Since its foundation in the 4th century BC, Thessaloniki has gained an important political and military role. In the Roman times, particularly, due to its strategic location, it flourished as a trade centre and ships from the Black Sea and the Orient would land there and sell its merchantise in the local market. Such a economic flourishment naturally gave the town a cultural and architectural impulse.The Romans built a lot of public works and entertainment buildings, which survive till today. Such a Roman monument is the Arch of Galerius, or else known as Kamara, a triumphal arch that was constructed by the Roman general Galerius to celebrate his final victory over the Persians. Other monuments in Thessaloniki that date from that age are the palaces of Galerius, the Roman market and the Roman theatre.
After the Romans, there came the Byzantines on the rule of Thessaloniki. Although the town remained an important economic centre for the entire empire, there were other changes in society and architecture.
As Christianity became the official religion of the Byzantine empire, churches were built all over the town. Many of these churches survive till today and in fact, all churches of the early-Christian and the Byzantine times have been declared by Unesco as world heritage monuments. These churches were mostly made out of stone and marble, with a tall bell tower and a round dome on the top. Example of such churches are Panagia Chalkeon, Saint Sofia and Panagia Acheropoietos, but there are also numerous others in the Old Town, or else Upper Town, Thessaloniki. In fact, the Upper Town is the oldest and most picturesque quarter of Thessaloniki. Distinguishing for the paved paths, the stone churches and the old, attached houses, the Upper Town of Thessaloniki was surrounded by huge walls to protect the residents by enemy and pirate attacks. As three people were mostly living in Thessaloniki till the early 20th century (Orthodox Greeks, Ottoman Turks and Jews), the architecture is different and pictures all these civilizations. Therefore, you will see mosques next to churches and old synagogue and minarets next to bell towers. Unfortunately, a large fire in 1917 destroyed a large part of the Old Town, particurarly the Jewish Quarter. Today, this quarter is abandoned as only a few Jew have survived the Second World War. In 1944, the city suffered much damage from Allied bombing, which destroyed a lot of public buildings and houses. The following decades, from the 1950s to the 1970s, Thessaloniki was rebuilt with modern architecture and many factories were established in the area. Today, Thessaloniki is a modern town with an interesting architecture: a combination of old, neoclassical and modern architectural type. The most popular spot is the waterfront, a nice promenade surrounded by ample squares.