Piraeus Things to Do and See
Tourists are increasingly flocking to the Greek port city of Piraeus, lured by its warm climate, crystal blue waters, exquisite but affordable restaurants serving some of the freshest fish in the world, and a perfect balance between old world charm and modern amenities. Home to Greece’s main port, which is also European’s biggest port for passenger travel, Piraeus sees millions of people pass through every year. As you’d expect from a city with more than 160,000 residents, there’s plenty to see and do that entertains the visitors year-round.
Traveling to Piraeus is made easy by virtue of its prime location on the Saronic Gulf in Greece’s southeast and its proximity to the capital city of Athens that is situated just 12 kilometers (7 miles) to the northeast. International travelers can fly into Athens and then take a short rental car, taxi, or bus ride to Piraeus. Alternatively, European visitors could drive to the city, which borders Albania, Skopje, Bulgaria and Turkey. And yet another option is to take a cruise or other passenger boat and arrive in style at the port which acts as a hub for the city.
Whichever route you take to get to Piraeus, once there you’ll enjoy a temperature climate year-round that will provide a nice backdrop to your holiday plans — whether that’s simply rest and relaxation, a quest to find the best seafood, seeing historical and religious landmarks, or other adventures. Piraeus has a lot to offer its many visitors every year, and the list below provides suggestions for some of the best things to see and do in this great Greek port city.
Enjoy fresh seafood whatever your budget
Because Piraeus is on the waterfront, the cafes and restaurants in the city offer some of the freshest and tastiest seafood in the world. Many of the dining establishments are situated on the waterfront, offering picture-perfect views as you sample the expertly cooked fish dishes.
It’s hard to find a bad restaurant here, so you’ll probably have a great meal wherever you go. But some top suggestions for places to try include Panorama, a restaurant housed in a building from the 1930s that has a huge terrace overlooking the Mikrolimano Bay. This gorgeous location has even been featured in the movies, including 1971’s “The Burglars” with Omar Sharif. If you go here try their specials that include a well-made bouillabaisse. Alternatively, try Margaro, a fish restaurant whose unique attraction is the fact that most of the food is pan-fried, coated in a delectable batter that has drawn visitors from around the world since the restaurant opened in 1944. Whatever your budget, you can find an affordable place and be sure of great seafood.
ADMIRE THE EXHIBITS AT THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF PIRAEUS
History buffs are in for a treat with the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus, located in a two-level building in the center of the site. It houses exhibits dating back to ancient Greece that help tell the story of the founding and development of Piraeus, including rare and valuable relics from the era of the Romans and other important historical periods. Among the most popular exhibits on show are centuries-old bronze and cast statutes, as well as a huge lion made out of marble that was a tribute to a funeral many centuries ago.
The museum is designed in chronological order, so you’ll start by reviewing the treasures from Piraeus’ early days before seeing exhibits that chart the city’s history through to the Roman era. The museum is also home to the Zea Theatre, which was constructed in the 2nd century BC and is made from stone sourced from the city’s peninsula. You can also pick up maps at the museum with details on other historical sites.
Telephone number: + 30 210 4590731 or + 30 210 4521598
LEARN ABOUT GREEK NAVAL HISTORY AT THE HELLENIC MARITIME MUSEUM
Founded in 1949, the Hellenic Maritime Museum is a must-visit for anybody interested in learning about Greek’s naval history. Given the country’s coastline, ships and the sea played a major role in the development of Piraeus and the surrounding areas. Hellenic Maritime Museum houses more than 2,500 exhibits, charts the naval history from the prehistoric era through to ancient Greece and the Roman period and up to the 21st century and Piraeus’ current role as an important passenger and cargo port. In addition to the 2,500 objects on display such as ship models and antiques, you can also see a collection of roughly 17,000 books and other documents that chart the country’s naval past. It’s a very popular tourist destination and if you visit you’ll leave knowing far more about the vital role Piraeus played in Greece’s history.
Telephone number: +30 210 4516264
TRANSPORT TO THE PAST AT THE ANCIENT WALLS OF PIRAEUS
For a glimpse into Piraeus’ yesteryear head to the remains of the stone gates and walls that were used to guard the city in ancient times. Construction on these walls started in 493 BC, and when they were intact there were two large gates that formed the main entrances to what is now the bustling modern part of the city.
It’s free to head to the coastline and explore these walls, and imagine how people in the past would have lived within in. The remains are kept in good condition, and some parts include small artefacts on display including vases and small replicas of boats. The ancient walls stretch for 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) around the Piraeus Peninsula, and in many spots are a great backdrop for a vacation photo with the sea in the background.
STUDY RELIGIOUS HISTORY AT PIRAEUS’ MANY CHURCHES
Anyone interested in religion or history or both should make time on their trip to explore the many churches dotted around Piraeus. Some date back centuries whereas others are fairly modern having been built in the 1940s. But all of them are interesting architectural landmarks with their own unique attractions.
For example, the Agia Triada is the main cathedral in the city and construction work on it started following World War II, replacing a previous older cathedral that was destroyed during the conflict. Designed in the Byzantine style, it’s an elaborately decorated building inside and out using brass, marble and other materials. Piraeus is also home to a number of older, smaller churches including the Agios Vasileios that was first constructed in 1873 before being replaced with a larger church on the same grounds in 1989. Much like the Agia Triada, the church is also designed at Byzantine standards. It’s also located atop a hill, so it’s a great place to trek to see a view of the entirety of the city and beyond.
SEE AT A SHOW AT THE MUNICIPAL THEATRE OF PIRAEUS
Opened in April 1985, the neoclassical Municipal Theatre of Piraeus is still in operation today and is a great place to see a performance like a play or concert while you’re in the city. It’s easy to locate this majestic building in the heart of Piraeus. Construction work on the theater — which can seat 600 people with a theater square that can hold about 1,300 people — lasted for roughly a decade. It was significantly renovated in 2008 to restore some of the intricate artwork on the theater’s ceiling.
The work was completed several years later and the theater reopened for performances in October 2013. Present day it is a popular place for local residents and visitors who come to see a broad range of shows. Check the theater’s website to see if there’s a show you’d like to see during your visit, and you can buy tickets online in advance.
Telephone number: +30 210 4194560
TAKE A TRIP TO ATHENS ON THE ELECTRIC RAILWAY
Visiting a train station might not sound like a very exciting way to spend your vacation, but the architecture of the Piraeus-Athens Electric Railway Station on its own is worth a look. The station was built in the 1920s over a period of three years and is an impressive sight with its sweeping metal and glass roof in the building’s central hall.
Many people come here just to take pictures of the inside without even getting on a train. But the station is fully functional as a commuter train destination, and here you can buy a ticket for the short train ride to Athens, a route that first started operating in February 1869 and is still in high demand today. The station also connects to various other locations if you want to explore the area further.
LEARN ABOUT TRAIN HISTORY AT THE ELECTRIC RAILWAYS MUSEUM
If you’re at the train station for a visit, you might want to consider adding on a stop at the Electric Railways Museum of Piraeus. Located at the train station and opened in 2005, this museum has an impressive collection of photos, pamphlets, old railway equipment and even an authentic years-old railway conductor costume on display.
You can even explore the interior of an old wooden train carriage to see how people traveled in the past. In addition, at the museum you can learn about the creation of the rail line linking Athens and Piraeus, as well a more general history on the role of trains in Greece’s development. Entry to the museum is free.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9am to 2pm
Telephone number: +30 214 414 1552
SEE A SOMBER TRIBUTE TO GREEK’S PAST AT THE GENOCIDE MEMORIAL
Unveiled in 2017 and funded by Evangelos Marinakis, a Greek businessman, the Greek Genocide Memorial in Piraeus is a somber tribute to the past and also a sight worth seeing during your time in the city. Located in Alexandra Square, this is a modern memorial designed by Panagiotis Tanimanidis, a Greek artist.
It is built in commemoration of the genocide of roughly 350,000 Pontic Greeks by the government of Turkey in the early 20th century. Built using brass and steel, the work forms an elaborate arch that is meant to represent a refugee trying to escape Pontus and fine safe shelter in a new country. Marinakis’ interest in funding the memorial is in part because his family was involved in Greece’s liberation in the 1821 war.
TAKE A PICTURE OF THE LION OF PIRAEUS
A popular local landmark that tourists often like to take a picture of is the Lion of Piraeus, a replica of a statute made of marble that overlooks the city’s port. The current version of the statute was built to replace the original version that had been in place for many centuries but was eventually stolen. It’s unclear when the original statue was actually built, but the replica is a faithful reproduction of what it would have looked like.
If you approach the lion statute closely you will see ancient undecipherable texts inscribed on its body. The ornate statute sits atop a large tower, creating an imposing figure keeping a watch on everything happening below.
ENJOY WATCHING SOME SPORTS AT THE PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP STADIUM
Opened in 1985, the Peach and Friendship Stadium — commonly just called SEF — is a modern and fully functioning sports arena that pays tribute to the famed athletic history of Greece.
Over the years it has hosted many major international sports events including the Olympic Games in 2004, the European Athletics Indoor Championships in its opening year, a gymnastics world championship event in 1991 and many more. Before your visit to Piraeus, take a look at the stadium’s website to see if there are any sporting events you might be able to attend. SEF is also used as a venue for massive concerts, with past performers including Gloria Estefan, Phil Collins, and UB40, so you might even be able to watch a concert if your timing is right.
Telephone number: +30 210 4893000