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The Gay Thessaloniki Guide (Greece 🇬🇷)

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The Gay Thessaloniki Guide (Greece 🇬🇷)

Table of Contents

Short on time?

My top recommendations for your trip to Thessaloniki include:

🏨 Hotels:

  • Luxury:
  • Mid-Range:
    • The Caravan: Stylish with a café and co-working space.
  • Budget:
    • Zeus is Loose: Dormitories and private rooms with a rooftop terrace.

🌆 Tours and Excursions:

📌 Thessaloniki Highlights:

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Please help us improve this guide 💖: Our gay guides undergo regular updates to ensure that all listed establishments are current, popular, and, most importantly, safe. The recommendations and descriptions provided within this guide stem from personal experiences and/or reports. We welcome any input regarding new venues or updates to existing ones included in the guide. Please feel free to reach out to us by email with your suggestions or updates.

Intro to Gay Thessaloniki

When Fabio and I met in 2022, we bonded over the fact that we were big time "Greekophiles". I, myself, made the yearly exodus to Greece since 2017, generally heading to Athens and subsequently, a new island, like Paros or Corfu. However, with Thessaloniki EuroPride 2024 and with Greece becoming the first Orthodox-Christian majority country to legalize same-sex marriage in February 2024, we knew that we had to head up to Northern Greece that year to cover new territory.

As our days in Thessaloniki (also spoken as Saloniki, Salonika, or Salonica) unfolded, we were pleasantly surprised. For being Greece’s second-largest city after Athens, the gay life and LGBTQ community was exploding. Perhaps it helped that EuroPride 2024 was on at the same time, but even our local Greek friends were impressed by how far the city has come over the last few years.

https://www.instagram.com/p/link/

What Is It Like To Be LGBTQ+ in Greece?

With gay marriage legalized in Greece in February 2024, the country is making huge strides in LGBTQ+ equality. Regardless, it is best to adjust your expectations if you are coming from Western European cities.

In terms of locals, there is much more discreteness here and resultantly, the overall community size (in Thessaloniki and Athens) is therefore a lot smaller than what you may be used to in cities like Berlin and London. On the topic of discreteness, the majority of the Greeks we spoke to are not yet out to their families and as with any country steeped in family-heavy traditions, there are far right opponents always trying to ruin things for us gays!

I would say, however, that compared to the Balkan cities, like Belgrade, the LGBTQ+ progression is much further along.

For LGBTQ+ tourists, however, the LGBTQ+ struggles that locals go through may not be as noticeable at first glance. You have entire islands like Mykonos that are made for gays. At the same time, when you go to the major cities, like Thessaloniki, the standard gay bars, clubs, and saunas are readily available.

PDA 🫦

You have the freedom in Greece to kiss your partner and hold his hand 😘, but if it is a non-touristy area, you may get some stares and criticism. Just exercise caution and see which areas feel right to express PDA.

And What Is It Like To Be LGBTQ+ in Thessaloniki?

One thing worth mentioning specifically about Thessaloniki is that it is at the edge of the Balkans and borders Turkey, so you have an array of people from surrounding countries like North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey (who have less LGBTQ+ freedoms) hopping on a train or plane or bus to Thessaloniki to enjoy what it has to offer.

While the community is intimate, that comes with a friendly atmosphere. Fabio and I had no trouble talking to locals in the gay bars, and we have to say that we enjoyed the gay life much more than that of Athens.

We have a strong feeling that Thessaloniki will start to rival gay-friendly cities like Barcelona over the next years, but without the pricyness of Barcelona. It is the perfect time in the endless millenia-long history of Thessaloniki to plan a visit.

The iconic 'Umbrellas' sculpture in Thessaloniki, featuring tall metal poles with umbrella structures against a clear blue sky. Two men are seen posing playfully among the sculpture.

Us sweating our a**es off at the iconic Umbrellas sculpture on the Thessaloniki promenade


Gay Map of Thessaloniki


Where to Stay in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki has an ever-growing list of gay-friendly hotels popping up and most of them are in the city center. Unlike gay cities like Barcelona and London, even luxury comes at a cheaper price.

Luxury

  • The Met Hotel: Located right on the edge of the action, The Met is a luxurious establishment featuring modern rooms with a banging rooftop pool. The hotel is equipped with a fitness center, hammam, hot tub, and offers massage treatments and a hair salon. It is located just under 2 kilometers from Aristotelous Square.
  • Mediterranean Palace: The hotel boasts a restaurant, bar, and conference facilities, making it ideal for both leisure and business travelers. Situated next to the historical area of Ladadika, it offers easy access to Thessaloniki's shopping center and major attractions like the White Tower and the Archaeological Museum.
  • Vanoro Hotel: Vanoro Hotel is right near Aristotelous Square and Ladadika area. The hotel features a restaurant and offers an all-day à la carte breakfast.

Mid-Range

  • The Caravan: A really stylish choice especially good for remote workers who may be staying in Thessaloniki a bit longer (there is a really nice café and co-working space downstairs).
  • Arethra Simone By Socrates Junior Houses: Also suitable for long-term stays, as these are apartment-style boasting super stylish interiors.

On-a-Budget (but still fabulous!)

  • Jetpak Alternative Eco Hostel: Hostel with spacious dormitories and private rooms with breakfast and coffee available.
  • Zeus is Loose: The place to be! Dormitories and private rooms with a rooftop terrace serving you wonderful views of Thessaloniki.

Gay Thessaloniki Nightlife

Thessaloniki Gay Clubs & Thessaloniki Gay Bars

In Thessaloniki, you have a few spot-on options for a gay night out. Each and every bar/club is a vibe and I found it was very easy to meet others; perhaps that is just the intimate and friendly-nature of Thessalonikē. Most venues are located in the city center.

  • ΖΙΓΚΟΥΑΛΑ The Bar (Zigkouala The Bar): A perfect corner location with some outdoor seating conducive to get guests to socialize with one another, Zigkouala was one of our favorite gay bars in Thessaloniki. Later on in the night, the music gets louder, and the place transform into a small club. While the DJing isn’t the world’s most sophisticated, I like how they incorporated live afro-beats into the set one of the nights we went. The bar boasts a fantastically queer, mixed-crowd.
  • Enola: Certainly one of the staples of Thessaloniki, this club has a grungy, industrial feel, and blasts mainstream (but verging on circuit) tunes. The one thing I didn’t love about this place was that during EuroPride, they had the audacity to charge €10 a beer (this is not Mykonos!). Nevertheless, the vibe was on point when it fills up and there is a cruising spot on the rooftop 😏.
  • BAUS Bar: Located away from the hustle and bustle of the other gay bars and clubs and near the White Tower of Thessaloniki, BAUS is worth the trip over to the other side of town. The staff are incredibly friendly and as a result, the vibe of BAUS Bar is on FIRE! You immediately feel a sense of safety and comfort and leaving at an early hour will be impossible 😅. BAUS Bar also puts on drag shows and has well-thought-out daily events.
  • exPOSE Bar Club: Another Thessaloniki classic with generous staff, lavish drag shows, inexpensive drinks, and over-the-top music that are the perfect formula for a successful Friday or Saturday night out!

Thessaloniki Gay Saunas & Thessaloniki Gay Cruising

As previously mentioned, Greece is quite discrete in nature and as a lot of the men still live with family, cruising and saunas are an essential part of meeting up with other men for a little action 🤣. So let’s get right into it:

  • Play: This place is the closest thing to an adult playground or fun-house I have ever seen! When you walk in, you have a shop with all the toys and gear you can imagine. After paying the fee, you can then go through the back door into the Play world. There are three floors with video rooms, dark and windy mazes, glory holes, swings, vending machines with beer, and other places to relax. It wasn’t packed when we were there on a Friday night, but as this was during Pride, most people were still at the larger parties.
  • AquaSplash: Brand new and rebranded from just Splash, this sauna literally opened its doors the weekend we were in Thessaloniki (June 2024), so while it was in its early stages, the place has the potential to be one of the best saunas in Europe! The decor is sleek, the dark areas and cabins plentiful, and includes a sauna, steam room, pool, smoking area, and bar. To top it off, the staff are friendly and are ready to make you feel as comfortable and welcome as possible.

If you are into more outdoor cruising 🍃, check behind the Central Train Station, at the Parking Place after the Music Hall and around the Court House.


Thessaloniki Pride

Pride saw its first year in Thessaloniki in 2012 and 12 years later in 2024, Thessaloniki hosted EuroPride 2024, its biggest pride to date -- highlighting the massive gains of the queer community in the city.

The parade starts from YMCA square, marches down Tsmiski and then makes a turn before walking back to the Alexander the Great statue along the sea. It is a picturesque place for a Pride parade. While you may notice a heavy police presence, it is just to prevent any countermovements.

We will update this for 2025 dates when they become available.


What to Eat in Thessaloniki

Honestly, Greek food is at the top of my list of cuisines, and I don’t think we could have gone wrong with any Greek restaurant or taverna in the city center (or outside). What makes Greek food special is that every dish is tailored to pair well with every other dish - and the ingredients are just fresh. I always leave Greece feeling like a strong Mediterranean Greek god.

A Quick Intro to Greek Food 🇬🇷🍖 (The Staples of Most Tavernas)

  • Tzatziki: A yogurt dip with cucumber, dill, and ideally lots of garlic! Pair it with literally anything.
  • Greek Salad: Nothing too unique, but a fresh salad (without lettuce) and a massive hunk of feta cheese on top. It is perfect in the thick of summer.
  • Xorta: These are boiled greens (likely from a field or mountain nearby 🤣) that are served cold with lemon. They are both delicious and medicinal.
  • Melitzanosalata: Eggplant dip with the consistency of Baba Ganoush, but more vinegar heavy and no tahini.
  • Moussaka: The go-to comfort dish. Think Greek lasagna or Eggplant Parmigiana with layers of eggplant, minced meat, and top off with a baked béchamel sauce.
  • Souvlaki: Skewers of chicken or pork generally served with fried potatoes, vegetables, tzatziki, and pita bread.
  • Gyros: The fast food of Greece. Meat is cooked vertically on rotisseries and served with sauce, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes and fried potatoes in a gorgeously soft pita bread.

Of course, the seafood is plentiful and inexpensive 🐟. We admittedly are fried calamari addicts.

Best Restaurants in Thessaloniki

When we come to Greece, we tend to go for tavernas over any other type of other options, and Thessaloniki is no different. Nearly any taverna you go to, you are likely going to have an authentic experience with a satisfying meal. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Tsir Tsir Meze: The first place we went in Thessaloniki. Your standard taverna with friendly waiters and mouth-watering food. If it is on the menu, go for the Red Sea Bream 🤤.
  • Διαγώνιος 1977: This place specializes in barbecue, so in addition to starters and salads, make sure to at least get some MEAT. Paired with hot pepper flakes and mustard, the meatballs are to die for!
  • Tsinari Taverna: Located in the trendy, but sleepy uphill area of Ano Poli, there is a little street with a few delicious taverns. We stopped by Tsinari on a Saturday afternoon and relished in all the taverna favorites (plus wine 😘).
A charming outdoor dining scene at Tsinari Taverna in Ano Poli, Thessaloniki. People are seated at tables enjoying their meals under a canopy of greenery on a cobblestone street.

Cobblestone cuteness in Ano Poli

If you are looking for some fine-dining options Travel.gr has you covered.


Best Cafes in Thessaloniki (and Desserts)

A Must-Try Specialty in Thessaloniki

Trigona Panoramatos is a godly specialty dessert from Thessaloniki. It includes layers of flaky pastry (in the shape of a triangle), dipped in syrup, and topped off with a heavenly custard.

trigona panoramatos pastry in thessaloniki

This photo doesn't exactly do it justice. We were hungry and forgot to take a nice one 🤣

  • Terkenlis: A famous dessert mecca in Aristotelous Square. We came here for Trigona Panormatos and did not leave disappointed.
  • The Caravan Café: Downstairs from The Caravan Hotel, this is a relaxed place to escape the Thessaloniki chaos and sip on a frappe, while checking out all the digital nomad hotties.
  • Canteen Spirit | The Study Coffeehouse
A cozy indoor space at The Caravan, featuring wooden tables, eclectic decor, and warm lighting. The area includes bookshelves, framed artwork, and comfortable seating for a relaxed work or social environment.

The Caravan Café


What to Do in Thessaloniki


So, what is there to do in Greece's second-largest city besides gay things?

Well, let's briefly talk history. Thessaloniki has a one that goes all the way back to the Kingdom of Macedonia. By the time the Romans came around, it grew into a metropolis. It was then ruled by both the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire. As you wander around the city, you can peel back the layers from the various eras.

So, Get Historical, Boy!

There are countless buildings, like the Rotunda, which have been repurposed with every change in power. The Rotunda was created during the Roman times became a mosque with a minaret during Ottoman times and is now a prominent Orthodox church.

Nearby is also the impressive Roman Forum, a place where the public gathered for theater, civic meetings, and more.


Wander the Seafront

Unlike cities like Athens, Thessaloniki makes full-use of its expansive seafront with a beautiful promenade. We did a run for a solid 3 kilometers from the western part of the promenade and in doing so, got a taste for what the city is like. You don't have to run 🤣, but a leisurely stroll will have the same effect. At night, the promenade is frequented by locals and tourists alike.

Along the way, you'll pass the White Tower, which was whitewashed in 1912 when Thessaloniki escaped the grasp of the Turks. It contains a museum, which isn't anything to write home about, but the rooftop views are where it is at!

A little further down, and you will come across The Umbrellas sculpture, a public art installation by Greek artist George Zongolopoulos.

A view of the historic White Tower in Thessaloniki, a tall cylindrical stone structure with a crenelated top, against a bright sky.
 Two men taking a selfie on top of the White Tower in Thessaloniki, with a scenic view of the coastline and cityscape behind them, enjoying the sunny day.

Yamas, from the top of the White Tower!


Check out the Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki is one of the most impressive I have ever seen. Through years and years of excavation in the area, they have put together a rather impressive selection of artifacts spanning the Kingdom of Macedonia, Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire. Everything is extremely well-preserved and as you wander through the collection you begin to visualize how life was during these ancient eras.

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Attend the Thessaloniki International Film Festival

The Thessaloniki Film Festival is held in November and not only does the city transform to accommodate the event, but the film festival has a focus on the LGBTQ community.


Day Trips From Thessaloniki

Gay Beaches Near Thessaloniki

There aren't any specific gay beaches directly in Thessaloniki, so these require a bit of a journey to get out to. These are some worth mentioning:

  • Epanomi Shipwreck Beach: A beach with an old shipwreck from the 1970s. It is especially beautiful on a non-windy day.
    • Note: Here there are a series of beaches worth visiting. When you get past all the beach bar madness (you can go with a car, but be careful of the sand), you will come across a gay/nudist beach (with a bit of cheeky cruising in the dunes), a little further of a drive down is Epanomi Shipwreck Beach (which isn't exactly a gay beach), and a little further you get to "The Nose", or the little tip where the currents from the two sides of the sea come together in an Odyssey-era way.
  • Beach Mykoniatika
  • Lemon Beach Bar

Other Day Trips From Thessaloniki

The following can be done in a day, but we recommend taking tours as logistically it will be much easier to arrange. These are definitely for the adventurous type:

  • Meteora: A wild rock formation with precariously-placed monasteries!
  • Mount Olympus: Greece's tallest mountain! Some beaches around here are the mountain-directly-into-sea type and there are plenty of hiking opportunities.

Check out these 1-day tours from Thessaloniki for Meteora ⛪️ and Mount Olympus 🗻.

A man lying in the shallow waves at Epanomi Beach, Thessaloniki, wearing blue swim trunks and sunglasses, looking relaxed and happy.

The shipwreck is meant to be the main focus here. Try to focus only on that.


TL;DR: Plan Your Thessaloniki Trip (Logistics)

Best Time to Visit Thessaloniki

May & June, September & October. July & August will be a bit of a hot time to experience the city life!

Do I need a visa for Greece?

  • Greece is in the EU and Schengen, so if you have a Schengen visa, you are good to go! For those coming from the US, you can stay up to 90 days at a time (during any 180-day period).
  • Take a look at iVisa. for more specific requirements.

How to Get to Thessaloniki

  • By air: Thessaloniki is served by Thessaloniki Airport Makedonia (SKG). There are generally low-cost flights available from all around Europe.

  • By train: Thessaloniki is not the most connected European city, so rail is most likely going to be your most inconvenient option. However, from inside the country (i.e. from Athens), go ahead and have a look here.

  • By bus: Bus is the way to go if you are looking for slow travel options from other major cities in Europe. Flixbus has a lot of options. If you are coming from Athens, KTEL Thessaloniki is a great option.

There are also ferries from other parts of Greece ⛴️

Book train tickets (from Athens) to Thessaloniki with Rail Ninja 🚝, bus tickets from the rest of Europe to Thessaloniki with Flixbus or from Athens with KTEL Thessaloniki 🚌, or plane tickets with Skyscanner 🛫.

Internet and Data in Thessaloniki 🛜

The latest alternative that we have been using when travelling is eSIMs. We use Airalo in every country we go. Through them, you can get an e-SIM that has coverage for most countries in Europe for much cheaper than roaming. Just make sure to research whether your phone is e-SIM compatible before buying an e-SIM. If you go this way, buy it before your trip and make sure you set it up beforehand as well (and turn off your normal SIM before connecting to data).

If you are based in the EU, then roaming on your SIM will not be a problem.

Health and Safety in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki generally has a lower crime rate than most global cities. As always, just be a vigilant as there are isolated incidents of theft and pick-pocketing.

As a gay traveler, just remember that although progress has come far in the country, you may be given looks or sneers if displaying public affection.

Make sure you get your travel medical insurance!

Getting Around

🚶‍♀️

Thessaloniki is a fabulous walking city. If you base yourself in the center, you will have no problem getting around to see most of the city sights.

🚌/🚇

The Thessaloniki landscape will forever be changed when the metro opens in the second half of 2024.

Until then, Thessaloniki has an extensive bus network that will get you wherever you need to go, and it is extremely cheap for a one-way ticket around town. Check here for updated fares.

To get a transportation ticket, we went to one of the YES Stores (where we actually stocked up on several tickets to use for later). Alternatively, there are various kiosks around town. Some buses have the vending machines on them, but not all. Please remember to validate your ticket on board!

Occasionally, you will have ticket checkers come on buses or trams, but we’ve never experienced it.

🚴‍♀️

Especially on the seafront, the bike lane infrastructure is in place. Thessaloniki has its fair share of e-scooter/bike share services, like LIME.

🚕

Thessaloniki uses the classic, old-school method of hailing of taxis down. For this, you will need cash.

However, apps for ordering standard taxis are slowly becoming more popular, which allows you to pay through the app. FreeNow is the most popular with the best rates, with Uber also available.

What is the Currency in Greece?

The Euro (€)

How Much Do I Tip in Greece?

There isn't such a strong tipping culture in Greece, especially among the locals. But for tourists, it is a bit more expected. Rounding up the bill or giving a 10% - 15% tip is the norm!

What Else Do I Need to Know About Thessaloniki and Greece?

  • Power Plugs - Type F: Do yourself a favor and pick up a universal converter beforehand.
  • Tap water is completely safe to drink in Thessaloniki
  • Generally cards are accepted everywhere. I only needed cash with hailing taxis or if buying a bus ticket on the bus. Having cash handy is helpful, though.