Piraeus (Athens), Greece Port Guide
As the capital of Greece and one of Europe’s most bustling cities, Athens is powered by 5,000 years of history. At night, the city of Athens glows from afar, light reflecting off the ancient ruins. Today, travelers flock from around the world to experience its history while on cruises from Athens. After all, the art, theatre, architecture, and philosophy of Athens had ripple effects through the fabric of entire civilizations.
Take in thousands of years of history through timeless excursions while on taking a cruise from Athens. The departure port of Piraeus is one of the busiest commercial ports in the world, servicing many Mediterranean cruises, and sits on a natural sandy bay where local Athenians often relax on summer weekends. Piraeus offers travelers stopping through on their Greek island cruises from Athens opportunity to explore, shop, and eat traditional Greek dishes.
A Greek island cruise from Athens wouldn’t be complete without seeing the metropolis’ major sites—the unforgettable Acropolis, the Parthenon, a hike up Mount Lycabettus, or tours of museums containing antiquity’s greatest treasures dating back to the 5th century BC. Though Athens is a city of ruins, it’s the very essence of modern Greece.
Port Facilities & Location
Greek island cruises from Athens depart from the port of Piraeus. It’s one of the most serviced ports in the world and has three large cruise terminals (simply named Terminals A, B, and C). All terminals have air conditioning, free Wifi, and restrooms. Terminal A is walking distance to the city center of Piraeus, making it easy to shop for souvenirs or grab a bite to eat.
You have two options to get to Athens from the terminals: take a taxi, available from every terminal gate, for a 20-30 minute ride to Athens, or you can take a subway train from Piraeus.
Top Things To Do In Piraeus (Athens)
While there are many more acropoleis (the plural of “acropolis,” in case you’re wondering) in Greece, it’s this one in central Athens that garners the most attention. In fact, it’s routinely referred to simply as “The Acropolis.” The site is an elevated, flat-topped rock with an assortment of monuments and ruins built between 510 and 400 B.C., including the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion. Travelers say the hike to the Acropolis is just as memorable as the sites it holds.
An impressive example of ancient Greek architecture, the Parthenon is a cultural landmark like no other. It once served as a treasury and at another point housed a Christian church. Now, the Parthenon is a must-see sight and the unchallenged highlight of visiting the Acropolis (and for some, Greece in general).
Athens is the birthplace of the Olympic Games, and it’s one of the biggest events in the world today, celebrating culture and peace among the world’s nations. Athens has hosted the modern Olympic Games in 1896, 1906, 2004, and most recently, the Special Olympics in 2011. The city’s Panathenaic Stadium, a 45,000-seat outdoor stadium, is instantly recognizable and centrally located in the heart of Athens. Don’t forget to take a look at which events are happening during your Greek island cruise from Athens.
Athens is known for a hilly, rolling landscape. Its highest point is Mount Lycabettus, which ascends over 900 feet high. Getting to the stop is an adventure in and of itself. Start by taking a cable car toward the top of the mountain. Then, climb around 100 steps from the cable car station to the summit. There, you’ll find the terrace atop Mount Lycabettus promises breathtaking panoramic views not only of the metropolis of Athens but also the port of Piraeus and its many docked ships.
The Plaka district surrounds the Acropolis. Wander through this charming stretch of narrow paved streets into handcrafted shops, restaurants, countless cafes, and bars. In the 1970s, the district was a prime area for nightlife, but cracking down on the local noise ordinances turned the Plaka District into a quieter, more commercialized neighborhood. Shops and restaurants quickly boomed there, and now the Plaka is popular with tourists looking for shopping and leisure.
Temple of Hephaestus
One of central Athens’ best preserved ruins is the Temple of Hephaestus. Nestled within Ancient Agora, this site was built between 460 and 420 B.C. and once served as a Christian church. Eventually, the building was transformed into an archaeological museum before undergoing excavations in 1930 and later opening to tourists.
The agoras of the ancient Greek city-states were open areas for people to assemble for anything from military purposes to political or commercial ones. Ancient Agora is the most popular of its kind, thanks in part to its historical significance. Socrates used to lecture here, and it was also here that Saint Paul sought out converts for the then-fledgling religion known as Christianity.
Herod Atticus Odeon
Situated on the south slope of the Acropolis, the Herod Atticus Odeon was named after Tiberius Claudius Herod Atticus, a wealthy Athenian who sponsored the building of this ancient outdoor auditorium between A.D. 160 and 174. Historically, the venue hosted a variety of music festivals, but today, the locale serves as the site for many theater, music and art festivals, including the Athens & Epidaurus Festival.
More Information About Piraeus (Athens)
Top Food and Drink Spots Near the Port
Varoulko – Piraeus
Address: Akti Koumoundourou 52, Mikrolimano, Piraeus
This Michelin-rated restaurant serves a variety of fresh seafood dishes and main courses cooked expertly, like white fish served with zucchini cream and horseradish, or cuttlefish risotto, or delicious leek soup.
Strofi – Athens
Address: Rovertou Galli 25, 11742 Athens, Greece
Just steps from the Acropolis, you’ll find Strofi, a restaurant that has been open since 1957. Try lamb stuffed wrapped in vine leaves and stuffed with cheese, or octopus with olive oil and oregano. Enjoy the outdoor dining area, with views of the Acropolis in the near distance.
Orizontes – Athens
Address: Lycabettus Hill, Athens, Greece
Most of the novelty of Orizontes is the fact that it’s located on Mount Lycabettus, the highest peak in Athens. Talk about views! Come for homemade bread, an extensive wine list, and classically Mediterranean lamb and fish dishes.
Mama Psomi – Athens
Address: 42-44 Zacharitsa St, Koukaki
This family-owned bakery is a favorite, providing everything from pies with sweet filling to bulgur wheat bread or walnut bread. Find and quickly devour these at Mama Psomi’s.
Culture & History
Clues point to settlement in Athens dating as far back as the Neolithic period. In the 6th century BCE, Athens saw both geographic and cultural growth, where new structures and sculptures were built to replace more rudimentary, earlier works on the Acropolis. The Acropolis quickly became a symbol of the city. In the 5th century BC, Athens became the first democratic city-state, or polis, to be brought into existence, and its effects on history rippled well into the modern era.
During the Roman and Hellenistic periods, Athens saw an increase in its importance in trade and commerce, producing and shipping more oils and goods to Italy. As the Roman Empire saw its zenith, Athens was a particular favorite of Emperor Hadrian, who built Hadrian’s Library on the north side of the Acropolis in 132 AD. However, as the Roman Empire fell into decline, Greece’s global prominence sharply withdrew. Like many parts of Greece, Athens switched hands frequently throughout the centuries. In the 19th century, the Turks possessed the Acropolis until 1833, when Athens was selected as the capital of the kingdom of Greece. During World War II, Athens was thankfully spared of major destruction.
Ancient Greece had immense impact on the Romans and other European political structures as well. America’s Founding Fathers looked to Greek democracy as an inspiration for certain elements of the government of the United States. The spirit of Greece as a pioneer of progress and resilience in the face of endless occupations is marked in its enduring, preserved structures. Long after we’re gone, Athens will still stand. Experience Athens’ rich history for yourself with any number of guided tours or visit its incomparable museums.
Shopping Near the Port
The port of Piraeus has an abundance of shops, making it easy to pick up a quick souvenir along the way. You’ll find a variety of shops along Sotiros Dios, which is a pedestrian shopping street lined with name-brand stores and smaller locally owned boutiques, as well as cafes and unfussy restaurants.
Local Currency & Tipping Customs
While in Greece, you’ll use the Euro as your primary form of currency. Smaller shops and businesses frequently don’t accept credit cards, so ask before using one. Tipping taxi drivers isn’t common, but rounding up to the nearest euro is polite, especially if you had a helpful driver. Leave some a 10% tip behind at a restaurant if there is no service charge included. Don’t forget to tip your tour guide! €5-€10 is polite when taking a guided tour in Athens.