If your perfect Greek getaway involves whitewashed houses set against blue skies and white sand beaches, don't go to Piraeus. Don't go there if you're expecting laid-back vibes and utter tranquility either. Very few tourists end up in this busy, bustling seaport deliberately. For most, it's just a necessary evil to pass through on the way to the outlying islands. But those people are missing out. Dig beneath the gritty surface and you'll find a charming, captivating city with a ton to offer. If you're ready to embark on a very different kind of Greek adventure from the usual, put your preconceptions to one side and check out these 20 best things to do in Piraeus, Greece.
20. Experience the nightlife in Trouba
Between the 1940s and 1970s, Trouba served as Piraeus' red light district. Cabarets and brothels lined its streets, painted ladies walked its alleys, and if you were looking for some good old-fashioned family-friendly fun, you stayed well away. These days, it's a little less colorful, a little more innocent, but just as charming as ever. The brothels might have given way to cute cafes, trendy bars, and lively nightclubs, but it's still vibrant, still buzzing, and still one of the best places in town for a good time.
19. Catch a match at Karaiskakis Stadium
Piraeus knows a thing or two about football. Its club, Olympiacos, is the most successful in Greece, with 44 league titles, 27 Greek Cups, and four Greek Super Cups under its belt. If you want to catch a match, head for the 32,115-seater Karaiskakis Stadium. Originally built as the velodrome for the 1896 Olympics, it's been the club's home since 2004. Even if you're not lucky enough to be around during the football season, it's still worth taking a tour of the stadium to check out its museum, which is packed to the rafters with club memorabilia.
18. Soak up the rays at Votsalakia
If you want a taste of Piraeus' beach culture, Votsalakia, the city's largest beach, should satisfy you. In fairness, there are prettier beaches on the surrounding islands, but in terms of atmosphere, it's unbeatable. A hugely popular hangout with locals, it's a great place to watch some five-a-side football, join in a game of volleyball, or simply amble along the shoreline enjoying the breathtaking views.
17. Lose yourself in the streets
Sometimes, the best way to discover what a city's really about is to throw away the guidebook and get lost in its streets. Of all the places to throw caution to the wind, the labyrinth of streets tucked away behind the central train station offers the most bang for your buck. Crammed with bakeries, cafes, local businesses, and hotels, the faded grandeur, the unique atmosphere, and the spellbinding charm will leave you captivated.
16. Explore the ruins
Dial the clock back a few centuries, and Piraeus was the home of the Athenian navy. Athenian general Themistocles loved Piraeus, loved his fleet, and felt the best way to keep both of them safe was to build a series of impenetrable walls to connect Piraeus to Athens. So he did. The Long Walls took decades to complete, but they served their purpose well. They're long gone now, but look closely, and you can still find their remnants on the hill of Kastraki, which bears two partial round towers and wall fragments that date back to 411 BC.
15. Hop on board the SS Hellas Liberty
As greece-is.com notes, Athens may have been spared major damage during World War II, but Piraeus wasn't so lucky. Much of the port was obliterated, but thankfully, restoration efforts managed to repair it to its former glory. At the same time as Piraeus was being rebuilt, American sailors were becoming an ever more frequent sight around the shore. The SS Hellas Liberty was built by the US in 1943. Like other Liberty ships, it was used to supply Allies Forces during the war. Several Greek shipping magnates took a liking to these no-frills cargo ships, and bought them up by the dozen. Today, the SS Hellas Liberty offers visitors the chance to jump on board and discover more about the rich history and traditions of the Greek merchant navy.
14. Visit the Hellenic Maritime Museum
In fairness, the Hellenic Maritime Museum isn't the best naval museum in the world, but it's definitely the best in Piraeus, if only by virtue of being the only one. Still, it has everything you'd expect and want from a nautical museum, including numerous sea paintings and huge archives of maps, calendars, flags, and photographs relating to the naval and political history of the city. There's also a standout collection of ancient and modern ship models to check out.
13. Indulge in a cocktail at Mary Pickford
Piraeus has some great cocktails bars, but according to Lonely Planet, Mary Pickford ranks as one of the best. A seaside rooftop bar in the Mikrolimano district, it offers staggering, far-reaching views over the harbor and on towards the Acropolis and Lykavittos Hill along with an old-school, Hollywood-style glam that'll bring out the movie star in just about anyone. The drinks menu is epic, boasting six categories of cocktails and a fine selection of wine. For a real treat, opt for the Days Of Summer, a heavenly mix of Greek grape spirits and rosemary and lemon liqueurs that's as bright and breezy as its name suggests.
12. Stroll around Kastella
With its cozy cafes, intimate taverns, and colorful houses, the hilltop district of Kastella dishes up an authentic slice of Greek life. Its tiny passageways, narrow streets, and peaceful squares stand in stark contrast to Piraeus' more modern neighborhoods, offering discerning visitors the chance to escape the hustle and bustle and experience the 'real' Piraeus. After you've finished exploring the shops and admiring the architecture, make your way up to Prophet Elias Church to enjoy sublime views over the city scape below.
11. Take a day trip to Athens
It's hard to tell where Piraeus starts and Athens ends, but close though they are, they're two separate cities. You can't, however, visit the one without the other... or at least, you really shouldn't. Athens might be big and noisy and the traffic is likely to give you nightmares, but it's got an energy and a magnetism that'll get under your skin and stay there. As the Crazy Tourist recommends, be sure to wear comfy, sensible shoes when you go - with so many historic sights to explore and museums to visit, you're going to need them. Chief attractions include the Agora, the Acropolis, and the Theatre of Dionysus.
10. Shop for bargains at the flea market
If you're around on a Sunday, be sure to check out the flea market. Located right next to the central train station, it's a great place to while away a few hours, with a fabulous collection of cut-price records, books, electronics, furniture, jewelry and general bric-a-brac. If you're looking for a souvenir or two to take home, this is where you'll find it. While you're in the area, be sure to check out the derelict 25 story office tower located directly behind the market. It started out as a grand plan of the junta, but they only managed to get to the third floor before abandoning the project. People have been debating whether to finish it or pull it down for years, but for now, it's one of the most noteworthy (not to mention tallest) monuments to Greek's military era.
9. Tuck into some fresh seafood
You can't come to Piraeus and not indulge in some seafood. Or rather you can, but you'll live to regret it. Whichever street you wander down and which part of town you find yourself in, it won't take you long to find an authentic taverna or an upscale restaurant to take for a test drive. If your wallet won't stretch to trying them all, stick to the tried and tested Ta Vrachia Tis Pireikis opposite the Cononian walls for some sublime grilled octopus and picture-perfect sea views, or venture over to local favorite Margaro by the Hellenic Naval Academy for a deceptively simple, outstandingly delicious plate of fried shrimp and red mullet.
8. Set sail for Agistri
If the hustle and bustle of the city is starting to grate on your nerves, take some time out for a restorative trip to Agistri. Tiny, peaceful, and utterly blissful, it's the very definition of a picture-perfect island getaway. Lapped by turquoise water, ringed by pristine white sand beaches, and blessed with a laid-back vibe, it's got more in common with the Caribbean than the busy streets of Piraeus. Swim, sunbathe, hike, or explore its gorgeous little villages... the choice is yours. Whatever you do, you're guaranteed to return to Piraeus with a much jauntier swing in your step than you left with.
7. Admire the murals at the Church of the Holy Trinity
Like much of Piraeus, the original Church of the Holy Trinity was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. Fortunately, its replacement is just as glorious as the original, with a soaring dome and a splendid central mosaic of the Christ Pantocrator.
6. Check out the engines at the Electric Railway Museum
Created as the passion project of one extremely dedicated and extremely enthusiastic train lover, the Electric Railway Museum is a must for train enthusiasts. Hosting over 2000 pieces (including some very nifty machinery and a very impressive vintage wooden train car) along with over 3000 books and photographs, it's a very worthwhile place to spend an afternoon.
5. Shop til you drop at Sotiros Dios
If you're in the mood for a little retail therapy, head for Sotiros Dios. The pedestrianized shopping area boasts a huge collection of international chains like Zara, Accessorize, Replay, Nike, Marks & Spencer, and Super Dry, along with an equally impressive assortment of local businesses, cafes, bars, bakeries, and restaurants. Vasileos Georgiou Avenue is the place for jewelry, while Tsamadou Street houses a fine selection of bookstores. Even if your budget won't stretch to a shop-a-thon, it's a great place to indulge in a little people-watching.
4. Admire the yachts at Pasalimani
Named as one of the best things to do in Piraeus by matadornetwork.com, Pasalimani is where Piraeus gets fancy. A cosmopolitan harbor with multi-million dollar yachts, top-notch restaurants, and a fabulous array of bars, it's a favorite place for the young and the hip to start their evenings. If you want to enjoy a leisurely afternoon stroll, a cup of coffee on the square, or a first-rate seafood dinner, this is the place to head. While you're there, be sure to stop by the picturesque Stone Clock - back in the old days, it used to be a meeting point for locals; these days, it's a great place to take some Instagram-worthy snaps.
3. Step into the past at Μaniatika
Μaniatika is like no other place in Greece. Untouched by commercialization, tourism, or any of the trapping of the 21st century, it offers a unique insight into the traditions, architecture, art, and lifestyles of the Maniates. Named as one of the top things to see and do in Piraeus by The Culture Trip, it's a fascinating place that should be considered a mandatory destination for anyone who wants to experience a truly authentic Grecian way of life.
2. Explore Mikrolimano
Named as one of the top places to visit in Piraeus by travelgreecetraveleurope.com, the small harbor of Mikrolimano isn't as big or as sophisticated as Pasalimani, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in charm. Instead of fancy yachts, tiny fishing boats bob around the water. Swanky bars give way to authentic tavernas, and the vibes are more low-key than cosmopolitan. But don't let that fool you. Beneath the laid-back exterior lies a vibrant, buzzing spot with enough cocktail bars to keep you merry and enough top-notch seafood restaurants to keep your belly happy. Key restaurants to check out include the swanky Varoulko Seaside and the much more casual but no less delicious Jimmy’s Fish.
1. Tour the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus
Piraeus isn't short of a museum or two, but you'll struggle to find better than the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus. Spread over two floors, it boasts a fascinating array of exhibits that chronicle the history of Greece, from Mycenaean and the Minoan civilization to the Classical and Hellenistic years. The artifacts from the fifth and fourth centuries BC are particularly noteworthy. Be sure to check out the giant funerary steel of Pagharos, a soldier who met his end at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, on the ground floor, and the bronze statues of Athena and Apollo on the second floor.
Written by Liz Flynn
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