The White Tower in Thessaloniki is the city’s most recognizable and most popular emblem. As you drive through Nea Paralia towards the the downtown area of Thessaloniki, its commanding presence is quite hard to miss. Surrounded by modern buildings, it’s the last standing infrastructure in this area which will remind you of the rich history of the city that you’re in. So how come it’s called the white tower when it’s not white?
Of course The Greek Mister wasn’t able to tell me why so I had to do my own research about it. The White Tower isn’t white because.. well I have to bring you all the way back to the 14th century to understand its story.
It was believed for many years that the White Tower was constructed by the Venetians but archaeologists didn’t accept this theory. They believed that it was constructed during the Ottoman empire and specifically by the Turkish architect Mimar Sinan who also built a very similar tower in the port of Valona in Albania. During this time, The White Tower was known as the Lion Tower, indicating the glory of the Ottoman rule.
The White Tower was built as a fortress to enhance the Ottoman empire’s defense of the harbor. It used to be surrounded by long defensive walls capable of handling heavy artillery which guarded the port and the coastline.
View from the White Tower.
Apart from being a fortress, it also became a prison and scene of mass executions. Due to the numerous tortures and executions done in this tower, it acquired the name The Tower of Blood or The Red Tower. So, when was it called the White Tower and why is it still not white? I’m getting there.
It was believed that the last emperor of the Ottoman empire had the tower whitewashed to finally discard its reputation of being the Blood Tower. A Jewish prisoner singlehandedly painted it white in exchange for his freedom. Since then, it’s been called the Whitewashed Tower or the White Tower. The regular whitewashing of the tower has been discontinued but it still held its name.
The White Tower is now a museum with exhibitions dedicated to the history of Thessaloniki. At the very top of the tower, you will have an unobstructed view of the harbor and the rest of the city. You’ll realize why this tower was built in this location. It’s worth the climb, trust me.
The White Tower
+30 2310 267 832
Winter opening hours:
November 1, 2015 to March 31 2016
Every day 9.00 – 16.00
Summer opening hours:
April 1, 2016 to October 31 2016
Every day 8.00 – 20.00
4 € Adults
2 € for 65 and over.
Free for children until 18 and for students with a student card
Free entrance during these dates:
Last weekend of September (European Heritage Days)
Every Sunday from November 1 – March 31
The first Sunday of April, May, June, September and October (if the first Sunday is a national holiday, it will be free the 2nd Sunday of the month)
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