In 1997, Thessaloniki -- the capital of Macedonia, the second-largest city in Greece, and the emotional heart of Northern Greece -- was the European City of Culture. Thessaloniki had always suffered a bit by being thought of by outsiders as Greece's second city, an also-ran in importance to Athens. Those tourists who did come here usually came to see the city's profusion of Byzantine churches and relics of the Turkish period -- and to enjoy the excellent local cuisine. Since 1997, word has gotten out about Thessaloniki's varied charms and a lot more visitors are coming here. Thessaloniki has had a burst of self-confidence and an explosion of renovations, restorations, and innovations. Long-neglected old warehouses in the waterfront Ladadika district have been smartened up and transformed into cafes, restaurants, and galleries. Museums of photography, cinema, and contemporary art have appeared, along with what may be Greece's liveliest avant-garde music scene. Increasingly, Thessaloniki is a popular destination city for weekending Greeks and jet-setting Europeans who've already "done" Prague and Barcelona. In short, visitors here can still visit the wonderful Byzantine churches for which Thessaloniki has always been famous, but also enjoy the rhythm of today's Thessaloniki, with its varied cuisine, multiplicity of galleries and museums, and virtually all-night-every-night cafe life.