Thessaloniki is the second biggest city in Greece. My family’s from here, I’ve lived here my whole life essentially – up until the age of 26 when I moved to London. It feels like home. It’s easy and relaxed.
There’s a bit of an unspoken rivalry between Athens and Thessaloniki. It’s a big city with a lot of history. We have so many ancient ruins.
Football is a big part of the culture here too. There are two teams in Thessaloniki that I must mention: Paok and Aris. They are rivals, as you can imagine.
PAOK won the league and cup recently and also had some success in European competitions, beating both Arsenal and Tottenham.
Aris too has had some success - they beat Athletico Madrid in the Europa League back in 2010. You don’t forget something like that.
The atmosphere in Thessaloniki is crazy when there’s a game on. In Greece you’re not allowed to have away fans – there’s a reason for that.
The city is literally by the sea. There’s a port, but if you drive 30 minutes you get to a beautiful beach called Potamos where you can swim. People tend to go on the weekend in the summertime, or even from early May. People might go after work, too.
In Greece, people with office jobs don’t usually work until 6, their schedule is a little bit different. You might start work at 7 and you finish by 3 or 4. The culture here is more about having fun every day.
I usually play 8 a side or 11 a side, but every now and then I play football on the beach with my friends. I like to go to the beach late because it’s too warm in the morning. The noon heat is crazy. We went at like 4pm with a big watermelon.
After the beach, it’s good to go to an ouzeri, which are taverns serving ouzo and mezedes – small plates of food. Greeks like to eat late. This is a unique one by the sea, called Ostrako. Food is a big part of our culture. We’re eating seafood – calamari, anchovy – potato chips, Greek salad, and a spicy feta dish called Tirokafteri. There are local beers like Fix or Mythos.
I visited my dad in his country house in Pyrgoi in the Vermio Mountains. It’s a place we take a breather from city life and can hang out one-on-one. He grows grapes and some apples and stuff. On the journey to his house, we stopped at the train station in Edessa, which he loves.
In the city centre, there’s a street called Ladadika with coffee places, taverns and bars. Coffee is a big thing in Thessaloniki. I recommend going somewhere above Tsimiski street on the map. It’s less touristy and there are more hidden gems. Find a local spot that people from the city know – you will get a sense of the culture of the place. I like to get lost in the alleys.