"PIRAEUS" Top 5 Page for this destination Piraeus by mindcrime
Piraeus Travel Guide: 104 reviews and 387 photos
Ok, lets begin with the basics, Piraeus is not the port of Athens, but one of the three main ports of Attica region (actually it is the biggest port in Greece). Piraeus isn’t a district of Athens, but a different city with locals that love their city and their football team OLYMPIAKOS and they will feel insulted if you tell them they are just part of Athens, and of course walking around with a tshirt of Panathinaikos (the big enemy of Olympiakos) is really a bad idea in Piraeus :)
It has about 180,000 inhabitants (while Greater Piraeus area houses about 500,000 in total) and is located 12km SW from Athens on the east coast of Saronic Gulf.
Most visitors on their way to the greek islands get disappointed with Piraeus because what they see is the commercial harbor which is as ugly as every big port all over the world. You get out of the train station and what you see is people all over, locals, tourists with backpacks on their way to the ferries and immigrants selling fake purses.
But a few streets away is the real city with some nice corners, churches, squares, museums (Hellenic Naval Museum, Archeological Museum) and smaller harbors like Pasalimani and Mikrolimano with the café/restaurants next to the water, the picturesque Kastella Hill etc
Piraeus was inhabited from prehistoric times and what we know now as Kastela was Munichia, a steep hill on a rocky island that was separated from the rest of Attica peninsula with a low level stretch of land between them that was called Halipedon usually flooded by sea water but when it went dried they used it as a salt field. Munichia was fortified in 511BC by tyrant Hippias (a cruel ruler that was expelled from Athens a year later and Athens became a free democratic state). Piraeus became dimos (subdivision) of Attica in 507BC .
Until 6th century the main port was the sandy bay of Faliro (a few kilometers to the west, even today many people go there for the beach) but in the early 5th century BC Piraeus became the main port with its 3 natural harbors:Cantharus(main port now and then), Zea and Munichia (now Mikrolimano). It wasn’t only the main hub for import and trade into Athens state but also a naval port that hosted the famous and powerful Athenian fleet and used many times in Greco-Persians wars. Piraeus became a military base after the construction of Themistoclean Walls and became a much safer town with the addition of the Longs Walls that connected Piraeus with Athens and ensured that as long as Athens was controlling Aegean sea would have supplies). At that time there was nothing between the 2 cities, of course if you look at the map today there’s no blank space anywhere between them (actually Piraeus urban area is inside Athens urban area) but back then it was like a huge direct long road between Piraeus and Athens, today Piraeus road connects the 2 cities but also the subway line (from 1835 there were horse carriages along the line but after 1869 became a real railway line (with steam machines). Syngrou avenue connects Athens with Faliro.
Piraeus fell along with Athens in Peloponnesian War from Spartans, recovered later but destroyed completely in 86BC by romans and again much later in 395AD by Goths, the german tribe that caused the fall of the Roman Empire.
During the Middle Ages was just a small port and was called Porto Leone by the Venetians because of the famous 3m high marble lion statue that was looted in 1687 and is now in Venice (but some fans of Olympiakos FC still like to use this name!), a name that Ottomans also used (Aslan Liman). The truth is that during ottoman occupation Piraeus was an empty land with only a monastery (St Spyridon) located there.
Modern Piraeus was founded in 1835, 3 years after Athens became the capital of Greece so many greeks started to come from many Aegean islands. Until then there was just a land of the ruined monastery with numerous pastures around and then some huts of the fishermen. But the port started to grow, it was also a period that many people from the west arrived. The population was about 1,000 people but until 1896 went up to 50,000 (3 years earlier the creation of Corinth Canal gave a boom to Piraeus economy). New structures, important buildings, neoclassical jewels (Municipal Theatre) were added at the beginning of 20th century but also a demographic boom that caused because of the thousands refugees that came from Asia Minor after the war with Turkey. Many of them were musicians that brought music elements from there, creating a new greek folk music called rebetiko which was very popular among the lower classes (the majority in Piraeus comparing to the bourgeoisie in Athens) and could be heard in local taverns or hashish dens.
In our days it’s a huge port, still biggest in Greece with a large marine but also a huge commercial and industrial centre. Main port h 20 millions passengers annually it is by far the largest passenger port in Europe.
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