Most tourists visiting Greece are familiar with the name Piraeus because that’s where the ships that head to the islands depart from. And while at first glance the port city doesn’t seem to offer more than jam-packed streets and office buildings, it has a whole undiscovered side that is definitely worth exploring.

Located just 10 kilometers away from Athens’ city center, Piraeus is the place locals all over Attica head for when they get an urge to take a quick glimpse of the sea and smell the salty air. Visit on a Sunday morning and you’ll see every café and restaurant by the waterfront packed until the sun sets. At night, the crowd moves to the city’s lesser-known neighborhoods where cozy bars with dim lights serve cold drinks under the sound of music that fits the atmospheric vibe.


Mikrolimano which translates to “small port” is as the name suggests a small harbor. Lined with fancy restaurants, traditional fish taverns and hip cafés, the ancient port is now a popular hotspot by day and night. As you leave the city’s noisy streets behind and enter the small marina you’ll feel like you’re transported to an island. A handful of Greek traditional fishing boats peacefully floating on the water will further enhance the impression. Prices are quite high as most places serve either fresh seafood dishes or fancy cocktails so don’t let the casual vibe fool you.

Zea Marina (Pasalimani)

Zea Marina or as locals call it Pasalimani is another small harbor in the heart of Piraeus located just a stone’s throw away from Mikrolimano. With fancy yachts lining up along the port, Zea Marina has gained the reputation of Piraeus’ more cosmopolitan part. However, don’t expect to find a well-polished hangout for upper-class cruiser owners. Instead, you’ll see millennials relaxing by the waterfront with a cold beer in hand. Gelaterias and eateries for a quick bite adjoin stylish restaurants and bars.


Visit the museums

Piraeus’ cultural scene may not have the prestigious archeological sites you’ll find in Plaka and Monastiraki but its museums showcase the city’s own history. The journey into Greece’s naval glorious past starts at The Hellenic Maritime Museum’s exhibition rooms with artifacts from the prehistoric era and classical period. Photographs, replicas of the different types of ships locals used over the centuries and even maps showcase the evolution of Greece’s mercantile marine and Hellenic Navy. Piraeus Archaeological Museum displays items that bear testimony of how the port city used to be an important commercial center of the Eastern Mediterranean. Right next to the train station stands a small exhibition space filled with 2000 items, over 3000 books as well as documents and photos that display the history of the Electric Railway. What is more impressive about this museum is that its foundation is the result of the passion of a former employee of the Electric Railway. Manolis Fotopoulos wanted people using the railway every day to learn about its history and the employees’ valuable contribution. For many years he roamed around the railway stations and carefully collected the items which today comprise the museum’s exhibition.

Spend a night out in Piraeus

Aside from the fancy bars you’ll run across as you take a stroll along Mikrolimano or Pasalimani, Piraeus has an alternative side, not even Athenians are well-familiar with. You’ll have to leave the fancy waterfront behind for the city’s ill-lit little alleys if you want to discover this part of Piraeus. But once you do, you’ll find yourself among friendly bartenders and habitues eager to strike up a conversation and buy you a round of drinks.

Explore the city’s shopping scene

Brimming with shops of all kinds, Piraeus is a popular spot among locals for shopping. Sotiros Dios, a pedestrianized street that spans in the middle of the city is lined with clothing boutiques, cosmetic stores and shoe shops on both sides. Multinational clothing-retail companies such as H&M, Pull and Bear and Zara are situated on the city’s main avenues.


Take a walk in the city’s scenic neighborhoods

Piraeus is home to scenic neighborhoods and districts that offer a great view over the sea. Kastella is by far the city’s most beautiful quarter and is built on a hill just above Mikrolimano. Here the grey apartment blocks give way to neoclassical houses and colorful houses with terraces full of flowers. Walk towards the southeastern part of the city at Freattyda area and take a stroll along Akti Themistokleous. On one side of the street, the sea stretches as far as the eye can see while on the other you’ll find several places for a pitstop. If you want to feel the sand beneath your feet, head to Votsalakia beach at the southwestern part of Piraeus. This is certainly not an exemplar of Greek beaches and it is highly recommended to avoid swimming there. Yet, It’s a great place to soak up some sun and it will certainly get you in the mood for visiting one of the wonderful beaches on the Greek islands.

Spend One Day in the Port City of Piraeus photos courtesy of Wolfgang Manousek / Flickr, Mister No / Wikimedia Commons, Jeffrey / Flickr