Why go to Athens?
Extraordinary ancient history, World Heritage monuments, great museums, stunning setting
The city center can take more than an hour to reach from port
An absolute must-see in the Western Med, but tends to feel overcrowded during high season
Athens Cruise Port Facilities?
Your cruise ship will dock at the Port of Piraeus, a large seafront area about 7 miles outside Athens, which, with its three natural harbors (Megas Limani, Zea Limani and Mikrolimano) has been an important Mediterranean port since the fourth century BC.
The Megas Limani harbor, reserved for cruise ships, has 11 berths and two terminals. Terminal A (Miaoulis) sits near Gate E11 in the center of the harbor and handles small to medium cruise vessels, while Terminal B (Themistocles) is located closer to the harbor entrance and gate E12, where bigger ships berth.
Terminal B was extensively expanded in 2013, and further expansion plans aim to invest more than $500 million toward a larger port that could accommodate six cruise ships and the addition of four hotels on the premises, from now through 2023.
Both cruise terminals are close to the center of Piraeus, and there are easy train and bus links both to Downtown Athens and the airport.
On Foot: Athens' city center and its major attractions aren't accessible from Piraeus by foot. If you're looking for something to do within walking distance of the port, however, you're only a few steps from the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus containing bronzes of Apollo and Athena from the Archaic and Classical periods of Greek art, as well as the Greek Orthodox churches of Saint Nicholas, Saint Spyridon and Holy Trinity. For eats, visit the picturesque Mikrolimano marina, which is lined with alfresco restaurants.
By Metro: The Metro is the easiest method of public transportation to the city center. Cruise passengers can take the Athens Metro Line 1 (Green Line) from Piraeus station to either Monastiraki Station or Omonia Station. From Monastiraki Station, you can walk to the charming neighborhoods of Monastiraki and Plaka and even the Acropolis. From Omonia Station, you can jump on Line 2 (Red Line) and go to Syntagma Square. As of late 2017, Athens utilizes an electronic ticket system, similar to London's Oyster cards. Prices range from 1.40 euros for a single ticket to 4.50 euros for a 24-hour pass and 9 euros for a five-day pass. The travel time is about one hour.
By Taxi: Taxis are prevalent around Piraeus and throughout the city, and therefore tend to be the quickest way to get around, even during rush hour. A taxi from the port to downtown Athens can take anywhere from roughly 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the traffic, but will cost you a bit more -- generally around 25 euros (based on a four-seat taxi).
Note: Rideshare services like Lyft or Uber are currently banned in the city.
Good to Know?
Steep sales tax can tack on 25 percent to the cost of your purchases. The value-added tax is called FPA in Greece. Non-EU citizens may be able to reclaim some of this when you leave the country; the bad news is that this takes ages and is barely worth the bother unless you've bought something mega-expensive. Look for shop window signs saying, "VAT Refund" or "Tax Free Shopping Network," and be prepared to produce your passport to get a VAT refund form.
Afternoon siestas affect both shop and museum opening hours. Might as well do as the locals do and head for a snooze between 2 and 5:30 p.m.; after that, the city comes to life again.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The euro is the currency in Greece. ATMs are easy to find. They are located in banks, on the streets and in some hotels and restaurants. Currency can be exchanged in most banks and at currency-exchange services.
ATMs can sometimes run out of cash on weekends. Carry enough cash for emergencies.
The old saying, "It's all Greek to me" can ring all too true in Athens. The Greek capital is not quite as tourist-aware as the islands, and English is less commonly spoken. So, if you're staying in the city, it's a good idea to take a good phrasebook or language app along. Here are a few basics to help.
Good morning/Good day: Kalimera /Kalispera
My name is: Me lene
Thank you: efcharisto
Do you speak English?: Milate Anglika?
How much is this?: Posa kostizi afto?
Where's the bathroom?: pu ine i tualetta?
In an emergency, dial 112 for toll-free, English-speaking assistance, or 171 to contact the (English-speaking) tourist police. Other emergency numbers worth knowing: 100 for police, 199 for fire and 166 for ambulance.