Through Filikis Etairias Street, where visible sections of the rampart and triangular cantilevers of the main wall are preserved, we reach the White Tower, at the meeting point between the marine and eastern land wall.
The White Tower, in its presentday form, was built in the 15th century as a part of the modernisation of fortifications, replacing an older Byzantine tower.
It currently houses the City of Thessaloniki Museum.
The tower, which once guarded the eastern end of the city's sea walls, was for many years attributed to Venice, to which the Byzantines ceded Thessaloniki in 1423. It is now known definitely that the tower was constructed by the Ottomans some time after the army of Sultan Murad II captured Thessaloniki in 1430. Until 1912, an inscription in Ottoman Turkish verse above the door dated the structure to AH 942 (1535–1536). The historian Franz Babinger speculated that the work was designed by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, who is known to have built fortifications, including a similar tower at the Albanian port Valona in 1537. The present tower likely replaced an older Byzantine tower mentioned by the 12th-century archbishop Eustathios during the sack of 1185.
The Tower was used by the Ottomans successively as a fortress, garrison and a prison. In 1826, at the order of the Sultan Mahmud II, there was a massacre of the rebellious Janissaries imprisoned there. Owing to the "countless victims of Ottoman torturers and executioners", the tower acquired the name "Tower of Blood" or "Red Tower" (Turkish: Kanli Kule), which it kept until the end of the 19th century.
The Tower was for centuries part of the walls of the old city of Thessaloniki, and separated the Jewish quarter of the city from the cemeteries of the Muslims and Jews. The city walls were demolished in 1866. When Thessaloniki was annexed from the Ottoman Empire to the Hellenic State in 1912 during the First Balkan War, the tower was whitewashed as a symbolic gesture of cleansing, and acquired its present name. King George I of Greece was assassinated not far from the White Tower in March 1913.
The Tower is now a buff colour but has retained the name White Tower. It now stands on Thessaloniki's waterfront boulevard, Nikis (Victory) Street. It houses a museum dedicated to the history of Thessaloniki and is one of the city's leading tourist attractions. The Tower is under the administration of the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture.
White Tower Museum
Today, the White Tower houses an exhibition dedicated to the city of Thessaloniki and its history throughout various periods, organized by the city's Museum of Byzantine Culture.
For the first few months of 2002 it housed ‘Byzantine Hours’, an exhibition devoted to ordinary life in Byzantine times.
Exhibits on the first floor were part of the thematic unit entitled ‘Professionals in the market place’. To be more precise, there were tools and other objects belonging to goldsmiths, blade-smiths, cobblers, glassmakers and tilers, coins and a model of the city of Thessaloniki market place. The second floor was devoted to journeys and trade. So exhibits included objects and texts related to journeys by sea and overland, fairs, spectacles and pilgrimages.
The third floor is focused mainly on the presentation of the Byzantine home and what it was like inside, the decoration, supper, and the neighbourhood. One floor above this there was an exhibition of life at home with garments and footwear, cosmetics, perfume and jewellery, personal grooming, and even superstitions. The theme of the top floor was death, covering burial and graves, funerary customs, finds from graves, gravestone inscriptions from cemeteries, even objects and specimens of magic were on display in the show cases on the top floor of the Tower.
The Tower is open to the public, and visitors have the opportunity to view a map of the city with monuments and museums, a timeline with events relevant to Thessaloniki, scientific articles of distinguished historians and archaeologists, bibliography etc. School excursions may be arranged by contacting the Byzantine Museum.