Thessaloniki is built around the White Tower in the heart of the Thermaikos Gulf. Since its founding by Cassander in 315 B.C. as a prosperous Hellenistic city, Thessaloniki has a long tradition as an important commercial port between Europe and the Middle East. Both the Byzantine period and during the Ottoman rule, it was one of the most important urban and commercial centers of the Balkans with a strong cosmopolitan character. The coexistence of several ethnic groups (Christians, Muslims, Jews, Europeans, Slavs, etc.) created a multicultural city with influences from many different cultures. Today there are numerous Hellenistic and Byzantine monuments in the city center which give us an overview of past centuries. The movement of the Muslim population and its replacement by refugee populations in Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace after the end of the Balkan Wars and the holocaust of the Jewish community by the Nazi troops during the Second World War, created a city where the Greek population dominated. The Great Fire of 1917 and the urban and architectural reorganization of the city almost erased all traces of the other communities. The picturesque Upper Town, the only part of town that was not burned in 1917, is the only one that preserves the memories of that time.
Constantly growing both eastward and westward, Thessaloniki is now a modern city and the largest urban center in northern Greece and an important node in a Pan-European network of road, air and maritime transport. Thessaloniki was the European City of Culture for the year 1997 as it offers a rich artistic and cultural agenda, exciting nightlife, good restaurants and a large commercial market. Thousands of visitors visit the city every year and are captivated by its charm. The best moment to visit the city is in autumn and in particular during the international film festival, when the center is full of life, while the cold rainy weather brings out the romantic character of the city.