During the 5th century BC. Piraeus was already dedicated as the main port of Athens. Although it used to be a small village once, the city itself has a population of over 160.000 right now. It’s in my opinion impossible to get lost on this peninsula since every single road will eventually lead you to the sea. Walking down to the sea will immediately surprise you with an impressing view. Piraeus has a rich history, which goes back to the Archaic Period. And although it flourished during the Classical Greek time, the port became less important during the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman period.
I can’t say it is one of the most beautiful city I have seen so far. Piraeus offered lot’s off opportunities for work. I guess that the huge increase of the population during the years and the negligence in maintenance because of the financial crisis are partly responsible for this. However, if you know where to go, Piraeus has to offer some nice places to eat and drink, good shopping areas, nice coast walks with stunning views and even some historical sites. Beside the commercial port and the ferry port, Piraeus also has a port for private yachts. At the port of Pasalimani you will even find some luxury yachts, which also leads to some fancy food restaurants and exclusive nightlife clubs.
The main reason to write about Piraeus is not because it is my current home town. Piraeus is the main port of Athens and also one of the biggest harbors of the Mediterranean sea. If you are visiting Athens as a tourist, there is quite a big change you will have to visit Piraeus. If you are arriving by boat, or you are planning a trip by boat to one of the islands after your visit to Athens, you have to go to the port of Piraeus. In this blog I hope to give you some useful information about the city port, but also I hope to inspire you to discover this unique part of Athens for one day.
For a visual impression, click on the picture below:
What’s so cool about Piraeus?
I can highly recommend you to start your day in Piraeus with a coast walk. To be more specific, start your coast walk during sunrise. The view on the nearby Islands and the city of Athens is just incredible at this time of the day. You can see the Acropolis lighten up and together with Lycabettus hill ruling the city of Athens. It’s impressive to see how big the city of Athens actually is. Every morning I start my day with a run along the coast and see the sun coming up from behind the hills that are surrounding Athens. Of course the sunset in Piraeus is very lovely too, but it’s much more crowded at the end of the day.
If you have (like me) a weakness for impressive views, a walk to the top of the first hill of Piraeus, Kasetella, is highly recommended. A walk through this lovely neighbourhood is worth the effort. The area does not have much to offer, but on top of the hill you will find a cute little church and an impressive view on Pasalimani and the city of Athens.
It will probably not be a surprise that Piraeus has some nice shopping areas. Most Fashion stores are located around Pasalimani and Grigoriou Lampraki. Many book stores can be found at Filonos street and around the Metro station you will find some market stalls and smalls stores that offer electronics and household items. I personally do not like the fact that most shops are spread all over the area of Piraeus, it is not that you can easily walk from one store into the other. Nevertheless, Piraeus has some unique stores to offer, that makes it worth spending some time.
Looking for a nice place for food and drinks? Piraeus is definitely the place to be! Although a traditional dinner in Plaka is of course something you can’t miss during a visit to Athens, I prefer to enjoy one of the nice restaurants in Piraeus.
My favourite place for a drink or for dinner will be at Pasalimani. Here you can find several kind of restaurants. To have an nice (but expensive) drink of coffee I would recommend Haegan or Gazi College. Beside good coffee, both places offer a wide choice of good sweets, waffles and ice. The last restaurant is also a great option for dinner, when you prefer a menu with a wide choice of food, this is the place to be. A lot of young people meet here to enjoy a few drinks and food. When you are looking for a more exclusive place for dinner, I highly recommend Parmigiani Ristorante Italiano. This restaurant offers some good Italian food, it is a bit more expensive, but also more quiet and exclusive.
Around Pasalimani you will also find a lot of restaurants that offer traditional Greek food.
For a quick brunch the only choice you have is a typical Greek Souvlaki. Except for the cute bakery’s that are very dangerous to visit when you are on a diet. Once you walk inside of one of the bakery you will get overwhelmed with lots and lots of sweets. I just have to try all of them when I walk inside. However, for a quick brunch I would recommend you to go to Street Souvlaki, In the opinion of Ben (who really loves souvlaki and probably tried all the souvlaki taverns in Piraeus), the best place for a good souvlaki.
Although Piraeus was already very important during ancient time, it is not really the place to be for history lovers. However, there are some sites to visit and there is even an Archeologic museum. The archeologic museum of Piraeus is not big and displays mostly sculptures discovered in Piraeus and the Attic coast from.
Piraeus offers four archaeological sites, Neosoikoi, Sirangio, Phillon’s Arsenal and Roman antiquities of Terpsithea. All four of them are small, but can be interested if you are like me a history lover.
Prices for food: Restaurants will cost about €20,- (without alcoholic drinks), A cheap meal will cost about €8,- and a Gyros lunch will cost about €2,-. Keep in mind that restaurants around Pasalimani are a bit more expensive.
How much time do you need: If you are planning to spend some time in Piraeus and discover the old port of Athens, one day is more than enough. If you are not planning any shopping I would say that a half day is even enough.
Ticket Price Archaeological Museum: €4,-
Ferry tickets: Around the ferry port (also very close to the metro station) you will find all kind of ticket offices. If you have already booked you ticket, you can get the official ticket in one of these offices. Also you can ask for information about the island and book your ticket here. Ticket offices for the nearby Islands can be found at port 8.
Getting there: From the airport you can take the bus (X96), price is about €6,- or the metro (red line, change on Monastiraki to the green line – to Piraeus), price is about €8,-. From Syntagma, the centre of Athens, you can take the bus (040 or X80), Price for the 040 is about €1,40 and the X80 is about €6,- or the Metro (Green line on Monastiraki to Piraeus) Price is about €1,40.
Plan a day trip to one of the nearby Islands: The Saronic Islands are very close to Athens, and some of them are perfect for a day trips from Athens. Tickets can be bought at the port of Piraeus (prices start from €8,- one way) and this is also where the ferry will leave. My favourite islands are Aegina and Agistri. More information Aegina can be found in my previous blog.
Visit Piraeus during sunrise or sunset: This is when the view on the city and the ocean is the most beautiful. For a quiet walk I would suggest you to plan you visit in the early morning. For a more vibrant and sparkling experience a visit at the end of the day is perfect.