The area by the main harbor, dotted with small yachts and cheerfully painted boats, is the best place to enjoy lunch-with-a-view and some retail therapy. One block inland is Iasonos Street, which offers a wide variety of shops, ranging from sophisticated clothing stores to craft shops that feature traditional icons, candles, unusual toys and ornaments, and novelty household goods.

The exquisite Greek Orthodox Agios Nikolaos -- Church of St. Nicholas, located on Agiou Nikolaou -- is worth exploring for its solid silver icons, richly carved altars, pulpit and choir stalls, fabulous crystal chandeliers, and elaborately painted walls and ceilings.

The Volos Archaeological Museum (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., tel: 0421 28 563) contains a rich collection of wares from the Bronze Age, pottery dating to the 5th and 8th centuries B.C., and sculpture from the 5th and 6th centuries B.C. This museum is famed throughout Greece for its well-preserved paintings, considered among the country's most important examples of ancient Greek art.

The Municipal Gallery (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., tel: 0421 25 760) is housed in the town hall and is another must-see for culture vultures. It contains a fine collection of paintings, sculptures and engravings by contemporary Greek artists.

Grab a cab to Makrynitsa Village (about 35 euros roundtrip, 50 euros with a city tour) for great views over Volos; shops crammed with local honey, herbs, honeyed fruits and ceramics; and the pleasure of escaping the traffic-filled city while exploring a pretty little mountain village.

The Meteora Monastery – once an amazing aerie retreat for medieval monks -- is one of the most spectacular sights to be seen during a call at Volos. It dates from 1356 and is set hundreds of feet up on soaring sandstone rock faces. At one time, there were 24 monasteries and church buildings. The only way to transport goods to that location was to hoist them in large nets, while people scrambled up dizzying 120-foot-high rope ladders to gain access -- an act of religious faith in itself.

Roads, rocky steps and bridges now link the different parts of the monastery, which now consists of four monasteries and two convents. It's a fair trot from Volos – about a two hour drive will cost at least 120 euros by cab -- and if you're tight for time and fearful of missing the ship, it might be better to take a ship's tour.

If you do go independently, head off early; the monasteries usually close between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Men should wear long trousers, and women should plan outfits that cover their knees, shoulders and chests, as inappropriately dressed visitors will not be admitted.

The closest resort for swimming, sunbathing and lunching is Alikos Beach, about four miles (roughly 10 euros by taxi) from the port.

If you have time to head south along the coast (and spend 25 - 35 euros on a taxi each way) you'll find more good beaches around the lively town of Argalasti. The town itself has a pretty main square lined with shops and cafes. Just to the east lies Potistika Beach, which is surrounded by spectacular rock formations, and Melani Beach, where you'll find two kilometers of soft honey-colored sand.