The city of Piraeus is located just outside the city of Athens and has a long history both ancient and modern. It was and is considered the chief port and the largest harbor in all of Greece. The port is also the second largest passenger port in the world. The city was largely developed during the 5th century BCE during “The Golden age of Athens” to act as Athens’ primary port and was actually connected by long walls to the main city of Athens. The city has a population of 170000 people and is considered the 4th largest city in Greece even though it is just a “suburb” of Athens.
Piraeus has been inhabited since the 26th century BCE making it one of the oldest places in the Mediterranean to be inhabited by humans. The area caught the attention of the Ancient Greeks due to its advantages as a port. In 493 BCE the Athenians began fortifications to begin to use Piraeus as their primary port as opposed to Phaleron. Piraeus is made up of three harbors; he smaller two of the three were reserved for use by the military. In 465 BCE construction began on walls that actually connected the port-city to the main city of Athens Which effectively blocked any land access to the port to all but Athens. The port played an important role in the defeat of the Persian Empire at the battle of Salamis and then remained the main Naval base for Athens until the Peloponnesian War when Sparta put a blockade on Piraeus and caused Athens to surrender. After the Spartan victory, the walls were torn down and the ship-houses were burned. Piraeus could not compete with Rhodes at that point and suffered a long period of decline that lasted almost 15 centuries.
4 Bronze statues were discovered in the late 1950’s under the sewers of Piraeus. The statues included one of the god Athena, two of Artemis, and one of Apollo pictured below (clockwise starting at the top left). The statues were found in a small square room along with some coinage and other smaller pieces of sculpture leading experts to believe that they were placed there for safe keeping but it is unclear as to when they were stored.
Piraeus today is still the main port of Athens and the biggest port in Greece. The port at Piraeus is one of the leading ports in the Mediterranean and important center of the merchant marine, industry and transportation. The Port in Piraeus is also used by several Europe cruise companies to welcome visitors to Greece.
The modern-day ports in Piraeus are the central port, the Zea Marina, and Mikrolimano. This port is the chief exit point from the city by sea for destinations among the Aegean islands and elsewhere in the east Mediterranean.
Things to do in Modern Day Piraeus
With Piraeus being such a big tourist center in Greece there are plenty of things to do and see. Below are several activities and the most popular to do when visiting Piraeus.
- Archaeological Museum of Piraeus
This is the closest most well-known museum in Piraeus, most people who visit Piraeus go specifically for the museum. This museum is home to many clay figures as well as bronze statues. Many people enjoy visiting this museum because you can take pictures of anything you’d like.
- Giorgos Karaiskakis Stadium
- This soccer stadium is just a short walk away from the Piraeus City Center, there are many shops, bars, and restaurants close by which makes it a fun place to hang out. There is also a shuttle from the shops that takes you to the stadium and once you are at the stadium if there are no events for the day they have stadium tours that allow you to see everything the stadium has to offer.
- Church of St. Nicholas at Piraeus
- This church is a must see when in Piraeus according to people who have already been. They say that even if you have a packed day it is well worth squeezing in time to see this beautiful church. On the path to this church there are orange trees everywhere and the details in the church are described as magical. Very intricate art work and details went into the building of this church.
- The Lion at Piraeus
- ThePiraeus Lion is one of four lion statues on display at the Venetian Arsenal, where it was displayed as a symbol of Venice’s patron saint, Saint Mark. These statues are very big and hefty made of stone. The lion was originally sculpted in about 360 BCE, and became a famous landmark in Piraeus, having stood there since the 1st or 2nd century AD.