Journey up to the Castle
by Angela, from Canada.
One of the most beautiful wonders of Thessaloniki is the Castle, also known as Heptapyrgion or Yedi Kule. Translated directly, the name means “Fortress of Seven Towers”, but in actuality, ten towers exist. They were built around the 4th century A.D. when the Byzantine emperor Theodosius I came into reign and wished to secure the town with a fortress. In 1430, the town was conquered by the Ottomans and the Castle was given its Turkish name Yedi Kule. In the 1890s, the Castle was turned into a prison which was renowned for severely torturing its prisoners. The prison remained open until 1989, when restoration and archaeological work began to preserve the historical site. Today, only 3 out of the original 10 km of walls still exist.
With ancient fortress walls and towers running throughout the city, the Castle truly is a magnificent structure to explore. I recommend going with a small group and simply picking any direction to walk towards. Don’t follow a specific path or plan – the best part is getting lost amongst the winding walls. Another recommendation is to search for a spot with a nice vantage point to watch the sunrise or sunset. It’s an absolutely breathtaking scene to watch the daybreak and nightfall over the city and sea. In fact, grab a freddo espresso or freddo cappuccino from a nearby café and bring it with you up the castle. Sit down, enjoy your drink, and embrace the view in front of you. If you get hungry, you can also grab some snacks from the many local taverns serving traditional Greek food like souvlaki and gyros.
The best time to visit the Castle is in May and June, before the temperature gets too hot and before a majority of the tourists arrive. During this time, it’s easy to bump into locals and have nice conversations with them about the history and magnificence of the Castle. It is a common meeting point for students who want to relax and have some serenity away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
There are many paths to explore and a plethora of walls to climb. Bring your running shoes and your camera and you will be ready for an adventure of a lifetime!