Vergina, Palace of Aigai, mosaic of the Oikos
Vergina, Palace of Aigai, mosaic of the Oikos, Imathia, Greece (Credit: University of Bologna)

Imathia: Rich Macedonian history, customs and nature

Extraordinary archeological treasures, contemporary museums, gastronomic heritage, magical nature

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OVERVIEW

With its mountains, forests, rivers, fertile plains, numerous archaeological and religious monuments, ski resorts and traditional villages, Imathia is a year-round destination definitely worth visiting. From Aigai– the ancient capital of Macedonia – the royal tombs in Vergina, the School of Aristotle-where Alexander the Great was taught until 340 B.C- to St. Paul’s Tribune (Bema) in Veroia and the Holy Monastery of the Panagia (Virgin Mary) Soumela on the slopes of Vermio, Imathia becomes every year a pole of attraction for tourists and locals. The beautiful historical yet modern city of Veroia crossed by the River Tripotamo, the Heroic City of Naousa, home to celebrated vineyards and wineries, the modern ski centers of Seli and 3-5 Pigadia,  attract visitors looking for unique and authentic experiences.




.AT A GLANCE

Regional unit’s capital: Veroia Regional unit’s area: 1,701 km2 Regional unit’s population (2021): 130,026
Density: 76/km2  Time Zone: UTC+2 

.ADMINISTRATION

The regional unit Imathia is subdivided into 3 municipalities.

.MUNICIPALITIES

VEROIA     NAOUSA     ALEXANDRIA

.MUNICIPALITY OF VEROIA

Area: 796.5 km2  Population (2021): 62,064  Density: 130/km2  Website: www.veria.gr

.HISTORY

First mentioned in the writings of Thucydides in 432 BC, Veroia is a town bursting with a rich history spanning over 2,500 years. Veria was an important possession for Philip II of Macedon, who conquered all the Greek cities, paving the way for his son Alexander and the expansion of the Hellenistic world. Later Veroia came under Roman rule. The ancient Roman Road – Via Egnatia,demonstrates Veria’s past administrative, spiritual and financial power. From the 11th to the 14th century it was the third most important city of the Byzantine Empire, after Constantinople and Thessaloniki, and a center of Greek culture and learning. The city fell to the Ottomans but the city’s inhabitants had an active part in the Greek War of Independence.  Veria only became part of modern Greece in 1912 during the Balkan Wars, when it was taken by the Hellenic Army. During World War II, the city was under Nazi occupation between 1941 and 1944.  Postwar it saw a significant rise in population, and a greatly improved standard of living. with the agricultural businesses and cooperatives in the fertile plains around Veria successfully exporting their products in Europe, the US and Asia. Today Veria is a commercial center of Central Macedonia.

. POINTS OF INTEREST

Aigai, Vergina: The extensive archaeological site of Vergina lies 12 km south-east of the city center of Veroia. Aigai was the ancient first capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia, where the family of King Philip II and his son Alexander the Great reigned. This is where Philip II, having conquered nearly all of classical Greece, built his monumental palace in the fourth century B.C, the largest building in classical Greece, three times the size of the Parthenon in Athens.

Aigai Royal Palace, Imathia, Greece (Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports)

Scholars believe the monumental palace, an architectural masterpiece that embodies the spirit of the Hellenistic age, was designed by the renowned Greek architect Pytheos, who famously built the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After extensive restoration works, the monumental palace is officially opened. The restoration of the palace was carried out by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Imathia from 2007 to 2023. The palace grounds and the Royal Tombs (Vergina) nearby.

A reconstruction design for the Palace of Aigai (Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports)

In 1977, archaeologist Manolis Andronikos discovered the Royal Tombs of Philip II. He had been excavating there for 40 years, finding rich tombs and artifacts from ancient times. The archaeological site is about 800,000 m², including the royal palace, the temples, the theatre (where Philip II met his death in a shocking public assassination and Alexander the Great was proclaimed king), as well as the necropolis. The objects and paintings found are of extraordinarily high quality and historical importance.

St. Paul’s Tribune: “Bema of Apostolos Pavlos” as it is called in Greek, a global monument of religious heritage, was erected on the spot where St. Paul, who visited Veria twice (50-51AD and 57AD), stood 2,000 years ago to preach Christianity to the inhabitants of Veroia. It is located near the Raktivan public square and is decorated with mosaic art.

“Elia” square and park: “The balcony of Veria,” with great views of the plain of Imathia.

“Orologiou” (Clock) or “Raktivan” square: Another landmark of the city is the Orologiou square. Near it you will find the second saved section of ruins of the impressive Tower of princess Vergina.

Quarter of Kyriotissa: A stunning traditional and preserved quarter with a maze of narrow alleys, houses in the style of Macedonian architecture, numerous Byzantine churches and gardens. 

Jewish Quarter of Barbouta: Dating back to the roman years (50 AD), the Jewish quarter has cobblestone streets and impressive mansions, and a Synagogue  built in line with the houses.

Ottoman period monuments: The Twin Baths, the Karachmet Bridge,  as well as three different mosques, namely the Medresse Mosque which still has its minaret, Chounkiar Mosque, and Orta Mosque.

. GASTRONOMY

Try the famed ravani (traditional semolina cake with syrup) the gastronomic trademark of Imathia. Every spring the vast orchard that is the plain of Imathia bursts into color as thousands of peach trees blossom, resembling a pink sea. The famous peaches produced in the plains of Veria, make fine canned peaches that are exported all over world.

.WINES & DRINKS

The most planted grape varieties in the region of Imathia are Xinomavro, Merlot and Assyrtiko, they are then used in wines in blends or as a single variety.

. FEASTS, FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Peach Festival: Usually held in May or June. Workshops and open kitchens, where famous chefs prepare food, cocktails made from peach, ice cream, cakes, pastries, various juices.

“Imathiotika” festivities: Every summer (August 15 to September 15) they take place with a cultural program deriving mainly from Veria’s tradition. 

. RELIGIOUS SITES

Old Metropolis: Built between 1070-1080 by the bishop of the city of Nikita, the three-aisled basilica s is an architectural masterpiece incorporating early Christian artwork as well glorious paintings that date back to the 12th, 13th and 14th century.

Church of Panagia Dexia: Built in the 19th century, in place of a former church of the 14th century. The despotic illustrations on the templum of the temple and the icons of Mary and Jesus Christ date from the Byzantine period.

Church of Agios Patapios: Built in the 15th century on the ruins of two older religious constructions, an early Christian baptistery of the 4th century and a big early Christian basilica of the 5th century. 

Jewish Synagogue: The oldest synagogue in northern Greece -built in 1850 and in operation until May 1943- is housed in a stone building in the centre of the Jewish Quarter of Barbouta.

.KEY MUSEUMS

Archaeological Museum: One of the most important archaeological museums in Macedonia.
The findings from Veria’s archaeological sites are dating back to the Late Stone Age up to the Hellenistic Period.

Byzantine Museum: Housed in the Markou watermill -a majestic industrial building
of the early 20th century- its rich collection includes Byzantine, post-Byzantine and Ottoman exhibits.

Polycentric Museum of Aigai: Includes the new museum building, the protective shell of the burial cluster of Philip II with the display of the treasures, the archaeological park of the necropolis with the royal burial cluster of the Temenid-dynasty, the palace and the theater, the decorated with murals church of Saint Demetrius, located at the eastern end of the archaeological site. You can admire many findings, most importantly the golden larnax, weighing 11 kg, containing Philip II’s ashes, as well as the famous 16 rayed Vergina Sun– the symbol of the Greek kingdom of Macedonia. A selection of more than 6,000 items, spanning 13 centuries.

Vlachogianneio Museum (also known as Macedonian Struggle Museum): Photographs and personal belongings of the national fighters such  as swords, medals and diplomas, rare military costumes, documents and equipment.

Folklore Museum of Vlachs: Reviving the daily life of the Vlachs, the museum’s exhibits include looms, spinning wheels, rugs, original uniforms, and more.

.ACTIVITIES

For ski lovers, there is Seli or Kato Vermio, οne of the highest villages in Greece. Close to the village (about 1,5km) lies the oldest ski resort in Greece, located at 1,530 m altitude. It’s been open since 1934 when the first Panhellenic Games were held. Nature lovers are also attracted by Vermion mountain’s magnificent walking paths and routes through the forest especially during spring and autumn.

.ACCOMODATION

A plethora of accommodation facilities including hotels with impeccable aesthetics
and traditional guest houses with respect to the local architecture. In Imathia you will also find a large number of agritourism facilities. 

.TRANSPORT

Veroia is located 511 kilometres north-northwest of the capital Athens and 73 km west-southwest of Thessaloniki.


TO DO & TO GO