Thessaloniki is Greece's second-largest city and the capital of the Greek region of Macedonia. The municipality's population is 363 thousand, but in fact there are about one million people living in the metropolitan area. Thessaloniki is clearly Greece's second-most important urban center. This is so for several reasons, including economic ones: Thessaloniki is a port city, and since it is a free port, it is not only of great importance for trade with other EU countries, but also serves as Greece's major gateway to those Balkan countries that have not yet joined the European Union. In Thessaloniki, industry plays a great role as well and there are many different sectors, including petrochemicals, textiles, and steel.

Lately, however, a move towards a more service-based economic system has been observed. This shows that Thessaloniki is well prepared to participate in the globalized world.

Thessaloniki, which was named after Alexander the Great's sister, was founded in 325 BC - and therefor pleases its visitors with a big variety of historic monuments, most notably from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, big parts of Thessaloniki were reorganized following Neo-Byzantine street patterns. Until the Second World War, half of the city's population was Jewish - whereas now, sadly, they are only a tiny minority.

However, Thessaloniki's strong relation to Judaism (which is still highly visible in the city's architectural landscape) is an important reason for many foreigners to visit. Thessaloniki can be described as very beautiful. After all, it's right by the Mediterranean Sea (with sea promenades, of course) and surrounded by hills and mountains - and its climate also belongs to the Mediterranean zone, with relatively little precipitation. Regarding culture, it is almost as important as Athens. For example, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival is a major show-business event. The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki has an energetic and vibrant student community - this certainly is a very positive factor for Thessaloniki's cultural life.

The Chalkidiki peninsula with its many tourist resorts is not far from Thessaloniki. Being so close to that touristic hot spot has had a great effect on Thessaloniki's economy, especially its retail sector, which is well-developed. Shopping in Thessaloniki can be an amazing experience. Lately it too has become a lot more globalized.

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