Why you need to go: Though a century of Greek governance has reoriented the city toward the Aegean, for millennia, Thessaloniki (or Salonica, or Salun, or any of the many names the city has gone by over the years) served as the gateway to the Balkans. It was known as the cosmopolitan second capital of the Ottoman Empire, and later its large historic Jewish population earned it the moniker “mother of Israel.” Ravaged by a catastrophic fire a hundred years ago, the new city was rebuilt on top of the old, the ruins of which are visible in the tunnels of city’s new metro system.
The one must-do thing: Eat seafood and drink wine! Thessaloniki’s life is in its street cafes, of which it has more per capita than any other city in Europe. Take a leisurely stroll down the waterfront, an activity so intrinsic to local culture that it has its own name, volta.