Thessaloniki might be the most important Greek city that you've never heard of. The capital of the Central Macedonia region, close to the birthplace of Alexander the Great, Thessaloniki (also referred to Salonika by locals) is the second-largest city in Greece.
Like most of Greece, Thessaloniki can trace its roots to ancient times; St. Paul preached there in 50 AD. A bus trip takes you to the foot of Mount Olympus, where you'll explore ruins of crumbling temples to Zeus and Athena. Examples of the Byzantine era are everywhere -- including recently discovered royal tombs in Vergina. Aristotle grew up not far away.
Mount Athos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the holiest modern religious sites in the entire country, and while it is only open to men with written permissions, some cruise line excursions and ferries will circle its scenic and sacred shores for everyone to view its monasteries. The site is about 95 miles from Thessaloniki.
But steps from where your ship will dock is a modern metropolis, with hip bars and cafes crowding the waterfront. An iconic piece of history is just a brisk 30-minute walk away, down the promenade, as you close in on the 500-year-old White Tower -- former Byzantine fort and now a monument and museum -- which is visible from the cruise terminal.
Greek is the primary language, but Thessaloniki is a large city, so most people also speak English. Efcharisto (eff-car-ee-stow) means "thank you."
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Greece is on the euro. ATMs are located all around the city.