If you arrive in Athens via water, your journey will take you through Piraeus. For most visitors, it's a dimly-perceived backdrop after a lovely cruise, or a quick stop while waiting for a hydrofoil or ferry.
But Piraeus has charms of its own. The Academy Award-winning Melina Mercouri film "Never on Sunday" was shot in Piraeus. It is the site of the University of Piraeus which features studies in maritime history among other subjects.
If you're traveling through Piraeus on January 6th, keep an eye out for a crowd watching young Greeks diving for a gold cross as part of the Epiphany observances.
The Archaeological Museum of Piraeus offers a fascinating collection of artifacts from the area. It's open daily except Mondays, and makes a pleasant, informative stop. The huge bronze statues of Athena and Artemis are particularly worth a visit. If you're just passing through Piraeus on your way to the hydrofoil, allow some extra time to enjoy this museum.
The Municipal Gallery of Piraeus features an extensive collection of modern sculpture by Georage Kastriotis and a collection of theatrical memorabilia donated by Manos Katrakis. It's all located at the Piraeus Municipal theater, on Korai Square.
Piraeus is also the home of the Yacht Club of Greece, a long-established organization sponsoring a number of yachting events at Piraeus and elsewhere each year.
Piraeus offers hotels, though these are generally filled with those whose business takes them to the port and, to a lesser degree, tourist overflow from Athens itself. One of these is the very pleasant Hotel Ionion.
As to be expected from a busy, working port, Piraeus restaurants are renowned for their seafood, especially those in the small harbor of Mikrolimano. If you'd like to combine a harbor cruise with dinner, the Thomas II offers dining cruises around Piraeus. They can be contacted in Athens at 988-7230 or 952-4300.
Quick - what ancient holiday is March 5th? If you answered, "Ploiaphesia" or Navigium Isidis, you get a hundred points and a pat on the back for knowing navigational history. Like many ports in the Aegean, for hundreds of years Piraeus celebrated the "Launching of the Ships" honoring the goddess of navigation, Isis. At this time, the stormy winter sea is calming and trade and travel can begin again. While modern shipping doesn't follow as strict a schedule, Mediterranean captains still must breathe a sigh of relief as spring begins and the high seas of winter depart.
Looking for more information on Piraeus? It can be spelled a variety of ways - even Pieraefs, and is often misspelled Pireaus.
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