Do you ever find yourself wondering about the culture and history of Greece? If so, consider planning a trip to this intriguing Mediterranean country, which is known as the birthplace of Western drama, Western literature and much more.
When our family went to Greece, we visited five of the nine geographical regions. And, among the ones we visited was the Macedonia region in the Northern part of Greece. The Macedonia region is the country’s largest geographical region and it’s where you’ll find much of Greece’s agricultural production. It’s also where you’ll find several UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites. (FYI, this designation is given to places that have been deemed to possess “outstanding universal value” and meet certain selection criteria.)
One cultural site that made this region so fascinating to us was the Roman Forum (or Ancient Agora) in the town of Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece and the reported cultural capital of the country. While we were at this site, we learned from our tour guide that the Roman Forum was considered to be the center of public and political life centuries ago. We were able to check out some of the other spaces that have been discovered through excavations of this area, including the public bath house (see the last photo).
Our trip also included a visit to the award-winning Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the largest museums in Greece, the Museum is filled with paintings, ceramics, mosaics and other artifacts (e.g., ancient instruments) that make up its impressive permanent and traveling exhibitions. If you make plans to visit the museum, check the website in advance to see if any lectures, plays or concerts will be presented while you’re there. They could make your experience even more memorable.
Travelers desiring to locate a church in which they can pray while visiting Thessaloniki, which is known as one of the first areas to witness the spread of Christianity, are welcome to stop by the Church of Saint Demetrius. Thanks to its notable architecture and mosaics, the church is one of the many buildings that make up the group of Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments that are registered collectively as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in that town. Because of this designation, it is a popular destination for many tourists. Nevertheless, there seemed to be an ample amount of empty seats in the church’s sanctuary the afternoon we stopped by there with our tour guide.
Not far from Thessaloniki is the nearby town of current day Vergina, where the Archaeological Site of Aigai, another UNESCO site, is located. Aigai has been described as one of the richest cities of the ancient world. So, excavators working at this site over the years probably haven’t been too surprised to discover beautiful jewelry and other impressive artifacts from centuries ago in various areas. If you visit the site, make sure you spend time inside the site’s Museum of the Royal Tombs, which houses the tomb of King Philip II (father of Alexander the Great) and others.
Home to various collections containing gold and silver artifacts, the Museum is unlike any other one that I’ve visited in that it is situated inside of a grass-covered, earthen mound that protects the tombs in the very spots in which they were found. So, while I felt like my family and I were touring a well-kept modern-day museum during our visit, we also felt like we were exploring a precious indoor archaeological site that was still being excavated. Because of this, the museum was one of my favorite tourist spots out of all the places we visited in Greece!
We also explored the Archaeological Site of Philippi, the UNESCO site that gets it’s name from the popular ancient city that became the centre of the Christian faith following a visit by the Apostle Paul. Situated among a plain that is bordered by the city of Kavala and the village of Krinides, the site features the remains of homes, streets, public buildings, a theater and churches, such as the Octagonal Church, an early Christian church. Bible scholars also believe it includes the location of the jail cell into which Paul was once put.
Speaking of Krinides, it was in that town that we saw the river where the Apostle Paul reportedly baptized the first Christian, a woman named Lydia. Being able to see the river is so special for many Christians that some will take off their shoes and step in the river so they can feel the water washing over their feet. I didn’t do that, but I did put my hand in it…and it was quite cold! Adjacent to the river is the Baptistery of St. Lydia, a colorful, marble-filled Greek Orthodox baptistery that can be secured for marriage ceremonies and baptisms.
If you’d like to explore the Macedonia region–and any of the above-mentioned cultural sites with your family (or friends)–first check out their website to see if they will have any planned closures in the near future. Then, work on figuring out the best season, month and date for you and your travel buddies to make the trip based upon your respective schedules and budgets. And, when the time comes for you to plan your excursions, consider using a travel agent or tour guide to increase the likelihood that you will all have a fun and safe trip.
Travel Tip: (If you click on the below affiliate link and schedule a tour or travel experience, I will receive a small commission that will help support this site.) Try to schedule at least one cultural experience, such as an excursion, tour or day trip, if you have the chance to visit Greece. To get help with planning these types of activities, consider using Viator.com. The site offers packages that enable travelers to explore some of the very places that I visited with my family.