Piraeus Greece Travel Guide: Finding the Charm Beneath the Grit

A lot of those who travel to Athens will find themselves in Piraeus at some point or another during their itinerary. That said, it’s not that they purposely venture to Piraeus because they really want to spend time exploring it, but because the area is something of a necessary evil in order to board the boats that depart from Athens to the Greek islands.

At first glance, I admit that Piraeus is something of a chaotic, intimidating beast.  The narrow streets filled with ramshackle buildings and laden with graffiti do not exactly exude the same kind of beauty and atmosphere as the islands of the Cyclades or the Saronic Gulf do. That said, Piraeus does have a certain je ne sais quoi about it.

Many of Piraeus’ historic neighbourhoods have a charming feel that is so typically Greek. Behind the gritty exteriors, they house eclectic coffee shops, themed bars, and exquisite tavernas. Owing to its seafront location, certain points of Piraeus also boast beautiful views over the waters.

I am not necessarily saying that you need to bump Piraeus right up to the top of your Athenian itinerary. If you do find yourself in Piraeus though – whether because you have time to kill while waiting for a boat to the islands, or because you find a cheap hotel deal there, you deserve to spend your time in Piraeus experiencing the best restaurants and coffee hangouts like a local.

Things to Do in Piraeus

Besides eating and drinking to your heart’s content at the establishments outlined in this article, there are several interesting things to do in Piraeus if you have a little more time on your hands.

#1 Stroll Around Marina Zea (Pasalimani)

Marina Zea is perhaps the most elegant place in Piraeus. Dating back hundreds of years and once the harbour for war ships, Zea now accommodates luxury yachts. The restaurants and bars that border Marina Zea are every bit as glamorous as you would imagine for a yachting location. “Pisina” is one spot that is well worth stopping by at and features elegant outdoor seating with a pool and sea views.

#2 Wander the Streets of the Peaceful Kastella Neighbourhood

As far as quintessentially Greek neighbourhoods go, Kastella is about as traditional as it gets. The port of Mikrolimano marks your arrival at Kastella. As you follow the narrow streets that twist and turn uphill, you bypass neoclassical mansions and beautiful pastel-coloured buildings.

When you approach the top of the hill, you are greeted with the Veakeio Theatre – an open-air theatre that was constructed according to the ancient Greek style. From the Profitis Ilias Orthodox church at the top, you are rewarded for your efforts with breathtaking views over Piraeus and the Saronic islands.

#3 Browse the Bric a Brac Stalls of Piraeus Flea Market

If you happen to find yourself in Piraeus on a Sunday morning, you can stop by the Piraeus flea market for an insight into local life. The Piraeus market may not quite be the romantic ideal of a flea market that you envisage, but it’s still worth a look at. Replace your romantic ideals of trinkets and antiques with a grittier alternative.

At Piraeus market, expect to see second-hand clothes, knock-off designer bags and improv street food stands where locals sell corn on the cob, souvlaki, and coffee over portable grills. It’s gritty, yes, but also interesting to see.

#4  Explore the Mikrolimano Port Area

Mikrolimano Port, Piraeus
Mikrolimano Port

The Mikrolimano port awaits at the foot of Piraeus’ Kastella neighbourhood. A pleasant way to pass the time in Piraeus is to embark on the thirty-minute walk from Marina Zea to Mikrolimano, along the coastal road. Mikrolimano boasts beautiful views over the sea, particularly as the sun sets. There are a plethora of excellent fish tavernas and chic nightlife options here.  

#5 Go Swimming at Votsalakia Beach

Beaches of Piraeus
Piraeus beaches

There are lots of wonderful beaches around Athens and the Piraeus area. Though it’s not quite a beautiful, secluded cove, Votsalakia beach is a popular spot in Piraeus.

Honestly, it does get incredibly hot and humid here during the summer months so it’s understandable that you may want to spend your time in Piraeus relaxing. Votsalakia beach is very close to the Kastella neighbourhood. There are many shops, bars, and restaurants nearby where you can buy refreshments as you need.

#6 Visit the Piraeus Archaeological Museum

As the name suggests, the Piraeus archaeological museum provides an insight into the history of the city and its surroundings. The exhibits and the artifacts on display range all the way from the Mycenaean times to Roman times.  Bronze statues of ancient Greek Gods, and figures dating back to the 4th century are among the highlights of visiting the museum.

#7 Buy Foodie Souvenirs at Mandragoras

Photo courtesy of Mandragoras Greece

Mandragoras is a Piraeus institution. Easily identifiable by all of the pastourma, soutzouki, and dried meat products hanging from the doorway, this delicatessen slash spice store sells all manner of excellent quality Greek products. From spices and tahini, to cured meats, delicious cheeses, and traditional desserts.

#8 Admire Beautiful Orthodox Churches

Piraeus, like Athens and most places in Greece, is littered with beautiful Greek Orthodox churches that greet you at practically every turn. Notably, you should take the time to visit and admire the Catholic Church of St. Paul, and the St Nicholas Church of Piraeus, both of which are adjacent to the port area and feature bright, vivid frescoes and interiors.

Where to Eat in Piraeus

Piraeus boasts a diverse range of dining options. Everything from traditional tavernas to hip eateries can be found here. As you may expect, Piraeus’’ seafront location means that there are several excellent seafood taverns to be found in Piraeus. The list of recommended Piraeus restaurants that I have included here is just as diverse as Piraeus itself.

Tavern Giannis

Where: Leof. Chatzikiriakou 107, Pireas 185 39

Tavern Giannis is an excellent Piraeus taverna situated that is locally renowned for its excellent seafood dishes. The place has a warm, homely atmosphere and the menu features all of the classic dishes that you would expect to see in a Greek taverna. Tavern Giannis’ mezes of meat and seafood are not to be missed. The highlight of this place is no doubt the live music that is frequently hosted here in the evenings.

Shakespeare in Love

Where: Agiou Spiridonos 3, Pireas 185 35

I was previously unaware of Shakespeare in Love until a cute English couple that I met on the boat to Hydra recommended that I go and check it out. Built in a renovated 18th-century industrial building, Shakespeare in Love is every bit as romantic and quirky as its name suggests.

Shakespeare in Love has been lovingly decorated with unique furniture pieces and art installations from various independent designers and creators across Greece. The food served is a blend of contemporary Greek cuisine and international favourites. Far more than being just a restaurant, Shakespeare in Love frequently hosts creative events such as book readings, art fairs, etc.  

Margaro

Where: Leof. Chatzikiriakou 126, Pireas 185 38

Margaro is a simple fish taverna whose menu consists primarily of fried fish. According to the locals, Margaro serves up the best fish and the best salads in town. Many of those who dine at Margaro to determine whether the place lives up to its reputation are not disappointed.

Vosporos

Where: Akti Koumoundourou 20, Pireas 185 33

If you are looking for something a little more upscale, with excellent views over the water, Vosporos is the place to go. Vosporos boasts beautiful views and an extensive, varied menu of main dishes and meze platters. Considering its location, the restaurant is very reasonably priced. It is highly recommended to reserve a table at Vosporos as it gets incredibly busy, especially at weekends.

Getting to/Around Piraeus

 Piraeus Street Art
Piraeus Street Art

Piraeus is technically its own city, however, the Athenian suburbs have expanded so much from the city centre that the line between Athens and Piraeus is somewhat blurred.

Getting There

It is very easy to get to Piraeus from central Athens – simply hop on board the metro line one (green line) to Thissio and Omonia areas, then transfer or proceed on foot as necessary.

If you should choose to take a taxi from central Athens to Piraeus, I would strongly recommend downloading the BEAT taxi app to do so. The app displays the cost of the journey before you get in the car. This way there is little risk of you being scammed. The journey from Athens to Piraeus should cost between 15-20 euros each way.

Getting Around

Most of Piraeus can be explored on foot, especially since transportation links within Piraeus are not excellent. To get from Marina Zea to Mikrolimano port, you are looking at a walk of around 25 minutes, and most places from the port area take a maximum of 45 minutes to get to and from.

While I would never ordinarily recommend these, the hop-on-hop-off bus is a pretty good way to get around Piraeus since it stops at all of the places of interest outlined above, and is perhaps a better option in lieu of taking lots of taxis – especially if travelling alone.

Where to Stay

There are a number of reasons that you may choose to stay in Piraeus. You may want to experience an alternative vibe from central Athens, or you may want to be close to the ferry port to make it easier to access the islands. In any case, some of the best accommodation options in Piraeus are outlined below.

Piraeus hotels are generally very reasonably priced and will not set you back more than 30-50 euros per night.

Phidias Piraeus Hotel

The recently renovated Phidias Piraeus Hotel is close to the elegant Marina Zea and Kastella areas of Piraeus. The location is perfect for those hoping to explore the best of the city’s attractions and nightlife. The port of Piraeus can be reached within a short 15-minute walk or via a shuttle provided by the hotel. The pastel rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated.

Click here to review the latest prices and availability.

Piraeus Port Hotel

As the name suggests, the Piraeus Port Hotel is perfectly located for access to the ferry port – in fact, it is just a 7-minute walk away from it. Rooms are simple yet comfortable and tastefully decorated. Rooms feature complimentary toiletries and excellent views of the sea. This is one of the most popular places to stay in Piraeus and for good reason. Opting to stay here places you in the heart of the action, close to plenty of great bars, restaurants, and stores.

Click here to review the latest availability and rates.

Faros, I, Piraeus

With double rooms starting from just 40 euros per night, Faros I is excellent value for money in the heart of Piraeus. Rooms are spacious and colourful, and Faros I is located in central Piraeus.

Click here to review the latest availability and rates.

Note: If your purpose of travelling to/staying in Piraeus is predominantly to be close to the boat ports, feel free to ask the hotel to store your luggage if you take day trips to the islands.

Conclusion

If you are limited on time, there are far more charming and beautiful neighbourhoods to explore (upscale Kifissia or my beloved Pagrati for example). That said, Piraeus does have a certain something, as I mentioned. Especially if you are waiting to board a boat to the islands and have time to spare, you should do a little exploration of the area, rather than simply twiddling your thumbs and waiting around at the ferry port.

Have any further questions about this article or about planning a Greece itinerary in general? Feel free to ping me a comment below. I live in Athens and will happily answer any queries or concerns you may have. Safe travels! Melissa xo

Disclaimer: This Piraeus travel guide may contain affiliate links. In other words, if you do so choose to make a purchase through some of the links included on this page, I will obtain a small amount of commission at no extra cost to you. This aids me in managing High Heels and a Backpack and in continuing to provide free travel advice about Athens. Thank you for your understanding.

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