Symbolic of the prowess and prestige of Hellenic nautical history, the port of Piraeus is not only the heart of Greece’s shipping industry, but one of the busiest passenger ports in Europe, and it has been since antiquity.
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Today, where cargo containers wait to be distributed across the world, lies the port from where Themistocles launched his fleet to defeat the Persians. Yet, beyond the ferries and naval ships, lies a region rich in architecture, archaeology, and culinary delights.
Whether Piraeus is a shortstop on your cruise or a day of adventure during your stay in Athens, this historic setting, with its eclectic mix of old and new, has a little something for everyone. Enjoy your stay in the port of Athens and discover the best things to do while in Piraeus.
Places to see near Pireus Port
Kastella-Mikrolimano district of Athens - credits: trabantos/ Shutterstock
The most beautiful area of Piraeus is undoubtedly the neighborhood of Kastella. With its mixture of 19th-century mansions, winding streets, and striking views across the Saronic Gulf, it is a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the commercial port. On the hills of Kastela sits the picturesque church of Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elijah) which boasts a stunning view over the whole of Piraeus and the greater city of Athens.
Mikrolimano - credits: Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com
One of Piraeus’ well-kept secrets is the harbor of Mikrolimano, which literally translates to ‘little port’. Part of the Kastella district, connected by a network of steep classical streets full of cafes and ouzo taverns, Mikrolimano is both picturesque by day and romantic by night. This beautiful miniature port is well-known among local foodies for its fantastic restaurants and seafood tavernas with fresh produce and fine Greek wines. Quietly tucked away from the sounds of the city, it is the perfect setting to enjoy a chilled Greek spirit, such as tsipouro or ouzo with some Greek meze.
You can also join the ‘yachties’ at the end of the harbor and stop for an iced coffee and a bite to eat at Istioploikos, a modern bar-restaurant located beyond the yacht club with a terrace that offers a gorgeous view of the port. Mikrolimano is also home to one of Greece’s first Michelin star chefs and owner of Varoulko, an absolute must-visit eatery for seafood enthusiasts.
Pasalimani and Marina Zea
Marina Zeas, Piraeus - credits: Milan Gonda/ Shutterstock.com
Taking a stroll from Mikrolimano around the headland, west, back towards the port of Piraeus or alternatively using the ‘trolley bus’ from Skalakia stop -in the middle of Mikrolimano port- you can visit the port of Pasalimani. The horseshoe promenade offers a plethora of bars, cafes, boutique shops, department stores, and cinemas and is known by locals for its vibrant nightlife. On the west side is the glittering Marina Zea, an ideal spot to stop for a coffee and marvel at some of the Mediterranean’s most glamorous and impressive superyachts.
If watching the world go by brings on an appetite try out Street Souvlaki. Giving the classic souvlaki a revamp, their menu offers healthy, vegetarian-friendly options at excellent value for money. For dessert head over to Loukoumel and try some honey-soaked or chocolate-covered loukoumades -Greece’s answer to the doughnuts!- with a scoop of fresh buffalo milk ice cream.
If you are traveling from the center of Athens one of the easiest ways to reach Mikrolimano is using the Athens tram. Look for line 1 Syntagma – S.E.F and get off at the last station, S.E.F. From here it is a short walk, following the small canals along Akti Dilaveri street to Mikrolimano.
The small church of Agios Nikolaos, Piraeus - credits: Aerial-motion/ Shutterstock.com
There are churches abound in the district of Piraeus however perhaps the most striking is that of Agia Triada, the city’s cathedral. Its exterior is Byzantine in architectural style with an impressively ornate interior. Other churches of note are Agios Nikolaos located across from the Piraeus Port Authority building and Agios Spyridon built on the foundations of a monastery dating back to the 11th century. When visiting churches do be aware that opening days and times can often vary depending on the time of year and religious festivals.
Exhibit from the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus - credits: http://etc.ancient.eu
If history and archaeology is your thing, then why not visit the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus, where you can discover carefully restored sculptures and artifacts from the days of antiquity when Piraeus flourished as a jewel of the Eastern Mediterranean. In fact, as you walk through the districts of Piraeus, do not be surprised to stumble across archaeological sites, both Roman and Greek, in amongst the modern architecture. The ancient ruins of Athens are indeed spectacular, none more so than the famously beautiful Acropolis but the lesser-known ones can often be hard to find. The best way to discover a city’s secrets? Ask a local! So why not let one of our knowledgeable licensed guides show you the most treasured sites of Athens with our Mythology Tour of Acropolis & the Acropolis Museum or one of our Athens tours.
Alternatively, if you are interested in ships and marine history, the Greek Maritime Museum in Piraeus deserves your visit during your stay in the port of Athens. There you can admire displays of Greek navy history from prehistoric times till today. Perfect for all the sea lovers and adventurers out there!
Looking for something more eccentric to do while in the port of Piraeus? A unique way to travel back in time is through the Electric Railway Museum. In the atmospheric ISAP station of Piraeus (Green line), you will meet a museum, unlike others. Feel like you are back in the 1990s as you explore the collections regarding the history of the Greek railways.
How to get there
Athens' highways - credits: Ververidis Vasilis/ Shutterstock
From Athens city center, there are many ways of getting to the Port of Piraeus, however, one of the simplest ways is using the Athens Metro system! With three lines (Green, Red, and Blue) it is a fun way to get around the city and live like a local! Look for Metro line 1 (green) towards the Port of Piraeus and this will take you straight to the heart of the port.
Tickets for public transport in Athens can be bought at ticket booths and machines. Or alternatively, download the TFA mTickets App to purchase and save tickets right to your phone.
Buses & Trolley Buses
There is also an extensive bus network supplying the port. During the summer months, an express tourist bus (X80) runs directly from Athens center to the cruise terminal at Piraeus port.
There are also plenty of taxis in Athens should you prefer, but travel time may vary due to traffic.
Arriving into Piraeus by ship
If you’re arriving in Piraeus by cruise ship or ferry and are pressed for time don’t worry about missing out! Whether you’d like to discover the neoclassical charm of Kastella or take a trip to the city center there are opportunities for every timetable. Why not check out our quick guide for cruise travelers? It’s full of ideas of things that can easily be done in a short time frame.
Exploring a new city is one of life’s greatest pleasures but it can be time-consuming to work out transport and connections especially when you have a limited amount of time.
Why not take the hassle out of your holiday and join us on a customized Athens Shore Excursion from Piraeus Port. Unique and tailored to your needs, whether you want to see the Acropolis of Athens, take in an all-inclusive Athens culinary experience, or enjoy a fun-filled family-orientated afternoon, such as our Athens family treasure hunt we would be delighted to help you discover Athens like a local!