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The Umbrellas of Thessaloniki

Umbrellas probably aren't what typically what comes to mind when one thinks of Thessaloniki, the 2nd most populous city in Greece. However, along the seafront of this enchanting city sits a beautiful sculpture that is today one of the most photographed spots in the entire city and, possibly, one of the most photographed sculptures in the world.

The sculpture is called 'The Umbrellas' and was designed and created by Greek sculptor Giorgios Zongolopoulos in the year 1997, although the work was originally displayed in 1993 at the Venice Biennale. Known for its distinctive design, The Umbrellas is comprised of 21 vibrant, umbrella-shaped pieces made of stainless steel. Zongolopoulos frequently included umbrellas as a main theme in his works of art and, impressively, was 91 years old when he designed the umbrellas installation.

Each umbrella is about 42 feet (13 meters) tall and slightly tilted.

At this time, Thessaloniki was designated as the European Capital of Culture, thus making it the perfect time for a sculpture to be installed. This title is awarded annually by the European Union to cities that demonstrate a commitment to showcasing their cultural richness and promoting cultural exchange on a broader European level. Being named the European Capital of Culture for a particular year signifies that the chosen city will host a series of cultural events, festivals, exhibitions, and performances throughout the year. These events aim to celebrate the city's cultural heritage, foster creativity and innovation, promote intercultural dialogue, and enhance international visibility.

For Thessaloniki, being designated as the European Capital of Culture in 1997 provided an opportunity to showcase its diverse cultural heritage, historical significance, and contemporary arts scene to a wider European audience. It allowed the city to highlight its architectural landmarks, museums, theaters, music venues, and culinary traditions, while also promoting cultural exchange and collaboration with other European cities. The designation as the European Capital of Culture is a prestigious honor that not only celebrates a city's cultural achievements but also serves as a catalyst for social and economic development, tourism promotion, and community engagement. It encourages cities to invest in their cultural infrastructure, support artistic initiatives, and create platforms for creativity and expression, thus making the installation of The Umbrellas the perfect addition to the city, which continues to inspire and enchant visitors from around the world.

Zongolopoulos pictured with his work of art. Photo credit: Archaeology Wiki

Where to find the sculpture?

The sculpture lies in the seafront area known as Nea Paralia (English translation: new beach). To reach The Umbrellas from Thessaloniki’s airport (Macedonia International Airport), visitors can take a taxi or bus, which will drop them off straight in the center of the city, near the main square, Aristotelous Square. From there, The Umbrellas is just a short walk along Nikis Avenue, which is the main road along the waterfront.

If you're using a GPS, you can input the following address:

Avenue Megalou Alexandrou 54640 Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is the main urban center in Northern Greece, making it a city of immense historical and cultural significance. As one of Greece's oldest and most diverse cities, its rich history encompasses influences from various civilizations, including Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Jewish cultures. The city's architectural marvels, such as the White Tower (Λευκός Πύργος) and Byzantine churches, reflect its storied past and architectural heritage. In conclusion, the vibrant display of Thessaloniki's The Umbrellas serves as a testament to the city's dynamic cultural landscape and its ability to captivate visitors with its innovative art installations and striking waterfront ambiance. So, have you visited The Umbrellas?

Visiting The Umbrellas with some of my favorite people in the world ♡


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