Travelling around Piraeus Siteseeing
Let’s start our tour at the heart of the city from Zea, the well known Pasalimani, where most Piraeus residents are concentrated and which draws attention not only from local Greek citizens but also from foreign visitors. Walking through the coast of Tr. Moutsopoulos, on our right hand, we can see a number of restaurants offering home-made food. There are tables with umbrellas on the pavements where someone can eat or drink, relax or just observe by-passers since Pasalimani is the most usual place for a walk for the residents of Piraeus. In most alleys throughout the area there are many small bars where Greek music is heard.
Reaching at Alexandras square, perhaps the most beautiful square of Piraeus, we meet the night club Chiler on the turning corner towards Kastela. Moving on we walk through the coast of Pavlos Kountouriotis and can see the beach called ‘Votsalakia’ or “Paraskevas” on our down side. Then we move towards the picturesque Kastela where we can find luxurious bistro, pubs and coffee restaurants, hotels and small clubs where local youth is having fun. Inside the alleys and the narrow streets with the steps there are many neoclassic buildings which some Piraeus residents maintain for professional use.
After Kastela we proceed towards Microlimano (Tourkolimano), which is the small port of Mounichia of ancient times which is definitely the most picturesque of all the natural ports of Piraeus. Therein the anchored yachts and all the other small leisure boats it is still preserved a form of illusion, that of survival of the old unique times of sails. Many kinds of ‘shops’ operate along the beach (KoumoundourouCoast) of this picturesque small port. The traditional taverns lie literally next to the sea and serve fresh fish at excellent prices. Among those there are modern cafes which during spring and summer serve outside, next to the sea. Images and smells are blended together to charm the visitor. On one hand the delicious food of the traditional fish restaurants and on the other hand the city of modern Piraeus and the modern way of entertainment. Mikrolimano combines the traditional element with the modern one. The way it is presented with the sea and its shops, makes it look like an island. On the right hand when entering the small port there is the imposing and luxurious lodge of the Greek Naval Society. A wide programme aiming at the recreation of Mikrolimano has already started to take place under the auspice of the Municipality and MEPC.
At the highest spot of Piraeus (86.59m from the surface of the sea) lies the hill of Profitis Ilias (prophet Elias) and the outdoor Municipal theatre (Veakio) which during the summer constitues the centre of remarkable artistic movement with performances of Greek and foreign troupes, folklore bands of international fame etc. The bowling centre that also operates there having a green park and a basketball court around looks at the Falirian and the Saronic bays. At the top of the hill there is the church of Profitis Ilias where every year festivities are organised, in which almost all residents of Piraeus take place. Going down the hill of Profitis Ilias, we return to Mikrolimano and then from the coast of Dilaveris we walk up the small bridge and enter our closed stadium, Peace and Friendship Stadium with its parks, its playgrounds, tennis courts, and volleyball and basketball fields.
Peace and Friendship Stadium has been currently used as an exhibition centre in which interesting Greek and international exhibitions have been organised. In the same region near the church of Mirtidiotisa the second summer Municipal theatre of Piraeus operates the so called ‘Menandrio’ (or Delfinario) in which mostly musicals are presented by well-known troupes attracting a huge audience.
Walking opposite the stairs of the underground train station (Athens-Piraeus) we reach the renewed region of New Faliro one of the most friendly and beautiful districts of Piraeus. The playgrounds, the amusement park, the Karaiskakis Stadium with the monument with the liberator of Piraeus, the squares and the many neoclassic buildings which decorate the city giving this place a sense of old age that reminds something of the lost Piraeus. However, they cannot preserve the memory of the old New Faliro with its platforms, its bath facilities, its famous station theatres, its luxurious hotel (Akteon) that unfortunately have been definitely lost in the maelstrom of time.
From New Faliro we return to Pasalimani by a different route this time. Following the old troxiodromon street we pass through the district of Vavoulas hollow next to the archeological site of the gate of the Piraeus garden. Many taverns and restaurants with Greek and rebetika music, draw large attention not only from the locals but also of Athenians and many foreigners that visit Piraeus, operate in that area. Some times the space offered is not enough to accommodate the vast numbers of visitors. As a result you can see many of them dancing on the streets. If you want to have real fun this region will definitely meet your expectations.
Following 34th Systagmatos Street and its physical extension, Iroon Politechniou Avenue we reach at the Municipal Theatre. Its time to catch a breath and take some rest and enjoy a traditional ice cream at ‘Stani’ or an ouzo at ‘Highlife’ on Korai Square. After having regained our strength we follow Karaiskou Street and by turning left we go down Sotiros Dios Street which has become a walkway, one of the most commercial streets in Piraeus with many shops and a number of eccentric fellows mostly vendors or foreign instrument players that mainly improvise. A few minutes are enough to go back to Pasalimani from where we started….
Heading now to the right of Pasalimani, we continue our walk in the heart of the city which will be completed by walking through the beach lying along the Piraeus peninsula up to the CadetSchool.
Firstly we pass by the Club of Olympiakos which since its foundation in 1925 is bonded not only with the athletic tradition of the area but also with our own history. Piraeus and Olympiakos have been significantly interrelated. The place in front of the Club is ‘burnt’ by the fireworks of thousands of fans in every celebration of a new victory usually in football or basketball.
A bit further down and on our right we can see the building of the NavalHospital which was founded in the beginning of the previous century by Olga the Queen. It was funded by the czar to hospitalise members of the crew of the Russian warships reaching the port of Piraeus.
From Old Freatida only the small square has been left with the bust of the poet Labros Porfiras (1879-1932) who wrote poems for it and frequented almost daily to the taverns of the area.
Along the beach and up to the end of the Piraeus peninsula, ruins of the ancient wall of Piraeus have been saved, many of which still are in very good condition. However, these are nothing more than remains of the glory of ancient Piraeus. Moreover, the natural small bays formed at various spots on the beach and add an extra sense of picturesque scences to this route. And when one stops to enjoy the uniqueness of the scenery its gaze rests at the peaceful Saronic landscape, watching the ‘outlines’ of the close islands i.e Salamina and Aigina to be shaped in the horizon.
On the same time on the other side of the street, some fish taverns and many bistros show up next to each other. The picturesque scenes spectacle of octopuses and other seafood lying in the sun draws the eyes attention.
Our walk is finished at the CadetSchool. This walk has not only offered us a rare aesthetic pleasure but also at the same time it has helped us, fortunately reach, a satisfactory conclusion: At least in this part of the city i.e the Piraeus peninsula and the districts around it (Agios Vasilios, Pigada, Agios Nilos, Chatzikiriakio) are still bearing their own intense local colour, the traditional Piraeus still survives.