The best things to do in Piraeus
Piraeus is essentially a combination of neighbourhoods and the first of those districts we’re introducing you to is called Piraiki. It lies just south of the port, starting at the Hellenic Naval Academy not far from the Cruise Terminal and stretches towards the marinas of Piraeus. It is a residential area (like most of Piraeus) but your focus here is Themistokleous Street, the long waterfront road named after Themistocles, the Athenian statesman who played a crucial role in the development of Piraeus as a fortified port city in the 5th century BC. It is a local favourite because of its very good, affordable tavernas serving fish and seafood meze. Despite having a long history and a loyal following from families, couples and friends, they have lost none of their authenticity for anyone wanting to enjoy a seafood meal with a sea breeze.
The waterfront of Marina Zeas (Pasalimani)
At the end Akti Themistokleous Street, you arrive at the first of Piraeus’ marinas. The Bay of Zea was the largest naval base of ancient Athens, where hundreds of triremes and other boats were built and launched. Today, Zea is Piraeus’ most cosmopolitan marina, especially by the entrance where cafes, restaurants and cocktail bars serving Italian, Mexican, Chinese and fancy seafood dishes line up opposite luxury yachts. Brunch, lunch or perhaps a cocktail with a yacht view. Not bad for starters.
On a hill above Pasalimani is Kastella, one of the most interesting neighbourhoods of Piraeus. It was known as the Ziller district (or the district of villas) because of the luxurious residences built here in the 19th century by the renowned German-born architect Ernst Ziller. And the theme continued when ship owners and industrialists chose to build their mansions here too. So look out for the neoclassical houses as you walk the streets and make sure to reach the park at the top of the hill, where you’ll find the church of Profitis Ilias. The views are amazing. Also look out for the Veakeio Theatre, a summer theatre venue built in the shape of an ancient amphitheatre. From Kastella, you can head back down to the sea, this time towards Mikrolimano, another of Piraeus’ marinas. In the bay, you will find some of the best high-end restaurants, fish tavernas and cafes in town as well as the Yacht Club of Greece.
The food scene of Piraeus
The beauty of Piraeus is that there are food choices throughout the city and they all have a story to tell. You’ve already been introduced to the cosmopolitan eateries and cocktail bars of Marina Zeas, the high-end restaurants of Mikrolimano and the family-run tavernas of Piraiki and elsewhere. But you’ll find places to eat in every neighbourhood, from ethnic and street food to modern restaurants and traditional tavernas hidden in the pedestrianised streets of the city centre.
One of the joys of exploring Piraeus is spotting the architectural gems between the apartment blocks. Just picture the following walk from the bottom of Pasalimani up to the main port: You set out on Akti Moutsopoulou Street, with yachts on one side and apartments on the other. Just a couple of blocks in, you arrive at a two-storey gabled (almost castle-like) building in a small square. It’s the Tzivaniotis Residence, known as “the stone tower”, built at the end of the 19th century. You head into Bouboulinas Street and reach the corner of Praxitelous Street, where you can admire the building of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation. Continuing up Praxitelous Street, you turn right into Sotirios Dios Street and (after crossing Kountouriotou Street, which also has numerous architecturally interesting buildings in it) you turn left into Grigoriou Lambraki Avenue and arrive at the three-storey Residence of Spyridon Metaxas, a rare standalone neoclassical house, also designed by Ziller.