Piraeus (Athens), Greece

Name: Piraeus Port Authorities
Address: Piraeus Cruise Terminal – Berth: A
Phone: Best to Use Individual Cruise Lines Contacts; or +30 210 4147800
Email: Use Individual Cruise Lines
Website:  http://www.olp.gr/ but best to use Individual Cruise Lines

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Location:

Piraeus is 22 miles west of Athens and is about 28 miles from the airport. The main port of Greece, some 19 million passengers pass through the port annually. It’s the largest in Europe and third in the world. After the Olympics of 2004 the port was modernized and is probably one of the most beautiful ports in the Mediterranean. The port of Piraeus is used only for passenger boats.  The port is accessible from Athens by subway, train or taxi.

Accommodation:

In Piraeus itself there are several hotels in and around the downtown area. The Piraeus Theoxenia Hotel is the only 5-star deluxe hotel in Piraeus. It’s a modern landmark building set on a prestigious block in the business district. The area provides excellent transport links with the train station and metro connecting the hotel with the airport and Athens.

The Best Western Park Hotel is located in the centre of Piraeus, on Terpsitheas Square, near the passenger harbor. The Triton Piraeus Hotel, Antia Hotel and the Piraeus Dream Hotel are mid-priced alternatives.

In Athens, hotel choices are virtually unlimited from well known international brands to mid-priced and bargain accommodations downtown and near the main tourist attractions. The Hotel Grande Bretagne occupies the most prestigious block of the city’s center, across from Constitution Square, the House of Parliament and the National Gardens. Nearby is the Plaka, exclusive shopping areas, restaurants, open-air cafes, museums and the business district.

In the mid-range, the Herodion Hotel has an elegant contemporary look and offers spectacular views of the Acropolis. The Hermes Hotel is in the heart of the old city, in the Plaka area; and the Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel is a five-minute walk from the Acropolis and Plaka and adjacent to the new Acropolis Museum.

In the heart of downtown, just one block from the high-rent hotels on Constitutional Square, is the Elektra Hotel and nearby is the Electra Palace Hotel – both in the 4-star category.

Overview:

Piraeus has been the Port of Athens for more than 2,500 years, feeding the capital city with traders, goods, pilgrims, and now, tourists.

Parts of the ancient walls that connected Piraeus with Athens (Makra Teihi) can be seen in the Marina of Zea (where the Maritime museum is also located) and in parts of  the Peiraiki coast. On Profitis Helias hill the visitor can have a panoramic view of Athens and Piraeus as well as all of the Saronic Gulf.

The main shopping center of Piraeus is located on the triangle between Gounary Street, Ethnikis Antistaseos street and Akti Poseidonos where the fish and meat market of Piraeus  is located. Nearby roads have shops selling virtually anything that comes to mind. Fashion boutiques can be found on the smaller parallel streets that heading to Pasalimani like Sotiros, Dios and Bouboulinas.

Unlike many ports, Piraeus is big enough to explore on its own. A great place worth looking into is the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus. Complete with terrific bronzed statues of Athena and Apollo, and containing several irreplaceable pieces of art from Greek antiquity, the collection at the museum is substantial. Or, just enjoy a coffee in one of Piraeus’ many cafes, located just along the harbor.

But chances are that those staying a few days will want to spend their time in Athens, the birthplace of Western civilization. The city traces its history back over 5,000 years and it was where many of the world’s most breathtaking developments in culture, art and civilization took place.

It was, after all, the home base of Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, and of Aristophanes, Euripides, Homer, Sophocles, and Herodes Atticus. Half the fun in visiting Athens is in following the lives of these great men.

In modern times Athens has expanded into a thriving metropolis of 3.7 million people. Today come to Athens to enjoy fascinating museums, explore ruined temples and sample Greek cuisine.

The ruins of the Theatre of Dionysus, built in the 4th Century B.C., just below the Parthenon, are a quiet place that is virtually ignored. In the base of one of the stone slabs in the front row, near where the stage once was, is a name – Sophocles. Whether it really was his chair is of no importance. It’s the stuff of which stories are brought home, where you can visualize that indeed this was the place from where he watched his own plays. Today musicians often play here, and actors act in both modern and ancient style.

Above the theatre, past the Parthenon, is the faithfully restored — sans roof — Herod Atticus Odeon, dating from the 2nd Century B.C. and where the Athens Festival takes place June through September. There, the finest performers of Europe play, sing, and act for locals and tourists alike on a site that was a gift to the people of Athens by Atticus, one of Athens’ greatest orators and wealthiest and most philanthropic men of his time.

Sitting high in the 5,000 seat open theatre and looking down on the great stone stage, the past and the present seem to merge. The opera, ballet and symphonic music seem only an accompaniment to the drama that was performed in that place centuries ago.

The Plaka is the primary focus for any Athens visitor. It’s the oldest section of Athens and most of the streets have been closed to automobile traffic. At one time it was the nightclub district, but it is now an area of restaurants, tourist shops, and cafes. If you have time to kill get off the beaten paths and walk through the back streets. The architecture of the buildings is what has stood for hundreds of years. Climb the hill to just below the Acropolis and you’ll see afar.

For almost everywhere in the Plaka area is evidence of some past civilization – Greek, Roman or Ottoman Turkish. In some places the pavement has been opened to reveal ancient columns and houses.

Dining:

There’s no surprise to Greek food. What you get in any Greek restaurant is Mama’s cooking. It’s tasty, stick-to-the ribs cuisine that consists of lamb, fresh sea food, moussaka, greek salad laden with goat cheese, olives and olive oil and a variety of Greek wines and beer. The wines are surprisingly good.

Retsina, of course, is that well known resin-tasting wine that some compare to gasoline. It’s served with lunch. But there’s also a wide variety of finer Greek wines — each island in the Greek seas seem to have its own — that are pleasant to the palate.

In Athens you needn’t worry about a language problem. Most waiters and service people speak English, French, German and Balkan languages. Even in remote areas of town, there’s always enough broken English and sign language to get the order right.

Things to do:

Athens is where you go history hunting. There are literally dozens of unforgettable archaeological sites such as the Temple of Zeus, the Dionysus Theatre, and the Acropolis and all are juxtaposed against the city’s dense phalanx of concrete, glass, and steel buildings.

Special Places:

Going to Athens without visiting the Parthenon is like visiting Paris with ever seeing the Eiffel Tower. It is the most important site of the city and one of the most recognizable monuments of the world. As well as being the most significant reference point of ancient Greek culture, it is also the symbol of Athens.

The rectangular building was constructed of brilliant white marble, surrounded by 46 great columns, roofed with tiles, and housed a nearly 40 foot tall statue of the goddess Athena. The statue, known as Athena Promachos, Athena the Champion, was made of wood, gold and ivory and could be seen from a distance of many miles.

— Ray Chatelin

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