What to See in Piraeus
Zea, also called Pasalimani, is where you can catch one of the Flying Dolphins to the islands in the Saronic Gulf, and there are also the most fantastic yachts moored there in the marina, which is one of the largest in Europe. There are lots of restaurants, shops, and taverns along the shore; if you like boat-watching, sit outside a café and watch the activity in the beautiful harbor.
HELLENIC MARITIME MUSEUM
This nautical and naval museum has many exhibits showing Greek ships, both modern and ancient. There are paintings, ship models, flags, maps, and all sorts of equipment used on ships. A section of the wall built around Piraeus by Themistocles in ancient times is here, and so are some items from Aristotle Onassis’s yacht. There are some weird little objects in this museum, such as ship models that prisoners carved from bone, and many very interesting exhibits for those interested in naval history.
The archeological museum has exhibits from ancient times, such as statues that date back to the 4th century BC. There is a very large funeral monument, grave markers, and important bronze statues of Apollo, Athena, and Artemis. Sculptures from both the Classical and Roman periods are on display, as are many treasures excavated in Piraeus; there are also ruins of an ancient theater nearby.
From this hill you will have a spectacular view of the sea and the traditional Greek houses built there; they look like they’re about to fall into the sea. There are many restaurants, cafeneons, ice cream shops, coffeehouses, and bars to refresh you. At night, especially in summer, many people hang out in the clubs here, where you can get a taste of Greek music and dance the night away.
WATCH THE SHIPS
For those who are interested in ships, Piraeus is a great place to watch cargo being loaded and unloaded on the massive ships, see ships from many different countries, and watch boats of all kinds going in and out of the harbor. There are huge cruise ships, yachts, cargo ships, and boats of all descriptions, and there’s always a lot of activity around the docks. I love to see the tiny little trucks that are loaded with huge piles of luggage from the cruise ships; they look as though they will tip over any minute.
ATTEND A THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE
During the summer, concerts and theatrical performances are held at the Veakeio Outdoor Theater; check the Athens newspaper to see what’s going on there. The Municipal Theater of Piraeus, in Korai Square, hosts plays, concerts, dance performances, and lectures, and is quite beautiful, dating back to the 1880s.
Piraeus has numerous shops of all kinds and sizes, from antiques and high fashion to hardware and food, and there are several main shopping streets. There’s a huge flea market that is held around Hippodameian Square every Sunday morning, and you can find all sorts of treasures if you get there early enough.
EAT & DRINK
There are many restaurants, fish taverns, and bars in Piraeus where you can eat and drink some of the traditional Greek favorites. For appetizers, have some grilled octopus, Greek salad, hundreds of different kinds of olives, or fresh sardines. Have some moussaka, a ground meat and eggplant dish, or a gyro, meat that is sliced off a huge chunk that has been spit-roasted and served in pita bread with cucumber and yogurt sauce. Baklava, a multi-layered pastry with nuts and honey, is delicious for dessert, and you can get quite a kick from a shot of ouzo, a strong licorice-flavored drink; be sure to eat some snacks, or mezedes, with the ouzo or you will fall off your seat.
GET ON A BOAT
If you are going to take a cruise around the Aegean Sea or go to a Greek island, you will probably be leaving from Piraeus. You can take a ferry to one of the many islands, or if you want to go twice as fast, take a hydrofoil Dolphin, or “the fly,” as the Greeks call it. You can leave from Piraeus on cruises going all over the Mediterranean; some of the most popular Greek stop-overs are Mykonos, Rhodes, Corfu, Crete, Santorini, Patmos, and Kusadasi (Ephesus) in Turkey. Needless to say, cruises must be booked in advance, and if you are going to an island that takes hours of travel time, cabins should also be booked ahead of time. If you are going somewhere just for a day, it’s wise to call for a schedule of departures before going to the harbor, or get there quite early