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Piraeus a vibrant port

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The historical city of Piraeus is a city full of life, ranging from its crowded port and the working-class neighbourhoods to the residential area of Kastella and the scenic small harbours filled with yachts and fishing boats of Zea (Passalimani) and of Microlimano. It’s up to you to explore it and discover Piraeus’ treasures and its secrets.

History

The most important port and biggest naval base in the Ancient Greek world featured a vast complex of ship sheds, shipping offices, warehouses, banks, shipyards, and many other secondary businesses. As the sea level has risen two meters since antiquity, many of the ancient installations of Piraeus are now underwater, but recent underwater excavations unearthed parts of ship sheds in Microlimano and Zea harbours. Many prosperous Athenians and metics (foreigners living in Athens who had some of the privileges of citizenship) lived in Piraeus. The famous platonic dialogue “the Republic” takes place in a metic’s house in Piraeus. Three long walls, constructed during the leadership of Themistocles and the Age of Pericles, linked Athens and its port in a defensive unit; the subway, in fact, follows the route of the southern wall. Parts of these walls, along with the later classical defense fortifications are visible at various points in Piraeus, especially along Akti Themistocleous. The destruction of the city by the Roman General Sylla (1st century BC) reduced Piraeus to insignificance, until its revival after 1834, when Athens became the capital of the newly independent Greece.

Piraeus port today

Today, Piraeus port plays a crucial role in the development of international trade; it is one of the largest ports in Europe and it is the business district of choice for many Greek and international shipping companies.

“Piraeus is also an important port of call in the Mediterranean Sea. It has 11 places for the simultaneous berthing of vessels and it can accommodate even the largest cruise ships.

For the purpose of servicing cruise passengers the Port operates Passenger Terminals which host duty free shops, Tourist Police, Customs office and other essential services for the passengers.

Nearby there is an open parking area for tourist coaches, while the transportation of passengers from the anchoring areas to the Passenger Terminal is provided by Piraeus Port Authority S.A. transportation means.

Piraeus port has a throughput volume of about 20 million passengers per annum (including the ferry traffic Salamis – Perama, which has a throughput volume of about 8 million passengers per year). It is the main link between the mainland and the Aegean islands and Crete, while also being the main sea gate of the European Union at its southeastern edge.” Source: Piraeus Port Authority S.A.

Pleasant strolls

Piraeus is a safe, friendly, hospitable place and easy to get around on foot, built as it is on a grid plan following the ancient plan developed by the urban planner and architect Hippodamos of Miletus.

Go for a walk to the port of Zea, also known as Passalimani, gazing across fancy yachts and the fishing boats gently bobbing in the water. Enjoy your coffee or a delicious lunch in one of its venues offering great views of the Saronic Gulf. Fans of nautical history or a bibliophiles, will have thrilling moments visiting two unique museums situated on Zea.

Archaeological Museum

It houses, four, extremely rare, large scale, classical, of utmost importance bronzes. First, the only surviving example of a bronze kouros dedicated to the god Apollo, a statue of the goddess Athena, a statue of the goddess Artemis and a tragedy mask. The museum also contains many stone anchors discovered during the dredging project to deepen the Passalimani harbour; they are obviously connected to triremes moored at the Zea naval station. “There are informative exhibits of triremes sporting great eyes on their prows, and explaining both history and daily life of the port and its surrounding city. There are English labels on everything”. Source: Trip advisor.

Hellenic Maritime Museum

The Hellenic Maritime Museum located close to the waterfront, in the neighbourhood of Freatida, is marked by the conning tower of the Greek Navy submarine “Papanikolis” lying outside the entrance. Hosting 13,000 exhibits recording 5,000 years of Greek seafaring, it also incorporates a section of the walls built by Conon, an Athenian General (5th century BC), to protect the ancient harbour. Among the exhibits there are models of ancient and modern ships, paintings by some of the greatest 19th and 20th century Greek painters of seascapes (Prossalendis, Volanakis, Hadjis, etc.); also guns, maps, flags, medals, nautical instruments etc. The Museum’s library is the largest maritime library of this kind in Greece and holds a rich collection of more than 17,000 volumes and periodicals, and approximately 200 maps (16th - 20th centuries). The Museum organizes interesting temporary exhibitions as well.

If you are interested in ancient art and archaeology, head towards the Archaeological Museum located on Charilaou Trikoupi Street between Freatida and Passalimani.

The Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation

The Foundation’s aims are the promotion of Greek Letters and Culture in general, as well as the promotion of Historical and Maritime Research and the operation of the large Historical and Lending Libraries. A neoclassical masterpiece houses the historic library containing many marvels, from incunabula and antiquarian exploration titles, to first editions of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey; any bibliophile would be astounded! Beside books, there is a vast collection dedicated to Lord Admiral Nelson. Amongst a myriad of paintings, seascapes and engravings, it also consists of some 82 autograph letters, personal items and newspapers commemorating Nelson’s victories, plus more than 1,500 books on the Napoleonic wars and Nelson himself. However, one of the major highlights is the collection of around 30 warship models constructed of ivory or bone by French prisoners of the Napoleonic wars.

Cultural life

The focal point of Piraeus’ cultural life is the beautiful 19th century Municipal Theatre with an overall seating capacity of 1,300 and a stage considered as one of the very few remaining examples of baroque art throughout Europe. It hosts high quality events: theatre and dance performances, concerts and exhibitions.

The open-air Veakeio Theatre in Kastella is a popular destination during the summer and hosts Greek drama and modern theatre performances, concerts, folk music bands and dance performances.

Shopping

Do your shopping in the pedestrian Sotiros Dios Street, lined with brand name stores, as well as smaller mom-and-pop shops.

Hunt for bargains in the Sunday morning flea-market behind the Metro station. You will find some genuine bargains among second hand items and bric-à-brac, enjoying at the same time an atmosphere similar to an eastern bazaar.

Don’t miss the food market of Piraeus, located by the main port of the city. It is a paradise of smells and aromas, full of fine products: cheeses, deli meats, wine, herbs and any kind of delicacies.

Gastronomy

Piraeus is a great place for seafood lovers. Reserve a table at a seafood restaurant in Zea Passalimani or in Microlimano, where elegant restaurants (some of them internationally awarded) and tavernas invite you to taste crawfishes grilled on coarse salt, mussels on steam, various fishes, shrimp pasta, grilled octopus, fried mullets, squids, mussel rice and fish soup; paired with a glass of Savatiano white wine or ouzo, the famous Greek alcoholic drink with an aniseed flavour.

For a breathtaking view and a traditional Greek meal, choose a taverna in Peiraiki, near Freatida.

The traditional Kaminia district offers a unique taste of Greek life: tasty recipes, family-friendly atmosphere and the best of rebetiko (a type of Greek urban popular song accompanied by bouzouki, originated at harbours, such as Piraeus.

Nightlife

For an unforgettable sparkling night go to Microlimano. It is the best nightlife spot in Piraeus.

For bar-hopping and meeting young people, Trouba is the ideal place. Trouba is a district that has changed its character over the years; from a commercial center in the early 20th century, to a red light district until the 1970s and today’s nightlife hub with some trendy bars and cafes.

The annual “Sea Days, Go Piraeus”

It is a panorama of events taking place in May in at least 15 central spots in Piraeus: exhibitions, tours, concerts, theatrical performances, traditional dances, film screenings, contests, bike rides, sport events, parties etc.

Epiphany in Piraeus

Epiphany is the day of
 the “Great Blessing of the Waters”. Usually an outdoor mass is held by the sea, in major ports such as Piraeus. During the liturgy, when the priest throws a cross into the water, several faithful swimmers dive in order to retrieve it, as it is believed that the winner will be blessed throughout the year.

“…no matter how I search, I cannot find another harbour, /

to make me "wild" over, as much as the Piraeus…”

Free translation of song lyrics composed by Manos Hadjidakis, for the song “Children of Piraeus (Ta Paidia tou Pirea)”: the first foreign language composition to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and one that was covered around the globe in twelve different languages: from the film “Never on Sunday” starring Melina Merkouri and directed by Jules Dassin.

Additional Info

Categories: Music
District: Central Athens

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