessaloniki Hotel Olympia

Hotel Olympia is close to the Roman Forum and parks with historical sites. Photo courtesy Hotel Olympia

On Our Way to the Hotel Olympia

For our arrival, we decided to forgo the traditional taxi and use a service called Welcome Pickups. When we arrived at the airport, our driver Falkos waited for us with a sign and a friendly smile. En route he told us about Thessaloniki—its dining district, its university, its historical sites—and took us on a hill behind the city so we could see it spread out before us.

Then we drove down past the walls of the Byzantine fort and into the heart of the city toward our hotel. It was a great way to meet a local and learn about the city, and I highly recommend.

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Hotel Olympia

During our stay, Hotel Olympia guests enjoyed the spacious lounging areas. Photo courtesy Hotel Olympia

Hotel Olympia—Steps Away from the Civic Center

We arrived at Hotel Olympia in the late afternoon. After a long day of traveling, we felt immediately welcomed by its minimalist style of grays and whites with touches of color and plenty of lounging areas.

After a quick check in, we headed up to our 6th-floor room that featured the same urban chic style with oak parquet flooring, two single beds pushed together (very common in Greece), white against soothing earthy tones, a desk and chair, television, a safety box, fridge, and a contemporary, very cozy marble bathroom.

Hotel Olympia

Hotel Olympia was one of the city's first luxury hotels. Photo courtesy Hotel Olympia

One of my favorite features of our room soon became the balcony with a view of the activity on the street and the Roman Forum a half block away.

Hotel Olympia

From our balcony, we could see the Roman Forum known as Ancient Agora. Photo by Lara Dunning

The hotel opened in 1964, next to the beloved Olympia baths where city dwellers came for showers, massages, and physiotherapies. For many years it operated with the baths, but in 1980, the hotel closed the baths and renovated the hotel to become one of the city's first luxury hotels. Today, the hotel has 97 rooms with five different room types. The hotel also has a restaurant, H2O, and the Campari Bar serves snacks and cocktails.

Hotel Olympia Room Service

Jet lagged from a long day of traveling we ordered room service and chilled on the balcony, taking in the sounds and activity of cars zipping by, people walking along the streets and birds flying from rooftop to rooftop. When our dinner arrived, we knew we had made the right decision as our dishes were fresh and the flavors mouthwatering.

Hotel Olympia Food

Halloumi with, tomatoes, bread, and olive oil. Photo by Lara Dunning

Monarc Duffel Bags

As lovers of fresh veggies, we ordered the Greek salad with tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, green peppers, chunks of feta cheese, spices and bread. It could have fed two or three people.

 

Greek Salad - Hotel Olympia

The Greek salad is big enough for two people. Photo by Lara Dunning

We also ordered a Caesar salad with lettuce, shaved parmesan cheese, croutons, pancetta and Caesar dressing.

Caesar salad - Hotel Olympia Greece

The pancetta was a welcome addition to the Caesar salad. Photo by Lara Dunning

And, a pasta chicken with fresh mushrooms and grated parmesan.

Chicken Pasta - Hotel Olympia Greece

Chicken Pasta dish. Photo by Lara Dunning

Exploring by Foot Around Hotel Olympia

The next morning, refreshed thanks to the soundproof rooms, we decided to go for a short walk around the city. On the way out, we noticed rental bikes and decided that after breakfast we'd take those for a spin. The tree-lined streets were quiet and very few people were out, which might have had something to do with it being a Sunday, but it gave the early morning a dream-like quality and made it easier to imagine the hustle and bustle of its past centuries.

Our first stop, the one we'd been gazing at from our balcony, was the Roman Forum. It was built in the 1st century A.D. and served as the hub of political and social life in the city.

Roman Forum - Hotel Olympia

During the 1st through the 4th century, the Roman Forum was the heart of the city. Photo by Lara Dunning

We continued down through the Civic Center, past the palatial buildings in Dikastirion Square toward Aristotle Square to join the walking/biking trail along Nikis Avenue. The morning weather turned out to be a little cloudy, but we enjoyed the fresh, salty breeze as we walked along the waterfront to the White Tower and back to the hotel.

Nikis Avenue - Hotel Olympia

On one side of Nikis Avenue is a walking path, the other side has cafes and bars. Photo by Lara Dunning

Breakfast and a Bike Ride at Hotel Olympia

Breakfast took place in the dining room and the hotel had quite a spread. It featured eggs, sausage, sliced meats and cheeses, fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, feta cheese, coffee, tea, juices, cereals, bread and pastries. One of the specialties included bougatsa, which is phyllo with cheese, and one with cinnamon, which soon became my favorite.

Hotel Olympia Breakfast

Breakfast is quite an affair with many tasting items to choose from. Photo courtesy Hotel Olympia

Afterward, we rented bikes (2€ for an hour) and cruised through the city, which was surprisingly still quite. With barely any traffic on the roads, we easily located the city bike bath (which is noted by a sign with a bike) and weaved our way back to Nikis Avenue. There, we were the only bikers on the path and enjoyed the freedom of the wind in our hair and seeing the art and statues along the way.

Alexander the Great - Hotel Olympia

A statue of Alexander the Great is on the waterfront. Thessaloniki was named after his half-sister. Photo by Lara Dunning

On a detour, we found the Archeology Museum, which opened later in the morning. To our surprise, we discovered a free open-air exhibit called Memory in Stone which showcased stone antiquities from Thessaloniki and Macedonia.

Hotel Olympia

Some of the items on display in the Memory in Stone exhibit were funerary monuments. Photo by Lara Dunning

The White Tower Near Hotel Olympia

The last stop, one of Thessaloniki's famous landmarks – the round, six-story White Tower. Entrance cost 4€ and included a handheld audio device that explained the exhibitions in several languages, including English.

Blood Tower - Hotel Olympia

During the 19th century, the tower was known as the Blood Tower. Photo by Lara Dunning

I found the exhibits to be a great introduction to the history of Thessaloniki. By the time we made it to the top we'd learned about the city's history, trade routes, architecture, archaeology and its diverse ethnic population. We also discovered that fires once ravaged the city. Intriguingly, we learned of the tower's infamous time as a jail for death row prisoners, which earned it the name Blood Tower for the blood that ran down its sides.

I particularly liked the varied displays;  some were visual, some text, and others historical items, which made for a more interactive experience. And, the reward, the stellar view of the Gulf of Thessaloniki, seen from the top of the tower.

Thessaloniki, Greece - Hotel Olympia

Two cruise boats moored outside the White Tower. Photo by Lara Dunning

RoamRight travel insurance

The Hotel Olympia made our first days in Thessaloniki restful and a pleasure. You can book your stay on their website. Hotel Olympia is a 25-minute drive from Thessaloniki Airport Macedonia.

For more information visit Thessaloniki Tourism or Visit Greece.

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Written by Lara Dunning

Lara Dunning lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest and freelances for a variety of travel magazines. Her work can be found at Experience Anacortes, Bainbridge Island Magazine, Northwest Travel & Life Magazine, RealFoodTraveler.com, WaggonerGuide.com and Whidbey Camano Islands. She also owns the travel site Small Town Washington & Beyond (http://smalltownwashington.com/), where she shares her passion for small town travel. Lara has an MFA in Creative Writing from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, writes young adult novels, nonfiction essays, and likes to hike with Hazel, her Australian Cattle Dog.

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35 Comments

  1. Travelling Dany

    I love the interiors, modern and clear, they feel relaxing enough! And the room also seems to be pretty big, wow!

  2. Renada

    I love ultra modern luxury hotels! The breakfast looks like absolutely delicious.

  3. Tami

    Looks like you had an amazing experience at Thessaloniki! I’d love to go back to Greece and see more. I got so excited every time we came upon ancient ruins, and they are everywhere! The Hotel Olympia would be a great place to use as your hub!

  4. Christine

    What a lovely hotel! I love all the white from the interior. I definitely would like to stay here!

  5. Red Nomad OZ (Marion Halliday)

    You wouldn’t be able to drag me away from the breakfast 😀 Although your room service choices look pretty good too – IMHO a hotel can get away with a lot if the room has a usable balcony!! It’s also great to read a post about a less well known (to me) destination in Greece – Thessaloniki looks like it’s worth a visit!

  6. Long Nguyen

    The hotel seems very comfortable with attractive foods (as your photos say). Do you book it via a place like agoda or booking dot com or you booked it dirrectly by youself? Does the hotel have bikes to rent or you should look for any other places?

  7. Christine | The Traveloguer

    Wow, the Hotel Olympia looks so nice, I’d love to stay there. Thessaloniki seems like a great place to visit in Greece too!

  8. Damien McGuigan

    That hotel looks very fancy, modern and clean. I think you choose well!

  9. Vlad

    What a cozy hotel, that room looks fabulous! I’ve never been to Thessaloniki, but I’d definitely consider a stay here., I’d love to visit the White Tower as well.

  10. Megan Jerrard

    Hotel Olympia sounds like the total accommodation package, I love the luxury, minimalist design – everything is so chic and clean. And the location sounds stellar – jumping on a bike (2E per hour is so cheap!) to cruise between the sites sounds ideal. I had no idea there were so many historic attractions in Thessaloniki – Greece is on my list for next year, so I will make sure we plan a few days here 🙂

  11. Elisa

    This Hotel Olympia seems like the perfect HQ for some exploration around the city. This summer I was also in north Greece for a couple of days. Interestingly I never had two Greek Salads with the same ingredients, I thought Greek Salads were something standard, at least in Greece!

  12. Dave (Silverbackpacker)

    Its been a long time since i ventured through Thessaloniki. It used to be one of the crossroads for travellers going on to Istanbul and India in the 70’s. I have had many a good day there. This hotel would be a great stopover for anyone spending a day or two in the city. I like the look of the comfortable rooms and of course the delicious greek salads 🙂

  13. Sandy N Vyjay

    Greece has always remained a fascinating place for us. The usual suspects like Athens, Santorini and Mykonos are the places that have fueled our imagination. However you have shown a new face of Greece which is so informative. The Hotel Olympia too looks like an ideal place to explore the mysteries of this city.

  14. Carol Colborn

    We were in Thessaloniki in 2015 but just on a day trip from Bulgaria. I didn’t discover more, unlike you who had this great stay at Hotel Olympia!

  15. Erin Klema | The Epicurean Traveler

    I haven’t been to Thessaloniki, but now I’m intrigued. The Hotel Olympia is so chic! I certainly wouldn’t mind calling that “home” for a few nights while exploring the local history and cuisine, especially the tasty-looking Greek salad.

  16. Rossana Wyatt - Life is full of adventures

    Sounds like you had an amazing experience in Thessaloniki. Always great to have a great relaxing room to cone back to after a long day exploring.

  17. Corinne

    When we visited Thessonaliki, we did not stay anywhere quite as nice as the Hotel Olympia. In fact, it was really quite a bad hotel, so I wish we had done better research and found something closer to this. I did love the city!

  18. Nathan

    This place looks gorgeous! I love the grays and whites. I’m actually considering visiting Thessaloniki next month. I’ll keep this place in mind when I do visit!

  19. Lara Dunning

    Dany, After a very long flight from the US West Coast the hotel and the room, were very welcomed.

  20. Lara Dunning

    Renada, We decided after eating all over Greece and the breakfast spread that it would be very hard to starve in Greece. Lots of food and choices!

  21. Lara Dunning

    Tami, I get excited over ruins too, and Thessaloniki was full of them. I’d like to go back to and explore more, there is just so much to see, one could spend months there.

  22. Lara Dunning

    Christin, Thanks so much for commenting! I hope you get to wander to Thessaloniki soon!

  23. Lara Dunning

    Marion, I knew very little about Thessaloniki before I went and I was impressed. While there are tourist activities, like the tower, museums and the hop on hop off double decker bus, it doesn’t feel touristy at all. We felt like we were surrounded by locals, and only saw one Amercian our entire time there. It made for a perfect introduction to Greece.

  24. Lara Dunning

    Long, I would book through the hotel, or if you have a preferred booking site you could use them. The bikes are on-site to rent, which makes it super easy. Have a great time!

  25. Lara Dunning

    Christine, I came away with so many good feelings about Thessaloniki. It seemed like a very safe city and great for solo female travelers. And, of course, the food was amazing! I’d love to go back!

  26. Lara Dunning

    Damien, Sometimes you never know what you are going to get. We were very pleased. Thanks for commenting!

  27. Lara Dunning

    Vlad, The hotel is in such a great location and I like the history of it. I hope you get to visit Thessaloniki soon as it is really a wonderful city.

  28. Lara Dunning

    Megan, That is great to hear! You are going to love it. When they told us it was 2E for a bike, renting them was a no brainer. Renting them on Sunday morning was perfect because the streets were quieter and we could easily navigate through them and down along the waterfront there were only fishermen and random joggers. Great way to see the city and not get blisters from walking. Ha!

  29. Lara Dunning

    Elisa, I’d love to hear where you went in Northern Greece. The Greek Salads we ordered all had the same ingredients, but the cut of the ingredients varied. I’m so missing Greek food. We ate so well there! Did you have the octopus? So amazing!

  30. Lara Dunning

    Dave. Looking at the map it did seem very close to Turkey. I could see that being a hub for travelers to and from. I bet you have some great stories! Hopefully we will cross paths one day and you can share some with me.

  31. Lara Dunning

    Sandy, I like you, had really only heard of more well-known towns, and Thessaloniki and Halkidiki were a HUGE eye opener for me. For someone like me who prefers non-touristy places and small town travel I really enjoyed both and want to go back. I hope you get to visit soon!

  32. Lara Dunning

    Carol, That’s great you got to see the city on a day trip. There is so much to see and great places to eat there that you could spend up to 5-7 days. I hope you get to go back!

  33. Lara Dunning

    Rossana, Yes, it is. Thanks for commenting!

  34. Lara Dunning

    Corinne, Oh no! A bad hotel can sometimes put a downer on the entire experience. Sometimes it is hard to know exactly what you are getting when booking a hotel. Happy to hear you loved the city. 🙂

  35. Lara Dunning

    Nathan, I’m envious. Would love to go back. Have a great time!

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