Ten kilometres southwest of central Athens, Piraeus is dazzling in its scale, its seemingly endless quays filled with ferries, ships and hydrofoils. It's the biggest port in the Mediterranean (with more than 20 million passengers passing through annually), the hub of the Aegean ferry network, the centre of Greece’s maritime trade and the base for its large merchant navy. While technically its own city, it melds into the Athens sprawl, with close to half a million people living in the greater area.
Shabby and congested, central Piraeus is not a place where visitors choose to linger. Beyond its shipping offices, banks and public buildings are a jumble of pedestrian precincts, shopping strips and rather grungy areas. The most attractive quarter lies east around Zea Marina and Mikrolimano harbours. The latter is lined with cafes, restaurants and bars often filled with people who've disembarked from cruise ships for the day.