Piraeus (50)

Joined to Athens with an ancient wall, Piraeus is the way out of the city to the Mediterranean Sea, although it is much more than that. Its comings and goings of passengers and goods, its street markets, architectural treasures and many small ports make this area, which now belongs to the city, an almost dreamlike microcosm. 

Throughout all of history, Piraeus has been the main port of the city and the heart of its business. For this reason, Themistocles decided to build a monumental fortification on the route between this area and the capital in 480 BC for a primarily defensive purpose. During the Peloponnesian War it was destroyed, but was rebuilt only to be overthrown again by Sula in 86 BC Today, along the road remnants of this wall can be seen throughout the landscape. However, this does not emanate melancholy for better times, because Piraeus is currently one of the largest and most important ports. 

During the Middle Ages, Piraeus was known as Puerto Leone, because of the colossal statue of the feline protecting the harbour entrance. At that time, even though the ports were a work in progress, this area was just a small fishing village, far from their current classification of third largest city in Greece. 

When, Athens became the capital of modern Greece in 1834, Piraeus was consecrated as its seaward extension, and once again thrived by establishing a powerful industry as well as creating beautiful streets with neoclassical buildings, squares, tree-lined boulevards and museums. 

From Athens, you can reach Piraeus by subway. Once here, it is recommended you spend the day getting lost in its alleys and discovering the architectural treasures hidden in its corners, such as Agios Nikolaos, an impressive Neo-classical church highly revered by sailors that has a beautiful blue Mediterranean dome. 

Stop to admire the Neoclassical style on the facade of this church; it is one of the prides of the city. Neoclassicism is present in many of the buildings in Piraeus This is the case of the City Hall, the Dimotiko Theatre and the Municipal Theatre, inspired by the Paris Opera Comique, flaunting dazzling Corinthian columns. Nearby, you can sit in a quiet café and read a good book while listening to the tinkling water fountains that dot the streets and squares, or perhaps enjoy an aperitif. 

If you decide to come here on a Sunday morning, you will find endless curios and great bargains in the flea market. And the markets, which are south of the railway station, during the week offer fruit, vegetables and fish, and deliciously tempting fresh seafood. 

Finally, one of the crown jewels: the docks. The quiet sea breeze alternates with the comings and goings of merchants and fishing vessels unloading their wares for the markets in Athens. Huge cruise ships also stop here so that large groups of tourists from elsewhere in the Mediterranean can explore the classical ruins and return in the evening, to sleep in their cabins and continue the path. There are restaurants of all kinds, including those aimed at tourists with products of average quality and highly inflated prices, to the most popular, hidden a little deeper, offering fantastic octopus skewers at lower prices.

Harbour Marina Zea, which in former years was home to warships, now has luxury yacht moorings where occupants enjoy a glass of wine on their decks. However, if you go beyond the quaint pictures of colourful boats and fishermen unravelling nets on the sand, the charming port of Mikromilano will delight you. 

Piraeus is very close to Athens and offers a great variety of choices to enjoy in just one day. Here is a good plan: visit the market early, which where you will surely find some bizarre treasure; grilled fish in the alleys behind the harbour; afternoon coffee on your route around the Neoclassical treasures; the fishing village and sunset photography, dinner, a walk and drink at the marina, watching the luxury yachts lit up at night. Do you like the idea?

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