Piraeus (Athens, Greece)
Cruise Port Guide: Review (2020)

Photo by IQCruising of the Erechtheion in the the Acroplis of Athens a top highlight of Piraeus cruise port

What to see and do, how to explore and get around, excursions and must-know for cruisers to Piraeus (Athens)

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Piraeus is the gateway to Athens with its UNESCO Heritage Site (the Acropolis), excellent museums, quaint neighborhoods, and wonderful landmarks.

A major port city in Greece, Piraeus has been the port of Athens (the capital of Greece) since Antiquity and most cruise lines list the port on their itineraries as Piraeus-Athens.

Coronavirus advise for cruisers to Piraeus (Athens) in Greece

For updated coronavirus (Covid-19) information and travel advice to Greece and Piraeus (Athens) visit the website of the U.S. Embassy in Greece. For more Traveler's Health advice to Greece see the CDC Website.

Review contents

  1. Where is Piraeus and Athens
  2. Where cruise ships dock
  3. The 3 cruise terminals
  4. Shuttle bus
  5. What to see and do in Piraeus (Athens)
  6. Top highlights
  7. How to explore Athens
  8. Shore excursions (Shorex)
  9. How to travel to Athens on your own
  10. Sightseeing buses
  11. By bus, train, taxi or Uber
  12. Spending the day in Piraeus
  13. What's within walking distance
  14. Must-know: tourist info, language and currency
  15. Safety, emergencies, and basics

Overview

With over 1 million cruise passengers per year, and around 600 ship calls, Piraeus (Athens) is one of the most visited cruise ports in the Mediterranean itineraries during the Spring-Summer season. Piraeus (with a population of around 164,000) is one of the oldest ports in the Mediterranean and has a very large area exclusively dedicated to cruise ships.

Cruise passengers traveling with families will not discover many sites or attractions that may interest most children. Cruise travelers with disabilities will find it difficult to explore the memorable highlights of Athens on their own, and a carefully chosen shore excursion is advisable.

Piraeus (Athens) is also a homeport (embarking and/or disembarking passengers). With very few exceptions most cruise lines that call for a day at the port also have cruises starting and/or ending in Piraeus.

Where is Piraeus and the cruise port

The cruise port of Piraeus is on the Saronic Gulf on the Southeast coast of Greece, in the Attic peninsula, a historical region where Athens is also located.

Piraeus is a vast port city developed around a natural large basin. Once the navy base of the massive Athenian fleet in Antiquity (and stage of decisive wars) the port of Piraeus is today a major hub for cargo vessels, ferries, and cruise ships, with over 20 million passengers per year (the overwhelming majority on ferries).

How far is Piraeus from Athens?

Piraeus is around 7.5 miles (12 km) southwest of Athens, the capital of Greece, the main attraction for cruise travelers to visit the port. However, cruise passengers should be aware that depending on traffic it may take close to 1 hour to travel by car or bus from Piraeus to Athens.

Where cruise ships dock

The vast port of Piraeus is divided into distinctive areas for different types of ships: cargo, ferries, and cruise ships. Cruise ships dock in the southern area of the port.

Cruise port terminal, services and amenities

In the southern area, you will find the piers where up to 11 cruise ships can dock. There are 4 different docking spots with 3 cruise terminal buildings (all have the most services and amenities). These are as follows:

  1. Terminal A - Miaoulis
    The closest to Piraeus Center and within walking distance to the metro station - around 1 mile (1.6 km).
  2. Terminal B - Themistocles
    The remotest terminal from the historic city center is in a gated area. It has 1 long pier and 1 long quay both for mega-ships (over 3,000 cruise passengers). This is where large cruise ships usually embarking and/or disembark passengers.
  3. Quay Themistocles
    Located right across Terminal B, this is one of the docking spots for mega-ships to embark and or disembark cruise passengers.
  4. Terminal C - Alkimos
    Terminal C is within the same gated area as Terminal B, but the port gates are just 400 feet (125 meters) away

All terminal buildings have the following essential services and amenities: arrivals, check-in and departure hall with air-conditioning; police, immigration, and customs office; X-ray machines; free Wi-Fi; public phones; restrooms; Taxis outside the terminal buildings.

Terminal A (Miaoulis) also has the following services and amenities: a coffee shop; exchange office; duty-free shops and souvenir stores. Once outside the terminal, turn left, around 850 feet (260 meters) from the exit you will also find: 3 different sightseeing hop-on-hop-off buses; express public bus X80 to Athens; and the fun train sightseeing of Piraeus.

Terminal B (Themistocles) also has duty-free and souvenir shops.

Shuttle bus

All docking spots have shuttle buses to the closest Cruise Terminal provided by the Port Authority.

Things to see and do in Piraeus (Athens) port

Without a shadow of a doubt, the sole reason why cruise ships call at the port of Piraeus is for passengers to explore the numerous wonders of Athens. Be it a visit to the Acropolis and its Museum or to merely enjoy meandering through historical and quaint neighborhoods.

For those that typically enjoy exploring cities on your own, Athens is a very easy city to get to, where you will find an incredible choice of pleasant places to have lunch or just a quick bite. If shopping is on your to-do list, in Athens you will discover stores ranging from the most basic souvenirs shops to high-end fashion.

Top highlights, sights and attractions

Athens has so many highlights that it is impossible to visit all top attractions in one day. In one word, the cruise traveler will need to select what to see and do.

Athens Acropolis and other archeological sites

Cruisers that have not been in Athens must visit the Acropolis, but there are also a few other archeological sites not to be missed.

  • Acropolis
    Must-see: The Parthenon, the Erechtheion with the 6 caryatids porch, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Theatre of Dionysus, the Propylaia, and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Visiting time: 2 to 3 hours.
  • Ancient Agora
    What to see: The Stoa of Attalos, the Museum of the Ancient Agora, and the Temple of Hephaestus or Theseion. Visiting time: 1 to 2 hours.
  • Roman Agora or Forum
    What to see: The Tower of the Winds, the Gate of Athena Archegetis, and the Hadrian's Library nearby. Visiting time: less than 1 hour.
  • Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch
    Two must-see monuments across the street from the ramp gently leading to the principal entrance of the Acropolis.
  • The Old Olympic Stadium (Panathenaic Stadium)
    Built on the historic site where the Panathenaic Games were held in Antiquity, the stadium was where the first modern Olympic games took place in 1896. Visiting time: up to 1 hour.

The museums of Athens for cruise travelers

It is impossible for the cruise traveler to explore the most notable museums in Athens in one day. But, amongst the top 5 museums listed below, a visit to the Acropolis Museum is an absolute must.

  1. Acropolis Museum
    This museum features the best of ancient Greek sculptures, paintings, and artifacts from ancient and classical civilizations. Where: 0.7 mile (1.2 km) south of Syntagma square. Visiting time: at least 2 hours
  2. National Archaeological Museum
    This museum features the best of ancient Greek sculptures, paintings, and artifacts from ancient and classical civilizations. Where: 1.2 miles (1.9 km) north of Syntagma square. Visiting time: at least 2 hours
  3. Benaki Museum
    Over 20,000 pieces housed in 36 rooms. Sculpture, painting, jewelry, tapestries, and more from as far back as the Neolithic time period up to the 20th Century. Where: Kolonaki neighborhood, 500 meters east of Syntagma square. Visiting time: at least 1 hour.
  4. Byzantine and Christian Museum
    A comprehensive collection of Christian art from Byzantium (4th-15th century AD) to the Modern Era. Where: Kolonaki neighborhood, 0.5 miles (850 meters) east of Syntagma square. Visiting time: 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Museum of Cycladic Art
    A valuable collection of Cycladic sculpture, an art form that flourished between 3200 BC and 2200 BC. Where: Kolonaki neighborhood, 0.4 miles (700 meters) east of Syntagma square. Visiting time: around 1 hour.

Athens neighborhoods and landmarks

Cruise travelers visiting Athens should not miss the rare opportunity to walk by and around some of the most characteristic streets, squares, and neighborhoods of the historic capital city.

  • Syntagma (Syndagma) Square
    The most famous square in Athens facing the Parliament Building and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
  • Plaka
    Quaint neighborhood with winding streets located between the Acropolis and Ermou Street. The Athens Cathedral, or Mitrópoli, is at the heart of Plaka.
  • Monastiraki
    Monastiraki is a beloved square filled with flea market-type stores, located on the northwestern edge of the Plaka district.
  • Thission
    The historic Thission neighborhood enjoys an excellent location with a view of the Acropolis and easy access by metro. It is a bustling restaurant area of Athens.
  • Ermou Street
    This main street in Athens is best known today as a shopping haven, where both tourists and locals come for everything from souvenirs to high-end clothing, jewelry, and shoes.
  • Kolonaki
    North of Syntagma, this affluent neighborhood is where high-end shopping and 3 major museums (Benaki Museum, Byzantine and Christian Museum, and Museum of Cycladic Art) are located
  • Mount Lycabettus (and Funicular)
    At 300 meter, Mount Lycabettus offers incredible vistas of the city. A funicular (teleferique) takes you to the top.

Beyond Piraeus and Athens

Cruisers planning to disembark or embark in Piraeus, should consider staying overnight before or after the cruise. This will allow you to visit interesting sites close by. If you have been in Athens repeatedly and your cruise ship is calling at Piraeus port for the day, keep in mind that some of these sites are offered on shore excursions.

  • Corinth
    What to see: Ancient Corinth, Corinth canal, and Corinth Museum. Distance: 53.6 miles (86.3 km) west of cruise port, slightly over 1 hour by car or tour bus.
  • Cape Sounion
    What to see: the temple of the Sea God Poseidon at a breathtaking location. Distance: 53.7 miles (86.4 km) south of the cruise port, around 1 h 20 minutes by car our tour bus.
  • Kaisariani Monastery
    The stunning domed cruciform church and monastery surrounded by a pristine natural setting dates back to the 11th century, though an original church on the site was built in the 6th century. Distance: 12.3 miles (19.4 km) north of the cruise port, around 40 minutes by car or tour bus.
  • Vouliagmeni Lake
    Lake Vouliagmeni is a mineral spa located 10 miles south of the city, known for its high mineral content and healing powers for a number of ailments. Distance: 16.2 miles (26.1 km) south of cruise port, around 40 minutes by car or tour bus.
  • Marathon
    What to see: site of the famous battle and the beginning of the Marathon Road. Distance: 38.5 miles (61.9 km) north of the cruise port, slightly over 1 hour by car or tour bus.
  • Delphi
    What to see: The archeological site of Delphi, and the Museum. Distance: 119 miles (191 km), west of the cruise port, around 2 hours 15 minutes by car or tour bus.

How to explore Piraeus (Athens) on a cruise

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic cruise travelers may only be allowed to explore Piraeus and Athens if booked on a shore excursion. Regardless of public health concerns, shore excursions are advisable in many cases.

In fact, shore excursions are particularly suitable when a good guide is required or to properly explore sites that can be time-consuming to discover on your own with public transportation. Even so, cruisers should also consider traveling to Athens independently. There are a few possible and good ways to discover Piraeus and Athens:

  • Book a shore excursion
  • Sightseeing services to and around Athens
  • On your own with public transport (bus and train) to Athens
  • By taxi, Uber or Lift
  • On foot to the attractions of Piraeus port city
  • Sightseeing services in Piraeus

Shore excursions and tours

Obviously, all cruise lines offer many and diverse shore excursions in Piraeus (Athens). Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean offer as many 19 shore excursions. Carnival lists 12 shore excursions. Norwegian Cruise Line has available 16 shore excursions. Oceania Cruises organizes 27 shore excursions, and Princess has 37 excursions available.

There are also excursions offered by the following reputable private online services and local tour operators:

How to travel from Piraeus to Athens
and explore on your own

There are 6 convenient ways to travel from Piraeus to Athens: sightseeing hop-on-hop-off buses, public buses, metro, taxi, Uber, or Lift.

Sightseeing hop-on-hop-off buses

Cruise travelers will be happy to know that there are 3 different sightseeing hop-on-hop-off buses starting by the port and touring the Greek capital.

Public buses from Piraeus to Athens

The best option for cruise travelers is the express bus X80. It offers a day ticket for €4.50 (euros) and takes around 30 minutes to the stops by the Akropolis or the Syntagma Square.

Metro from Piraeus to Athens

The fastest way to get from Piraeus to the center of Athens is the metro. The ticket costs €1.40 (euros) and the train takes you right into Monastiraki square in less than 20 minutes. Be aware that the metro station is over around 1 mile (1.6 km) from the cruise terminal.

Taxis from Piraeus to Athens

There are taxi ranks right outside all the cruise terminals. The price for a taxi from Piraeus to the center of Athens should be around €25.00 (euros).

Uber and Lift in Athens

At the time of writing both Uber and Lift were operational but it is advisable to double-check before embarking on a cruising to Greece.

What to do in Piraeus
when calling at the port for one day

Cruise travelers that enjoy staying close to the port will find a few things to do in the port city of Piraeus. Depending on where your cruise ship docks, there are a few sites to explore on foot. There is also one fun sightseeing train. And of course, you can get on a taxi to get to farther away places like Mikrolimano or Castella.

What's within walking distance and nearby

Unless your ship docks at the Terminal A, most attractions in the port city of Piraeus are not within walking distance.

Main attractions in Piraeus

Here is a list of all main attractions in Piraeus ordered by proximity to the port:

  • Archaeological Museum
  • Marina Zea
  • Piraeus Municipal Theatre - City Center
  • Freatida Beach
  • The Cathedral of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity)
  • Municipal Gallery
  • Electric Railway Museum
  • Hellenic Maritime Museum
  • Castella
  • Votsalakia Beach
  • Mikrolimano

Blue fun train in Piraeus

You will find in Piraeus a small (fun) train with the main stop right by the cruise port. It costs €4.00 (euros) for a 30-minute tour.

Must-know: tourist info, language and currency

Tourist Info

There are Tourist Information kiosks outside all cruise terminals in Piraeus port.

Language

Greek is the official language but English is widely spoken. Piraeus and specially Athens are such a tourist magnets that the English speaking cruise passenger will easily communicate with locals pretty much everywhere.

Currency

The legal tender in Greece is the Euro (€) (EUR). US$ dollars or any other currency are NOT accepted in Greece.

Safety, US travel advisory and basics

For comprehensive and updated information about traveling to Greece see the U.S. Department of State website page evolving advisory. The US Embassy in Greece also has useful COVID-19 Information for travelers.

Piraeus (Athens) Cruise Port Basics

 Entry Requirements:Passport is required for U.S. citizens. EU visitors are required either a valid photo ID or a valid passport.
ATMs:You will find ATMs in the historical city all over Athens and in Piraeus.
Internet:A few cafes and bars in both Piraeus and Athens offer free Wi-Fi but you are expected to be a client and order something. T-Mobile offers unlimited data at up to 2G speeds at no extra cost.
Emergencies:General Emergency - 112
Driving:Driving is on the right and generally speaking it is easy to drive around. The road signage is good and clear.
Electricity:The standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. Typical European two round prongs are used.
Drinking:Legal drinking age is 18 years.
Smoking:Smoking is prohibited in restaurants and public buildings. Bars and some restaurants may allow smoking outdoors.

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