In the first days of our family trip to Athens, we visited the Acropolis and Anafiotika, followed by Monastiraki and the Roman vestiges in Plaka. But this was Greece, and I just couldn’t bear being there without seeing the sea. So I convinced everyone to go on a visit to Piraeus!
Once separate cities, Piraeus is now part of Athens. The capital city of Greece is growing more horizontally than vertically, covering 39 sqkm in 2016. (And Greater Athens covers 583 sqkm!)
I was really excited about finally getting to one of Europe’s most important harbors throughout history and I had no idea it was going to be that easy to get to Piraeus!
What you should know before a visit to Piraeus
Piraeus, also known as Peiraeus or Piraeus, is a town situated in the prefecture of Attica, on the south side of Athens. The main appeal of a visit to Piraeus is based on the fact that it was used as the main port of Athens in ancient Greece, and thus played a very important part in the life of the city.
Besides being the port of ancient Athens, Piraeus has also been the port of modern Athens since 1834. Nowadays, this port can be seen in operation, and while it doesn’t look as it used to in ancient Greece, it still displays some of the antique features that make it a very fascinating and peculiar place to meet.
The name of this town means Place over the Passage, a meaning that is very important to its past history. In its beginnings as a settled place, Piraeus was a tiny island joined to the ground by a narrow strip of land. Although the area received other denominations at first, this geographical feature finally inspired the actual name.
While its main port is the most popular, Piraeus also has two smaller ports that have also helped to turn this place into a very active one. The advantages of this location and its harbor were not found until the decade of 490 BC when Themistocles built a fortification here, with the intention to conveniently use the ports and defend the people of Athens from attacks from the Persians.
Arriving at the Piraeus train station
If you want to go on a visit to Piraeus, all you have to do is get on the subway. The train will leave you right in the train station of Piraeus, close to the cruise ship gates. (Also, if you’re on a cruise, the subway is a fast way to get to Athens from the port!)
When we got out of the train, I was surprised by the beautiful train station ceiling. It didn’t really feel like a Balkan station, but rather a British one. I really liked it!
Breakfast at Bridge Coffee Roasters
We were really hungry at the beginning of our visit to Piraeus. We wanted to change the usual bougatsa and lakror we had for breakfast near the apartment, so we opted for eating in Piraeus, as soon as we arrived.
It took us a while, but we ended up in a café fit for The Travel Bunny! The menus of Bridge Coffee Roasters feature the image of a white rabbit being pulled out of a steaming cup of coffee.
Not only that, but the coffee was delicious, and we had a great range of sweet and savory options to choose for our breakfast. In the end, we barely managed to eat everything. It was a good meal to get all the strength we needed for our visit to Piraeus!
Church of St. Nicholas of Piraeus
After breakfast, we started moving towards the city. The first imposing building we came across was the Church St. Nicholas of Piraeus. We only admired it from outside, though.
And then, we split up. My parents wanted to go to the Athens coastal tram, while we wanted to just walk around the town.
Visit to Piraeus or San Francisco?
From the Church of St. Nicholas, we decided to go east to the sea, by cutting through the city. Little did we know that this implied a lot of going up and down hills. It was a long and tiring way to get to where wanted, but we got to see some interesting things, such as some of Piraeus’s street art:
I was really out of shape and it was hot, so I didn’t really enjoy this part of our visit to Piraeus. I do have some lively memories of the orange trees on this road we took. There were so many, and they had so much fruit that lots of them kept falling and rolling down the hill.
The sea, at last!
I must say I was a bit disappointed by the beaches we found in Piraeus. I have this idea of Greek beaches being all lovely, clean, and next to bright blue waters, from my previous experiences. And I really wanted Mathieu to get to see that on his first holiday to Greece. Instead, we ended up on this dirty little beach, which had nothing special about it.
I had also dreamed about sinking my feet in the sea for the first time that year. And nope, it was still too cold for any such things.
But even so, my heart lifted a bit because I was finally seeing some sea for the first time that year.
Our life-changing decision on our visit to Piraeus
After we reached the sea, we walked along the coast. It was hot outside and Mathieu proposed to stop for some refreshments. Remembering a romantic afternoon from our Rome holiday, I started checking the menu for Sangria. And they had some!
So there we were, sitting by the sea, slowly fishing fruit from our Sangrias. We were looking at the marina with yachts of all sizes, who came on a visit to Piraeus from all over the world. Our eyes stopped at a grandmother getting off a yacht to welcome her granddaughter and son/son-in-law on the docks.
And I just said it must be great to have such a life, to sail the world and discover new places by the sea. To this, Mathieu replied that it would be a great plan for retirement. But I told him something my parents kept telling me: when you’re young, you have energy, but not a lot of time; when you retire, you have a lot of time, but not so much energy left to do all that you wanted. So he said we should go sailing sooner and immediately started checking out sailboat prices on his phone. And it turns out the boat isn’t that expensive.
I felt very excited. At that time, it was before the two of us got engaged. And I remember I thought to myself this was better than a marriage proposal!
That’s how we ended up planning to take some sailing courses and get permits this year. Next year we’re planning to sail the Mediterranean, and as soon as we’re done with the courses, I’m going to plan it all.
I’m telling you: Sangrias by the sea = best decision ever!
Holy Trinity Church
When we had enough walking, we started heading back to the train station in Piraeus. On the way, we stopped to admire the beautifully decorated Holy Trinity Church. It was very difficult to take a decent photo of it, as there was this girl taking selfies after selfies in various positions in front of it.
But anyway, with this our visit to Piraeus ended. We went back to Athens by train, and, a bit later, we met with my parents for dinner.