When starting your travel in Greece from Thessaloniki, take an opportunity to get the most out of it by taking a day trip from Thessaloniki to Vergina and Veria.
Why this trip?
It’s an excellent opportunity to learn more about the ancient history of Greece, attending the Royal Tombs Museum in Vergina, and feel the charm of the ancient Veria, a little Jerusalem of Greece. So let’s start from a very beginning. Actually, there are two options for you to choose for this trip. The first is to make it a day trip from Thessaloniki and return in the evening, the other is to spend more time in Veria and stay there overnight to continue your trip the following morning to more awesome destinations of Greece. My choice was the second option and both are doable by public transport.
If you go by public transport there are many buses going to Veria and from there you can take a local bus to Vergina, followed by a short walk to the Royal Tombs Museum.
Museum of the Royal Tombs in Aigai
Vergina was the first capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia then called Aigai. It was around when in 336 BC Philip II was assassinated in the theatre and Alexander the Great was proclaimed king. The excavations by Professor Manolis Andronikos and his group in 1977 made one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century by discovering Royal Tombs and Palace remains. The museum was made over the actual Royal Tombs covering them by a roof and making an elegant exposition in mysterious darkness where only the historical objects are lighted. The museum includes three Macedonian tombs: a tomb of Philip II with a hunting scene fresco painting, Tomb of the Prince that may belong to Alexander IV, grandson of Philip II and his son Alexander the Great and another ruined Macedonian tomb of the third BC century. As it is not allowed to take pictures inside, you just have to trust me that this visit will leave a special footprint in your memory. This place is inscribed in the UNESCO world cultural heritage list. After visiting the brilliant museum get back to Veria.If you use public transport, it would be better to check public transport options back to Veria in advance, for example, in Veria bus station as I didn’t find any bus timetables available at the bus stop in Vergina.
More than 2000 years old Veria was the second most significant town, after Aigai, during the blooming ancient Macedonian years. The city is built on the foothills of Mt. Vermion north of the Haliacmon River. From the 11th to the 14th century it was the third most important city of the Byzantine Empire, after Constantinople (Istanbul) and Thessaloniki. The impressively large number of Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches gave the city the nickname “Little Jerusalem” and a great reputation as a regional religious center of the Byzantine Empire. Today 48 Byzantine and post Byzantine churches with beautiful frescoes are well preserved in Veria out of the 72 that once existed in the city. So you have plenty to choose from. I just managed to see a few glimpses of that. So what have I seen in Veria? First of all, I liked the special atmosphere of a small town filled with pedestrian streets, churches, shops and cafes where you can have a cup of Greek coffee with a glass of ice cold water. I just loved it.Be aware that the oldest churches with great historical value are sometimes well hidden between higher buildings and also located below zero ground level so watch out for them carefully. Newer churches in most cases are bigger and more visible. So I visited a few of both kinds, all near the central bus station.
Church of Saint Patapios
The Church of Saint Patapios was built in the 15th century on the ruins of two older religious constructions, an early Christian baptistery of the 4th century and a big early Christian basilica of the 5th century. The Church of Saint Patapios preserves till today murals from the original temple that dates back to the period between the 15th and the 18th century.
Church of St Antony
The Church of Saint Antonios was built in 1860 into a large three-aisled basilica. It is dedicated to the patron saint of Veria, Saint Antonios the Younger, and it is a great representative sample of the ecclesiastical architecture and art of the 19th century.
Holy Church of Agia Varvara
It is a small church very visible because of its bright yellow colour.
Tasting local cuisine
For lunch, I can recommend the Balcony restaurant in the scenic place of Veria.
Walk in Veria
While in Veria I very much recommend taking a walk along the Tripotamos River and visiting a Traditional Jewish Quarter of Barbouta.It looks awesome with its cobblestone streets and imposing mansions. The quarter is located in Barbouta area, whose name comes from an old fountain. The Jewish Synagogue, with its rich interior decoration, was built in 1850; it’s the oldest in northern Greece and one of the oldest in Europe.
Where to stay in Veria
If you decide to stay overnight in Veria, there are enough places to choose from. I stayed in a small family owned Le Bijou Luxury suites and I can recommend it.
Distances: Thessaloniki-Veria 72 km. Thessaloniki –Vergina 70 km. Veria-Vergina 12 km. If you use public transport, a small distance between Veria and Vergina could be the most complicated to traverse so collect information in advance or, if stuck in Vergina, arrange a taxi back to Veria in the cafe next to the bus stop.Have you visited Greece mainland? Thessaloniki is a great base from even more day trips to Greece mainland.
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Author: Anita Sāne
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