Trikala (Τρίκαλα) is a unique case of a provincial town in Greece that has succeeded in becoming a special destination for all seasons. Trikala is the perfect place for a city break in Thessaly (Θεσσαλία) and these are the top places to visit.
A SHORT HISTORY OF TRIKALA
Trikala has a long history dating back to prehistoric times. It was a significant centre in antiquity because Asclepius lived here and took part in the Trojan War with Asclepius’ sons as generals. It also played an important role in all subsequent historical periods and during Ottoman rule. At this period, it grew into a centre of domestic crafts, producing well-known woollen textiles and leather goods. Furthermore, it was an important intellectual centre for much of Ottoman rule, as the Trikki School operated here with famous teachers of the time, such as Dionysios the Philosopher. After its annexation by Greece, it became an important agricultural, dairy, and livestock centre.
A MODERN CITY
Today, Trikala is one of the most modern and innovative cities in Greece. It is the first Greek city to provide free internet to all residents. It was one of the first cities to establish a network of cycle paths, allowing the bicycle to become the primary mode of transportation in the city. At the same time, it is the first city to implement a complete smoking ban in restaurants, bars, and cafes. It is also a pioneer in waste management, with a particularly successful recycling system. Finally, residents and visitors can enjoy the city centre without the presence of cars, as a large part of it is pedestrianised.
The city has a lively and hospitable atmosphere that you understand from the first moment. There are many places to visit and discover. Everything is easily accessible, and you can reach it on foot. Trikala is a city full of images and friendly to the visitor.
LITHAIOS RIVER AND ASKLIPIOU STREET
The Lithaios River (Ποταμός Λιθαίος) is a tributary of the Pinios that runs through Trikala. There are ten bridges over the river, but the one that stands out is the central metal bridge. It was built in France in 1886 and connects Asklipiou Street (Οδός Ασκληπιού) with the central square of Iroon Polytechniou (Πλατεία Ηρώων Πολυτεχνείου). The banks of the river are beautifully designed, and the river is the main attraction and jewel of the city. At the same time, it lends Trikala the air of a Central European city. The main pedestrian street, Asklipiou, is the heart of the city. It is the main shopping street, and where most of the cafes are located. A stroll down Asklipiou Street is essential to feeling the everyday pulse of the city.
The heart of the city’s entertainment and nightlife is located in Manavika (Μανάβικα). In this neighbourhood, which is one of the oldest in the city, there are dozens of restaurants, taverns, and bars. It was the area of the city’s vegetable market, from which it got its name, as manaviko in Greek is the store that mainly sells vegetables. Although it became a notorious neighbourhood after the market was taken away, today it is a lovely area with excellently preserved buildings.
Mezedokamomata (Μεζεδοκαμώματα) is an excellent choice to try authentic Greek cuisine in Manavika. (Ypsilantou 16-18, Trikala)
In the centre of Manavika, the visitor can also admire an impressive mural known as “Tsitsanis’ Mural” (“Τοιχογραφία Τσιτσάνη”). It is an evocative, colourful work that depicts the neighbourhood of Manavika and, at the same time, pays tribute to the important contribution of the city to the history of rebetiko. The work was commissioned by the municipality and depicts Vasilis Tsitsanis (one of Greece’s most famous folk composers). In addition, there are also references to other famous Greek composers who came from Trikala, such as Apostolos Kardaras and Kostas Virvos.
The most historic part of Trikala is the Varousi (Βαρούσι) neighbourhood, located below the Byzantine castle. During Ottoman rule, it was the city’s wealthy, Christian, and autonomous neighbourhood. And it remained Trikala’s aristocratic neighbourhood until 1930. Most of its residents were businessmen and landowners. Varousi is notable for its unique architecture and vibrant hues of the old two-story mansions. They date from the 17th to the 19th centuries and are constructed of brick and plaster. The streets of Varousi are ideal for a relaxing stroll.
KURSUM OR OSMAN SHAH MOSQUE
The Kursum or Osman Shah Mosque (Κουρσούμ ή Οσμάν Σαχ Τζαμί) of Trikala, is an Islamic 16th-century building designed by Mimar Sinan. Today, it functions as a venue for events and various exhibitions. Next to the mosque is the preserved octagonal mausoleum of its founder, Osman Shah, who died in Trikala in 1567/8. According to tradition, Osman built the mosque because he was cured of a serious illness in Trikala. The mosque today is considered one of the most important Islamic monuments in Greece.
The Mill of Matsopoulos (Μύλος Ματσόπουλου) is an important industrial monument in Greece that operated for 100 years (1884 to 1984). It is the first industrial flour mill built in Greece and the largest in the Balkans. In recent years, the buildings and area of the mill have come under the ownership of the municipality, which has turned them into a valuable art and culture centre. Moreover, during the Christmas period, the mill turns into the so-called “Mill of the Elves” (“Μύλος των Ξωτικών”) which is the largest Christmas-related park in Greece and a magnet for thousands of visitors from every corner of the country.
STONE ARCHED BRIDGE OF PYLI
Just 20 km from the centre of Trikala is the village of Pyli (Πύλη). The importance of the location dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times, when it was a crucial commercial station. It kept its importance until the mid-20th century, and today it is a lively and quite populated village. The famous stone bridge of Pyli is one of the most characteristic stone arch bridges in Greece. Moreover, until 1936, it was the only way to reach Epirus from Trikala. It was built in 1514 under the supervision of Saint Vissarionas; therefore, it is also known as Saint Vissarionas’ bridge. Apart from the bridge, the area around it is ideal for relaxing under the big plane trees.
CHURCH OF PORTA PANAGIA
Just a few hundred metres from the bridge, there is the Byzantine church of Porta Panagia (Πόρτα Παναγιά). It is a Byzantine temple of unique value and aesthetics. It was built in 1283 and was the katholicon of a monastery. In addition to the church’s fine construction, excellent hagiographies have been preserved on the walls. It is also the only church in Greece where the representations of Christ and the Virgin Mary (Panagia in Greek) are placed on either side of the sanctuary gate in the opposite position from that of the Orthodox Christian layout (Christ is on the left and the Virgin Mary on the right). Therefore, it is the only Virgin Mary who holds Christ on the right. Inside the church, the atmosphere is overwhelming, and the light pouring in from the narrow windows creates unforgettable images.
For more excursions near Trikala read our articles:
ONE LAST STOP
But you can’t leave Trikala without a last stop at the Boulogiorgos (Μπουλογιώργος) pastry shop to try perhaps the best Farsala halva in all of Greece. Halva is a popular sweet found in all Balkan countries, as well as several Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. In the Farsala version, also known as sapoune, it is made from niseste (usually made from rice or corn flour), butter, water, and sugar.
Finally, if you have time, it is worth a visit to the well-preserved Byzantine Castle of Trikala (Κάστρο Τρικάλων), which also houses the Clock Tower, whose image dominates the whole town.
Trikala is the perfect combination of the relaxed atmosphere of a country town and the amenities of a modern European city. It is a historic city with interesting sights, good food, and a friendly atmosphere.